Satellite X

 2002

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January    Hard News...
   
 
worldThe website, Adult Video News (www.avn.com), is well worth a visit for a snapshot of the state of porn in the US. I thought I would borrow the style for a month and illustrate trends in porn via a montage of news, views and statistics.

We will start off with the views of hardcore director Henri Pachard who is predicting that US porn will become more perverse. "We're going to hear about and see sex scenes beyond most of our marketing imaginations, and we're not going to be comfortable with it in its beginnings. We're going to be amazed at what will sell this year, and we probably won't know how to exploit or even produce it".

Here in Britain there is some support for the view. Since the legalisation of hardcore in the UK, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) have now passed 729 hardcore videos. Of these 44 have been cut usually because they feature some of the more extreme elements refered to by Pachard. The proportion of videos containing such material is actually far higher that the above figures suggest but most distributors will realise what is not acceptable to the BBFC and so will not waste of time and money submitting them.

Good to see that Patrice Chereau's Intimacy has been passed uncut on video with an 18 certificate. This maintains the momentum of bringing hardcore into more mainstream films. The BBFC have left Kerry Fox's explicit blow job intact.

Although hardcore is now fine it doesn't stop the censors from their attention to less explicit detail in Hollywood films. Bridget Jones's Diary suffers has suffered some minor tweaking. The dialogue "ham fisted cunt" is overdubbed by "ham fisted cow". This cut was to achieve a 15 rating rather than an 18. On the DVD, the offending dialogue was not cut from the commentary track. This was not spotted until after the release and the distributors have now been asked to recall the DVD.

Another carefully worded decision requiring attention to detail involved the French film A Ma Soeur. It was passed 18 uncut after taking legal advice about whether some scenes might be in contravention of the Protection of Children Act 1978. Under the Act it is illegal to show indecent photographs of a child under the age of 16. The Board was concerned about the appearance of a 13 year old actress in some scenes in the film where sexual activity was inferred. A leading QC experienced in the interpretation of the Protection of Children Act watched the film and advised that it was not indecent. This is a rare story where the UK have passed a film that is causing problems elsewhere. It was banned in parts of Canada.

Meanwhile in Brazil a congresswoman is pushing for a bill that would require TV and movie actors to don condoms before engaging in explicit sexual acts. The bill, making its way through Brazil's Congress, proposes a ban on imports, sales or the reproduction of all images of sexual acts, including oral sex, that do not show a condom. The ban would extend to TV, cinema, videos and magazines.

Across in the States, a Los Angeles-based company is offering downloadable software that can "clean" DVDs so that sex, swearing and violence are edited out for family viewing. The software must be used in conjunction with a PC's DVD-ROM drive and then connected to a TV. The program instructs the DVD player to "skip over" or "mute" content based on time signatures from the particular film. ClearPlay charges $9.95 per month to access its library of 150 screened DVD titles, and says it is adding 25 new titles per month.

I thought that concept of voluntary censorship is an idea that would surely appeal only to Americans but I was wrong. I have heard about a similar set-top box that will be sold in Britain later this year. TVGuardian can intercept and cut out more than 150 "inappropriate" words and phases as determined from scanning the subtitles for the deaf. It will cost about 60.

If there are any readers who feel that it is wrong that people should decide for themselves what to watch then why not join MediaMarch 4 in central London on May 11th. There you can meet with like minded groups such as mediawatch-uk, National Council for Christian Standards in Society, Knights of St Columba and the Muslim Council of Britain. Previous marches have not exactly been well attended so they need the support. On the other hand I recommend that we all stay in and watch a bit of uncensored sex on satellite.

 

February    Erection Free Zone..
   
 
What Satellite logoA reader recently wrote to ask exactly which rules are used to maintain British television as an erection free zone. As you might imagine, a few hours of research has failed to unearth any particularly good reason why this should be so.

A few recent examples have demonstrated how blurred the regulations have become. Derek Jarman's Sebastiane had to lose a visible erection for transmission on Channel 4 yet in a later discussion about the film, the very same scene was playing uncensored in the background.

In the recent series Taboo, Joan Bakewell embarked on a lengthy debate about how it is okay to discuss the erect penis yet it was explicitly forbidden to screen images of one. She then went on to examine some magazines in a sex shop and turned the open pages towards the camera for a fleeting glimpse of explicit fellatio, intercourse and erections.

So what are the rules that currently apply. Historically catch-all laws such as the Obscene Publications Act have been used to ban explicit material without the need to write down exactly what is forbidden. Of course now that explicit material is no longer considered obscene then this must have pulled a rug from under the TV regulators.

A related catch-all provision exists in the ITC (the commercial TV regulator) programme code. This states that broadcasters cannot transmit explicit videos that have been rated R18 by the film censors. Again this has been used to ban erections without having to explicitly write down what is banned. On the other hand there are an awful lot of sex videos that have not ever been submitted to the censors.

