Satellite X

 2001

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January    Never Say Can't...
   
 
Channel 5 logoI have spent much of the last few columns outlining some very positive steps towards the liberalisation of hardcore. This last month however has seen a series of coincidentally negative steps. Hopefully more of a blip than a backlash.


Can't Review British Porn
-------------------------

A Channel 5 show featuring reviews of porn movies was criticised by the Broadcasting Standards Commission for further pushing the boundaries of sex on TV. Complaints were upheld about the station's X Rated series saying it was simply promoting products that cannot be advertised on television. In particular, edited clips from hardcore R18 videos were featured. Channel 5 said great care had been taken in editing to ensure the R18 clip was no more explicit than other videos featured.

In its report the BSC said the series was consistent with a continuing process by Channel 5 of seeking to extend the boundaries of acceptability with regard to the depiction of sex on free to air television, this time by reviewing pornographic videos in the context of an entertainment programme.

A Channel 5 spokesman said the station was "surprised and disappointed" by the decision, adding: More than 1.3 million viewers watched the series but the BSC have based their decision on just six complaints - representing a minute percentage of those who watched. It seems unfair in the extreme to single out Channel 5 for showing this type of material when similar programming can be frequently found on ITV and Channel 4.


Can't Make British Porn
-----------------------

Gay group sex is unbelievably still illegal in the UK. This discriminatory law has been causing problems at the censors. The BBFC have recently been undertaking legal discussions about their R18 guidelines on the subject. According to the legal advisors, the BBFC are still unable to pass gay videos filmed in the UK which contain clear sight of anal penetration when more than two people are present in frame. However, provided that the distributor can give a written assurance that the video was filmed outside the UK (and therefore no UK law was broken), the BBFC do not now need to make cuts to sight of anal penetration during gay group sex.

Obviously, evidence in the video itself will be considered. For example, a group of men having sex in a room overlooking the Houses of Parliament or Trafalgar Square would not be acceptable regardless of any assurances from the distributor!
However, until such time as the law in the UK changes, the BBFC will still require cuts to sight of gay anal penetration where more than two men are on screen if the scene was filmed in the UK. Not to do so would breach the guidelines on not allowing depictions of illegal activities and would constitute incontestable evidence of an offence being committed under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act.


Can't Buy British Porn
----------------------

There are less than 100 licensed sex shops in the UK. A fair proportion of these are in London leaving relatively few for the rest of the country.

The BBFC President, Andreas Whittam Smith, has suggested that a sex shop should be licensed in every town. In fact a single shop per town would merely serve to maintain the current monopolistic exploitation. Competitive pricing will surely not occur until there are several shops in each town.



Can't Mail Order British Porn
-----------------------------

One of the most inane rules in the UK's censorship arsenal is that you can't buy R18 videos by mail order. The realisation of this has just hit one of the UK's major producers, Prime Time Promotions and has forced them to suspend their Internet mail order service.

It appears that whilst it is legal to sell uncertificated hardcore videos to UK residents by mail order from the Continent it is illegal to sell certificated hardcore videos by mail order within the UK itself.

This situation is currently under review at the Home Office. It would seem strangely counter-productive if we maintained the current discrimination against BBFC approved videos in favour of unregulated foreign imports.



Can't Watch British Satellite Porn
----------------------------------

The satellite regulators, the ITC, are still enthusiastically maintaining their guidelines which ban UK based channels from broadcasting R18 videos. Surely it is just a matter of time before they realise that their prohibition is no longer supported by UK law. In fact European law states that they are not allowed to ban material unless they can justify the alleged harm.

 

February    American X...
   
 
US flagI am currently recommending that Satellite X fans should keep a beady eye out for news from America. The recent inauguration of President Bush has sent shock waves of concern through the adult industry that could well echo across the Atlantic.

The first alarm bell that caught my attention was a news item about a campaigning letter from George W Bush to an organisation known as Morality in Media. In it Bush states: "Pornography has no place in a decent society. As Governor of Texas, I have used the pulpit of my office to send the message that pornography is not welcome in the Lone Star State. If I am fortunate enough to be elected President, I will insist on vigorously enforcing federal anti-pornography laws".

Any hope that such a statement was mere electioneering, ie telling each inquiring organisation just what they wanted to hear, was dashed when Bush announced a rather hard line Government. The religious right have obtained a strong foothold particularly in the domain of law and enforcement.

The US porn producers reacted overly quickly, not even giving the new Government time to utter a single censorial word. In a fit of self censorship, Legend Video dropped one of their more extreme directors, Max Hardcore. Max had been pushing the envelope by producing stronger, "European Versions" of his videos. The industry reasoning is that the Government will surely be encouraging more prosecutions of porn and that those cases may be better defended from a catalogue of strictly 'vanilla' material.

In a bizarre extension to this logic, it has been rumoured that companies have dropped interracial scenes, particularly those featuring white girls with black men. It is not because anyone thinks there will ever be a legal restriction on such scenes, it is just that when the inevitable legal challenges arise, jurors may prove more likely to find interracial sex guilty of obscenity.


