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 2003: Oct-Dec

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December 15th   Kangaroo Court

Thanks to Goatboy as this provoked a lively debate in the The Melon Farmers' Forum

From the ITC
  Showing Complaints & Interventions Report for Sex Court
  Channel: Living TV
  Date & time: Monday 2 June – Wednesday 18 June between 11pm and 12 midnight
  Category: Other Taste & Decency
  Complaint from: 1 viewer
  Sex Court is a series originally made for, and shown on, the Playboy Channel, a specialist 'adult' encrypted service. The series had been edited for showing on the basic subscription channel, Living TV. The format parodies the established US mainstream series Judge Judy, in which disputes are adjudicated upon in a courtroom setting. In Sex Court , a 'Judge Julie', dressed provocatively, presides over a 'court' where couples (played by porn actors) purport to bring their sex problems to be settled. Judge Julie's 'sentence', requiring sexual activity of one sort or another, is then enacted before the 'court-room' jury and public gallery.
  Mediawatch-UK informed the ITC that they had received complaints about the language, nudity and sexual conduct in the series.
  Having viewed the relevant episodes, the ITC identified a number of sequences which it believed raised serious questions under the taste and decency requirements of its Programme Code, and asked Living TV for an explanation. The broadcaster replied that its programmes of a more adult nature were always well signposted and scheduled late at night well after the 9pm watershed. The channel was primarily aimed at women and the adult programmes shown tended to portray women in a dominant rather than submissive role, unlike much other 'soft porn' material. The audience profile for the series indicated over one third of female viewers and no children.
  Whatever the nature of the audience profile, the ITC was in no doubt that certain sequences in a number of the episodes in the series, in their explicitness and duration on screen, went beyond what was acceptable on an unencrypted service, and the broadcaster acknowledged this. Furthermore, despite the editing undertaken, the series remained in its entirety ‘adult encrypted’ in style and purpose. That is, the discussion and portrayal of all manner of sexual activity was the series’ raison d’๊tre and it had no other function than to titillate. Unlike certain other programmes which feature portrayal of sexual activity on ‘open’ channels, Sex Court had no investigative or documentary focus to justify it.
  This case well illustrates that sex series made for encrypted channels are not easily transferrable to open channel viewing and require a degree of editing that goes beyond the removal or blurring of obviously explicit and inappropriate images.
  Elements in certain episodes of the series, as originally broadcast by Living were seriously in breach of Sectin 1.1 (general requirement against material which offends against good taste or decency) of the ITC Programme Code. The broadcaster was formally directed not to repeat four of the episodes of the series in the form originally shown by the channel. The broadcaster’s re-editing of the complete series implies an acknowledgement that the series as a whole is unsuitable for repeating in that original form, a conclusion the ITC shares.


December 14th   Amazon.Com.Co.UK

Thanks to John

I've noticed in the past couple of weeks that Amazon UK is now including US region 1 discs (including Something Weird's uncut release of Night Of The Bloody Apes) but says they will be sent from the USA and the buyer can only order a single copy.


November 8th   Mediawatch Watch

Some interesting news snippets published by mediawatchuk. Maybe from a slightly different perspective though...


More than three years ago the ITC recommended that a Proscription Order be issued by the Government against the Satisfaction Channel a hardcore satellite TV service.  Mediawtach-UK have taken this up with successive Secretaries and Ministers of State and have learned from Lord McIntosh, appointed Minister of State in June this year, that the matter is still under consideration by Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell MP.

Also three years ago, in July 2000, the Home Office issued a Consultation Paper on the Regulation of Pornographic ‘R18’ Videos.  Responsibility for this passed to the Culture Department after the General Election in 2001 since when it has sunk without trace.

Since the Labour Government was elected in 1997 the number of high street sex establishments across the country has increased significantly - to the dismay of local nutters.  The availability of hard-core pornography in videos and DVDs has grown exponentially and mainstream television has stepped up its promotion of the sex industry in programmes about stripping, pole dancing, sex toys, pornography, prostitution and the appalling material that is accessible on the Internet.

Mediawatch-uk was encouraged by remarks made by Tessa Jowell in May 2002 about pornography. She said that it “demeans and belittles women”.  So far as we know her department has stood aside while the ITC has licensed numerous satellite and cable channels that transmit pornographic programming - and unilaterally relaxed its Code to accommodate them.  Indeed, we have recently learned that a Government official involved in discussions in Brussels to amend the Television Without Frontiers Directive refused to countenance action that would mean a total ban on pornographic satellite channels.  This approach is a very far cry indeed from the remarks made by Jack Straw MP when, writing in The Times in May 1989, he called for “controls on the invidious spread of soft porn”!


Mediawatch-uk director, John Beyer, was interviewed for the position of Ofcom’s Head of Standards - which attracts a six-figure salary - but owing to an unwillingness to compromise on standards and a lack of management experience his application did not go forward. 

