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 2005: Jan-March

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5th May   Tesco Nuts

From The Guardian, Thanks to Nick

Tesco is to obscure the front covers of men's magazines such as Nuts and Zoo. The men's titles, which also include Front, Loaded, Maxim and FHM, will be moved higher up Tesco's magazine stands and given less shelf space so that, in some instances, only the masthead is on view.

The supermarket giant said it was responding to customer concerns about the new generation of lads' magazines, but denied accusations of censorship. A group of our customers are shocked by what is on the front covers of these magazines, said David Cooke, the senior buying manager at Tesco. Some express surprise that we sell these titles, others see them as outrageous and pornographic. It is a vibrant magazine sector and we want to continue to sell these titles, but we are a family-based supermarket and we have to be mindful of how to display them.

The cover of this week's Nuts, from publisher IPC, features a full page picture of two topless models embracing each other and the strapline "Sophie and Kayleigh - together for the first time!" along with another headline promising "Readers' girlfriends - in thongs!"

Emap's Zoo, which relaunched with an expanded entertainment guide last month, features five semi-naked women on the cover - three of them topless - as part of a "30 Sexiest British TV Babes" supplement.

Cooke said MPs and child protection groups had also expressed their concerns. He said it would be unfair to single out a particular title for criticism because they all have their moments. We get feedback from our customers every day and we want to bring that back to the industry, he told the Magazine 2005 conference in London today, organised by the Periodical Publishers Association. The changes will come into effect on Monday, he said. They won't be put on the top shelf but they will be moved up [magazine stands] where possible, and some of the content will be covered up but you will still be able to see the masthead. We will make sure that some of the less risky titles, such as Men's Health, Stuff and T3, have their full front cover on display."

But Cooke denied accusations of censorship, first levelled against Tesco six months ago when it was claimed the supermarket had demanded changes to the content of several lads' magazines. Our desire is to accommodate all our customers, not to tell editors what is or is not on their cover, he said.
We will continue to stock them as long as our customers continue to buy them."

 

13th April   Supermarket Supercensors

Probably the next censorship battle will be with monopolistic commercial interests who consider that they are holier than the rest of us. This story seems particularly relevant when it coincides with news of how dominant Tesco have become in retailing. It seems that they even want to dominate the mighty Wal-Mart (ASDA) in terms of nutter morality and censorship.

Thanks to Simon

The producers of the DVD: British Babes Go Wild 2 (classified 18 without cuts by the BBFC) are being forced to cut their film by 15 minutes in order for it to be sold with copies of FrOnt magazine at the shameful Tesco.

The distributors were informed by Tesco marketing dept that they will have to remove the scenes that they dont like and resubmit it to the BBFC before they'll consider it acceptable to be sold in their stores. Seeing as the film is basically a softcore title available uncut across the country at Virgin/HMV/MVC and on Play.com, and the fact that removing some scenes will result in it retaining an 18 certificate reeks of appalling censorship on behalf of Tesco.

I find it incredible (and scary) that in this day and age, faceless individuals are deciding what is acceptable, effectively over riding the decision by the BBFC.

Unfortunately the distributors and FrOnt magazine have decided to bow to Tescos demands and re cut the film (resulting in resubmitting to the BBFC). There will be disclaimer at the front of the DVD to state that it has been cut in accordance with Tesco for promotional use with FrOnt magazine and that the uncut version is available to buy elsewhere.

 

13th April
  Regulatable Media

From OfcomWatch

The Europeans are discussing what regulation can be applied to what media. In particular there is the European Convention on Transfrontier Television (ECTT), which is currently under review.

Under consideration is the question of whether the regulation of new media services is undesirable, or simply impracticable at the present time. In line with the discussions that surround the revision of the Television Without Frontiers Directive (TVWF) the view exists that it is rather the latter than the former. This implies expanding the scope of the Convention to cover new interactive and personalised services such as video-on-demand that should be regulated in a flexible manner and not necessarily subject to traditional (and highly interventionist) modes of broadcasting regulation.

Along these lines, the discussion document for the ECTT supports the need to develop a new model of content regulation that will apply to all electronic media horizontally and in a technologically-neutral fashion, involving where needed self and co-regulation. The fuzzy and yet to be defined concept of “regulatable content” is used to refer to “broadcast-like” content, to content “delivered by the new technologies and capable of influencing public opinion and people’s minds”, and to “licensable service”.

How to devise a model of horizontal, technologically-neutral, graduated regulation of ‘regulatable’ content? It is certainly quite a challenge. If you have any ideas you have time until the 15th of May to submit comments (in English or French and no more than 4 pages long) to: media@coe.int These will feed into the review of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television (ECTT).

 

27th March
  Supermarket Supercensor

From The Observer

Britain's leading magazine editors are to confront the Prime Minister over an OFT ruling that they fear will give supermarkets control over content. They will warn Tony Blair at a scheduled meeting this week that a shake-up in the way titles are distributed could give supermarkets greater buying power.

Thirty editors, representing most of the country's major publishing groups, have also written to Blair. They include GQ editor Dylan Jones, Alexandra Shulman, his counterpart at Vogue, and Elsa McAlonan, editor of Woman's Own. Editors fear supermarket control of editorial [content] is the inevitable outcome, the letter says. The Prime Minister has courted the country's magazine editors over the last few years in an attempt to reach voters who do not read newspapers.