There are also several unwritten or maybe mythical guidelines knocking around such as the "Mull of Kintyre" rule. This defines the angle at which the male member changes from being flaccid to the unacceptably erect. There is also the idea that still images are occasionally considered acceptable in art, science and educational programmes yet moving images are immediately considered to be pornographic.

Recent changes at the film censors have made a big impact. This started several years ago with the sex education videos such as The Lovers Guide. As these were certificated 18 instead of R18 then they could be shown on commercial TV. This challenge was taken up on satellite by the Adult Channel. More recently, a few art films have been passed 18 even though they feature erections and explicit sex. These have been shown on satellite by Film Four. Even the Discovery Channel has been pushing the boundaries. Their Sex Sense programme featured close up images of erect penises including one which shows how the foreskin peels back drawing arousal.

There are other TV regulators to consider. The rather insignificant Broadcasting Standards Commission react only to complaints. However hardly anyone who opts to watch satellite TV feels the need to complain and so they do not seem to be getting involved in this particular debate.

As far as I am aware, none of the above examples of the sight of an erection have caused any real problems with the regulators. So what is to stop the satellite broadcasters pushing a little harder. After all there certainly is a massive market for sex entertainment. For instance, after the liberalisation of porn in sex shops, the amount of videos released each year jumped from 20 to 700. The shops are thriving on the change.

Even on broadcast TV, sex is an important money spinner. Advertisers have recently been urging Channel 5 to maintain their sex slots. The top audience for Thursday porn slot over the past year was a healthy 1.7m viewers for Outback Stripper last March. European Blue Review averaged a 21% audience share in October. Most importantly for the advertisers, the share of men watching this slot was at least 35%. Men traditionally watch less TV than women and are therefore much sought after by advertisers.

It seems to me that regulations prohibiting explicit sex on TV are something akin to the kings clothes and that the few channels that have made tentative prods have found nothing of substance. Surely the monetary rewards must warrant a few sharper nudges.

 

March    Prized Porn...
   
 
What Satellite logoNot so many years ago it was relatively tough to lay one's hands on hardcore, now we are spoilt for choice. And a broad choice it is, some porn is good, most is bad and the rest is downright ugly. So how does one go about weeding out the dross?

In an ideal world one may expect to find a review of tonight's schedule in the Radio Times. In reality I am not aware of any UK magazine that has done any more than list programme titles. Of course other countries are not quite so uptight and TV magazines feature full listings. In France for instance it is quite common for magazines to publish full size video covers in case you would like record this months offerings on Canal+ or CineCinema.

For mainstream movie information I turn to books such as Halliwell's Film Guide. The choice for the hardcore fan is more limited but there are a few American options. My favourite is 'The X Rated Video Guide' by Patrick Riley. New volumes are published every year or so covering only movies for that period. After about 10 volumes, one builds up a pretty weighty collection reflecting the enormous amount of hardcore produced. The author tends to review only worthy videos and leaves the rest with just brief production details. Even so, each edition seems thicker than the last. The books are very useful but are limited by a lack of index covering all volumes. Also videos tend to end up on satellite an awful lot quicker than mainstream films. So a video may have been and gone before you get to read the review. The Patrick Riley books sometimes make it into good bookshops but it is more reliable to order them from the US version of Amazon.

Of course the internet is always an invaluable resource when looking for movie information. My favourite site is the Sat Zone (www.satonline.co.uk/SATZONE/main.htm). For a small fee they provide schedules for most hardcore channels, and where possible, link to sites providing more information about a film. One can always search the internet for video reviews but this usually proves too time consuming with all the false leads from words related to sex.

The most practical way of locating decent porn is to get to know a few decent stars, directors or production companies and then stick with them. Given the incredible amount of porn and the lack of available reviews it is hardly surprising that this is the way that porn is marketed. Pop into a German sex shop and you will see Excuse Me 18, Street Life 34 and Teeny Excesse 78.

Of course one still need's a starting point to locate something decent. Here are a few suggestions from the recent Brussels 2002 Awards.
* Honory Award (Benelux): Helen Duval - Actress who heads her own prolific production company
* Honory Award (Britain): Violet Storm - Actress in videos from the Devlin Media Group
* Best European Actress: Rita Cardinale - I will have to look out for a few of her films
* Best European Film: Desir Fatal - From the always excellent production company, Marc Dorcel
* Best European Director: Mario Salieri - I have seen some very good films from this Italian director
* Best World Series: Private - Expect high production values and exotic locations

And from the US Adult Video News Awards:
* Best Film: Fade to Black (From Vivid, a production company who favour hardcore without anything too extreme)
* Best Video: Euphoria (From Wicked Pictures)
* Best Gonzo Series: Buttman (Director John Stagliano prowls with his video camera at the ready)
* Best Continuing Video Series: Rocco Animal Trainer (Rough sex which proves very popular on pay per view channels)
* Best Amateur Series: Up And Cummers (Long running series with Randy West)
* Best Foreign Vignette Series: Euro Angels Hardball

Maybe we could persuade What Satellite to add a few awards for hardcore programming. In the spirit of helpfulness I would volunteer to present any actress awards.

