Satellite X

 2007

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January    The Reality of Censorship
   
 
caworld.jpgAt the time of writing, a heated exchange on Celebrity Big Brother seems to be developing into an international incident. People are talking about an end of the entire Big Brother concept in an attempt to deal with the perceived problem of derogatory language.

Maybe such knee jerk censors should ask themselves if they really believe that racial insults will diminish as a result of censorship. Will a lack of Big Brother mean that people will be any less inclined to tease each other with derogatory remarks?

Indian viewers are starting to ask themselves some of the same questions. The rather trigger happy TV censor closed a whole channel down for airing 'The World's Sexiest Advertisements'. In another example of nonsense, undercover police in Mumbai were assigned to scan the catwalks at fashion shows in an effort to prevent a repeat of last year's episode in which a model's top slipped to reveal her breasts.

Also in Indian, the censors have been asked to remove all car and motorbike chases on the grounds that youngsters may copy them. No doubt the knee jerk censors will implement this rule, and no doubt this will have exactly zero impact on the amount of reckless driving in India.

Similarly it would be interesting to see what odds bookmakers would give that the UK's future ban on junk food advertising will actually halt the trend towards obesity. Probably the same odds that a ban on alcohol advertising will actually do anything to diminish binge drinking.

I have just been monitoring Thai TV. Somebody had the bright idea to add on-screen symbols to inform parents about programme content. In addition to the usual age classifications, they wanted an indication about whether the programme would provide good role models for children. A tick indicates programmes with good role models, and a cross indicates bad. Both the tick and the cross are displayed when the programme contain both good and bad role models. Of course in reality, nearly every single soap, drama or film features both goodies and baddies and so every single fictional programme ends up with the same tick plus cross rating.

Thailand have also recently introduced the idea of pixellating out images of guns and alcohol. I somehow guess that this will have near to zero impact on the number of gun crimes and the number of drink related incidents in Thailand.

China also have their censorial eye on Big Brother. Their State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) will target supposedly vulgar reality shows in 2007, Wang Taihua, general director of the SARFT said that there have been too many reality shows on Chinese TV screens. He continued that many are low-quality, low-brow programs, only catering to the bottom end of the market.

But perhaps he has a point. Following the Chinese success of Super Voice Girls based on American Idol, Chinese television stations have come up with no less than 500 such programs. Wang went on to surmise that there are too many reality shows, they are too chaotic and some of them are too vulgar. The Chinese government will therefore restrict the number of reality shows to upgrade their quality. Fat chance!

Many countries seem to be chipping in with stories of censorship nonsense. It seems that reading about genies is inappropriate for Malaysians, and their authorities have chosen to black out the information. In the December issue of The Economist, an entire two-page article has been torn out. The offending article was a special report entitled "Jinn: Born of fire" and is about the belief among Muslims in Somalia and Afghanistan in the existence of the jinn or genie.

Returning to reality TV, the popular video sharing Internet site at YouTube is also coming in for a fair amount of stick. The posting of fight videos and vandalism by young people is surely asking some difficult questions about censorship.

Viewers have watched realistic depictions of gang fights in movies and on TV for years, but somehow seeing a real fight on YouTube is surely a lot more disturbing. Yet low quality video cameras and the technical impossibility of getting good lighting and close up shots, mean that the real footage is actually less explicit than movies and TV. Of course the youngsters could confuse the censors even more by staging their own fights.

Returning to Celebrity Big Brother, if a few derogatory remarks of the kind uttered in thousands of homes, offices and pubs can cause so much international offence then the reality of censorship is surely totally confused.

 

February    The British Board of Internet Censors
   
 
BBFC Online logoMany of us are familiar with the black card at the start of a film that shows whether it is rated U, PG, 12, 15, 18 or R18. But how many of us would expect to see this when we download a movie from the Internet?

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) are currently planning to enter the world of Internet regulation and intend to provide a rating service to classify Internet movies. It is expected that a scheme will by up and running well before the end of 2007.

Perhaps the most important question is whether hardcore R18 content will be available for download via the Internet. The answer is almost certainly "Yes!". The legal consensus is that content can be electronically delivered on the Internet without the need for the provider to have a sex shop licence. The Video Recordings Act simply does not apply to electronically delivered media and so any prohibition on remote sales does not apply either.

This delights the local adult industry as the Video Recordings Act has done little for the British industry except to divert all mail order and Internet trade to grateful US and European companies.

Because the Video Recordings Act does not apply to the Internet then there is no law that actually requires a BBFC classification. Therefore the proposed certification for Internet video will be essentially voluntary.

So why should anyone be interested in obtaining a voluntary certificate? The answer is that there are several other laws that restrict Internet content such as the Obscene Publications Act which prohibits some of the more extreme forms of pornography. The basic idea is that the BBFC will judge whether the film is legal against all relevant legislation and then content providers can rest easy that they are offering a legal service. In addition the legitimacy of having an official certificate may appeal to the larger established companies who have a 'reputation' to uphold.

Who knows? Even big companies like BT and Amazon may one day be persuaded to sell films that are officially recognised as legal.

Early indications are that the BBFC will provide Internet certificates free to those submitting a DVD of the same film. For an Internet only release, a certificate can still be obtained on payment of the usual fee.

The BBFC will provide a video card with the appropriate classification to add to the beginning of the film. Also the content provider can add the BBFC certificate logo to the web site selling the movie.

Submitting a film for classification is not cheap and it may not be practical for small distributions. The censors will kindly provide an additional service of publishing guidelines on what is considered legal or illegal. It will surely allow webmasters a clearer picture of where they stand, but no doubt a margin of interpretation will mean that they can never be quite 100% certain that they have got it right.

