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 2004: Oct-Dec

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29th December   David Blame

From the BBC

More than 30,000 people are backing calls for a ban on violent sex web sites, following a campaign by the mother of a murdered Brighton woman.

Jane Longhurst was strangled to death by Graham Coutts at his home in Hove, East Sussex, in March 2003. He had been a visitor of such web sites. Longhurst's mother Liz, of Reading, Berkshire, is leading a campaign to see them blocked, and said she hoped the new year would bring a ban much closer.

The Brighton Pavilion MP, David Lepper, is expected to raise the issue with the home secretary.

He has acknowledged that the logistics of banning violent pornographic websites would be difficult, but said he and the family of Jane Longhurst would continue with the campaign.

Coutts, 36, of Waterloo Street, Hove, who was jailed for life in February, is appealing against his conviction and sentence.


5th December   Consumer Advice to Provide Level of Blame

Based on an article from The Guardian

Violent video games are to be given with clearer warning labels. The move follows a campaign by the mother of Stefan Pakeerah, the 14-year-old beaten to death by a friend who has come to be associated with a video game called Manhunt. (Even though the police found no evidence of this)

Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell will hold a summit with retailers, manufacturers and video experts next week to discuss the tightening of rules on the sale of games classified as for over-18s only. A recent survey found that a few children as young as 11 were able to buy them, and up to two thirds of under-18s admitted regularly playing them.

The summit will also discuss an extension of entrapment, where trading standards officers use teenagers posing as customers to test whether retailers sell banned products to children.

With about 10 million games expected to be sold in the run-up to Christmas, Hewitt said many parents were unaware of what they were buying for their children. Not all parents have grown up playing video games in the way children do. We need to look carefully at how we improve content warnings and strengthen sales enforcement.'

She was backed by Jowell, who is jointly responsible for regulation of the industry. You wouldn't let your child watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you wouldn't let them go to a strip club, so you shouldn't let them play an 18-rated game, Jowell added.

Although only about 1.6 per cent of games are 18-rated, they represent 8 per cent of the market. Concerned by the publicity that followed the Pakeerah case, the industry has now begun talks on bringing games into line with films. That would mean more prominent labels, explaining to parents why a game has been rated for over-18s, and training for shop staff. Selling an 18-rated game to a child is punishable with up to six months in prison or a £5,000 fine.


23rd November   An Attitude Problem at UK Sex Shops

In the more mainstream video market, Virgin seem to be doing quite well even though they have $ky Movies as competition. In general the more people that can be brought into a commercial genre, the better for everyone.

More on Ofwatch

The Adult Industries Trade Association (AITA) response to Ofcom’s broadcasting standards consultation was published on Ofcom’s website recently:

AITA’s claims to represent the interests of the “adult industry” to the Government, regulators and the media are false. They represent predominantly the interests of sex shop owner’s.

AITA provide three reasons why R18 should not be broadcast. Firstly they claim that the Video Recordings Act restricts the sale of R18 “movies” to licensed sex shops. This claim is also false. The VRA prohibits the sale of R18 video works and does not apply to broadcasting.

Secondly AITA claim that R18 content is too harmful to children to be permitted to be shown on television in the home even on late night PIN protected encrypted adult services.

If AITA’s claim is true (many of those on the Christian right would whole heartedly agree) and R18 content is really so dangerous to children then the question must be asked is R18 is in fact so dangerous that it shouldn’t really be available anywhere (not even from sex shops)?

The very reason why sex shops are permitted to sell hardcore content on R18 certificate at all is because there is no evidence that such material causes any harm to anyone as became evident when the matter went to court back in 2000. In much of continental Europe R18 equivalent content is considered harmless enough to be sold in petrol stations and news agents.

As with all things there must be a measure of proportionality in these matters. R18 content is not suitable for children and they should be protected from it, but the dangers of R18 material have been grossly exaggerated by those with ulterior motives, such as the Christian right (in order to force their views of morality on the rest of society) and AITA (to protect their near monopoly on the sale of R18 content).

The question must be asked what happens to an R18 video once it has been sold to an adult in a licensed sex shop? The answer is that the adult takes it back to his or her home where there is absolutely nothing to physically stop that adult from giving the R18 video to a child.  

AITA’s final claim that broadcasters would have an unfair advantage over Sex shop owners is the only one that makes any sense, but to argue for continued restrictions to protect businesses from unfair and outdated legislation and maintain a near monopoly is to put the cart before the horse. The way forward is to remove the outdated legislation and create a level playing field for the benefit of all rather than encouraging restrictive practices for the benefit of sex shop owners and the council extortion mongers.