 

April    Sex at 100 Degrees East
   
 
Thailand flagSometimes a change of perspective can do wonders for one's insight. A few months of Thai satellite viewing certainly taught me an awful lot about British TV regulation, especially as nearly all Thai rules are in direct contradiction of those in the UK.

Nudity on broadcast TV in Thailand is nonexistent. The occasional American movie with a love scene suffers censorship by pixellation. Not even a fleeting topless glimpse escapes the dreaded scintillating blocks. Therein lies the first difference. UK broadcasters at least realise that some of their audience don't appreciate censorship. So they overdub rather than bleep and edit rather than pixellate.

Although nudity is verboten, the topic of sex is never far off screen. Here again there are differences. Thais love romantic drama and this frequently feature scenes of sexual violence. Girls are frequently slapped around by the hero and implied rape is commonplace, even between the hero and heroine. On the other hand, Thai people are the most lovely and well balanced people that I have ever met. Clearly not "depraved and corrupted" by the material that many Britons seek to ban.

A British regulatory favourite is the 'watershed' whereby adult programming is limited to post 9pm. The Thais have no truck with such rules. In fact I was watching daytime TV whilst putting this article together. A Hong Kong action film was playing featuring amputations and an immense amount of blood and gore. The kids in the house (aged 5 to 11) were lapping it up. Leaving aside the debate that children should be protected, the lack of watershed at least ensures that daytime TV does not end up in a 'lifestyle' backwater. There is always a decent movie to watch.

As far as I can make out, Thai film and video classifications lack age based categories. Films are either limited to adults or else suitable for all ages. Curiosity got the better of me and I purchased an officially sanctioned adult sex movie. It turned out to be soft core, soft focus and obviously targeted at the soft headed.

Satellite and Cable TV features Rupert Murdoch's Star service. Star Movies was well appreciated as it retains the English soundtrack. There is an Asian Playboy channel but the softer than soft restrictions render it unwatchable. It nevertheless still generates 'tone it down' dictums from the local politicians.

I was surprised one evening to come across a local cable channel showing a stronger softcore movie. I read the next day that engineering staff had been having a bit of fun with the programming but were now looking for another job.

As with most countries, an official prohibition on hardcore is hardly practical and a stroll round the local tourist market locates several traders willing to sell a fair selection of imported hardcore VCD's and DVD's. Maybe the black market is not quite so widespread as it once was in the UK but then there is an awful lot of competition from more participatory forms of adult entertainment.

In fact Thai politicians are proving very supportive and protective towards their sex industry. Clearly the state censors are endeavouring to ensure that TV, satellite and video are not a credible alternative. The Thai Home Secretary is chipping in by initiating a moral crusade against any competition from strip shows. He has also introduced closing time for pubs presumably to ensure that people don't waste time boozing when they could be supporting the sex industry. Or maybe he felt that brewers droop was diminishing the potential customer base.

Perhaps the last and most important difference in TV regulation is that the criticism of Buddhism, The King or the Prime Minister is simply not allowed. During my visit a news channel was shut down for airing an interview with a government critic, the Economist was banned after commentary on the political status quo and marginally critical journalists were almost deported before the threat of international ridicule tempered this reaction. So if page 17 is missing from your Thai copy of What Satellite you'll know what has happened.

 

May    The XXXX Version
   
 
worldTime again for a rapid world tour of sex and censorship.

We will start in Poland where a new world record was set in February. Polish porn star Klaudia Figura had sex with 646 men during a one day session at the First Annual World Gangbang Championship. The Championship started at 10am with three competitors and according to regulations each sexual contact has to take between 30 and 60 seconds. For the first hour Claire Brown from the UK set the pace. Unfortunately she was not able to sustain this and retired a few minutes before 2pm with a score of 466. Klaudia Figura then took the lead. The previous record of 620 was broken at 5:06pm and she continued until 5:58pm.

The event was transmitted on big video screen in the main hall of the EROTICON 2002 Festival and was watched by about 2000 people. The event was filmed and should be available for satellite transmission soon. Afterwards, doubts about the record emerged when it was suggested that the participation of three girls made this an orgy rather than a gangbang.

On a more serious note the recent school killings in Germany have caused a few worrying debates. There is talk of plans to ban all 18 rated videos and DVDs. The brunt of the blame seems to be borne by video games, especially Counter Strike since this game was found in the killer's home. In addition, there is the predictable call for the German Government to filter available web sites.

A new ruling by the French regulatory body, the CSA, has requested that all adult channels within France alter their viewing cards so that their services can only be viewed upon insertion of a parental lock key-code. French hardcore channels XXL and UltraBlue said that they will implement the CSA's request shortly.