Ofcom has announced the appointment of the ITC’s head of factual programmes, Chris Banatvala, to this key post.  A former senior political news producer at Channel 4, Banatvala will be responsible for “tier 1” content regulation.  This includes impartiality and accuracy, fairness and privacy as well as sponsorship rules.  He will oversee a team of 21 people made up from the current standards regulators, the ITC the Radio Authority and the BSC.  One of his tasks will be the publication of new codes.

Friendly In a virtually unreported finding, the Independent Television Commission has upheld complaints about an unencrypted pornographic television channel.   From mid-July 2003, says the ITC in its August Complaints Bulletin, Friendly TV began broadcasting a nightly programme called Free Sex TV between 11.00pm and 3.00am.  Viewers complained that the programme was too sexually explicit for transmission on a free-to-air channel, even so late in the evening.  The programme featured female presenters who were reacting to callers on an adult chat line.  The text messages displayed on screen contained very explicit sexual references and extreme bad language.  The presenters also responded to ‘requests’ through text messages to perform simulated sex acts both singly and together.

 John Beyer, mediawatch-uk director, welcomed the unusually robust attitude of the ITC but was disappointed that such a comprehensively damning finding did not warrant sanctions immediately.  He said that the channel, which should already have given an undertaking to comply with the Codes, as a condition of its licence, should have had it withdrawn.  He hoped that any further breaches of the Codes would result in the channel being closed down permanently.

 Friendly TV agreed with the ITC that the output was unsuitable for an unencrypted entertainment channel and gave assurances that the breaches in the Programme Code would not be repeated.  The ITC ruled that Free Sex TV was in breach of the general requirement on taste and decency, in breach of the Advertising Code for promoting premium rate sex telephone lines and for promoting a commercial website.  The ITC also held that Friendly TV had failed in its obligation to ensure proper compliance of material transmitted under its licence.

 The ITC regards the breaches of the Programme and Advertising Codes as so serious that Friendly TV has been warned as to its future conduct, and advised that any further breaches are likely to incur sanctions.

Straw Dogs

Sarah Thane, the ITC’s Director of Programmes and newly appointed Advisor on Content and Standards to Ofcom, said: Straw Dogs is now over thirty years old.  A distinctly flawed film in its day and to modern eyes it is even more clearly clumsy and unconvincing.  Today’s viewer sees a work that’s … hopelessly dated in style, execution and – crucially – in attitude.   A thirty-two year old portrayal of a woman ‘who wanted it really’ therefore carries much less risk of influence today.  I don’t believe the Code has been breached”.

The BSC, in a finding published on 30 October 2003, did not uphold the complaint about scenes of violence and rape in Straw Dogsfrom “a viewer”.  A Standards Panel watched the film, acknowledged the complainant’s concerns, it noted that the film had been preceded by a clear pre-transmission warning and considered that its nature would be well-known to the majority of the audience.  The Panel concluded that when broadcast on a minority channel, well after the Watershed, the content was unlikely to have exceeded the expectations of the majority of the audience.  The complaint was not upheld.


October 24th   Wee Little Brains

Based on an article from the The Scotsman
  An Edinburgh cinema’s attempt to lay on special baby-friendly screenings backfired when council chiefs warned them they could only show films suitable for young children.

The Cameo had asked licensing bosses to grant them permission to show films from its normal programme in the new fortnightly daytime slot, which is only open to parents or carers with a baby up to the age of 12 months old.

They planned to show films with adult content including Kill Bill by Quentin Tarantino - thinking babies were likely to sleep through the experience.

A similar scheme run by the chain in London has been an outstanding success.

But despite explaining that the films were clearly aimed at the adults and that the babies would hopefully sleep through the movie, the authority has refused to back down, insisting that only films suitable for children be screened. Now the Cameo is unable to show films with anything more than a 12A, which children aged 12 and under are allowed into if accompanied by an adult.

Cinema boss Diane Henderson is hoping the success of the Big Scream initiative, which starts next week with a sneak preview of George Clooney’s new movie, will persuade officials to have a change of heart.

She said: Our sister cinema in London, The Ritzy, in Lambeth, has been doing this kind of thing for some time and we were really keen to follow suit. The whole point of it is that you can come along and not worry about your baby making a noise but hopefully still enjoy the film. We’re laying on baby-changing, bottle-warming and buggy-parking facilities. The tickets will be cheaper than normal and we’re even putting on a free tea or coffee after the film. We were hoping to do the same as The Ritzy and show films from our normal programme but the council have told us they wouldn’t be happy with anything stronger than a 12A being shown. The council is only going by the letter of the law but it is allowed to grant an exemption for something like this, as happens with The Ritzy.