Another shadow on the horizon is from the impending update to the EU's Television Without Frontiers directive, In the next 2 or 3 years the Government will enact laws extending the reach of TV style regulation to the Internet. The politicians and civil servants have been talking about 'light touch' regulation but even some of the 'light touch' minimal regulation may prove a lot stricter than it first appears. For instance it is entirely laudable that a company will be required to protect children from adult content but exactly how will they do this in reality?

The Internet adult industry currently relies on the concept of a voluntary entry screen asking people if they are old enough to enter. What will happen of the EU says that this is inadequate? Will webmasters have to wait for fingerprint readers or will ID card/credit card numbers be sufficient?

Another straightforward sounding requirement is to allow a way for viewers to complain about racial hatred etc. At the simplest level, this could mean that all live video has to be recorded in case of challenge. And even small companies may have to consider employing legal departments and call centres etc to deal with possible complaints.

Internet regulation will result in both winners and losers. It is likely that early casualties will include the softcore UK satellite broadcasters. Someone will surely market a set top box connected to the phone socket rather that the satellite dish such that is just as simple to use as a Sky Digibox. Who will want to pay for satellite softcore when there is an easy hardcore alternative?

Those that are computer literate may choose to continue searching out international web sites that provide niche services via Google etc. But there will also be a mass market that will opt for the set top box dedicated to an officially sanctioned and well established company complete with deep pockets for advertising, marketing and customer service.

Rather perversely for the porn hating establishment, official censorship could actually kick start a mass market for hardcore Internet video. There are surely going to be some angry moral campaigners about.

 

March    Red Hot Dutch
   
 
What Satellite logoSatellite X was born at the moment that Red Hot Dutch hit the airwaves. It was the number one topic of conversation in bars and work places nationwide. The newspapers had a field day, the moralists went into a frenzy and the politicians went into overdrive about how best to ban it.

The establishment was stunned that anyone had the audacity to broadcast hardcore sex direct to British TVs. But it was immediately obvious that the prudes had lost the day. It was like something out of a Carry On film. Red Hot Dutch was greeted akin to the naughty but lovable Sid James whilst the establishment came across more like the haughty Kenneth Williams with over exaggerated outrage suggesting that the ranting was mere hype.

In reality the real battle for acceptance of porn had already been fought. The humble home video had already enabled viewers to watch porn from the comfort and privacy of their own home. The social stigma and dirty raincoats had already been left behind with the previous generation.

Red Hot Dutch started broadcasting in July 1992.They broadcast full on hardcore and the standard of programming would compare favourably with many of the channels being broadcast today.

The British Government set their best lawyers off to find a way of dealing with the perceived threat. By March of 1993 the Government had dreamt up the idea of a proscription order. It was served in May and proved effective in taking down Red Hot Dutch.

The proscription order was a lengthy process involving the satellite TV regulator, the ITC, and the government. The effect of the order was to make it a criminal offence to supply any equipment specifically for the service; to supply programme material; to place advertisements with the service; and to publish any programme details of the service.

Meanwhile on official licensed British TV, the first dedicated sex entertainment channel joined the Sky team in 1992. The ITC warned the Adult Channel about the strength of their content four times within the first few months. No way were they going to be allowed to venture far from the softer than soft guidelines considered legal at that time.

By 1996, Television X and Playboy TV had joined the Adult Channel. The three channels were pretty stable in terms of content but the softcore restrictions proved a bit of a commercial drain on Playboy TV and they eventually merged with The Adult Channel. Television X continued to live within the Government restrictions but never stopped suggesting that it was somehow stronger than the ITC standards actually allowed. Such phrases as the 'Hottest channel on British TV' were claimed which meant little when the British guidelines stated that real sex must not be shown nor even intimated.

Viewing was always better on European satellite. TV Erotica put together a very high quality channel but capitulated very quickly to a proscription order in 1995. The effectiveness of the Government proscriptions meant that potential consumers got wary about paying a years subscription up front. Maybe for this reason, the launch of Channel Bizarre proved to be short lived.

In the meantime, satellite porn was becoming well established on European mainstream TV. Mainland European regulators were a little more tolerant than the UK and allowed hardcore to become a much stable and commercial proposition. Rather than starting dedicated porn channels, the broadcasters simply allowed hardcore films to be shown on the main movie channels.

The introduction of hardcore onto the Scandinavian service TV1000 saved the channel when it was losing the competition battle with its rival FilmNet. Analogue piracy was pretty rife at the time and the Scandinavian services of TV1000 and FilmNet proved massively popular in the UK.

Back home the next generation of foreign hardcore channels targeted at Britain were showing a little more resolve. Rendez-Vous, a French channel featuring lots of amateur porn was proscribed in 1996. However the channel was not solely reliant on British subscribers and it was able to continue on. An important lesson was also learnt when Rendez-Vous merged with the struggling Eurotica. The long process of issuing a proscription order had to be restarted when the channel was renamed. It took until 1998 before the authorities caught up and issued another order. The channel soon picked up on the idea of name changing and led the Government a merry dance as they quickly mutated through the guises of Torrid TV and Adult+.

In the end, the channel fizzled out when digital upstarts proved more competitive than the analogue old timers. The cheaper cost base of digital allowed broadcasters to better survive the inevitable proscription and happily some are still with us today. The Italian channel, Satisfaction Club Television, was originally proscribed in 1997. They then changed their name to Satisfaction TV. The proscription process started again but it happily stalled when hardcore became legal in the UK. The channel has been broadcasting ever since, much to the annoyance of Mary Whitehouse's National Viewers and Listeners Association.

Note that the legalisation of hardcore in 2000 only applied to sales from a licensed sex shop and it did not enable UK satellite TV to move with the times. It also did not give a carte blanche to more 'extreme' porn. In fact the proscription order was briefly resurrected against Extasi who were broadcasting material judged beyond the legal limits of the UK.

The European hardcore services seemed to thrive over the next few years with ever more channels being added to the list. There was a similar proliferation of channels on UK satellite but one wonders how they survived given that the TV regulators continued their ban on hardcore.