The head of Greece's television regulatory agency temporarily suspended broadcasts of two popular reality television shows, including "Big Brother," for violating laws on public decency and dignity. Nudity and allusions to sex were not well appreciated by the authorities but the programmes soon returned to the airwaves albeit at a later hour.

Videos dealers in America can now choose to display DVDs either with explicit covers or else with discrete covers. US videos covers from Private films are now reversible. They are also used for some UK hardcore releases.

When George Bush took office in the US there was a bit of a crackdown on some of the stronger US porn. One of the bigger prosecutions has just been resolved with a victory for the video producers. Adam Glasser walked out of the courtroom completely free of all obscenity charges. The case revolved around his 1999 release, Tampa Tushy Fest Part 1 which contained scenes of vaginal and anal fisting between popular porn performers Chloe and Alisha Klass. Plea bargaining resulted in Glasser paying a fine of $1000 into a "victim's restitution" fund. All other charges against Glasser were dropped.

All materials, including master tapes were returned to Glasser and he is now free to sell fisting material in California as long as he gives his customers a choice of buying a non-fisting version. He has decided to call the fisting version the "XXXX version" and the edited version the "XXX version".

Speaking of legal precedents, a worrying prosecution started Britain in May 2002. The authorities are prosecuting an Internet website called British Women Webcam. They are prosecuting the owners with "living off immoral earnings" on the basis that the viewers directed the participants to engage in lewd acts. The Clubs and Vice Squad are really stretching the intent of the legislation to the limit on this one. Stretching it to 200 miles in fact. There is a camera, a computer screen and 200 miles of telephone wire separating the consumer and the participant.It is surely going to be an important case. If the police get away with it then an awful lot of adult entertainment could be erroneously branded as prostitution.

Ever since the legalisation of hardcore videos it has been interesting to monitor whether this has any effect on the Governments use of the satellite proscription order. About two years ago the wheels were put in motion to proscribe the Satisfaction Channel from Italy. Since then the procedure seems to have stalled somewhat. Mediawatch-UK were not so happy about this situation and prompted an MP to enquire about the current state of the order.The Minister of State, Dr Kim Howells MP, replied saying that the Department is "at present considering whether to issue a proscription order or not" and asks us Mediawatch-UK to be "patient for a little longer". I was a little disappointed, I had hoped that Howells would answer that "the Government was having a long hard look at Satisfaction Channel".

 

June    The Cutting Crew
   
 
BBFC logoThe British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) recently published their annual report. I therefore decided to pen my own report on what they have been recently snipping away at.

At the last count the BBFC have now awarded 1070 R18 certificates for hardcore videos. Of these 90 have been cut, which is about 8% of the total.

The most notable cut of the year was to Young Gushers. This sex film was cut by a stonking 95 minutes. The BBFC say that 50 minutes were removed beyond that which was strictly necessary but it is still a hefty cut. The BBFC detailed several reasons for the cuts but the must unusual was the removal of penetration involving a power drill. They justifiably think that this may constitute sexual activity with potential for physical harm.

Over the last few months the commonest reason for cuts seems to be the use of the word "teen". This is a little unfortunate as the hardcore industry freely use the term to describe a whole genre of videos. Without fail, all commercial companies strictly enforce a minimum age limit on performers of 18. In Britain this provides a 2 year buffer between the minimum age acceptable by law and the minimum age acceptable by the industry. However the BBFC still insist on re-titling such videos and eliminating any references to the term in the dialogue.

Other common reasons for cuts were for throttling, gagging, hair pulling, spitting, fisting and urination during sex.
Most of these cuts are uncontested by the distributors. The BBFC have however been challenged about their view that female ejaculate is in fact urine and must therefore by removed. Research material has been submitted arguing that female ejaculate is an entirely different fluid but this has yet to sway the views of the censor.


The Satellite regulators have a problem with hardcore and have unjustifiably decided that R18 material is not allowed on British based satellite channels. However, 18 certificated films are allowed and some of these have been getting a little more explicit. FilmFour will surely transmit some art house hardcore via this route. However the BBFC are not giving free reign to the film makers and have required a few cuts.

The French language film, The Pornographer, featured several explicit scenes. However a facial cum shot was found to be going too far. It appears that the 17 second cut was very much based on the personal insistence of the BBFC President, Andreas Whittam Smith. This was seen as something of a last defiant swan song from Whittam Smith who has now decided to move on to better things.

Another higher profile film caused further problems for Robin Duval, the director of the BBFC. He said that the graphic sex and violence in Baise-Moi were hard to stomach. The board passed it with an 18 certificate but again insisted on cuts. Baise-Moi is a female fantasy revenge film features two young women who embark on a killing spree after discovering that they are sexually excited by murder. Explicit close-ups of genitalia include full penetration, oral sex and a man being anally raped with a gun. It has been described as a French Thelma and Louise. Duval came to its defence, saying that he had seen it three or four times. It became less shocking with each screening, With most films, watching them more than once is a process of getting more and more bored. In the case of Baise-Moi, it does reveal strengths and an integrity.