An interesting time then for Sky's own Rupert Murdoch to seek to buy into satellite sex. He has shown an interest in DirecTV a major player in the US satellite market. Of course the system has a vast array of non-porn channels but the porn element is still enormous. Industry estimates suggest that it takes in as much as $200 million a year from its pay-for-view porn sales. Maybe not so surprinsing given a subscriber base of 8.7 million people. The Independent recently reported that DirecTV now sold more graphic sex movies than Larry Flynt, the owner of the Hustler magazine and porn film empire.

The American cable & satellite market has gradually been shifting from softcore to hardcore via some pretty weird compromise positions. On one hand many industry players would prefer to be able to stay softcore owing to a lot of pressure in the US to be family friendly. On the other hand, money is also worshipped in the US. Many content providers therefore adopted a policy of being as censorial as possible whilst still showing sufficient explicit material to be ahead of the competion and hence to draw in the punters. Of course the competition then had to respond by being a little more explicit themselves. This process has gathered so much momentum that even the Playboy channel is now showing regular hardcore movies (in communities that allow it anyway). The market is now littered with evolving weird policies. Some channels show basically softcore versions with a few hardcore scenes inserted; some show penetration but not cum shots; some show everything except anal scenes.

Another example of a quirky change of approach is that of Penthouse. The magazine has recently moved onto the hardcore world but they have maintained their penchance for arty photography and sepia tinted layouts. In an astute partnership they have joined with the high quality European video producer, Private.

Hardcore dollars have certainly had their say in the America. The questions are now, will Murdoch see the light of the hardcore dollar? Will he want to earn a few more hardcore pounds on Sky? Will Bush get in first and spoil the party? Perhaps one day our very own version of the Playboy Channel may go hardcore. Here's hoping.

 

March    Ultra XXL Satisfaction
   
 
XXL logoBack to basics this month! I thought it was about time to review some of the current hardcore offerings on satellite.
There are many channels to choose from so I have concentrated on a small subset where both and subscriptions and required kit are readily available.

Ultra Blue, Satisfaction Channel and XXL all come under the spotlight. Before individual examination, it is important to note that each of the channels deliver on their promise of hardcore porn. Although there is certainly an element of editorial discretion on the selection of films, there is no apparent requirement for cuts as per the UK based channels. All three channels possess a catalogue of films that at least boast a few high quality titles.

All three channels also share a common equipment specification in that they require a 70cm dish aimed at Hotbird plus a digital receiver with a Viaccess decryption capability. Receivers with Viaccess built in are plentiful and Viaccess CAMs are relatively cheap plug-ins for receivers with a Common Interface. Predictably all three share absolutely no commonality with the equipment used to receive UK based digital broadcasting.


XXL
---

This channel is part of the French ABsat package and particularly favours locally produced films. This isn't at all a bad thing as many French films from the likes of Marc Dorcel hold their own with the best. In fact many french stars are very familiar due to frequent integration with US porn. On the negative side, the French seem to favour their US fare to be broadcast in a dubbed format. Italian produced porn is also very popular with the XXL schedulers.

XXL starts broadcasting at 9:30pm (UK time) but is softcore until 11pm. The hardcore offering consists of 2 full length features. Tuesday evenings are reserved for gay material. Programme listings are readily available for the ABsat package.


Satisfaction Channel (SCT)
--------------------------

SCT is broadcast from Italy so unsurprisingly concentrates on home grown features. There are a lot of talented porn producers in Italy and they produce a sizeable output. In fact one of their best, Joe D'Amato, often worked in America and showed them how to make high quality porn. SCT however does tend to mix in some pretty downgrade titles which occasionally lapse into moments of bleached out grainy video offerings.

SCT broadcast 24 hours a day with plenty of padding material. Two hardcore films are repeated continuously in a 24 hour period. However, each days new programme starts at 11pm so after a missed days viewing 4 different films can be watched the next evening.

SCT no longer carries gay programming as it recently spun off a gay/lesbian/fetish sister channel, The Rainbow Channel (RCT). At the time of writing it seems that this arrangement is likely to change again soon. Although SCT doesn't seem to provide programme guide details on air, listings are readily available on the internet.


Ultra Blue
----------

The strangest feature of this channel is that they have a total aversion to broadcasting the titles and credits of their films. It is not the they have anything to be ashamed of in their catalogue in terms of quality. The schedulers generally favour US material which is broadcast in English. There is a fair range of US material from upmarket gloss down to the more edgy videos of Rocco Siffredi and John Stagliano. A certain amount of Japanese porn makes for a refreshing change.

I would be interested to hear of theories about exclusion of titles though. My theory is that they get a cheaper licensing deal as the films are useless to collectors and traders. The policy becomes further infuriating between films when filler material is inserted before the next films starts on a half hour. The viewer cannot distinguish between the next film and a 5 or 10 minute filler clip. This problem is further exasperated by a total lack of programme guide or published schedules.

Ultra Blue starts broadcasting at 8pm and shows 4 films in an evening heading towards a shut down at 2am. The Ultra Blue website suggests that a daily theme operates but I haven't really been able to correlate this with the films shown.