The change of regulators from ITC to Ofcom heralded a rethink of broadcasting rules and was published in the summer of 2005. The hopes of the adult industry were severely dashed when the continued prohibition on hardcore was predictably announced.

There seemed little appetite to fight the decision and the UK adult channels have been in the doldrums ever since.

The best bet for viewers in the near future will be to swap their satellite set top box for one connecting to the Internet. Even as you are reading this article, the powers that be are gearing up to allow full hardcore and it will even be approved by the censors complete with BBFC certificates.

Perhaps someone with a sense of humour and history will start up an Internet TV service called Red Hot Dutch.

 

April    Channel Hopping
   
 
Dorcel TVI have been seeking out Marc Dorcel films for more year than I care to remember.

Back in the early nineties I lived in Paris just at the time when Marc Dorcel was establishing his production company.

Britain's adult film industry has always lagged behind France Films find there way into British shops with seemingly random distribution deals. Continuing series are likely to be released in random order and there is therefore little sense of anticipation for the latest releases.

British producers tend to specialise in amateur films (or professional films pretending to be amateur). This rather makes it difficult to create a star system. There is a limit to the amount of times a well known starlet can appear in an amateur film.

France on the other hand, goes to great lengths to generate publicity and interest in quality films. When I lived in France, there were a couple of popular magazines that would publish news and gossip about the adult stars. Up coming notable releases would be trailed by 'the making of' features. One of the magazines, Hot Video, started off with softcore stills from the films but then went into a strange compromise mode whereby published pictures had 'censored' labels covering the naughty bits. One could go along to the local sex shop to get a free set of stickers that would restore the detail hidden behind the labels.

Of course magazine hardcore has always been ok in French sex shops. The sensitivity in this case was that the publishers were unsure of the reaction for hardcore in a magazine primarily sold in high street shops and kiosks. And clearly the customer/shopkeeper reaction was favourable, as the magazine soon went fully hardcore.

In addition to magazines, the starlets would make appearances in sex shops and shows to support new releases. Shops would also carry the weekly sales charts and make a big effort to promote the week's top 20.

Marc Dorcel films were one of the major players in the publicity game and they had some very good films with which to compete. The films I particularly remember from the period were L'Obsession de Laure, Le Parfum de Mathilde and Château de dames.

So it was good news to see that Marc Dorcel have started a satellite TV channel, Dorcel TV.

And even better to see that the high quality production values of their videos and DVDs carries through to the TV channel.

The stars are almost without exception very attractive and the picture quality is sharp with good colour.

The programming pattern starts at 10pm (11pm in Europe). The first hour is made up of softcore reports and reviews followed by 2 or 3 hardcore films depending on their length. The cycle repeats for the rest of the day. There are advertising breaks but these are not excessive.

The selection of films is good within the corporate remit of being 'couple friendly'. However there is little that would appeal to Rocco Siffredi fans.

The channel boasts that it broadcasts simultaneously in French, German and English. But the films are already 'internationalised' by having absolutely minimal dialogue. So far maximum atmosphere I would stick with the French dialogue.

Interestingly, the films are all presented with an onscreen 16 rating (whether softcore or hardcore). No doubt UK sales are limited to the over 18s though.

The programme schedules are available on line at www.dorceltv.com

Ratings Dorcel TV:
Picture Quality 9
Production Values 9
Attractive Stars 9
Sex Appeal 8
Programme Variety 6
Overall 82%

Surely excellent value for an annual subscription at around the £60 mark (shop around though as prices vary a lot).

Even better the viewing card comes complete with a subscription to INXWORLD. This consists of 3 hardcore channels pitched at a much lower quality level than Dorcel TV. Lower quality in both in terms of picture quality and production values.

All 3 channels take a rather too large proportion of material from the USA but do still carry some European fare.

It is a little tempting to dismiss INXWORLD as a little too cheap, but actually the programme buyers select well from the budget range available. INXWORLD complements Dorcel TV well. When one gets a little jaded by the beautiful people on Dorcel TV, one can get a little contrast by channel hopping through INXWORLD. There will be a good chance that one of the channels will have something appealing.

Programme schedules are available for INXWORLD at www.inxworld.com

Ratings INXWORLD:
Picture Quality 4
Production Values 5
Attractive Stars 6
Sex Appeal 7
Programme Variety 7
Overall 58%

The Dorcel TV package brings home some of the best of French porn but it's not 'quite' the same, as I do miss meeting the stars at my local video shop. Perhaps if enough people subscribe in the UK, Dorcel TV can send a few of their stars across the channel to meet their viewers.

 

May    Censor Free Zone
   
 
Zone HorrorIt is good to report that Zone Horror are doing some fine work in broadcasting uncut films.

Readers of MelonFarmers.co.uk have reported several uncut sightings on Zone Horror and its sister channel, Zone Thriller.

Night of the Demon is an American film from 1980 about a misguided college expedition in search of Bigfoot. The ensuing mayhem was enough to get this film classified as a "Video Nasty" in the gutter press inspired moral panic of the early eighties. Time healed and the ban was rescinded in 1994, but only after one and a half minutes were cut by the film censor.

Zone Horror kindly restored the missing footage of various appendages being ripped off for their recent broadcasts. You can now judge for yourselves whether the moral panickers of the eighties were right to fear the end of civilisation as we know it.

Those of you who feel a bit squeamish about madmen in charge of a dentist drill should be aware that the Zone Horror showing of Dentist 2 has been restored with 51 seconds of gore cut by the film censor. And whilst on the subject of tools, the showing of The Toolbox Murders features restored footage of a woman being terrorised with a nail gun.

Zone Horror and Zone Thriller have also scored brownie point with their uncut versions of Fair Game (otherwise known as Mamba), Freeway and Puppet Master.