There are even more art house hardcore films waiting in line to test the censor. One has to be wary of hype but it seems that a couple of the newcomers are expected to be the most challenging so far. On the other hand, attitudes are rapidly changing and even the politicians are growing more supportive of the case for hardcore. For instance the Young Liberals are continuing to argue for a better deal for sex shop customers. There has also been a recent re-launch of the sexual freedom supporting Liberated Party (see www.LiberatedParty.org.uk)...Now that's more like it.

 

July    Real Sex
   
 
What Satellite logoLive Sex is a recent addition to the XXX family. As the name suggests, it offered a new style of programming not found on other services. However it didn't take long to realise that live sex wasn't exactly pulling in the crowds. This prompts the question, does any one know what people really really want from their satellite X?

For the record, the Live Sex fare was divided into 10 or 15 minute segments consisting mainly of solo girls and boy/girl couples. The performers were generally attractive and competent but somehow the single set provided little variation and the whole thing soon got very tedious. As per the Internet, customers were invited to phone in suggestions about actions or positions etc. Whilst this may provide some interest for one to one services it hardly makes good entertainment for the wider audience. Recent schedules suggest that Live Sex has now reverted to more traditional bought in videos.

Spice Platinum is another channel that has taken a recent change of direction. Early schedules featured primarily US videos with a few Ben Dover lookalikes to add a little variety. Recent changes have added a lot more European content notably a few stronger German titles. The European programs tend to feature from 9 O'Clock whilst the US films have been pushed back to the later hours.

So why is European porn considered more attractive than US porn? It is probably something to do with believability. The old slogan from the National Lottery, "It Could be You", is the key. The European product generally features the "girl next door" whilst the Americans prefer the rather more aloof image of the superstar. American starlets sport big hair and big breasts presumably paid for with big bucks. Probably well out of the league of expectation of the typical viewer.

In an unbelievable hardcore world where sex is available to all people at all times there are some strangely unbreakable requirements for reality. The sex must be real, any hint that the actors aren't into it makes for a bad scene. Furthermore, attempts to hide behind masks and wigs are always a turn off. On the other hand, any hot sex scene will include frequent reactions shots so that the viewers can be convinced that the sex is real and that the players are really enjoying themselves.

Anyone has ever watched an orgy scene will understand. If the camera switches to the explicit close-up action before establishing who is doing what to whom then only frustration results. Only when the camera pans onto the participating faces can further explicit action be enjoyed.

Although porn strives to an illusion of reality most viewers maintain the required sense of perspective. This is a little more than can be said for the police. I reported earlier about the prosecution of a website featuring live performers in contact with customers via webcams and phone lines. As hardcore imagery is no longer considered obscene the police tried a different approach. They tried to argue that the web company were in fact engaging in prostitution.
In support if their tenuous case the police quoted the Oxford English Dictionary which defines a prostitute as "someone who engages in sexual activity in return for payment". They also dragged up case law from 1918 which said that prostitution includes merely making an offer of sexual services.

If these extensions to the term "prostitution" were accepted, then half the country could be considered prostitutes. Strippers, porn actors, mainstream actors who have done bedroom scenes, newspapers that carry small ads from escorts, girlfriends who accept the cab fare home, and of course, magazine publishers who publish adverts for hardcore channels would all certainly have something to fear.

Luckily the Crown Prosecution Service saw through the police arguments and threw out the case. We can all therefore continue to enjoy Satellite X unabated.

 

August    New Suit, Same Cut
   
 
Ofcom logoControl of what we are allowed to see on British satellite television is soon to be in the hands of just two bodies. When they both appoint new bosses it is time to wonder what the future will bring.

Lord Currie of Marylebone has been appointed to head up Ofcom. Ofcom is the so called super regulator that replaces
the Independent Television Commission, the Radio Authority, the Broadcasting Standards Commission, Oftel and the Radiocommunications Agency. The remit is so wide that Lord Currie has yet to be drawn into any debate about sex on satellite.

Much of the day to day regulation of films and videos has been effectively delegated to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). Coincidentally they too have appointed a new boss. but this time he is more than willing to sound off on the subject of sex and hardcore.

Quentin Thomas has been given the job of president of the BBFC. He is clearly not too keen on hardcore, but before we get too worried, it must be said that the president does not get involved in the day to day work of the censors. The job is in fact part time and just requires just one day a fortnight. Thomas will probably only have time to get involved in the occasional controversial film.