It was hoped the screenings would give single parents a chance to see adult films without having to pay for babysitters. She said: It can be frustrating for new parents to be stuck in the house all day, particularly over the winter and we think these screenings will be very popular.

Lynn Morrison, manager of The Ritzy, said: Individual local authorities can decide whether to allow cinemas to screen what they want if babies are allowed in. We find that most babies will simply fall asleep when the lights come down. We’ve also found that our audiences want to see the newest films as soon as they come out and we regularly show 18 films. A spokesman for One Parent Families Scotland said: "This sounds like a great opportunity for parents with babies to get out the house and resume a bit of a social life. It would be a great shame if the licensing legislation puts a damper on this."

A spokeswoman for the BBFC said: Under the current legislation children are only allowed into cinemas to see U, PG or 12A certificated films. However, local authorities do have the power to either re-certificate films or alter a cinema’s licence. Our view is that 15 or 18 certificate films are unsuitable for young children, including babies.  Some of them have language and scenes that can be very loud and disturbing.

A spokesjobsworth for the city council said:
It is a standard condition of cinema licences that BBFC categories are adhered to.


October 20th   Bum Law

Based on an article from the The People

Funsters who moon at passers-by could face being jailed for up to TWO YEARS.

Home Secretary David Blunkett is to crack down on anyone who reckons the law is an ass - by adding the public baring of bums to his Sexual Offences Bill due to become law next month.

Now footballers or cheeky pop stars like Robbie Williams who have shown their buttocks to fans in the past could end up behind bars if a complaint is made.

A source said: The Bill will include exposure which is an act of loutishness. So if mooning causes distress, it would definitely be covered.

Williams was fined £4,000 for mooning in Singapore on his last world tour. This did not stop him dropping his trousers again in Bangkok.

Two days after their 1988 FA Cup win, Wimbledon players downed shorts at Alan Cork's testimonial - costing them £750 each and the club £5,000 in fines.

The new penalty is aimed mainly at flashers. But, while fun streakers are excluded, mooners will be covered.

Blunkett changed a clause in his Bill - a ban on "recklessly exposing oneself in public" - after complaints from naturists. They feared being arrested on Britain's unofficial nudist beaches.

MPs on the powerful Commons Home Affairs Committee then urged Mr Blunkett to amend it further so there does not have to be a sexual motive.


October 18th   Prison Censorship

From the BBC

The serial killer Dennis Nilsen is preparing to take a battle over his autobiography back to the High Court.

The Prison Service intercepted his partially completed manuscript - called Nilsen: History of a Drowning Man - in 2001 when it was sent back to prison after being offered to a publisher.

In March 2002 the authorities won the right to read - and possibly censor - the manuscript before Nilsen's solicitors are allowed to return it to him so he can continue working on it.

Nilsen, who admitted murdering 15 young men, says their refusal so far to allow him to continue with the book is an infringement of his human rights.  His lawyers will on Monday try to show that the home secretary and the governor of Fall Sutton Prison, near York, are unlawfully holding the work.

Nilsen, who is serving a recommended minimum sentence of 25 years for six counts of murder and two of attempted murder, insists the book is a serious work about his life and imprisonment.

His lawyers say it will be of special interest to criminologists and others interested in the workings of the mind of a serial murderer. They say all the proceeds from the book would go to charity. Others argue the publication of such a work would disregard the rights of the families of his victims.

Nilsen has admitted killing at least 15 young men, mostly homeless gay men, who he lured back to his flat in Muswell Hill, London.


October 15th   Voda Phoney War on Freedom

Thanks to Rob &

Some  on information on Vaodaphone's intentions to censor their web access.

  • They will implement the adult lock out End March next year, not before.
  • The lock will block all adult unless the handset is un-locked
  • They will allow un-lock in store, at contract or via a quick phone call to Vodaphone with a credit card for adult check
  • They will NOT have a walled garden, but will block illegal URL's (who decides?, I wonder if hardcore will be considered illegal to protect their Playboy type portals)
  • This will effect voice/chat/content services

See below for the info sent out from Vodaphone recently to all contracted gateways:


As you know, Vodafone will be introducing access controls to prevent the access of certain services by children. This is to be introduced in the first half of 2004 and is a positive step to demonstrate that the mobile communications industry is committed to the protection of minors. This will apply to all services aimed at those above the age of 18 such as betting and gaming, chat services, as well as other traditional services aimed at this sector.

The access control will take the form of barring all mobiles from accessing these services, and subscribers will be re-directed and/or instructed to contact Vodafone to have the child protection bar lifted. This will be managed via direct contact with our subscribers, at point of sale for new and upgrade handsets in retail outlets, as well as other pro-active methods.

In consultation with you, our partners, it has been asked if we can block unbar in advance lists of subscribers that you may already have age verified and this is being strongly considered and is likely to be approved. It should be noted that only robust methods of age verification will be accepted and requests for a date of birth by text or similar basic methods will be considered insufficient.