This is all good stuff, particularly as Ofcom, the TV regulator has published a programme code saying that UK TV channels should only broadcast films in the version approved by the film censor. But before you think about complaining, there is also a clause in the programme code that says uncut versions can be shown if the film censors indicate that the film would no longer be cut if resubmitted today. And thankfully the film censors are now a lot more liberal than they used to be.


We may now be treated a little more like adults when it comes to watching uncensored horror films, but the authorities are still sensitive to the state approved children's bedtime of 9pm.

Ofcom recently had a whinge at Rapture TV for showing Hellbound: Hellraiser II immediately after the 9pm watershed. They had received a complaint about the broadcast of graphic violence near to the watershed on a channel that is described as widely accessible.

Ofcom reckoned that the broadcast breached their rules:

Rule 1.6: The transition to more adult material must not be unduly abrupt at the watershed or after the time when children are particularly likely to be listening. For television, the strongest material should appear later in the schedule.

Rule 1.21: BBFC 18-rated films or their equivalent must not be broadcast before 2100 on any service except for pay per view services, and even then they may be unsuitable for broadcast at that time.

Rapture TV said that the film was preceded by an 18 visual and audio warning and that it was transmitted after the watershed. It said that the EPG description was clear and highlighted that the film was a horror film and therefore unlikely to be family viewing. It commented that the weekly slot promoted by the channel for a horror movie should have meant that the audience would expect a horror film at that time.

However this explanation cut little ice with the regulators and they found that the broadcast was too close to the 9pm watershed. Unfortunately they did not specify what is meant by 'too close'. Would a 9:15pm slot keep the regulators happy, or perhaps they would prefer 9:30pm or even 10pm?


Let's hope that the Indian Government learn from some of this regulatory nonsense. Last year their courts decided that all TV content had to be classed by the censor as suitable for all ages. Clearly the decision was not popular with TV companies and viewers alike.

The Government responded by suggesting that they would implement a programme code based upon our very own Ofcom code. However the initial draft set the official children's bedtime at 11pm rather than 9pm. Now if they also adopt Ofcom's rule 1.6 requiring a transitional period after the watershed then it would mean that horror films couldn't start in India before midnight. Surely this would make for a lot of bleary eyed workers in the morning.


Hopefully all this watershed nonsense will be a thing of the past once the option of Internet TV becomes established. But knowing how keen our big brother censors are on a state approved bedtime, I guess I may be railing at some even worse rules in the not too distant future.

 

June    The World of Censorship
   
 
Dark Angel 2A few years ago I enjoyed a hardcore vampire film called Dark Angels. It had high production values and the vampire story line was very effectively done.

The hardcore sex scenes never really mixed with the vampire violence, but the British censor decided that 'non consensual sexualised threat' was indeed carried across from the plot line to the sex scenes and so 1 minute and 20 seconds were cut.

I recently spotted that the sequel, Dark Angels 2, had been totally banned by the Australian film censor. To get an Australian hardcore certificate (X18+), a film must meet the requirement of being 'non-violent erotica'. However this requirement is not referring just to the sex scenes, it applies to the entire movie. Practically all drama requires a little conflict of some sort and so the end result is that plot lines simply aren't allowed in Australian hardcore.

So the next time you comment that there never seems to be a plot in hardcore, then perhaps it is because the censors simply won't allow one. Either that, or it simply costs too much to film one.


An Australian survey reported in the mainstream press also caught my eye. It claims that Australians are getting more open-minded sexually, and that from a sample of 1095 participants only 2% said that they were offended by hardcore. Almost 100% of male respondents and a staggering 96% of female respondents said that they were not offended.

Survey hosts adultshop.com said the results provided a strong indication that Australian adults were comfortable with sex in films and called for the classification of such films to be dropped from X18+ to the unrestricted adult category R18+ (ie the equivalent to the UK 18 rating).


This open mindedness is clearly at odds with that found in Iran. There the authorities have decided that the appropriate punishment for anyone caught making or distributing porn is the death sentence.


Other countries tend to try and be a bit more reasonable and simply restrict pornography to adults. But of course concerns are raised on how this can be done effectively. Our very own TV censors, Ofcom decided to ban hardcore from TV on grounds that current PIN technology was insufficient to protect children.

Other countries are extending the concept of adult verification. Israel for instance, is said to be drafting a bill that
controls access to the Internet using a fingerprint-based biometric identification system. A similar suggestion has also been made in the USA. Perhaps the next generation of digiboxes will incorporate a fingerprint access to verify at least the age of the person logging in.

Perhaps such technology may persuade Ofcom to relax their ban on hardcore. But on the other hand, it would be rather dangerous to get such personal data as TV preferences stored away on a database somewhere. All sorts of people may get unduly interested in knowing that one is a regular subscriber to the likes of Channel Bizarre.


Sometimes well meaning legislation leads to extensive censorship way beyond what was intended. For example Germany now requires that adult websites should verify the age of readers. Many sites have therefore joined age verification schemes but this is not always practical. The German version of the image storage site Flickr decided that the best way to operate within the law was to simply to restrict all German access to pictures suitable for children. German web surfers were not impressed!


Across in the USA, TV companies are getting worried about an impending increase in censorship. At the moment the TV regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is restricted to monitoring sexually suggestive, or "indecent," speech and images.

The FCC have proved themselves to be very pedantic in their quest to clean up the airwaves, They have imposed sky high fines for fleeting expletives including such innocuous terms as "bullshit". And surely the whole word knows about the reaction to the brief display of Janet Jackson's nipple on prime time TV.

The latest concern is that the FCC will soon be able to move into the regulation of TV violence particularly during times when children are likely to be viewers, typically between 6am and 10pm.

The FCC have recently produced a report recommending an extension of their role into monitoring violence. Politicians seem to very interested in legislating to enable this to occur. TV companies are getting very concerned, and of course, so are many viewers.