In didn't take long in the job before he came up with a pretty alarming sound bite. He said that the decision to allow hardcore sex videos to become more widely available had followed full and thorough legal procedures, but there remained a question mark over whether that was what people really wanted. It appears that he will ask Parliament to pass new laws to give him more control over what we see. He would like to have powers to censor sex material on the grounds of taste and decency as opposed to the current powers based upon a notion of legality and obscenity.

The change of personnel also allowed the outgoing president to have his say in the press. Andreas Whittam Smith started the job with a vocabulary of anti-hardcore press statements but by the time of his retirement, he seemed at ease with the legalisation of porn. He said in a press interview: "There's one mystery I've never been able to fathom the whole time I've been in this job, which is why the British allow themselves to be the most regulated nation in the world,Is it because we are more puritanical? No, that doesn't wash, because the United States is very puritanical in some ways, but far less heavily regulated. There's no clear answer, other than that we seem to have an ingrained paternalism, which must be some kind of inevitable consequence of our historical development.To me, the BBFC's primary job should simply be to enable parents to regulate their children's viewing. In my deepest heart, I object to the notion of paternalism".

It is not only the lords and masters that get their say when they leave. Jan Chambers contributed in the Guardian: "I resigned as an examiner in June after six months, wearied by the relentless viewing of hard-core pornography and its lowering, deadening effect on the mind. I felt like a gatekeeper to the sex industry. A sex worker".

It seems to me a little unfair to complain about an aspect of the work that is surely both predictable and inevitable. Nevertheless, the BBFC responded to these problems by hiring a psychotherapist.Those who are worried they are being "desensitised" through a near-continuous exposure to gore and sex were told they could book a private session at any time.

I wonder if even the psychotherapist can help those examiners that suffer the near continuous exposure to the likes of 200 videos in the Tele Tubbies series. Surely that would numb the mind of anyone to such a degree that the only job they could then do would be the President of the BBFC.

 

September    Euro Sceptics
   
 
Canal + logoSatellite X viewers in France are well catered for. They have an abundance of hardcore programming via dedicated channels, pay per view and also via mainstream movie channels. Not only is hardcore plentiful, but it is also of very high quality. It therefore came as a bit of a shock to hear that there are moves afoot to ban explicit sex on TV.

Right-wingers and supposed family values campaigners want a law preventing pornographic films being shown on French television. MP Christine Boutin is one of those calling for a ban on pornography and plans to table a bill in autumn. Dominique Baudis, the head of the French broadcasting watchdog, has also backed the calls.

One of my favourite porn directors, John B Root has been defending the French porn industry on the basis that he considers some of it to be a "precious cultural asset". Such claims are rarely justified but I must admit to being very impressed by a recent offering on the pay per view service, Kiosque.

John B Root had gathered together an orgy sized cast in a French Chateau for a TV special. Together with an army of cameramen and technicians, Root directed a 90 minute live performance that bettered the vast majority of traditionally produced porn. Orgy scenes were well shot and attractive and were enhanced by a very effective trick to stay with the performers during frequent pauses and breaks. Getting to know the actresses a little at these intervals certainly intensified the allure of their subsequent performances.

The video is named Explicite and it was only a few days after the live performance that there appeared an accompanying documentary, The Making of Explicite. I was thinking to myself that was a little bit of cashing in the live event but Root explained about the finances of porn on TV and it seems that there was not so much cash after all. The cable channels which screen most of French TV's 900-plus porn films every month pay little more than 5,000 per movie. The pay-TV station Canal Plus pays up to 17,500 which he says is not even the price of his 'Making Of' documentary.


France is not the only place where sex on TV is being debated. A few days ahead of recent Swedish national elections, a member of the Christian Democratic women's federation shocked her conservative party colleagues by calling for more pornography on television.

Teres Kirpikli said she wanted to help boost the Swedish economy by encouraging people to have more children. She continued: "I want erotica and porn on television, then people would feel like having more sex. I think most people like porn, even though they don't want to admit it".

However her opinion upset the party leadership, who are actively fighting pornography and have also joined French politicians in a call for a ban. I heard later that Kirpikli has been asked to leave the party.


Of course the call for a ban is not as simple as it seems. The market for hardcore is immense and the commercial pressures are enormous. Also the practicality of a ban must surely be considered.

The Greeks have been learning this lesson through an attempt to ban gambling. They realised that gambling was widespread throughout the world of internet and electronic gaming and decided that they wanted to ban it but couldn't really tell whether computers were being used for gambling or not.

They therefore decided to ban all electronic games. Something as innocent as playing computer chess on your laptop in a hotel lobby was to be a crime with penalties of up to three months inside and a fine of 10,000 euros. The law was apparently passed but was soon turned over by a constitutional court and is currently back on the drawing board.

The timing of the French and Swedish revelations could hardly be worse. I had just started to hear of a few (unsubstantiated) rumours about a move to hardcore by TVX and the Adult Channel. Not a good time then, to hear that a well established French market is suffering from doubt about sex on satellite.