If AITA wish to be taken seriously as the representatives of the Adult industry then they would do well to represent the adult industry


22nd November   Check Out the Censors

As a matter of principle I always try to avoid buying my newspapers and magazines from shops that don't sell adult magazines.

Based on an article from The Guardian

Shameful Tesco, the UK's biggest retailer, is asking publishers to submit their magazines for censorship before they go on sale. The arrangement, introduced in the past few weeks, according to senior industry executives, has prompted accusations of censorship.

Britain's biggest publishers, which include IPC, Emap and Dennis are reluctant to publicly criticise Tesco, which has rapidly built its share of the magazine and newspaper market in recent years. It will become Britain's biggest magazine retailer, pushing WH Smith into second place, if current trends continue.

But one senior executive said that he was concerned about the growing influence Tesco is exercising over the editorial content of magazines. It is a form of censorship and, ultimately, this is about freedom of speech. It already happens in America and when I heard about this I thought "Here we go".

Tesco has demanded changes to several 'lads' mags' in recent weeks, according to industry sources, including Bizarre , a Dennis title. A satirical magazine was also sent back to its publisher, which agreed to make late changes to its front page. The practice is becoming widespread, publishing sources claim, although the men's weekly market has been targeted more closely than other sectors.

Recent high-profile launches, including Emap's Zoo and IPC's Nuts, feature scantily clad women on their covers and are often displayed in prominent locations in stores, including checkouts. Tesco has issued guidelines governing taste and decency which have been sent to major distributors. But it has been made clear that the onus is on publishers to ensure the content is appropriate, said one executive. Circulation departments won't put up a fight because we need the sales.

Other supermarket chains, including Asda, do not stock some publications, such as adult titles, because they consider them inappropriate. Asda's US parent company, Wal-Mart, has been criticised in the US for making similar demands about content. It has threatened to sell some titles in brown paper bags unless changes were made.

Tesco has told publishers that it has received complaints from some shoppers, especially women with young children. A spokesman for Tesco said:
We are a family store and, while we want to offer the widest possible range of magazines, we need to ensure that we don't offend our customers.


18th November   Addressing Censorship

What a ludicrous judgement. Have we now got to ban all web, email, postal addresses & phone numbers from all adult adverts that may be seen by children. The phone book must now be surely under intense scrutiny by these unthinking censors

Based on an article from Edinburgh News

The Advertising Standards Authority have upheld complaints against a city erotic festival that its publicity material may encourage children to log on to its raunchy website.

The Festival Erotique, held in the Edinburgh earlier this year, prompted complaints over its posters featuring a scantily-clad woman and a website address. Nutters claimed advertising for the event was degrading to women and offensive on religious grounds.

A report by the Advertising Standards Authority upheld the anti-porn protesters’ complaint that the website address would give under-18s access to the site, which displays images of half-naked women and S&M scenes. But the agency rejected claims that the poster for the festival at the Corn Exchange-was offensive and irresponsible and that the headline The Second Coming would offend Christians.

The report read: Because the site was for those aged over 18 years only, the authority told the advertisers to remove the website address from the poster and told them not to display website addresses for sites with adult content in future advertisements that could be seen by children.

Complaints to the city council had already forced festival organisers to remove the website address from posters across the city just days before the festival started on September 3.

Catherine Harper, a sound bite nutter with the Scottish Women Against Pornography action group, said: With the time it took for the investigation to take place, they had got away with it. They managed to advertise their event the way they wanted to. Next time we can do more. But I do disagree with their decision about the Second Coming slogan. We’re not campaigning on religious grounds, but we should respect people’s religious beliefs and that should have been upheld.

The report, which rejected the religion-based complaint, said: Although it acknowledged that some of the complainants had found it offensive, the authority nevertheless considered that most people would be either unlikely to interpret the slogan It’s the Second Coming to refer to the second coming of Christ, or, if they did, would be unlikely to consider it seriously offensive. The authority did not object to the poster on that point.

Complaints that the picture on the advert was overtly sexual and degrading were also thrown out by the ASA, which said it accepted the advertisers’ claims that the model was wearing clothes that could be worn for sunbathing and could be seen in posters for cosmetics, clothing and holidays. The report added: The authority concluded that the poster was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, to be seen to be irresponsible or to degrade women.

A spokeswoman for the City Council said:
As a condition of their licence, Festival Erotique should have obtained council approval for any public advertising. They did not. We weren’t aware of the billboards until we received a complaint from a member of the public.