Of course these dedicated porn channels are just a small portion of the total picture. There are several extensive pay-per-view operations as well as numerous film channels that carry varying amounts of hardcore mixed in amongst more mainstream fare...But that's another story for another column.

 

April    Harder Softcore
   
 
R18 StoryViewers of UK softcore channels have always had to put up with some ludicrously strict censorship of what they are allowed to see. Things are now looking up though, as these softcore guidelines have recently been relaxed.

But first of all lets get a few things straight. Don't get fooled by carefully worded advertising, all UK satellite porn channels are strictly softcore. UK satellite broadcasters must obtain a license from the regulators at the ITC who have dictated that hardcore porn is not acceptable for transmission. In fact this position has recently been re-affirmed by the ITC.

In Britain hardcore is legal but may only be purchased from licensed sex shops. Such hardcore videos require an R18 certificate from the British board of Film Classification (BBFC). The more familiar 18 certificate (depicted by an 18 in a red circle) denotes that a video is softcore and that it can be sold in high street shops.

The satellite regulators have framed their ban on hardcore by simply stating that R18 videos are not to be broadcast. They have therefore implicitly left it up to the BBFC to decide what is hardcore (R18) and what is softcore (18). The main reason for the improvement in satellite porn guidelines is simply that the BBFC have quietly been relaxing their own guidelines for 18 certificate videos.

Almost a year ago now the BBFC changed their guidelines to allow hardcore at R18. These new guidelines were very clearly defined and were announced with a fanfare of publicity. In fact the guidelines for 18 were simultaneously changed, but this was an unannounced change without any clear specification of the new rules. It took distributors some time to cotton on to the changes which only became apparent from unexpectedly short lists of required cuts.

I still haven't seen a formal release of the updated guidelines so my research into the details of the changes is a little limited. The changes have been determined from comparison of older 18 rated video releases with those certificated more recently along with the viewing of broadcasts on Sky and ONdigital PPV. (Thanks also to my friends at www.sexontv.co.uk).
  • Erections are now permitted but shots of penetration are not.
  • There no longer appears to be a prohibition on open crotch shots and the like.
  • Masturbation may now be depicted where there is no insertion.
  • Cunnilingus is allowed assuming no insertion shots.
  • Old rules prohibiting the proof of real sex have been revoked. This used to result in cuts even in non-explicit shots.
  • An old ban on multiple participant sex has been deleted.
  • Arbitrary limits on the length of a scene have been removed.

It must be said that some of these latter anachronisms had never been implemented by satellite channels when they were doing their own editing, ie for films with no UK video release.

It would be interesting to know whether the satellite regulators are at ease with the above changes. It is a possibility that the ITC delegated responsibility to the BBFC on the incorrect assumption that previous censorial regime would be maintained indefinitely.

To the credit of the BBFC, one of the reasons for their significant change to the porn guidelines were as a result of a public survey about opinions on censorship. The BBFC concluded that adults preferred to make up their own minds on the subject of porn and simply did not want a state appointed body telling them what they could watch. I have no doubt that the satellite regulators would replicate this finding if they were to similarly ask satellite subscribers for their opinions.

The ITC are skating on very thin ice when maintaining their ban on hardcore. The European Convention of Human Rights clearly states that material may only be banned where the authorities can justify the harm that such material would otherwise cause. And of course such proof has so far proved very elusive.

As time progresses, more people will surely realise that hardcore is legally available (from sex shops, by import or from foreign satellite channels). I therefore think that softcore channels will have difficulty competing with hardcore alternatives and I have a hunch that I will soon be writing a few more articles about further relaxations of guidelines.

 

May    Taking a View on Sex View
   
 
SexView logoIt is the best of channels, it is the worst of channels, it's content is beyond belief, it's presentation is beyond incredulity.

SexView is the latest addition to the growing array of dedicated hardcore channels available to UK subscribers. However, it can hardly be described as just another satellite sex channel, it pushes every facet of broadcasting to the extremes...both extremely good and extremely bad.

SexView provides 24 hour digital broadcasts from Hotbird using both Viaccess and Irdeto encryption. Although based in the Netherlands, the channel focuses very much on German films. Even material originally produced in Britain seems to be transmitted in the dubbed German version. This emphasis on the Teutonic is surely no bad thing, especially the high quality Videorama series such as Teeny Magma, Sex and Fun with Harry and Teeny Exzesse. Such films consistently feature very attractive and enthusiastic casts and the sex scenes are never allowed to drag on too long. This doesn't mean that the running time is filled with unconvincing plot though, the films pack in a lot of short sex scenes
with a fair amount of variety provided by a large cast. Perhaps most importantly of all, German producers prefer the very pretty girl-next-door look over the almost perfect, but therefore unobtainable glamour, favoured by the American companies.

Of course this is only part of the characteristic of German porn. For the purposes of this review I will only briefly allude to the other main characteristic, ie the more 'extreme' elements. Wet sex and fisting are almost a staple part of German fare and SexView certainly don't believe in self censorship of such content. Saying that though, any S&M material tends to be high on the leather and thankfully low on the Sade.