 

October    Sex & Shopping
   
 
Melon Farmers LogoThis month's column was inspired by a question from a local pub quiz: How many licensed sex shops are there in the UK? I thought I new about such things particularly as I maintain a list of shops on my website at www.MelonFarmers.co.uk. However I was still surprised at the answer of 150. A couple of years ago there were only about 90, so the number has increased by 67%. The ever increasing popularity of sex and shopping will therefore provide the theme of the month.

Surprisingly the topic of liberalising sex shops was on the agenda at the recent Lib Dem conference. The Young Liberal Democrats wanted to reduce the minimum age for buying top-shelf magazines and sex videos from 18 to 16. In addition they sensibly suggested that licenses should be cheaper and more readily obtainable. The more senior politicians were predictably edgy about the subject and managed to get the issue deferred for 18 months. Simon Hughes, the party's home affairs spokesman, organised the delay. He achieved the referral back to a policy working group by just 31 votes.

One tends to think that the regulation of porn is down to the politicians to make the law and the police to enforce the law. In fact there are other more powerful forces at work. The credit card companies Mastercard and Visa, have just changed their rules to make it more difficult for traders. They have decided to distance themselves from 'high risk' companies by setting up intermediaries called Internet Payment Service Providers. These will have to keep a much closer eye on Internet traders. Of course these intermediaries will provide their service at a price.

Back in the satellite world I have been informed that the hardcore channels seem to experiencing an increase in subscriber numbers. This has been attributed to the recent successes in eliminating pirated alternatives. The extra income will hopefully result in more stable broadcasters, increased programming budgets and improved information about schedules. I shall be reporting on this in more detail in the coming months.

The Swedish channel, Kanal 5, recently received a 10,000 from the ITC. Kanal 5, a general entertainment TV service, screened a sexually explicit image during the day in a trailer for a late-night sex advice show. The watchdog said it decided to exact the penalty because a picture of a couple having sex was broadcast when children could have been watching. Kanal 5 broadcast the still, monochrome image as part of the trailer 67 times in a week in march6. Given that Kanal 5 is in Swedish and is not sold to UK subscribers, one may be wondering why they subject themselves to regulation by the UK. The answer is that the Swedish regulators have very strict rules banning advertising targeted at kids aged less than 12. This is seen as a major limitation on revenues.

I reported last month about moves from the conservative right to bar hardcore from French TV. This debate is still ongoing in France but there has been a recent added twist. MP Charles de Courson said that parliament's finance committee agreed with his initiative to raise corporation tax on porn companies from 33% to 93%.This will be applied from January 1 next year. "We want to destroy their profitability to discourage further investments," Courson said.

Over in the States the authorities are prosecuting Max Hardcore who specialises in making videos that push the boundaries of hardcore. Perhaps Rocco Siffredi videos are the closest European equivalent. After jury deliberation of ten hours spanning four days, a mistrial was declared. The jury was split 6 to 6 and showed no real signs of movement toward a verdict. Under the unanimous verdict rule, all jurors must concur to convict or to acquit. A particularly interesting aspect of the trial was that similar material is commonplace in series such as Barely Legal, Extreme Teens and Cherry Poppers. It was noted that the Barely Legal series was probably the most popularly sold in California.

No doubt I shall be reporting many more related stories in the future. Porn becomes ever more acceptable and popular as time goes on and there never seems to be an end to the nutters who seek to deprive their fellow man of sexual entertainment.

 

November    Sky High Satisfaction
   
 
TVX logoHardcore was legalised over 2 years ago yet it is still out of reach to the vast majority of UK satellite subscribers. This is about to change. Satisfaction Club Television are about to launch a hardcore service targeted at the typical viewer with a Sky Digital setup.

The ITC, the satellite regulators have been unjustifiably maintaining a prohibition on UK services via its refusal to lift it's ban on films passed R18 by the film censor. Of course this doesn't mean that the legalisation of hardcore hasn't had an impact. All of the sex channels regulated by the UK are still strictly softcore but the material has at least become a little less restrictive. The censors still cut any explicit images of penetration but they previously went even further and cut anything that even suggested real penetration was occurring even if not explicitly shown.

My thanks to Robert for providing an excellent illustration. A new series on TVX, Ickey Sickey Mucky Mingers, featured a scene of urination in the mouth. There was no explicit proof shot, but either it was for real or else an unlikely effort had been made on the special effects front. Such scenes are routinely cut by the film censor so it appears that softcore may sometimes be more explicit than hardcore. However it was a short lived example as the scene was cut from the next showing.

Satisfaction Club Television (SCT) is the longest running hardcore channel currently targeted at European subscribers and via Hotbird. UK residents are free to subscribe to this Italian channel but this requires a larger dish than Sky, a different receiver and of course the ability to switch between different satellite positions. SCT have now secured a transponder at 28 degrees as used by Sky. This solves most of the problems, but viewers of SCT will still need another set top box as SCT will be dual encrypted in Irdeto and Viaccess (As opposed to Videoguard used by Sky). However, SCT have announced that they will be subsidising the set top boxes which will be easily connected to a Digibox.