But thinking of pedantic censors, surely our very own Ofcom are excelling themselves. It seems that they are insisting that the girls on the free to air babe channels now have to wear two pairs of knickers. I always said that censorship is pants.

 

July    Dangerous Pictures
   
 
What Satellite logoBe afraid...Be Very Afraid. So runs the tag line to David Cronenburg's horror film, The Fly.

But this is nothing as compared to the British Government's horror production of The Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill.

Not a particularly scary title, but wait until you get to chapter 6. This nasty piece of work enables the authorities to jail fans of sexy horror films for anything up to 3 years. And these are not just extreme snuff films watched only by those on the edges of depravity. Standard sexy horror films seem to be caught up in the new proposed law.

No wonder campaigners are dubbing it the "Dangerous Pictures Act".

The proposed law was dreamt up in response to the killing of Jayne Longhurst by Graham Coutts. The viewing of Seriously violent sexual web sites took at least some of the blame for the killings and this started the balling rolling for the Dangerous Pictures Act. At this point in time, no doubt government intentions were laudable. Real sexual violence is surely reprehensible and surely a prohibition on possession could have been justified.

However the government quickly found a slippery slope to slide down. They decided that a lot of the serious material intended for prohibition would surely be foreign and it would be unlikely that UK authorities could investigate whether it was real or not. So the authors of the bill simply decided that all 'depictions' of sexual violence would be caught by the law even if professionally staged by actors.

Time to take a quick look at Chapter 6. "It is an offence for a person to be in possession of an extreme pornographic image". An extreme pornographic image is a picture or video that is produced principally for the purpose of sexual arousal and features an act which threatens or appears to threaten a person's life, or an act which results in or appears to result (or be likely to result) in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts or genitals.

Notice that the definition of pornographic doesn't require it to be hardcore or explicit or real. Simple nudity in a cheapo exploitation film is surely included for the purposes of sexual arousal. What other purpose could it be?

There are millions of instances in movies where people's lives "appear" to be threatened and millions more where life is indeed taken. All it needs is for a sex scene to cross over with dramatic staged violence, and there you go, 3 years in jail for possession.

There are several defences in the bill, but these are unlikely to be of much assistance should one suffer a dawn raid.

Firstly the entire context of the image may be considered when deciding whether the image is pornographic. So an extreme sex scene in a worthy documentary will not qualify as on offence. This is hardly going to help anyone who enjoys watching so-called exploitation films. Roger Corman, the noted producer of cheap horror films used to demand, "more tits, more explosions, and more chases". This would hardly sway a jury when deciding if a film was to be considered as worthy art.

The second defence is that films with a British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) certificate are exempt from prosecution. Even this defence may prove limited for satellite movie fans. The film is exempted only if it is the exact version that received a certificate (allowances will however be made for technical differences such as included adverts or missing credits). This means that uncut versions or director's cuts may not be exempt, and who is to know exactly what version a TV channel broadcasts anyway.

It is not the intention of the Government to prosecute those inadvertently coming into possession of extreme material and the bill includes exemptions for unsolicited material not yet viewed. Also images where one is simply unaware of the content should be safe. And even if one unexpectedly views illegal images, then it should be safe as long as the images are then deleted in a timely fashion.

The final defence is that those with "legitimate reasons" to possess extreme images will be exempt. The lawmakers are thinking along the lines of policeman and film censor, so it probably won't help ordinary people much.

On the positive side, the bill does seem limited to possession rather than viewing, so simply watching "Emanuelle in America" on a foreign TV channel is probably safe as long as one doesn't start the video recorder.

Similarly streamed video content on the Internet may not be included as it is not recorded by the viewing computer (except for a small buffer that gets momentarily deleted). One is never really in possession of such a film.


I have a feeling that when I see a sexy horror with fangs just about to sink into a naked breast then surely my spine will tingle with fear. And it won't be the fear of a knock on the window by a passing vampire. It will be the fear of knock on the door by the police.

Be afraid...be very afraid.

 

August    Happy Asia
   
 
What Satellite logoI recently took the opportunity of a vacation to Asia to do a little research into what was available for Satellite X fans around the other side of the world.

Luckily my cultural guide to life in Thailand was also a satellite enthusiast and had a 3 metre dish on his roof. (Thailand has thankfully not yet gotten around to planning restrictions on dish sizes).

I rather suspected that Asia was generally censorial and that there would be little chance of viewing much sex on satellite. But I was wrong...

There are several possibilities discretely hiding away as 'test' broadcasts. If you know someone who knows someone, you can then get a viewing card. And before long you will be up and running with several hardcore movie channels.

Happy Asia is a package of 4 channels originating from Taiwan. The first two channels feature Asian programming mainly from Japan. One channel is hardcore, the other is softcore. The third and forth channels feature American & European hardcore respectively.

The softcore channel is censored via pixellation, rather than the UK method of showing just bobbing foreheads or a vase a flowers totally blocking the action. The pixellation surely blurs the details but the viewer still sees that hardcore action is happening behind the scintillating blocks.

This method of censorship is infinitely preferable to the UK implementation. A bobbing forehead is totally devoid of entertainment value, whereas the pixellated version remains watchable as the human brain does such a good job of working around the blur.

It would be interesting to test the reactions of Ofcom, the UK TV regulator, with pixellated images of what is clearly real sex.

The Japanese channels on Happy Asia would surely test the patience of many in the UK, both censors and campaigners. The girls are nearly always portrayed as subservient to the guys. The girls have to put up with minor humiliations and even coercion with loud and enthusiastic appreciation. Any viewers that are a little bit worried about what the neighbour may think, probably watch at very low volume.

The European and US channels feature very similar programming to the low cost hardcore channels available in Europe.