This is an issue which the magazine industry is determined should be addressed at the highest level of government, said a source within the industry.

The OFT ruled last month that current arrangements, which give wholesalers the right to run local monopolies, are anti-competitive. But publishers argue that without them it would not be profitable to distribute titles to remote parts of the country. The arrangements will end on 1 May unless the government intervenes.

The OFT's provisional findings put newspaper and magazine distribution on a slippery slope towards retail domination by the supermarkets, the letter says. The big supermarkets have grown their share of the magazine market and now sell around a quarter of all titles.

 

26th March   Bigger Ages for Games

From The Guardian

Video games will carry more prominent age symbols and more detailed descriptions, following talks between the industry and government. The aim is to prevent children playing adult-rated games without their parents knowing. The two sides are also discussing the introduction of a voluntary code of conduct to cover downloadable games.

From May, all computer games that are rated 15 or 18 according to the BBFC will carry a description on the back and the age symbols will double in size. Video games rated 18-plus account for some 8% of sales, though less than 2% of the games are available.

Tessa Jowell, the culture secretary, said:
Not all parents have grown up playing computer games; it can be difficult to understand that you might be allowing your child to play the interactive equivalent of Kill Bill. Now there's no excuse.

Patricia Hewitt, the trade and industry secretary, said: This strengthens parents' position to make an informed decision on what computer games are suitable for their children.

Britain has the toughest penalties in Europe for anyone selling or renting video games to under-age buyers - six months in prison or fines of up to £5,000. Roger Bennett, director general of the games industry trade association, ELSPA, said:
We recognise the need to ensure that adult-rated games are kept out of the hands of young children and that parents and guardians are provided with a higher profile warning on 18-plus BBFC-rated games packs, making it easier for them to make purchasing decisions."

 

12th March   We defend an artist's right to exhibit...BUT

From The Hampstead & Highgate Express

An artist has censored his own work after managers at a Highgate arts centre asked him to hide his Male nude with cenosred signpainting of a male nude. James Smith put his full frontal nude in the main room of the ground floor of Lauderdale House but was asked by staff to put it in a less obvious place. He refused, placing a sign, with the word "censored" over the offending area.

Smith said: It is a bit weird. I do feel it is the 21st century now, for God's sake. I told them I wasn't going to move it and now we have reached a compromise of sorts. I think they didn't like it because as you walk in it is facing you. But everyone has just laughed about the fact that I've put up a censored sign.

Smith's work is a tribute to Vincent Van Gogh and features a landscape in Van Gogh's style in the background.

Artist Anne Hogben said after the visiting exhibition: I think it is appalling that he should be asked to move it to a less prominent place in this day and age. It is a very strong, striking well drawn image and I got so angry about this. I am appalled that in this day and age you can have this kind of censorship.

Alison Oldham, the Ham&High's art critic, said: James Smith's paintings are hardly the provocative, sensual images of DH Lawrence.  They're plainly studies of posed models. They're unlikely to offend a public that accepted Gunther von Hagens dissecting male and female genitals on television recently.

Katherine Ives, Lauderdale House's general manager, claimed that Smith had been warned that the arts centre was a multifunctional space. She said:
We didn't know that Mr Smith was going to exhibit nudes. Where it was placed meant that when you walk round the corner you are looking at eye level at this man with legs spread and his bits and pieces coming at you.

We defend an artist's right to exhibit a wide range of work...
BUT we know from previous shows that some paintings in some places might make people feel uncomfortable."

 

2nd March   Less Passion

From The Guardian

The Passion of the Christ is to be re-released in the UK for Easter, in a (voluntarily) cut version. Mel Gibson has re-edited his biblical epic, cutting six minutes of footage, particularly from some of the most violent scenes. It will now have a 15 certificate rather than an 18.

A spokesperson for the BBFC told the Hollywood Reporter that the film-makers have toned down the visual impact of the violence, including the flagellation of Christ. We think they have removed a lot of what we call 'the processed violence' from the film. It's still at the high end of '15' but they have made enough alterations, said the BBFC spokesperson.

I hope to cater to those people that might not have seen the original because of its intensity or brutality, said Gibson in a statement yesterday, adding that he hoped the re-edited film will attract cinema fans who thought the intensity of the original film was prohibitive.

The film will open on Good Friday, March 25

 

26th February   Contrived Controversy

As far as I can tell the film is in need of hype to give it a helping hand. The 18 certificate was awarded purely because the suicide scene provided instructional details of a particularly effective technique that is not well known. The distributors were welcome to take it out to achieve the natural 15 rating for the film. The controversy is therefore 'hype'.

Based on an article from The Scotsman

Tracey Emin’s film Top Spot, which she withdrew from UK release in protest when censors gave it an 18 certificate, has been granted a special licence allowing it to be seen by under-18s. The film was aimed at teenage girls but the BBFC refused to grant it a 15 certificate because it contained an attempted suicide scene. Emin branded the decision “outrageous” and withdrew the film after its premiere.

