A new law came into force on 26th January 2009 that may be of concern to readers of this column.
The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 has created the new offence of possessing 'extreme pornographic images', or "dangerous pictures" as campaigners have dubbed them.
Such images can be photos, films on DVD, recordings off satellite TV or videos on a computer hard drive. The new law is not intended to outlaw either horror films or non violent sex films, but the grey area where the two genres meet, could well
fall foul of the law.
So what does the law say?
There are three elements to the offence. An image must come within the terms of all three elements before it will fall foul of the offence.
Those elements are:
1. That the image is pornographic
2. That the image is grossly offensive, disgusting, or otherwise of an obscene character
3. That the image portrays in an explicit and realistic way, one of the following extreme acts:
a. An act which threatens a person’s life
b. An act which results in or is likely to result in serious injury to a person’s anus, breast or genitals;
c. An act involving sexual interference with a human corpse,
d. A person performing an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive),
The Act defines a pornographic image as one produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal. Whether this threshold has been met will be an issue for the magistrate or jury to determine simply by looking at the image.
The second element about the image being of an obscene character is also very much up to the magistrate or jury. It is therefore impossible for people to accurately predict. Some jurors may find very little adult consensual material to be
obscene whereas some seem to think that all adult material is obscene.
Perhaps the 3rd element is what causes concern to most people. Images of real and serious violence would be universally condemned by everyone but the law says 'realistic' rather than 'real'. Special effects artists pride themselves on being as
'realistic' as absolutely possible, but any violence so depicted is certainly not 'real'.
One dangerous scenario is a sexy horror, say a film with vampires having a hardcore romp with their victims before the inevitable bloody bite. Surely such a scene is intended to be arousing. Surely there are some potential jurors who will find
it 'disgusting' And surely the special effects team have done their best to make it look 'realistic'. The fact that the victim dies in the movie rather suggests that the act depicted was 'life threatening'. It therefore satisfies the criteraa
amd is therefore a potentially dangerous picture.
Another worrying scenario is based on a pedantic reading of the law. What about a normal everyday condomless sex scene in a hardcore film? It is both pornographic and explicit by definition. Again some jurors will find it disgusting and in a
world with HIV and AIDS, unprotected sex is indeed life threatening. Suddenly the majority of all porn could be defined as dangerous.
However there are defences in the law which may come to the assistance of those caught with a dangerous picture:
That the person was in possession of an extreme image but had not looked at it and therefore neither knew, nor had reason to suspect that it was an extreme pornographic image.
That the person had been sent the image without having asked for it.
The offence is not targeted at those who accidentally stumble across extreme pornographic images while surfing the Net. Assuming they delete any accidental images in a timely manner.
Films certified by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) are exempted.
Also the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions is needed before a case can be taken to court.
Even deleting dangerous pictures on a computer has an element of complexity. Hitting the delete key does not totally delete the image. Case law suggests that deleting images held on a computer is sufficient to get rid of them. An exception would
be where a person is shown to have intended to remain in control of an image even though he has nominally deleted it. This will entail him having the capacity (through skill or software) to retrieve the image.
So for most computer users, they would be expected to empty the recycle bin after deleting the image. It would be interesting to see how this rule applies to people with computer forensics ability. It would be almost impossible for them to
delete images without physically destroying their disk drive.
Hopefully this provides sufficient information for people to form an opinion on whether any of their images are dangerous and so can act accordingly. Unfortunately it does not provide enough information to know for sure.
And if that wasn't enough, the Government are now busy debating legislation for a new set of dangerous pictures. Non photographic pornographic pictures featuring under 18s. This must be very worrying for viewers of Japanese anime such as Hentai.
The stylised characters tend to be vaguely young looking without sufficient detail to be very sure exactly what age they are meant to be.
I was reading up on background for a Thai holiday when I spotted a scary true story on a local forum.
"At 3am I flagged down a baht bus (a converted pickup operating as a small bus). I was the only one on board. At first everything was cool, As the bus passed my hotel I rang the bell and wanted for it to stop. It was the usual loud baht bus
bell but the driver didn't stop. At first I thought that he's looking for a better place to stop but there was no sign of him slowing down. I rang the bell again. He wouldn't stop, he even started speeding. That's when I knew something was
wrong. I saw the red traffic lights at a junction ahead and was relieved. I thought I could jump out when he has to stop. But he jumped the lights and speeded on. I was really scared at this time. When he had to slow down a bit to make a turn
into a side-road I just jumped out. The landing was hard and I was lucky that I didn't got hit by the traffic. The driver just drove on. I don't know where he wanted to drive me to. I guess to a dark side alley with a few robbers bearing
If I had been on that baht bus, I think the great horror movie, Hostel, would have sprung to mind. Surely the driver was speeding towards a derelict factory with amateur torturers just waiting to have their evil ways.