The new variant of the SCT service will be tailored to the UK market and will transmit from 10pm British time until the early hours. There will be a commitment to broadcast at least one English speaking video each evening. European films will of course feature heavily, no doubt continuing the current emphasis on films from Italy.

And of course ever since the legalisation of hardcore in 2002, it is all perfectly legal to subscribe and sell viewing cards, print schedules etc. Program details and video clips are available at www.sctdirect.co.uk but the site seems to have been optimised for those with broadband.

It will be interesting to see what effect the competition has on the current softcore channels packaged with Sky. Perhaps we can look to retail video sales as a model. Hardcore material is still not available from the major shops who therefore still stock a few shelves of softcore. Surprise, surprise, softcore is nowhere to seen once one enters a licensed sex shop where hardcore is available.

The current UK subscription channels charge annual rates of about #110-120 whereas hardcore channels tend to charge from #130-160. I would guess that this would be insufficient discount to maintain a viable market. Saying that, a fair few customers subscribe via cable and so are unlikely to receive this extra choice for a while yet.

I hope that the competition from SCT will inspire the established sex channels from pushing the ITC a little harder. One of my reasons for optimism is that a lot of hardcore material on the Spice Channel has been made with the Adult Channel logo. Perhaps they are establishing their own library ready for the inevitable switch to hardcore. I hope so.

 

December    Softer Softcore
   
 
What Satellite logoThe satellite regulators, the ITC, seem to be engaging in some role playing games and have adopted the guise of King Canute. They are refusing to respond to the recent judgement that hardcore is legal; they are refusing to acknowledge the increasing popularity of hardcore with the British people, and above all, they are refusing to respect European law by censoring without justification.

Here is recent example of how they dealt with the complaint from a single viewer. Did they try and find out the views form the other thousands of subscribers? Did they consult with the enforcement agencies about legality? Did they research the likely impact of explicit programming? Did they justify their censorship with a statement about the harm they believe they are preventing? Judge for yourself!


The ITC recently issued the following press release about a viewer's complaint that the softcore Adult Channel was too explicit.

"ITC staff were alerted to instances of explicitness that exceeded the normal boundaries.A number of sequences within programmes contained anatomical detail that is not allowed by the ITC on any licensed service".

"The Adult Channel acknowledged that there had been no change in the ITC's rules for adult services. But it said that because programming had increasingly been produced directly for the channel, rather than being acquired as finished product from unrelated third parties, they had been able to specify content to be closer to acceptable limits, whilst still aiming to be within them. This necessarily meant more difficult subjective decisions by the licensee, but they believed that in many cases the decisions were marginal".

"The ITC did not accept that the lapses were in general marginal, or that the different sources of programming could justify many of the problems seen.The Adult Channel was warned that further examples of serious or repeated breaches would be likely to attract material sanctions".


Thanks to Shaun for his challenge to the ITC to justify their decision. John Glover, Programme Manager at the ITC responded:

"As you are aware, the BBFC has led a change in policy towards adult
films, with the introduction of the R18 category. However, there are
no plans to relax the present rules that prohibit such material from
being broadcast on ITC licensed channels".

"More general 'adult' services have been allowed on cable and satellite
channels for a decade now. They include programming more explicit than
would be allowed on either free-to-air or basic package channels. Much
of the programming is cut down 'R18' material. However, the ITC has
always considered that material sold only in eighty or so outlets
across the UK, and not even by mail order, is unsuitable for the
schedules of even a specialist broadcaster".

"We also know from our own research that, while it is becoming more
liberal in this respect, public opinion does not generally favour so
great a change to the limits of sexual portrayal on television".

"As you state, it is possible this view may be open to challenge under
European law. However, it is the ITC's position that our regulations
are likely to be judged as fully in compliance with Human Rights
legislation. Article 10 of the European Convention states that the
right to free expression may be subject to restrictions, in certain
circumstances, such as for the protection of morals".


I was intrigued to about the ITC's assertion that distribution limited to 80 shops constitutes a reason for prohibition. The small number originates from an historic refusal to allow them to sell hardcore coupled with restrictive licensing powers given to councils.

Now that hardcore is legal, the shops are offering a popular product and therefore the number of shops is now increasing rapidly. In the couple of years since legalisation the number of shops has doubled to about 150.

So how many sex shops have to open before the ITC change their minds? Is 150 enough? When mail order sales are well established, will the ITC change their minds?

It seems clear to me that the ITC are knowingly breaking European law. I don't suppose that anyone could be imprisoned for denying human rights but maybe they could be made to pay compensation for services that lose revenue as a result.

 



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