Now Westminster Council has granted a special screening licence for the film to be shown at a London film festival for an invited audience of 16-year-old girls. The girls will be drawn from London schools and will be invited to take part in a post-screening debate hosted by broadcaster Miranda Sawyer. The film will be shown on March 12 at the Birds Eye View Film Festival, which showcases the talents of women directors.

Festival director Rachel Millward said: We are thrilled to have the opportunity to show this hard-hitting account. Finally, this film will be seen by the audience it is intended for and hopefully the discussion afterwards will reveal what the intended audience actually think. Finally we will hear from the teenagers, rather than talk about them.

Top Spot is based on Emin’s own teenage years in Margate, Kent, and features six girls acting out different aspects of her story. On hearing the BBFC’s decision, the artist said:
It’s outrageous. I made a very personal film about teenage girls. I never in a million years thought they would not be able to see it. The storyline is no more controversial than anything you see on the telly.

 

25th February   British Win the Swastika Battle

From The Express

Plans for an EU-wide ban on the swastika and other symbols used to incite racial hatred were scrapped after British-led opposition at talks in Brussels.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke said there was strong support for long-running efforts to agree European-level action to tackle racism and xenophobia. But the question of outlawing the use of certain symbols was a matter for individual member states, with their differing historical and cultural backgrounds. He said Germany and Austria already banned displaying the swastika for reasons which are entirely understandable. There is room for a lot of genuine argument about what is a symbol which is racist and xenophobic: some say the hammer and sickle is, for example. But seeking the inclusion of symbols in any EU-level anti-rascism rules "is not the way to go" said Clarke.

The decision came at Clarke's first meeting of EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers since he took office. The talks agreed to continue efforts to agree a "framework directive" on racism and xenophobia, withdrawing Luxembourg-driven calls for it to include reference to symbols.

The all-out ban was proposed in the wake of the controversey over Prince Harry wearing a Swastika armband as part of a fancy dress costume at a private party. German Euro-MPs wanted action, and EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini responded with the proposal for a blanket ban.

Luxembourg, in the EU presidency, put the issue on the agenda, diluting the wording to propose banning "the use of symbols that generate hatred or racism". But a majority backed Mr Clarke's view that such details were best left to national authorities.

 

24th February   Incitement to Hate Censorial Europeans

From The Times

A European ban on swastikas and other symbols used to incite racial hatred, prompted by the outrage over Prince Harry’s wearing of a Nazi uniform, will be proposed today as part of measures to combat racism.

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, and European ministers will meet in Brussels to debate the ban, which lies in the balance after severe disagreement between governments. Some countries, notably Germany and Austria, already ban Nazi symbols and would like to see the ban spread across the European Union. Britain has insisted that it is not necessary.

The ban probably would cover all symbols used to generate hatred, including “white power” signs and the SS symbol of Hitler’s security police. The European Commission, the European Union executive, proposed the ban last month, causing a fierce debate.

Eastern European politicians have demanded that the ban be extended to Soviet symbols, such as the hammer and sickle, pointing out that communism killed far more people than Nazism, while Hindu groups have responded by launching a campaign to save the swastika, a 5,000-year-old Hindu religious symbol.

The ban was proposed by German MEPs after the furore surrounding the Prince wearing the Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party, which coincided with the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Franco Fratini, the European Commissioner for Justice, who suggested the idea said: EU action is urgent and has to forbid very clearly the Nazi symbols in the European Union.

The swastika is banned outside academic and educational contexts in Germany and Austria. France, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands have general bans on inciting racism by displaying symbols.

The proposal for the ban marked a stark departure for the EU, which has never before proposed any act of censorship and could pass legislation only if all 25 European members agree. Although Fratini won the support of Luxembourg and Germany, Britain insisted that there was no need for a German-style ban in the UK. As a result, Fratini watered down his proposal, so that each country would ban “the use of symbols that generate hatred or racism”, but each country would decide the scope of the ban.

A commission spokesman said:
It would not be sensible to legislate banning people from watching ’Allo ’Allo!

 

24th February   More R18 Mail Order

Thanks to Peter

COURT 3
Before LORD JUSTICE MAURICE KAY and MR JUSTICE NEWMAN
Continuing Wednesday 24 February, 2005 At half past 10
FOR HEARING

Appeal by way of Case Stated
CO/2652/2004 Interfact Limited v Enviromental Health And Trading Standards Division

Appeal by way of Case Stated
CO/3403/2004 Pabo Ltd v Liverpool City Council

From The Scotsman

The High Court is being asked to decide whether adult-only pornographic videos and DVDs can be sold by licensed sex shops on the internet. Two senior judges were told today that overseas sex industry rivals would benefit and “the local economy” suffer if sales by mail order and on the telephone by UK companies were ruled unlawful.

Two test cases are being brought by licensed sex businesses fined thousands of pounds after prosecutions were brought against them by Liverpool City Council’s trading standards department.

Interfact Ltd, an Essex-based mail order shopping company, and Pabo Ltd, based in Birmingham, were both found guilty at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court in April last year of contravening the 1984 Video Recordings Act by supplying, or offering to supply, the “R18” classified videos featured in their website catalogues.

The prosecutions occurred following investigations by trading standards officer Allan Auty, who made test purchases of explicit films, with titles such as Bikers’ Gang Bang and Top Marks for Effort, which can only be sold to those aged over 18.