We'll now move on from one extreme to another. The usability of the channel leaves everything to be desired. For a start, as with UltraBlue, all beginning and end titles have been removed from German films. The pattern of scheduling doesn't do much to make up for this lack of information. Two films are shown back to back followed be exactly a half hour loop of phone sex adverts. There is no regular time of day when films are synchronised to start. There is no indication where one is within the advert loop and there is no unique card that indicates that films are about to start. Films just start, no warning, no titles, straight in to the first scene. In cynical moments one may wonder if this was seen as a method of forcing viewers to watch the phone adverts.

Even more alarming is the transition between the two films, anything indicating the end of the first has been deleted along with anything identifying the start of the second and they run together without even a card or a pause. The other very negative scheduling feature is that the second of the two films is often a cheapo US compilation filler. Whereas there seems to be a very large selection of German films, there are only a half dozen of the American fillers. These are therefore repeated literally ad-nauseum.

Now given that there is no EPG information transmitted, neither is there any teletext, it seems that the only way to watch this channel would be via Tivo. A days viewing could be saved on the disk and one could quickly scan through the adverts and American fillers to find the actual programmes.

However at the time of writing SexView have just started to publish detailed programme schedules on their website at www.sexview.net. Assuming that these schedules are accurately maintained it could transform the channel from being totally unusable into one with a wealth of high quality German material, in fact a far far better channel indeed.

 

June    A Hard Year
   
 
R18 Story  This time last year hardcore videos were finally legalised. So has civilisation collapsed? Have we been depraved and corrupted? Was Mary Whitehouse right all along? I think not, but it now seems a good opportunity to consider the impact that a years worth of porn has made on British life.

Just to briefly recap on the year: overly strict censorship led the BBFC to High Court in April 2000; the judgment went against them in May; they revised their guidelines allowing hardcore in July; the first uncut videos were certificated in August and reached the sex shops in September.

The most notable achievement of the year is the total lack of controversy associated with the liberalisation. Most newspapers carried no more than a couple of stories about the changes. Even the Daily Mail seemed resigned to the changes with no attempt to stir up any sort of censorial campaign.

Even more surprisingly the politicians have opted out of the debate. Particularly Jack Straw, who up until the High Court defeat was very vocal about his opposition to pornography. As soon as the case was lost he very sensibly withdrew from the issue and has hardly said a word on the subject since. In fact the topic of censorship didn't even make it into any of the recent electioneering.

Meanwhile the sex shops have been rapidly stocking up on hardcore. At the time of writing, 375 R18 videos have been classified for sale. I get the impression from several people in the trade that sales have been good but have not quite lived up to expectations. Ironically a little more press controversy would have helped, as more people would then be aware that hardcore is now legally sold in the UK. Another explanation of sluggish development is that sex shops have been trying to dress up a previously softcore product in hardcore clothing for so long that people are now reluctant to believe the traders when they again claim that their product is 'hotter than ever'.

Things are improving though. Shops are responding to a potential increase in customers by making the shopping experience more pleasant. Roomier shops, better lighting, air conditioning, fairer pricing etc. hopefully will lead to both more customers and less opposition to licence applications.

Unfortunately there are still a few unappealing sex shops around and there are large areas of the country nowhere near to a licensed shop.
This leads on to the most impractical and stupid of UK's sex laws. It is illegal for shops to sell R18s via mail order. I guess that this was originally implemented to ensure that youngsters are not able to elude the age restrictions. This problem could be easily remedied by allowing mail order via recorded delivery where the postman could require ID to prove the recipients age.

The unreasonable mail order laws have in fact been recently exploited by one of the few groups who are still actively campaigning against porn. An anonymous group, calling themselves 'Internet Vigilantes', have been targeting websites who set up to sell perfectly legitimate R18 videos. The Internet Vigilante Nutters monitor websites and publications and simply report those that they find to the police/local authorities/Trading standards for breaching the mail order prohibition. On one hand they get the satisfaction of knowing that British traders are harangued but on the other they can surely make no impact on the actual amount of porn bought. Customers simply need to click on an overseas site instead of the British site. After all, import from abroad is now perfectly legitimate, Customs no longer intercept material conforming to R18 guidelines.

All in all, a remarkably quiet first year of hardcore availability. Politicians seem to have come to terms with the change, enforcement agencies seem to be at ease and there has been a slow but steady development of the legitimate trade. All we now need to do is extend this availability into the satellite sphere. It is hopeful to note that Playboy TV have recently obtained R18 certificates for a few of their video titles. I hope this is a step in the right direction.

 

July    A Strong Euro
   
 
Canal + logoThis month I will be following in the footsteps of the porn mega star, Rocco Siffredi on his continuing European tours. Whereas Rocco gets to 'Invade' Poland or to 'Ravish' Prague, I will merely take in a little local satellite TV.

I have reviewed most of the dedicated porn channels in previous issues but this month we will take a look at the more mainstream services that nearly all prominently feature hardcore.