Happy Asia is available on Telstar 18 C-Band at 138 Degrees east. Reception in South Asia requires a 120cm dish, China and Thailand require a 90cm and big dish viewers in Australia can receive with a 240cm dish. Encryption is in Viaccess.

Ratings Happy Asia:
Picture Quality 6
Production Values 6
Attractive Stars 9
Sex Appeal 8
Programme Variety 7
Overall 72%


Another channel I briefly viewed was Lover Channel on ST 1 C-Band at 88 degrees east. It is nominally a softcore pixellated channel featuring mostly Asian programming. It is reported as part time free to air and part time encrypted.

But the supposed softcore isn't quite what it seems. The pixellation is always present obscuring the hardcore action but after a while, I was convinced that I could sort of see through the pixellation. I put this down to the magic of the human brain but closer viewing revealed that every so often, the blocks are transparent and show full detail of what they are meant to be hiding.

Ratings Lover Channel:
Picture Quality 7
Production Values 6
Attractive Stars 9
Sex Appeal 7
Programme Variety 6
Overall 70%


Pixellation is also common on mainstream Thai television. The powers that be have dictated that guns and alcohol should be censored from broadcast TV. This is implemented via pixellation. It seems such an inane way to censor. It is still obvious that guns are being pointed and the actors still use threatening tones in the dialogue. It surely does little to reduce any perceived impact of violent acts.

Thailand is also considering implementing watershed restrictions on broadcasting times but have come up with some unfathomable suggestions.

For background, the Staple of all Thailand's popular channels is the soap/romance/drama/melodrama shown over several days running from 8:30pm until 10:30pm. Nearly all of these soaps are pepped up by a little violence that would get them rated either for adults or for teenagers.

The Government are suggesting that adult rated movies cannot be shown until 10pm. Those rated as suitable for teenagers can be shown during weekdays from 9am to 4pm and after 8pm on weekends and holidays. I cannot see how these times are determined but it is something to do with when parents are expected to be home.

However, these two time restrictions leave no weekday slot available for the beloved soaps until 10pm. They would then generally finish at 00:30am. Way too late for most people.


So not much makes sense to me about censorship in Asia...But then again, not much makes sense to me about censorship in Britain either.

 

September    Age Old Censorship
   
 
What Satellite logoThe British government seems to have censorship on the mind at the moment. It is setting up think tanks, commissioning inquiries and consulting citizen's juries.

All these approaches seem to be focused on restricting youngsters from 'inappropriate material'. So perhaps it would be interesting to speculate on where all this is heading.


The first area of concern that has been identified is that of the social networking internet sites and the video sharing sites, most notably, YouTube.

There have been a whole series of news items lately demonstrating the authorities worries about YouTube.

The first set of coordinated concern seemed to be directed at school children who would post mobile phone videos of playground fights. Parents, teachers, the police and even BBC's Panorama took up the story and noted how difficult it was to get YouTube to delete videos in a timely manner.

Filmed violence took an even more sinister turn with concerns about happy slapping or violence instigated primarily for entertainment. News items continued with YouTube being used to promote gang culture and the use of weapons. But that wasn't the end of the problems. Youngsters and Jackass style stunts were targeted for police action and videos promoting anorexia were also slated by several organisations dealing with the aftermath.

Google who own YouTube are always quick to point out that they publish far more videos than anyone can feasibly watch to check the content. Google therefore rely on viewers to point out videos that should be checked, presuming that only a small number will be flagged for investigation. Even when checked, there is scope for disagreement about whether the video should be banned or not. Sometimes local sensitivities may not be apparent to the checker based in California.

So what controls are the UK Government angling for? Clues so far suggest that the government would like to see a classification system with BBFC style labelling, eg U, PG, 12, 15, 18, R18. Surely there is no way that all video can be pre-vetted so that such a system would be essentially voluntary. However the government can bring various pressures to bear on major players in the UK market. For example, only self classifying companies would be allowed to advertise on TV.

I guess that there will be a group of internet censors appointed who would be alerted by public complaint and respond quickly to investigate suspect content. Perhaps this group could be an extension of the existing Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). The internet censors would either provide a rapid assessment of an age classification or if they feel that it should be banned, then they would make the request to the appropriate company.

It is usually argued that Britain has no jurisdiction over foreign web sites such as YouTube, but I believe that the UK could negotiate with the US to allow official UK censors to take down YouTube videos with a minimum of fuss.

If anything, Google will probably be happy to cede the censorship task (and the related costs) to official state censors. It would give Google an escape route from being blamed for all the worlds ills.


In fact the government have been toying with the use of advertising bans for the sale of products outside of their jurisdiction for some time. Satellite X readers will be familiar with the use of the proscription order previously used to control foreign pornography channels. Essentially proscribed channels were banned from advertising in the UK.

The method is also currently being used to ensure that gambling companies abide by UK laws. The government is attempting to ban all advertising for any gambling companies that do not abide by UK licensing conditions.

I think that government will adopt a similar approach for all media, be it satellite, cable or internet. Only those abiding by a government approved classification system will be allowed to advertise in the UK. Surely not a 100% effective method, but it would have the desired effect on large companies who need to generate their market share via advertising.


It is interesting to speculate if any of the investigations will consider technology to enforce ratings. It is no longer too far fetched to consider a TV set top box equipped with a fingerprint reader and the ability to communicate with a national ID database to check one's age online. This verification could then be used with standardised age labelling on all media to determine whether or not to allow access.

Of course the minor inconvenience for the government is that they would then have to keep their word about allowing hardcore on UK satellite channels. Ofcom reckon that the only thing stopping satellite hardcore is the inadequacy of current age verification technology.

And one last prediction...Even with this censorship and age verification technology, gangs of young thugs will still be on the rampage; morality will still be on the downward spiral; and we still won't be able to safely walk the streets at night. Censorship won't change anything!