14th November   Hate Censorship

From The Scotsman

The Home Office recently prevented Jamaican reggae artist Sizzla from entering the UK to perform at a series of British concerts. Sizzla is not a huge star in Britain and would still be relatively unknown were it not for Peter Tatchell and the gay rights group Outrage drawing attention to his lyrics.

According to Outrage, the reggae artist’s songs are likely to incite violence against homosexuals. Particularly in the light of Londoner David Morley being kicked to death in an alleged homophobic attack two weekends ago, this is a sensitive issue and the Home Office barred Sizzla’s entry on the grounds that his presence might provoke public disorder.

Thus the Home Office neatly sidestepped having to judge whether or not his lyrics would incite violence against homosexuals. "Shot battybwoy, my big gun boom" doesn’t leave much room for ambiguity once ‘battybwoy’ is translated as homosexual, but the government knows that to be seen to censor music, no matter how unpalatable, would be to open a can of rather nasty worms.

They have ducked the issue this time but Outrage is pushing hard to force Scotland Yard off the fence. They recently presented the police with the lyrics of eight reggae artists - Beenie Man, Elephant Man and Bounty Killer among them - whose lyrics are alleged to incite violence against homosexuals. Sooner or later, the police will be cornered into making a judgment and possibly seeking ways to ban the songs of some artists.

Last month Elephant Man and Vybz Kartel had their nominations for the Mobo awards withdrawn after protests from the public and Outrage regarding lyrics from early work which advocated killing homosexuals. The BBC had also made it clear that they would not broadcast such lyrics. Far from following in the footsteps of a rather contrite Eminem, who toned down the homophobic sentiments in his lyrics and even performed with Elton John to ensure the gesture fully registered, the aforementioned stars regard their words as reflective of Jamaican culture and refuse to apologise.

The link between violent music and violent behaviour is an uncertain one. It is hard to credit that anyone would set out to commit a homophobic murder purely because they heard a Sizzla song. Similarly, rap music does not of itself make people take up drive-by shootings as a hobby or turn young men into misogynists. Many American commentators tried to blame the Columbine massacre on the music of Marilyn Manson, which makes as much sense as trying to blame The Beach Boys for Charles Manson’s psychotic actions.

The trouble starts when you try to decide if that impact is negative and should therefore be censored. In Washington in 1985, Tipper Gore and 20 like-minded souls founded the Parents Music Resource Centre that came up with the idea of putting parental advisory stickers on music with sexual or violent content.

That the stickers might act as an adolescent buyers’ guide bypassed them, but the theory that parents are keen to ensure their 10-year-old’s music collection didn’t mention "smacking my bitch up" seems reasonable.

What is unreasonable is the PMRC’s subsequent attempts to suppress music they disapproved of. It was an unworkable idea whose stupidity was underlined by a "filthy 15" list of acts likely to corrupt. Included were Sheena Easton and Cyndi Lauper, showing laudable taste but terrible judgment.

Perhaps more sensibly, the British Phonographic Industry says it "cannot condone censorship and believes that its members strike an appropriate balance between artistic freedom on the one hand, and civic responsibility on the other".

Others, including censorship watchdogs, believe that free speech is not inviolate irrespective of what is said or sung, and that there is such a thing as the abuse of free speech. Freemuse is an independent international organisation that advocates freedom of expression for musicians worldwide. Funded from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Swedish International Development Agency, it bases its work on the universal declaration of human rights. This states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression except when advocating national, racial or religious hatred.

Dr Martin Cloonan is the chair of Freemuse’s executive committee. While it is an anti-censorship organisation, Freemuse does recognise that there may be occasions on which free speech can legitimately be restricted. In general we judge on a case by case basis and are guided by international conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such documents tend to recognise there are occasions where speech may legitimately be restricted. To be anti-censorship is not to say ‘anything goes’.

The Home Office has decided that Sizzla cannot come to the UK to play at this time, and in some ways this is to be applauded. But it could also be the thin end of a very thick wedge.

That’s the trouble with censorship: it’s like starting a fire to smoke out a wasp dyke, only to burn the entire house down.

Ultimately the consumer dictates the moral climate, and at the moment it seems the British public is quite happy to use its own sense of right and wrong to regulate matters. The chances of that continuing depend on whether rap stars of the future relish the possibilities of working in the mainstream more than the notoriety of existing in the moral mire.


2nd November   Equal Opportunists

The BBC are running a poll: Should adult pornography be banned in Scotland?
At the time of writing, 6510 votes were cast with 19% agreeing with the Scottish nutters and 81% disagreeing.