First stop France, home of the original Canal+. Hardcore was introduced to the Canal+ film channel many years ago, no doubt as a result of a push for subscribers. Traditionally the channel broadcast a single porn movie at midnight on the first Saturday of the month. This would be repeated for a further three showings. Unlike Sky, Canal+ has had to survive a little more competition from other movie channels. Competition is always good, one side or the other always has to up the ante when it comes to transmitting porn. CineCinema, another mainstream movie channel, increased the frequency of late night porn videos and the trend has been continuing ever since.

The pay-per-view service, Kiosque, provides a few telling pointers to the state of the French market. The very nature of Pay-per-view insures that the films are popular and of high quality, except of course for the French love affair with amateur porn. After midnight, eight of the twelve channels are given over to porn. The next time that ITV Digital complain about moribund subscription figures, some kind person should suggest the obvious solution that is staring them in the face.



Moving on to Spain. Taquilla is a pay-per-view again associated with Canal+. They have allotted two channels to hardcore but this time they are allowed to operate 24 hours a day. Each channel provides a double bill that is then repeated throughout the day. A third channel joins the porn family at midnight and shows exclusively gay movies.

The Netherlands is never far behind when it comes to porn. Their mainstream film channels, again from the Canal+ stable, broadcast a late night porn movie on four nights a week. That's clearly not really enough, so the digital package also contains a 24 hour hardcore service called X Zone. The programming pattern is to cycle through three of four different movies a day. These tend to be repeated frequently throughout the month though. I can particularly recommend the John B Root films that successfully achieve a charming hybrid of porn and French arty/talky films.

Italy chips in with another mainstream pay-per-view service called Palco. About eight channels are dedicated to the cause and they start after an 11.30pm watershed. Italy is of course the home of Rocco Siffredi and his movies are clearly popular with his fellow countrymen. I mention this because Rocco's movies are currently causing a little grief at our very own censor's office. Rocco tends to play a little rough in bed with the ladies and this clearly is not acceptable to British censorial sensitivities. It does seem a little strange to read about videos being cut by day and then catching them by night on the Italian version of Sky.


Germany is notable for a lack of sex on satellite. There is channel operated Beate Uhse who run an extensive chain of hardcore sex shops but the TV channel is strictly softcore. In fact our very own softcore Adult Channel has recently tried to extend into the German market as one of the few places that would put up with a softcore service.

My favourite example of a good attitude towards censorship was in the analogue days of Scandinavia's FilmNet and TV1000. A hardcore movie would be broadcast to all of Scandinavia in the original language version. Each viewer could select subtitles for the local language. Hardcore was illegal in Norway so censorship was implemented by re-using the Norwegian subtitles facility to blank out the screen. Of course it didn't take more than ten seconds for viewers to realise what was going on and swop to Swedish subtitles. I don't know how Norwegians are currently being served now that Canal+ has gone country specific but the rest of Scandinavia are still enjoying nightly hardcore films from Canal+ and TV1000.

Poland have recently started a hardcore service called Private Gold to queues of subscribers. Perhaps our own Government will one day have to face up to hardcore, if only to increase the digital take up rate closer to that required for analogue shutdown and the resulting mega windfall.

 

August    Ice Cold Censors
   
 
BBFC logoConvergence is very much the 'in' word in today's media industry. PCs are converging with TVs, Satellite is converging with terrestrial, Broadcasting is converging with the internet, and if the Government get their way, censors will soon be converging with the dole queue.

The Government have suggested that the BBC regulators merge with the ITC who regulate, commercial TV, cable and satellite. The Broadcasting Standards Commission who monitor taste and decency will also be invited onboard along with the fledgling internet censors, the Internet Watch Foundation. Radio and telecoms regulators will complete the jigsaw and the whole lot will be known as Ofcom (Office of Communications). The resulting inevitable rationalisation will certainly swell the dole queue with ex-censors.

Note that the film and video censors, the BBFC, are not part of the list. The notable difference explaining this absence is that the BBFC pre-vet all material whilst the others respond to monitoring and complaints etc after the event. The Government don't appear to have decided yet where the BBFC slot into the Ofcom family.

The BBFC sit through thousands of videos a year. One has to wonder whether this is really necessary. Decisions on age classifications are essentially arbitrary so maybe the service to parents will be appreciated enough such that the BBFC will continue to pre-vet material. When it comes to porn however, surely pre-vetting is an appalling waste of expertise and cash. Hardcore material is an automatic R18 certificate, no expert decisions needed. Some of the obvious checks on material such as age restrictions and the mixing of sex with violence are effectively already enforced by America. All porn producers comply with strict US requirements because they all want to sell into the most lucrative of markets. The few decisions required when porn guidelines are pushed to the limits could easily be resolved in response to monitoring and complaints. Guidelines could then be debated and modified as required.

I thought I would illustrate the point by summarising the results of pre-vetting porn over the last few months. Hundreds of porn videos have been submitted and the vast majority have been passed without cuts. Here are some of the cuts that the BBFC have insisted upon:

Satanic Sex required a cut to the sight of woman being penetrated by a dildo on the end of a long pole which they said has the potential to cause harm. Medical advice identified that objects which are very long and which do not have a natural safe stopping point (or a significant thickening in diameter to restrict penetration at a safe point). This clearly applies to the dildo on a pole in this title.