 

October    Crazy World of Censorship
   
 
What Satellite logoSometimes the subject of censorship can get a little serious and maybe its time to lighten up. So to provide a little festive cheer, here is a brief tour of the crazy world of censorship.


Let's start in New Zealand where the Alt TV channel was covering a music event called Groove in the Park. The channel had invited text messages which were then run across the screen.

One viewer complained that during the broadcast, the text messages descended into banter of a racist and sexual nature, including explicit language. Messages were even supporting the death of, and violence towards, people of particular races.
check the text messages before they were broadcast. Unfortunately, it said, the person had become intoxicated on the day and had failed to perform this role.

The New Zealand Broadcasting Standards Authority fined the channel and banned them from broadcasting for five hours.


I am not sure that a 5 hours close down is a harsh punishment or not. But compared with Nigeria...they were very very lucky indeed.

It all started when a popular actress in Kano State, aspiring to the notoriety of Pamela Anderson and Paris Hilton, got in a spot of bother over a private sexy video which was leaked to the public.

These things happen, but it somehow hit a nerve with the Kano State Censorship Board. They decided that the appropriate punishment would be to close the entire movie industry down for 6 months.

And that wasn't all. No doubt to ensure a 'better class of person, all members of production crews now must have a minimum qualification of a diploma from a recognised institution. The censor also revealed that the board has cancelled singing and dancing of any kind in films, and no producer would be allowed to go to location for filming without his script being vetted by the board.

The board also announced that they will now censor all films on CD, video and all films marketed in the state. Printers have also been advised that before they print any book or poster meant for public use, they must obtain a clearance from the censors. Authors, publishers, bookshops, poster sellers, distributors and vendors are also now expected to register with the board.

Seventeen actors have already received bans for "immoral conduct" such as drinking off set and another director was jailed for making a film showing belly-dancing.

Now that's what I call 'real' punishment!


I was also amused to notice two censorship stories from different sides of the globe but both were reported on the same day. It seems that North Cyprus and the Philippines are, like everywhere else, plagued by modern day social problems.

Both were united in that their politicians believe that all the world's ills can be blamed on the Internet. And both communities were in agreement that the problems could be solved by banning something. Of course the only problems that will actually get solved, are how the politicians will get enough votes for another term.

(As an aside, I wonder how many of the social problems in Nigeria's Kano State will vanish now that they have banned the entire media industry for 6 months? I rather suspect none).

Anyway, both North Cyprus and the Philippines opted to impose their populist bans on children visiting Internet cafes but they differed somewhat in the details.

The Philippines decided to ban children from Internet cafes 'during' school hours whilst North Cyprus decided to ban children from Internet cafes 'outside' school hours.

It just goes to show that politicians are happy that 'something' has to be banned, but it doesn't really matter what.


Being an avid viewer of satellite X, I always have uphold that there is no harm in a bit of hardcore. Of course there are always exception to the rule and I now have to agree that pornography can sometimes be dangerous after all.

This was demonstrated by a Chicago woman who lost control when she found her boyfriend's stash of porn CDs. She shot and killed him and she is now facing a first-degree murder charge.


Perhaps the silliest censors of this world tour are those in Kansas City. Charges were quickly dropped, but a grand jury indicted a store for promoting obscenity that is harmful to minors. The grand jury was called after an anti-pornography group, the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, successfully petitioned and requested a grand jury to investigate local businesses.

The store in question turned out to be a fancy dress shop. They were selling a few novelty costumes such as: a well-developed woman in a wet T-shirt; a snake charmer with a snake coming out of a man's pants; a man with a sheep on his front side and what looks like an exposed rear end; and a giant version of the male organ.

Never has the term 'dickheads' been so appropriate as to describe the Kansa City censors.

 

November    Babewatch
   
 
Ofcom logoOfcom, the TV regulator, has come down hard on the so called 'Babe Channels'. These are the free to air broadcasts where girls act and talk suggestively in an attempt to get viewers to ring premium rate phone services.

In a nutshell, Ofcom have declared that these channels are 'sex works' and Ofcom are now suggesting that they should be PIN protected at all times. Even showing absolutely no nudity, and having no explicit language, isn't enough to let them off the hook.

So how do Ofcom justify labelling mere suggestive material as a 'sex works'. Surely a nation brought up on the innuendo of Carry On films can cope with winks and nudges?

Perhaps the line of reasoning can best be illustrated by recalling Baywatch. Surely few viewers will have forgotten the images of Pamela Anderson running across the beach rescuing whoever needs to be rescued. Her striking figure in an equally striking bathing costume was surely intended to arouse the male interest. The program was broadcast at tea time and nobody seriously suggested that the programme should be PIN protected or broadcast after the watershed. It was basically light family entertainment that featured a few mildly arousing scenes.

Back in 2004, am enterprising video maker thought that he could possibly make a few pounds out of men's fascination with watching the Baywatch girls jog across the beach.

Robert King produced a video called Slowmo Girl. It was an hour long programme featuring an undulating swim-suited bosom moving in what King describes as "glorious slow motion". This was the entire focus of the film without showing anything else. There was no nudity and no plot development whatsoever. It was likened to a kind of human lava-lamp.

The film censors, the BBFC, were a little bemused by Slowmo Girl, particularly as they were not provided with an explanation as to what the strange video was about nor anything about the intended audience.The BBFC said: "Given the limited amount of information available on screen there seemed little alternative but to consider that the main purpose of the works was to invite sexual arousal at the sight of clothed female breasts. Classifying such material below '18' would defy public expectations and, despite the lack of any nudity or graphic content, we therefore decided to take a cautious approach".