The district judges held that, under the 1984 Act, the videos were restricted to customers calling “in person” at licensed sex establishments, and not for sale on the internet.

At today’s High Court appeal in London both sides accepted that R18 videos – primarily explicit videos of consenting sex between adults – could only be lawfully supplied to customers “in licensed sex shops”.

The sex video companies contended that, in a mail order transaction, the funds were received, and the product packaged, “in the licensed sex establishment”. That was the point of supply, so no offence was being committed. Delivery amounted to a further service, and not the supply of the product itself.

But Liverpool trading standards contended that the point of supply was “the place of delivery” – in this case Auty’s address in Liverpool – and the wesbsite sales were therefore unlawful.

David Pannick QC, appearing for Interfact, said: Plainly this case is brought as a matter of general importance. Asking Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Mr Justice Newman, to overrule the Liverpool convictions, he said: It makes no sense to allow sales to adults physically present, but to prohibit sales to adults by mail order.

There was “no sensible purpose” in preventing adults from obtaining R18 videos by mail order from within the UK when Customs allowed goods of a similar nature to be imported from abroad by mail order. Indeed, the only purpose which such an interpretation of the law would serve would be to damage the local economy in favour of the economy in France or the Netherlands,  said Pannick. We say that to prohibit mail order sales for videos which are accepted by the regulatory body to be appropriate for viewing by adults would breach Article 10 (the right to freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Interfact, based in Barking, was convicted of breaching the 1984 Act by District Judge Curtis at Liverpool magistrates court in April 2004. The company was fined £3,000 for supplying four R18 videos – Club Reps, Riviera, Bikers’ Gang Bang and Cathula. It was also fined £2,000 for “offering to supply” 44 films in its catalogue.

Pabo Ltd, a mail order and catalogue shopping company based in Roman Way, Coleshill, Birmingham, was found guilty of similar offences at the same court on April 7 by District Judge Morris. The judge fined the company £2,500 and ordered it to pay £22,314 prosecution costs for supplying four videos – Shameless Desire, Shane’s World, Titano and Top Marks for Effort – and offering to supply 53 films in its catalogue. Pabo is also challenging the “grossly disproportionate” costs order.

 

21st February   Appealing for Mail Order R18s

Thanks to Peter

COURT 3
Before LORD JUSTICE MAURICE KAY and MR JUSTICE NEWMAN
Wednesday 23 February, 2005 At half past 10
FOR HEARING

Appeal by way of Case Stated
CO/2652/2004 Interfact Limited v Enviromental Health And Trading Standards Division

Appeal by way of Case Stated
CO/3403/2004 Pabo Ltd v Liverpool City Council

Some interesting info that should be of interest to just about everyone. It would be interesting if any Melon Farmers could attend.

The R18 mail-order battle moves to the High Court this week, with distributors Interfact and Pabo appealing against last year's convictions by Liverpool Trading Standards.The case takes place on Wednesday 23rd. The barristers will be Neil Flewitt for Liverpool, David Pannick for Interfact and Robert Englehart for Pabo. If anyone wants to attend, details (including time and court number) will be posted after 2:30 pm on Tuesday in the Daily Court Lists section of
www.courtservice.gov.uk

The two issues of concern are as follows:

a) When a video or DVD is sold where is the place of supply?

b) Does an Internet website constitute an "offer to supply"?

The prosecution previously submitted that when a video is sold the place of supply is the place of "delivery". It is an offence under the Act to supply a Restricted 18 video at any place other than in a licensed sex shop and in a mail order transaction, as the place of delivery is the home address of the customer, then an offence is being committed.

We argued that our premises are a licensed sex establishment within the meaning of the act and that the place of supply was not the place of delivery but the place of the sale. In a mail order transaction the funds are received, and the product is packaged, within the licensed sex establishment so no offence is being committed. Delivery was in fact the supply of a further service, and not the supply of the product itself.

The prosecution submitted that an Internet website constitutes an "offer to supply" under the Video Recordings Act and that it is an offence for anyone to "offer to supply" a Restricted 18 video other than in a licensed sex establishment. Thus every time an Internet user viewed the website at home or place of work, an offence was being committed.

We argued that a web site cannot be an "offer to supply" but is rather what is commonly referred to as an "invitation to treat". There is no "offer to supply" or "offer to sell", rather the website is a display which the customer peruses prior to making an "offer to buy". This is a legal concept that applies to all shop displays, mail order catalogues etc.

The Court agreed with the prosecution in both instances. We were not surprised at the verdict given that in the past fortnight two similar cases (Pabo and Interfact) had been heard and on both occasions guilty verdicts had been returned.

Prime Time and its Directors intend to appeal the verdict. It is our view that the prosecution and the Court have applied "criminal" definitions to the meaning of "supply" and "offer to supply" and taken Section 12 of the Video Recordings Act in isolation and not considered the wide ranging implications of their decisions.

 

18th February   Aggressive Research

On the subject of research, The TV regulators have themselves published a paper, The Media Literacy of Children and Young People. Buckingham and Bragg’s (2004) research on children’s responses to sexual content across a range of media, supported by the BSC, ITC and others, found that children became increasingly adept in self-monitoring their responses to potentially unwelcome or disturbing material. Although the children preferred to learn about sex from the media than from any other source, they also sought to protect themselves from material that they felt they were not ‘ready’ for – or which they simply found ‘disgusting’."