The distributors of a sex education video called: More of What Men Want were caught out when the so called educational content was not found to be medically sound by the BBFC advisors. This resulted in a cut removing the sight of pieces of ice being inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse. This was on the grounds that the educators did not inform that ice may cause harm if it isn't allowed to melt a little first.

The BBFC frequently refer to 'potential harm' as justification for cuts. 22 seconds were removed from Maneuvers: Agony of Victory. The censors gave the following justification: "Cut required to sight of urolagnia (in this case a man licking urine from his hand) in accordance with BBFC guidelines and in line with current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act 1959. A second cut was required to sight of a lit cigar being held very close to a man's penis on the grounds of potential harm". Of course the sight of a man smoking a cigar is perfectly acceptable even though smoking is 'provably harmful' rather than merely 'potentially harmful'.

Very occasionally videos come in for stronger criticism. The best recent example being Rocco Ravishes Prague 3. This video was cut for repeated, aggressive, deep thrusting into mouth causing gagging; somebody's head being forced into a urinal during aggressive fellatio, and for sexual violence. To be fair to the censors, this decision was widely supported by many people who felt that the video was improved by the excisions.

Its a tough job, but somebody's got to do it...haven't they?

 

September    View XXL for Ultra Satisfaction
   
 
XXL logoSix months is a long time in satellite sex. It is therefore time to revisit the current selection of dedicated hardcore channels.

There are four established channels to choose from: Satisfaction Channel TV, XXL, Ultra Blue and Sex-View TV. All four channels broadcast uncut hardcore and it is perfectly legal to subscribe to these services. In addition there's also a recent start-up called Spice Platinum but that will be covered in a future column.


All channels share a common equipment specification in that they require a 70cm dish with a Universal LNB aimed at Hotbird (13 degrees east). All channels are digital and require a receiver with the following decryption systems:

- Satisfaction Channel TV Irdeto II or Viaccess
- XXL Viaccess or Seca/Mediaguard
- Ultra Blue Irdeto II or Viaccess
- Sex-View TV Irdeto II or Viaccess
- Spice Platinum Irdeto II

Some receivers have various decryption systems built in. Others have just a common interface (CI). This then requires the additional
purchase of a plug-in Conditional Access Module (CAM) appropriate to the required decryption system. Note also that each subscription involves a separate smart card so one can soon run out of card slots. Predictably there is little commonality with the equipment used to receive Sky digital broadcasts.


Satisfaction Channel TV (SCT)
--------------------------

SCT is broadcast from Italy so unsurprisingly concentrates on home grown features. A rather large proportion of the output tends to be cheap amateur programming. Amateur porn can be quite popular but SCT seems to carry some pretty low grade examples of the genre. SCT also broadcast more mainstream features from the likes of Joe D'Amato and Luca Damiano, always worth a look. American films are also shown but they are generally dubbed into Italian.

SCT broadcast 24 hours a day. Two hardcore films are repeated continuously in a 24 hour period starting from 10pm. Gay films have recently returned to SCT and these are slotted in at off peak times.

Although SCT doesn't provide programme guide details on air they do stick to fixed start times and listings are readily available on the internet.


XXL
---

This channel is part of the French ABsat package and particularly favours locally produced films. This isn't at all a bad thing as many French films from the likes of Marc Dorcel hold their own with the best. Most of the films are mainstream professional and of good quality Maybe they tend to be repeated a little too often though. There are regular slots for amateur porn and gay programming gets a monthly airing. American films are generally dubbed into French.


XXL starts broadcasting at 9:30pm (UK time) but is softcore until 11pm. The hardcore offering consists of 2 full length features. Programme listings are readily available on the internet.


Ultra Blue
----------

Ultra Blue offer the widest variety of programming. The largest proportion is mainstream American but there are plenty of alternatives: Japanese, black American, German, fetish and gonzo. English is the prevailing language.

Broadcasts start at 8pm and about four films are shown up until 2am. The scheduling is easily the weakest link for this channel. Programme details are elusive and the removal of film titles and credits further exacerbates the problem.


Sex-View TV
-----------

This is a must for anyone who enjoys German porn. Sex-View TV has an excellent catalogue of high quality films. Particularly notable are those from Videorama. However, potential viewers should be cautioned that films from Germany tend to be on the extreme side and often feature material such as watersports.

Sex View TV is broadcast 24 hours a day with a strict pattern of alternating German and American films. The US films are pretty low quality and frequently repeated, just padding really. The channel repeats throughout the day but only after about 8 hours worth of different films. All films are shown in their original language. There are no fixed start times to the films but programme details are now available on the internet albeit with errors of up to half an hour.



The market for hardcore in mainland Europe is well served by a variety of sources from the local video shops to the mainstream film channels from the likes of Canal+. The dedicated porn channels have therefore had to adapt to a pretty competitive market. Big programming budgets are out and specialist niches are in. I hope the reviews have helped clarify the options but the final choice certainly isn't easy.