The key here is the phrase: "the main purpose of the works was to invite sexual arousal". It matters very little if the content is very sexy or not, as long as its main purpose is to arouse, then it is considered to be a 'sex work'. This definition has become very important to the BBFC as it allows context to override the actual sex content when they justify their decisions. For example, hardcore sex can be included in 18 rated arty movies and still be shown at the cinema and be sold in the high street. Normal hardcore is rated as R18 which effectively restricts it to licensed sex shops. The arty films aren't considered as 'sex works' simply as their main purpose is to be an arty film rather than to arouse.


The definition has proved very useful for the BBFC and lets them award certificates depending on the worthiness of the film rather than actual sexual content.

And guess what, Ofcom have now picked up on the definition. In their report detailing their criticism of the babe channels, they said: "When judging what constitutes 'adult-sex' material, Ofcom guidance for broadcasters takes account of definitions used by the BBFC for 'sex works at 18'. These are defined as: works whose primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation".

So now Ofcom have found a way to allow seriously sexy material to be broadcast free to air by the main TV channels, whilst marginally sexy material on the babe channels can be frowned upon. Obviously the sex on broadcast TV is wrapped up in education, information or simply a good story so it is perfectly OK. The babe channels have few such redeeming features so can be restricted as 'sex works'.

The PIN requirements will surely challenge the viability of babe channels which are basically designed to catch the eye whilst viewers are channel hopping. It would seem unlikely that many viewers would bother enter a PIN on the off chance of seeing something that appeals, so such a requirement would surely do a lot of damage to the channels.

Sexual content is not the only concern of Ofcom. The interaction with premium rate phone services is also unappealing to the censor. It has always been a tradition on British TV that advertising content should be kept separate to the editorial content. But the babe channels are blatantly ignoring this tradition. There is simply no separation between programme content and advertising.

Ofcom have issued a strong warning: "any breach of a similar nature [both sexual and advertising content] by a broadcaster of a babe channel in future is likely to result in further regulatory action. All providers of babe style channels should therefore study carefully the findings [against Get Lucky TV, Lucky Star, Star Bazaar, and LivexxxBabes]".

I cannot see how the channels can be remain viable without sexy content or premium rate phone advertising, so I guess that there will be some clever media people dreaming up new ideas.

Or perhaps the babe channels will simply revert to showing old episodes of Baywatch!

 

December    Pixels and Pimples
   
 
Sex View logoIt was fascinating to read that our choice of hardcore is to be increased with a new high definition channel.

Sex View, one of the major adult satellite broadcasters, is to provide a new channel called Sex View High Quality Home Cinema. It will transmit via Hotbird on frequency 12.360 GHz horizontal.

This will be Europe's first adult high definition (HD) channel. It will require a bit of extra hardware to receive. Clearly a HD TV is needed but the receiver also needs HD capability. In particular, it needs to be able to decode MPEG 4. (Normal digital satellite TV uses MPEG 2). The new technology can be added in several ways: it can be built into the receiver; or implemented in a HD set top box; or the extra hardware can be added into an old receiver via an MPEG 4 decoder Cam in a spare slot.

I must admit that it sounds good to be able to see some high definition sex but it is not quite so obvious that it is a practical idea.

Pornography is often said to lead new technology, but this may be way off the mark for this particular new idea. Fundamentally video porn is cheaply made and very little of it is simply worthy of broadcasting at high definition.

SexView only have to look at the way their current service has panned out in old technology. They offer 12 channels of relatively low budget material compressed to the point of minimal picture quality. No doubt the company would like to offer 12 channels of high quality hardcore but programme budgets simply don't allow it.

The limitation is down to the personal nature of viewing pornography. When viewing DVD, if a scene just doesn't click with the viewer, then they will soon reach for the fast forward button. It may be that the stars are sexually unappealing or else the action has got boring.

The satellite equivalent to fast forwarding a DVD, is to do a little channel hopping. Hence the broadcasters quickly learnt that customers appreciate a multi-channel package. As soon as the action gets a little boring they can try another channel in the hope of something more stimulating.

Unfortunately the economics of pornography do not allow broadcasters to double subscriptions when they double the amount of channels. Subscribers tend to have a limited budget that they are willing to spend on a satellite package.

It is suggested that the amount of free porn on the internet has tended to lower people's perception of pornography's worth. So broadcasters cannot simply increase prices for multiple hannels. Instead they have to dilute the programming budget and also have to compress the signal to save money on broadcasting.

It nay prove difficult to get viewers to sign up to an expensive single high definition channel. However glorious the picture quality, a boring or unappealing scene will still get the viewer reaching for the remote control.


Porn has similarly failed to the lead the way in the high definition version of DVDs. There were many commentators suggesting the competing technologies of Blu-ray and HD-DVDs would be resolved by the porn market as seemed to be the case in the video format battle between VHS and Betamax.

However, the expensive production costs for new technology recordings has proved somewhat restrictive for the pornography market. Only a handful of mostly HD-DVD disks have been released so far. In addition the high definition capability has meant that skin blemishes, spots and pimples are more noticeable. There are concerns that this may be more of a turn off than a turn on.


Perhaps one need only look to the land of Sony and Pioneer to see an example of why porn may not lead the way. Most of the legitimately sold porn in Japan is censored via pixellation. What is the point in producing a high definition picture when the makers are deliberately blurring the most interesting bits?


In reality, the idea that porn leads technology needs a slight modification. Porn leads technology only when improving the 'availability' of porn, not the 'quality' of porn.


Given that the vast majority of Brits are denied hardcore on satellite TV, perhaps a technology that sidesteps the censors will be more likely to succeed.

Look out for Play TV. This is a British Broadcaster of internet TV (IPTV) delivering via broadband to the TV (rather than a PC). It requires a set top box similar to a satellite receiver and features new internet TV channels, existing Freeview channels and a digital video recorder.

Thankfully internet delivery sidesteps the Ofcom hardcore ban on British satellite. This means that Play TV can legally offer an R18 hardcore film channel with appropriate pin protection/on-line classification. Now surely that is a new technological advance that will appeal.

 



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