From The Independent

Violent images on television and in computer games can increase aggressive behaviour among young children. Researchers have found that violent imagery in the media had a "substantial" short-term effect on children's arousal, thoughts and emotions.

Kevin Browne and Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis, from the University of Birmingham, analysed data from six North American studies, which looked at the effects of media violence on children. They found consistent evidence that young children who watched violent television, films and video games showed more aggressive play and behaviour.

The study, in The Lancet journal, showed that the effect was "small but significant", and more relevant for boys. The evidence was less consistent among older children and teenagers, and for long-term effects on all ages.

The review acknowledged that family and social factors were likely to affect a child's response to violent imagery. One UK study found that the effects of film violence are greater in young people from violent families. But the researchers found that violent imagery had an effect regardless of socio- economic status, intelligence and parenting, suggesting some of the influence is independent of other factors.

The authors said large samples were needed to find whether violence in the media leads to violent criminal behaviour. Professor Browne said:
Parents and care-givers may be recommended to exercise the same care with adult media entertainment as they do with medication or chemicals around the home. Carelessness with material that contains extreme violent and sexual imagery might even be regarded as emotional maltreatment of a child.

There is an urgent need for parents and policy makers to take an educational rather than censorial approach. Parents and teachers can view age-appropriate violent material with children and help them critically appraise what they see. In this way care-givers can reduce the effect of violent imagery. Producers also need to recognise the potential effects of their violent images on vulnerable audiences who might not have the capacity or the will to see violence in the context of the story.

 

10th February   Knee Jerk Fetishists Arrange Get Together

So we are going to order police raids, customs busts, prison sentences and general misery to blight the lives of many people who are never going to hurt anyone in the belief that this measure will stop a few. I am sure that there are enough laws against actual harm but if there are a few missing then these should be debated by experts, not victims and hangers on.

Who knows, more criminality may drive even more more people into a spiral of social isolation about their sexual pleasures. Absolute prohibition hardly seems to work well in the world of the priesthood. It would seem intuitive to me that there are people out there who can keep their criminal urges at bay by the release of a wank over their choice of porn. I would guess that the safest form of sexual entertainment is that which allows the quickest release. 

From the BBC

The mother of murdered teacher Jane Longhurst is meeting Home Secretary Charles Clarke to discuss efforts to tackle violent pornography. Liz Longhurst is demanding action to stem disturbing images available on the internet. Her 31-year-old daughter was strangled by porn-obsessed Graham Coutts in Hove, East Sussex, in March 2003.

The visit comes after Amnesty International agreed to give their backing to the campaign. There is now a growing consensus against violent internet pornography being freely available

Longhurst first launched a petition against the websites in March 2004, which almost 35,000 people have signed. It calls for the Obscene Publications Act to be overhauled to make it a criminal offence to possess such images.

She said: I am extremely grateful that Charles Clarke has agreed to meet with my family and our supporters and we all hope to hear what the Home Office has done on this issue since we met with David Blunkett a year ago. I recognise that these are complex and difficult matters but there is now a growing consensus against violent internet pornography being freely available."

Martin Salter, MP for Reading West, and David Lepper, MP for Brighton Pavilion, will also attend the meeting on Wednesday. Salter said: I really do believe that we can get action taken to block access to these dreadful internet images which contributed to Jane Longhurst's death.

During Coutts' trial at Lewes Crown Court, jurors heard he had looked at graphic pornography featuring women being choked shortly before strangling Longhurst. Amnesty International has adopted Longhurst's fight as part of its Stop Violence Against Women campaign.

 

4th February   National Freedom of Speech

From The Guardian
From The Telegraph

The proposed law against incitement of religious hatred will "strike fear" into arts institutions, the director of the National Theatre said yesterday. Speaking at the Critics' Circle theatre awards, Nicholas Hytner said he did not think the law would be used to prosecute artists, but it would stop them saying things that are worth saying. I claim the right to be as offensive as I choose about what other people think, and to tell any story that I choose. No one has the right not to be offended.

His comments received a warm response from the critics, actors and directors gathered for the ceremony at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London.

He continued that the National Theatre will defy all attempts by religious pressure groups to censor its dramas as it unveiled a hard-hitting slate of plays for the next 12 months.

The two most controversial works are likely to be a new piece by Howard Brenton, the Left-wing playwright, about the life of St Paul and another new work, Playing with Fire, about a fight between new and old Labour against a background of tension between whites and Asians in a decaying northern town.

He said yesterday that politics was "big box office". But he said the National, which is secure in its funding, had a duty to explore contemporary issues, however controversial. Politicians of all parties were cowardly about defending the theatre against attacks from minorities because they put votes before free speech, he said.

Hytner said Brenton's play Paul, due to open in the autumn, was likely to prove the National's toughest drama of the year. Hytner refused to disclose any details of the new play. He admitted, however: There may be Christians who don't want to see the faith of St Paul examined by Howard Brenton. It does not conform to the absolute truth that fundamentalist Christians believe.