 

October    Spicy Fare
   
 
What Satellite logoNostalgia TV is pretty popular fare on satellite TV but I hardly expected to find a channel amongst the hardcore broadcasters.

Spice Platinum is the latest satellite sex channel. It has only been transmitting for a few weeks but it feels like it has been with us for a lot longer. This could be due to its uncanny resemblance to the now defunct Eurotica channel. For those of you with long memories, I am referring to the incarnation that existed prior to the merger with Rendez-Vous TV.

At that time, Eurotica broadcast exclusively American programming. The films were standard medium grade material, mostly star vehicles for the likes of Jill Kelly, Jenteal, Kylie Ireland and Stephanie Swift. Cheap filler was based upon two compilation series, Gonzo and the dire SXTV.

In the week under Review, the Spice Platinum schedule consisted almost entirely of US films from the Eurotica catalogue. They have even decided to continue with the Gonzo compilation series. The output has been somewhat spiced up however with a few new programmes. Most notable is the British series, Neil Down Sex Therapist, a slightly jokey programme in the style of Ben Dover.

Hardcore channels generally have a tendency to feel somewhat jaded after a while and I don't think Spice Platinum are doing themselves any favours by concentrating so heavily on the American product. Variety may be the spice of life but variety certainly isn't the spice of Spice.

On a more positive note, Spice Platinum is very reasonably priced at around 100 for an annual subscription. Spice Platinum currently broadcasts from Hot Bird at 13 degrees east and is encrypted in Irdeto II. The channel transmits four or five films a night and so far have given the impression that their catalogue is large enough to avoid excessive repeats.



I was hoping to report this month on the politics of changing attitudes to pornography. The Liberal Democrats had scheduled a debate on the subject in their conference. Unfortunately world events conspired against us and the debate was cancelled. However, it is worth noting a few points from the proposed motion as it gives a very positive outlook from at least a few of our politicians. Part of the motion read as follows:

"Pornography should be available to buy from, safe reliable sources, giving a 'fair deal' to all involved. Conference therefore calls for: Relaxation of censorship laws so that all pornography depicting consensual sexual activity is available to adults over the age of 16 who wish to purchase it, and in so doing remove contradictions in the current laws surrounding pornography. Revision of the R18 rating to R16, whilst maintaining the tight and responsible enforced licensing of sex shops. Reductions in the cost of licensing a sex shop, discouraging people from buying less reliably sourced material over the internet; and moves towards future regulation and licensing of on-line sex shops".

I had hoped that the call for a 'fair deal' would have reached the ears of the ITC, the satellite regulators. The ITC are still unjustifiably maintaining their prohibition of hardcore even though such material is no longer considered obscene or against the law. The licensing of hardcore on TV may even prove to be a way out of the financial problems of ITV Digital. In the past, the addition of such programming has rescued several failing European services due to much improved subscription. The Government are very keen to see the successful take up of digital services so that they can sell off the analogue frequencies. It would therefore appear that the acceptance of hardcore would be of great benefit to the broadcasters, the Government, the tax payers and above all, the viewers. The question is then: how many more readers would subscribe to pay TV services if the broadcasters elected to carry Spice Platinum?

 

November    May God Bless Nutters
   
 
Mediawatch-UK bannerThis months column was inspired by opponents of the newly opened For Your Eyes Only, a table dancing club in Newcastle. The campaigners are hoping to deter customers by taking their pictures and posting them on a website, www.theyhavetopayforit.com. The idea is obviously to get
men in trouble with partners and wives. In response the club says that it welcomes the 'free publicity' and that its customers are not ashamed anyway.

This may appear a little off topic but the same debate applies to a wide range of adult entertainment including that of sex on TV. I will therefore survey some of the tactics of various anti-porn groups and ask whether satellite sex viewers are influenced by such peer pressure methods.

The oldest of the pressure groups are surely the National Viewers and Listeners Association. They have recently been re-launched as mediawatch-uk but their strategy remains unaltered. They argue that there should be far more emphasis on involving the public in determining programme policy. They seem to arrogantly assume that the majority of the public would somehow back their own censorial views.

Thankfully those that have actually researched current public opinion have found otherwise. The film censors (BBFC), consulted widely and concluded that our censorial views are limited to the control of material seen by children. They found very little desire to regulate what adults could watch. It was the acceptance of this view supported by a judicial review that led to the legalisation of hardcore in the UK.

Another high profile campaign learnt the hard way that they can no longer rely on public opinion to support their views. The Movement for Christian Democracy web site, www.mcdpolitics.org, proclaims that one of their major campaigning successes was the work to bring about reform of the BBFC as an organisation committed to accountability and democracy. Of course they must have been a bit shocked when the newly 'accountable' and 'democratic' censors decided that public opinion mandated a liberalisation rather than a tightening of censorship rules. The pique is apparent on their website where they now admit that "The focus of the campaign has now shifted away from the BBFC on to other aspects of the media".