In order to help us and yourselves to get this block unbarring facility we need to need to know if you currently run any such services, have an age verified list, how many Vodafone subscribers there are and your age verification methods. Please do not send us any databases as yet.

I would be grateful if you could let me have the above information as soon as possible in order that we can assist you in managing this process to all of our benefit.

Over the coming weeks and months we will continue to keep you informed and work in consultation with you to add further measures to assist with the opt-in policy and to ensure that as many legitimate subscribers as possible are opted in to receive your services.


October 11th   Blaming the Vampire Queen

From the Scotsman
The release of a new Tarantino film invariably has people raising the question of violence in films and on television. When is the depiction of extreme violence justified? What effect does it have on the viewer? We have argued about these matters for as long as I can remember and come to no conclusion.

One thing is certain, however. Directors practise less restraint than they used to. What would have been unacceptable, even 40 years ago, is now routine. The level of tolerance has risen. In defence, those who portray violence on the screen say that this merely reflects reality: we live in a more violent society than we used to.

Actually, I’m not sure that we do. These things are hard to measure. In some respects society is less violent. Children are no longer on the receiving end of violence from adults as a matter of course; they no longer suffer the cane or the tawse. Even the concern regularly expressed in the last couple of years about bullying at school doesn’t indicate an upsurge of violence. The contrary may actually be true. More attention is paid to bullying, because it is less common, even if it may sometimes seem to take more unpleasant forms. You might argue that when it was the norm, less attention was paid to it. It’s also arguable that we are more concerned with violence simply because we have become in a great many ways a softer and gentler society.

I caught snatches of a discussion about the issue in a Radio Five broadcast the other afternoon. The starting point was the Tarantino film and there seemed to be general agreement that the violence there was so stylised, so ridiculous, so incredible as to be harmless. That may well be so. But something that the actor Martin Kemp said held my attention. He was being asked about violence in EastEnders, and he said that the one thing that disturbed him while playing in the soap was when someone got thumped or knifed in one episode, and in the next was shown strolling about as suffering no ill effects. In other words, he thought that violence was acceptable only if the viewer was then confronted with its painful and nasty consequences.

That’s a fair point, though not a conclusive one. After all, if you are attracted to violence, then showing its consequences for the victim may even add to the attraction. What disgusts some may delight others and feed their appetites. In real life there’s no reason to suppose that the Kray twins, for instance, took anything but pleasure in seeing the results of their violence. Rather, it confirmed their belief that they were special.

Even when film directors show the consequences of violence, they may do so in such a way as to tilt the moral balance in order to manipulate the viewer.

A classic example was the film of Jimmy Boyle’s autobiography. You saw the violence meted out to the Boyle character in prison, and were disgusted by its consequences as the camera dwelled on him, inviting you to pity, even share, his suffering. However, earlier in the film, when it was the Boyle character who was dishing it out, it was different. You saw him slash someone’s face but instead of staying with the victim, the camera followed the actor playing Boyle as he walked away. It is how violence is portrayed that makes the director’s point.

What of its effect on the viewer? That’s the question we all ask. It is one to which it is impossible to give any general answer. Most people are probably unaffected. They can distinguish between reality and illusion and, if they are distressed by what they see, they put it out of their mind. They are not persuaded to imitate what they have seen on the screen.

One can take this further. I forget how many shootings the average American child is said to have watched on TV before the age of 14, but it is a very large number. Most, clearly, are unaffected. Even though they live in a country where there is very lax gun control, your average American adolescent is no more likely to go on a shooting spree than to eat babies. But a tiny number do so. Is there a direct connection? The answer, however reluctantly, has to be "probably, yes."

Paradoxical though it may seem, the portrayal of violence may both stimulate and dull the imagination. It stimulates it by offering suggestions that might not have occurred without that prompting. The same is true of pornography; it may open your eyes to possibilities that you never thought of, but which, once presented, seem attractive.

Yet at the same time, the portrayal of violence (and pornography) may, while extending the sense of the possible and even desirable, desensitise you to the reality of other people.

These are the real dangers: that the unthinkable and unthought of become acceptable and even attractive, and that other people cease to exist as sentient beings but instead become mere objects.

Only a few are so affected and even in their cases it is rare to be able to establish a direct correlation between what they have seen and what they themselves do. The case of Allan Menzies who claimed to have become obsessed with vampirism after watching a horror movie more than 100 times, and then murdered a friend "to win immortality" as "a vampire", is as exceptional as it is bizarre. The court decided that he was not mentally ill, but few would call him normal. A psychiatrist said: I suspect that his enjoyment of violence was the principal factor in the prolonged and excessively violent nature of this crime.

Fair enough: but how far was that enjoyment stimulated by the horror movies he watched so eagerly?


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