David Edgar's Playing with Fire, opening in September, may also test many nerves. The play is both an examination of the Brown-Blair feud and the racial tension between whites and predominantly Muslim Asians. Set in a fictional northern town, New Labour sends in a heavy from London to threaten to remove the powers of the Old Labour council. In the background, racial tension in the town flares.

Edgar said yesterday: One of the points I raise is whether we are as comfortable with multi-racialism as we thought we were? It also looks at the conflict within the Muslim community about whether to continue to be part of the mainstream of British life or whether to pull up the drawbridge.

Hytner said yesterday that he did not fear demonstrations at the National, though it would be "irresponsible" not to consider the safety of staff and audiences if protests were held. Referring to the "failure" of the authorities in Birmingham to ensure that Behzti kept running, he added:
There is a problem when that kind of lawlessness is not called what it is, maybe because politicians are anxious about offending groups and that they might lose their votes.

 

3rd February   Crazy Intact

From The Mirror

Crazy frog with appendageAfter receiving complaints from 60 people, advertising regulators say there is nothing inappropriate about the genitals of an animated frog whose high-pitched squeals are sold as a mobile phone ringtone.

Television adverts of the motorcycle-riding Crazy Frog, who is drawn with a broad smile and a tiny penis, run frequently on television, amusing, baffling and annoying viewers.

While unusual for an animated model of this type to be shown with genitalia, no sexual or inappropriate references were made about its anatomy, the Advertising Standards Authority said on Wednesday.

Twenty-two people complained they were worried children might see the advertising, which also promotes screen savers and mobile videos. Because the ads contain a text number to place an order, they are barred from being shown during children's programmes, and the ASA said there were no reports of children being concerned by the advert.

 

2nd February   Usenetless AOL

From Beta News

The world's largest ISP is cutting off direct access to one of the oldest, coolest -- and strangest -- parts of the Internet.

America Online has quietly announced that it will discontinue providing member access to Usenet newsgroups next month. In recent days, AOL subscribers who access keyword "Newsgroups" are greeted with a pop-up message informing them of the change: "Please Note: The AOL Newsgroup service will be discontinued in early 2005."

According to a notice on AOL's Web site, the newsgroup shut-off will occur in February, severing subscribers from the thousands of discussion groups that make up Usenet. AOL officials weren't immediately available to explain the newsgroup shutdown.

The AOL newsgroup shutdown comes almost exactly eleven years after the service first unleashed its members on the Usenet. In early 1994, seasoned newsgroup participants complained of the sudden influx of AOL newbies, who appeared to know little of Usenet etiquette.

Besides text-based discussions, Usenet newsgroups today are also used for the distribution of binary data, including images, MP3 music files and software programs. But the technology is much slower and more cumbersome than peer-to-peer networks for accessing such data. As a result, copyright holders and associations such as the RIAA and MPAA have been less aggressive about policing piracy on Usenet.

It's not clear whether such legal issues led to AOL's decision. Last summer, the ISP settled a long-running lawsuit brought by author Harlan Ellison. The science fiction writer had complained that AOL was partly to blame when one of its users posted digital copies of his published work in Usenet newsgroups. AOL argued that, under the DMCA, its liability for the actions of members was limited.

AOL's Usenet implementation was non-standard from the start. The service doesn't allow members to connect directly to its network news transfer protocol (NNTP) servers. Thus, AOL subscribers are forced to use the service's internal and poorly designed newsgroup reader rather than the array of better third-party programs.

The newsgroups flame wars will certainly continue without the assistance of AOL members. And alt.barney.dinosaur.die.die.die and all the other bizarre newsgroup forums will no doubt survive the loss of participants from the big ISP. But the Usenet will nonetheless become a smaller, less interesting place once AOL turns off its newsgroup servers.

 

29th January
Crazy frog with appendageHopping Mad

From The Mirror

The Advertising Standards Authority has had 60 complaints about an offending appendage of Crazy Frog employed to advertise mobile phone ringtones.

Apparently the ringtone, hugely popular despite being incredibly irritating, has made around £10million for internet firm Jamster and its Swedish creator. The firm promises a cover-up if Advertising Standards rule that Crazy gives people the willies.

 

24th January
The Blaming Mansons

Perhaps we should have age restrictions on politicians. There is no way that impressionable young minds should be subjected to corrupting influence and bollox rants of the likes of Salmond & Campbell

Based on an article from The Times

Senior politicians are predictably demanding the introduction of age restrictions on the sale of CDs after the music of the “shock rock” artist Marilyn Manson was linked to the brutal murder of Jodi Jones.

Menzies Campbell, the shameful deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Alex Salmond, the leader of the SNP, are among those urging the government to take action to stop unsuitable material being sold to children

There is no age restriction on the sale of music CDs in Britain, unlike computer games, videos and DVDs. The American government has threatened to introduce age restrictions for CDs after criticism that the music industry was not doing as much as film studios and games makers in warning parents about inappropriate content.

With material of this kind freely available it is surely time to introduce a system of uniform classification for all electronic media, said Campbell. The evidence in the trial should be a powerful incentive. It may be difficult to establish a direct link between material of this kind and violent behaviour but we surely have to take a precautionary approach.