Based on an article from the BBC

The Equal Opportunities Committee supported a petition claiming links between porn and sexual crimes and violence against women and children.

The document from Scottish Women Against Pornography urges parliament to define such material as incitement to sexual hatred and make it an offence.

The committee looks set to launch a inquiry after claiming that the issue has been ignored for too long. However, any official probe would be subject to gaining further information and agreeing a remit with parliament.

Committee members acknowledged the potential difficulties of defining a law to introduce a ban on the porn industry but hoped it would be similar to that of incitement to racial hatred.

Labour's shameful Elaine Smith led calls for an inquiry into the "big business" of pornography: I think that since studies do exist showing the harmful effects they should signal to us the precautionary principle and they should be doing further research into it. I don't think we can ignore it any longer.

Fellow shameful committee member Marlyn Glen added: It seems to me that the safety of women should be a real priority of the executive and the parliament and what we need is the political will to push that through.

The Scottish National Party's Sandra White, Green MSP Shona Baird and the Scottish Socialist Party's Frances Curran also backed an inquiry.

In May, the Scottish Executive said that its review of existing research had shown that for every study purporting to demonstrate a harmful link between the consumption of pornography, there was another which rejected the idea.

As such, it claims that establishing links between all pornography and abuse is a complex issue. A spokeswoman said: "We have reviewed the relevant literature but believe that the relationship between the two remains unclear. While we have no plans to legislate we will, of course, continue to monitor the situation."


22nd October   Yet More Censors

From The Register

UK mobile operators have announced the body that will regulate and classify adult content available on mobile phones. The specially formed organisation - called the Independent Mobile Classification Body (IMCB) - is an independent and separately-financed subsidiary or the premium rate regulator, ICSTIS.

In January this year, all the major UK network operators - O2, 3, Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile - agreed a code of practice designed to restrict access to adult content with the aim of protecting children from unsuitable material. They signed up to have their filters in place by the end of this year.

A key element of the promised filtering system was that an independent body would be appointed to classify content. When Vodafone launched its filter in July this year, the need for this independent body was underlined: not everyone was happy with the idea of having their mobile operator play the role of moral arbiter.

IMCB says the classification framework will be comparable to that used in cinema and to classify games. The first draft will be available in January 2005.

In separate news, Ireland is set to develop filtering technology to isolate phone networks from porn. Industry leaders met with a government committee yesterday to discuss how the proposals could be taken forward.

According to the Irish Independent, the government is firmly behind the idea of implementing the screening technology. Minister Noel Dempsey took the opportunity to promote the implementation of a National ID card, saying that policing the filtering system would be difficult without it as customers will have to prove their age when they buy a phone.

Tommy McCabe, Director of the Telecommunications and Internet Federation, told the committee to expect an announcement about forthcoming trials of the technology on the O2 network.


13th October   Protection & Censorship

From The Guardian

Provocative condom posters showing the face of a woman apparently in the throes of an orgasm were today branded offensive by the advertising watchdog and banned.

The posters for Trojan, which appeared in August on 3,500 sites nationwide including some near schools, looked like a glossy magazine cover with headlines such as "Amazing! The secrets of sexual pleasure revealed..." and "Come online & play the sex organ".

The posters extended a provocative TV campaign by the condom brand, number one in the US, which narrowly avoided a ban after the British public made 209 complaints.

The Advertising Standards Authority said the phrase "Come online & play the sex organ" would cause widespread offence. The ASA also said the posters were unsuitable because they could encourage children to view sexually explicit material through the advertiser's website.

It ordered Trojan to ensure that references to its website were used only in targeted media, to avoid children seeing it. But the ASA ruled that the posters were not demeaning to women.

It had received 42 complaints, saying the posters were offensive, demeaning to women, promoted promiscuity, encouraged criminal behaviour and could be seen by children who would then visit the Trojan website and see sexual material.

Carter Products, which owns Trojan in the UK, defended the posters, telling the ASA it was promoting safe sex in a country where the rate of sexually transmitted diseases was increasing.

It said the headlines on the poster were no more offensive than recent headlines on mass circulating magazines which had included: "The Secret World of Posh Swingers Parties" and "I Took My Husband's Prostitute to Lunch".

David Thompson, the marketing director of Carter Products UK, told that the advertising would continue. Condoms and sex education are things are things that the government are keen to push. We shall continue to try and push out as much information as we can always working within guidelines, even though we might disagree with them.


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