A slightly more effective opposition to adult material has been mounted by an alliance of trading standards and vigilante nutters willing to spend hours surfing the net looking for minor infringements of the law. The vigilante organisations such as "UK Protection of Children On Line" or the "Internet Vigilantes" report any infractions to the police and trading standards who may then follow up with sex shop raids and the like.

Of course the vigilantes never get all their own way. The proprietor of www.strawberryX.com told me about a complaint that led to the loss of a trading endorsement from "Which?": "Every time a vigilante style group attacks a website and it appears on a bulletin board or news site like www.melonfarmers.co.uk, the publicity generated creates sales revenue for the person being attacked. We saw an increase in sales when we were first attacked by the vigilante, then again when we got our Which? award, then again when it was taken away. May God bless these nutters, they're good for business!".

A far more effective limit on the sale of adult material is down to the powers of local councils to license sex shops. Some councils have decided that their should be no sex shops in their area. I was recently informed of a dodgy decision to refuse a license on the basis of the applicants inexperience of running a sex shop. How does one get experience when all licenses are refused? More commonly councils compromise and decide that a single sex shop is sufficient for their area. Unfortunately the resulting establishment of a monopoly often results in some pretty unusable shops either due to exorbitant prices or an uninviting atmosphere or both.

Theoretically there should come a time when censorial councilors realise that they are not reflecting the views of their electorate. On the other hand, the issue is unlikely to get very high up on most peoples list of reasons for voting so maybe there will always be shortage of good sex shops.

Of course the most effective censors are the ITC who have unilaterally declared that R18 videos are not to be allowed on UK satellite TV. Unfortunately it is not very obvious how the will of the people can be brought to bear in this case. We will just have to continue with our extensive choice of foreign channels. And just like the customers of the Newcastle table dancing club...I'm not ashamed.

 

December    French Lessons
   
 
Canal + logoThis month I thought I would mix work and pleasure by combining a romantic weekend in Paris with a porn filled fact finding mission. Hours of research led to a simple conclusion...the French love porn and they love a starlet called Clara Morgane.

I first spotted Clara on a promotional loop enticing viewers into buying pay-per-view satellite movies on Kiosque. She is stunningly beautiful and has an innocent look that would make it impossible that she could ever star in the moves that she promotes. Luckily this impression is totally wrong and she turns out to be a fully fledged hardcore actress. For information, Kiosque offer about half a dozen varied pay-per-view channels each offering a double bill. Programmes change weekly but films keep reappearing every few weeks.

Clara Morgane also pops up on Canal+. This mainstream channel programmes a single hardcore film per month but it is repeated every few days. Predictably the film selected for the month under review featured Clara. As if that wasn't enough the movie is preceded by a 5 minute magazine show called le Journal du Hard. No prizes for guessing who the presenter is. It seems that practically every hotel in Paris subscribes to Canal+ so it shouldn't be hard to track down a programme with Clara.

Cine Cinemas is another set of mainstream movie channels which show a limited amount of hardcore. Channels 1 & 3 between them broadcast 3 or 4 different movies each week with enough repeats to ensure that there is a hardcore video on most nights. Strangely enough, though, no sign of Clara this month.

France has one dedicated porn channel called XXL. This is marketed in Britain and so has been reviewed recently. XXL shows softcore programming films, documentaries or chat shows followed by 2 hardcore videos. Movies seem to generally be shown twice within a week.

There are many French video shops concentrated in 3 areas, Place Pigalle, Rue St Denis and Rue de la Gaitie. In general these shops charge pretty outrageous prices. It is far better to purchase a copy of a magazine such as Hot Video and look out the adverts for the much cheaper video shops that are dotted around the capital. Hot Video contains hardcore but it is available at most news stands. You can't miss it, it usually has a picture of Clara Morgane on the cover.

Before buying French videos one also has to be aware that they use a different video standard to Britain. French Secam tapes will play only in black and white on a typical British Pal video player. There is fantastic array of videos for sale. If popularity is a good indicator of quality then one can't go too far wrong by looking out tapes on the Marc Dorcel or Colmax labels directed by Fred Coppula, Alain Payet or Patrice Cabanel. The most sought after starlets are the omnipresent Clara Morgane followed by Silvia Saint, Dolly Golden and Laure Sainclair. US movies are best avoided as they tend to get dubbed very badly into French.

One word of advice though, any shop or show with a tout outside is very likely to be a clip joint where aggressive bouncers extract upwards of 30 for a single drink. Many shops/shows also entice customers with the promise of "complete satisfaction" for 20. Complete rip off for 100 is a little closer to the reality. A sharp dose of Trading Standards is well overdue in Paris. The safer shows rely on repeat customers and advertise in listing magazines such as Pariscope. They certainly wont have touts on the door.

Paris also provides another less commercial avenue for the sex trade. There are reportedly about 70 swinger clubs in Paris. Some of these are also associated with amateur video. Companies such as Ragtime, MST, Laetitia and Saphyr thrive on a never ending club membership of willing amateur actors. Clubs are readily located in Pariscope magazine.

So there you have it, a very brief tour round Paris. I only hope that I didn't spoil the romantic weekend by muttering "Clara, Clara" in my sleep.

 



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