Salmond added: If the principle has been conceded with computer games, there could be a case for extending regulations to other forms of information that could be harm children.

Advisory stickers are currently fixed to about 1% of CDs where record companies consider them to contain sexually explicit, violent or offensive content. Opponents of regulation say restricting certain albums to over 18s would only encourage children to download them from the internet or get older relatives to buy them.

 

23rd January
  Last Minute Censorship

Based on an article from Silicon

Watchdog the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) has rapped Lastminute.com over the knuckles after receiving complaints that its ads were too saucy.

The ASA received complaints from several members of the public across the country about the online travel agent's print advertising.

The material that got nutters hot under the collar included a poster featuring the slogan Go where the sun does shine, which showed the bottom half of a woman in bikini shorts. Another had the tagline forget sandcastles, play in the dunes with a photo of another bikini-clad woman's breasts.

The complaints objected to the posters on the grounds they were offensive, demeaning to women and would distract motorists. Others complained that the choice of siting - in an area with a large Muslim population, near a mosque - was inappropriate.

The regulator ruled that the ads weren't necessarily offensive. The Authority concluded that the poster was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence, be regarded as demeaning to women or unsuitable for children or distract motorists... Although it recognised the poster would cause offence to Muslims when placed outside a mosque, the Authority considered that merely placing the poster near a place of worship did not automatically mean that it would cause serious or widespread offence, the ASA said in its adjudication.

The adjudication continued: Nevertheless, the Authority was concerned by the advertisers' lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, resulting in the complaints being upheld.

 

19th January
  Blasphemous Art

Pauline Hadaway is director of Belfast Exposed Gallery of Photography. Belfast Exposed focuses on the development and exhibition of contemporary photography, portraying social and political ideas from local perspectives.

Part of an article on Spiked by Pauline Hadaway

Belfast City Council arts subcommittee recently passed a vote of censure against the Vacuum, a local arts and cultural review, following a complaint that it contained material which was offensive to Christians.

According to Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) councillor Hugh Smyth, articles published in the magazine, including a 'discussion of exorcism', a 'description of devil proverbs' and an article entitled 'I peed in church', were blasphemous and promoted devil worship. Although these allegations proved unsustainable, the censure motion was passed by a coalition of nationalist, Unionist and Alliance councillors on the basis that the publishers, council-funded arts group Factotum, had distributed material that is 'offensive, in bad taste and contains foul language'.

Sinn Fein, current holders of the arts committee chair, voted against the motion, arguing that 'the council has no right to interfere with the end products of arts organisations we fund'. Nonetheless, the committee subsequently decided to hold back part of a £5000 annual award, requiring Factotum to first make an apology to the people of Belfast. The committee also signalled that it reserves the right to restrict access to future funding opportunities 'if the arts or heritage activity causes gratuitous offence to individuals, groups or communities or contains material that is sexually explicit or racist'.

Factotum responded by inviting individuals and institutions to join it in a day of mass public contrition, where apology could be made for all offence ever given. Belfast's Sorry Day, celebrated on 15 December 2004, included feet-washing, open confession and bottom-spanking in the city's Cornmarket. The council has yet to respond, but reactions among Belfast's Christmas shoppers - ranging from disinterest to amused bewilderment - appear to indicate that even in this most God-fearing of cities, insulting Christians is a far less risky business than offending Sikhs in godless Birmingham.

With a long tradition of 'kick the Pope'-style bigotry, Northern Ireland introduced legislation banning incitement to religious hatred back in 1970. In spite of countless provocations, including a city councillor who modestly proposed that Catholic children in Belfast would be better housed in incinerators than schools, fewer than a handful of successful prosecutions have ever been brought.

 

17th January   Nazis

From Brand Republic

German politicians have called for Nazi symbols to be banned throughout Europe after Prince Harry was pictured wearing a swastika to a fancy dress party. The Liberal group in the European Parliament says all of Europe suffered because of the crimes of the Nazis, so there should be a continent-wide ban.

A senior Christian Democrat said the proposal may be discussed at the next meeting of European justice ministers. The symbols are already banned under German law.

The photograph of Harry in a costume with a Nazi swastika armband was taken at a friend's birthday party in Wiltshire last weekend. Vice-president of the Christian Democratic parliamentary group Wolfgang Bosback said the outfit really lacked taste. He said it was possible European justice ministers would discuss bringing in a European prohibition on displaying the swastika and other Nazi signs.

Liberal group vice-president Silvana Koch-Merin said: All of Europe has suffered in the past because of the crimes of the Nazis, therefore it would be logical for Nazi symbols to be banned all over Europe. She also called for the question to be placed on the agenda at the next meeting of justice ministers. German politicians have called for Nazi symbols to be banned throughout Europe after Prince Harry was pictured wearing a swastika to a fancy dress party.
The Liberal group in the European Parliament says all of Europe suffered because of the crimes of the Nazis, so there should be a continent-wide ban.

The vice-president of the parliamentary Social Democratic group, Michael Mueller, said a study was needed to find out how a German-style anti-Nazi law could be applied to the rest of Europe.

 

15th January   Moaning about Pot Noodle

From Brand Republic

Pot Noodle radio ads that feature moans of passion have been ruled in breach of advertising standards after a number of complaints that the ads were sexually aggressive and unsuitable to be heard by children.

The campaign, created by HHCL/Red Cell, featured different characters reading out instructions on how to make Pot Noodle in an excited tone of voice. The more they read, the more excited they sounded, until the end of the ad where they were crying out passionately "stir again, stir again".

The ads featured different straplines, including: Pot Noodle. The curious cheerleader of all snacks; Pot Noodle. The lonely housewife of all snacks; and another, which featured a man and a woman with German accents, describing the food as the filthy fraulein of all snacks.

Four complaints were received about the campaign, after it was broadcast when children were listening to the radio.

The ads had initially been cleared by the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre, which considered the references oblique and that children would not understand. While the agency admitted the campaign parodied "dated soft pornography", it said that it was clear that it was Pot Noodle exciting people.

The Advertising Standards Authority has found that the ads were in breach of the code because they were sexually suggestive and, therefore, inappropriate to be broadcast at times when children could be listening.

Pot Noodle has been in trouble over its advertising before and has seen one of its slogans, "the slag of all snacks", banned after hundreds of complaints.

 

13th January   Blog Off

From Silicon

An employee of book chain Waterstone's has been fired for material he included in his blog. Joe Gordon, who has been running his Woolamaloo Gazette satirical newsletter since 1992, was dismissed last week after working for the bookseller for 11 years, following a disciplinary hearing.

Gordon's blog, which covers everything from the city of Edinburgh to UN scientists in Iraq, also mentions his work in one of the chain's Edinburgh branches. As well as discussing visits from authors to the store and which cartoon characters his work colleagues would be, Gordon occasionally used his online diary to vent steam about his working life. And it's terms like Bastardstone's and Evil Boss which have drawn Waterstone's ire.

Although Waterstone's has no employee policy that deals with blogging, according to Gordon, the chain said that Gordon's blog had brought it into disrepute.

Gordon, however, maintains that such descriptions were intended light-heartedly and were meant to reminiscent of a Dilbert cartoon. I didn't set out with intent to harm, he said. I was gobsmacked, Gordon said of his sacking. The ex-bookseller, who ran a book group for the shop and has appeared on TV and radio as a Waterstone's employee, continued: I've done so much promotion for this company, it's not true.

If his manager had asked him to stop talking about his job at Waterstone's in his blog, Gordon said he would have done so. I could live with not talking about that... they've been so heavy-handed, he said. Gordon is currently talking to his union about his dismissal and may take further action.

 

12th January   Remembering a Good Time

From The Telegraph

The audience of a play was invited to watch two men performing a sex act in London's Sloane Square last night.  Tim Fountain: Sex Addict, at the Royal Court Theatre, involves its star, Fountain, logging on to a gay website in search of a potential partner.

When it was performed at Edinburgh's Fringe last year the audience voted for its favourite contenders and Fountain cycled off to meet the "winner", returning the next night to relate his experiences.

Last night's show had an audience of 100 journalists and friends of the playwright to choose Fountain's partner.

Veronica Lee, an arts critic for The Telegraph, said a taxi was sent to pick up a Latin American man in his twenties. When he arrived, the production manager said no sexual act could take place within the theatre. The performers and members of the audience then went outside:The two men disrobed beside the war memorial which was still adorned with poppies from Remembrance Day. She said each man performed a sexual act lasting a few seconds. Fountain, 37, said: We are making history. I think it is great.

A police spokesman said they had not received a complaint. He added, however, that a sex act in public was considered a breach of the peace.

 

5th January

  Internet Villains

From The Register

BT, Carol Vorderman and the European Union (EU) are all in the running for the dubious honour of being named "Internet Villain" of the year.

The most eagerly awaited award of the annual "ISPAs" - which celebrate the best (and worst) of the UK's internet industry - the "villain" category always causes a flurry of interest. Nominations are:

  • BT - For greatly exaggerating the number of people attempting to access web sites hosting child pornography at the PR launch of Cleanfeed and for implementing significant price hikes on its small and medium sized ISP wholesale customers with little notice.
  • The European Union (EU) - For threatening the 'Country of Origin' principle which has encouraged e-commerce across the EU and for the Draft Framework Decision on Data Retention.
  • International Federation of the Phonographic Industry - For their insufficient support for music download services and their lack of understanding of the online community
  • Lycos - For encouraging Internet users to participate in denial of service attacks
  • Carol Vorderman - For her uninformed comments on the Internet industry.

In the interest of balance, the ISPAs - run by the Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA) - also has an award for the "Hero" of the year with nominees:

  • The Officers of the All Party Internet Group - For their review of the Computer Misuse Act which called for a specific offence to be created and greater penalties for perpetrators of denial of service attacks
  • David Blunkett - For his self-imposed lesson on the value of privacy
  • Stephen Timms - For his effective work as E-commerce Minister which will be missed by the Internet industry
  • Ofcom - For reacting in an unexpectedly positive manner to the regulatory needs of the Internet telephony industry
  • Réseaux IP Européens (RIPE) - For their efforts to stop the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) from undermining the tried and trusted systems of Internet governance, with the threat of bureaucracy, government interference and disruption to the very essence of why the Internet is a success.

The winners of these awards, and all the other "ISPAs", will be announced on 24 February

 

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