Modern horror films seem way too scary for me. Anything in the US Saw or Hostel series is guaranteed to get the heart thumping. Eden Lake shows that Brits know a thing or two about suspense and the French are doing the horror genre proud with
truely gross out movies such as Frontière(s) or A L'intérieur. And there's hardly a censor cut, let alone a ban, that affects any of them.
I hanker after the good old days when being cut or banned by the censor was a mark of honour for a film. This culminated in the golden age of the video nasty. In the early 1980's the press whipped up a moral panic about VHS horror movies such
that 72 of them ended up being banned by the UK Director of Public Prosecutions.
Even now I scan the listings, mostly Zone Horror, to hunt out the latest unbanned and uncut movies from the golden age.
Here's a few goodies coming our way.
The House by the Cemetery is a 1981 horror film by the Italian master, Lucio Fulci. This is the third in a loose trilogy of films set in New England that evoke the uncanny and cosmic terrors of H.P. Lovecraft.
Back in 1982, before anyone had even thought of panicking about video nasties, the British censor made 6 cuts totalling 34 seconds to the cinema release. This BBFC approved cinema release was transferred to video and by 1983 the authorities had
panicked and banned the video.
The ban was lifted in 1988 when the BBFC decided that a further 4 minutes and 11 seconds should be cut to make it safe. Time heals slowly, and by 2001 the censors has reduced their cuts back down to the original 34s. The 2009 release is finally
One of the most highly regarded slasher films of the era was My Bloody Valentine. It is a 1981 Canadian horror by George Mihalka about a murderous manic miner. It was never cut or banned by the British censor, but only because the American
censor got their first. The producers decided that time has healed sufficiently in 28 years that the cuts could now be re-inserted.
Another notable video nasty is Expose, a 1975 UK video by James Kenelm Clarke which is also known as House On Straw Hill.
The chiller stars Udo Kier as a writer who retreats to a remote house in the British countryside to work on his new novel, accompanied by a secretary (Linda Hayden) who turns out to have a dark side.
The video was banned as a nasty in 1984. It was later unbanned once the BBFC had made 51 seconds of cuts. The cuts actually still apply in Britain, but there is now an uncut US release scheduled for 2009.
The best of the video nasties make for entertaining films but I don't think they are really very terrifying because
they don't generally feature real life fears.
In real life slashers would never target me as I know not to take a shower when there is a serial killer in the area. I should be safe from vampires as I know not to try and tackle them just before sunset. And just to be 100 percent safe of
surviving another day, I never board an empty Thai bus at 3 O'Clock in the morning. Only characters in movies would be that foolish, wouldn't they?
There's no doubt about it, the world is getting ever more censorial. Everyone must have noted that TV is running scared of anything that might possibly cause offence to perhaps one viewer in five million.
But that is nothing compared with a few of the examples of social vandalism rounded up for this months column. Sometimes the censors go too far!
About 40 years ago Francois Truffaut made a film called Fahrenheit 451. It was about firemen employed to burn books rather than put out fires. Of course everyone at the time said it would never happen. And of course they were wrong.
The US government has now advised that children's books published before 1985 should not be considered safe. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 was passed after a panic over lead paint on toys from China. It imposed tough new
limits on lead in any products intended for use by children. Leaded ink was often used in book making until it was banned in 1985. So books before this time have been identified as potentially dangerous, particularly those with illustrations.
Merchants, thrift stores, and booksellers may be at risk if they sell older volumes, or even give them away, without first subjecting them to testing at prohibitive expense. Many second hand book shops have therefore had to yank the old books
off their shelves and send them down to the local incinerator en masse.
One American blogger summed up the cultural vandalism well when he wrote:
I just came back from my local thrift store with tears in my eyes! I watched as boxes and boxes of children's books were thrown into the garbage! Today was the deadline and I just can't believe it! Every book they had on the shelves prior to
1985 was destroyed!
Whatever the future of new media may hold, ours will be a poorer world if we begin to lose the millions of books published before our own era. They serve as a path into history, literature, and imagination for kids everywhere. Their
illustrations open up worlds far removed from what kids are likely to see on the video or TV screen. Could we really be on the verge of losing all of this? And if this is what government protection of our kids means, shouldn't we be thinking
instead about protecting our kids from the government?
The Americans have also come with another idea for censorship that goes too far. It is misleadingly labelled the Fairness Doctrine . A recent Senate bill would have forced media channels to offer opposing viewpoints on controversial
issues. Initially it may seem to make sense, but who is to decide what is a fair reply? It would surely take an army of politically correct censors.
And what about porn channels. Would they have to offer 50% of their airtime to the views of anti-pornography campaigners? Would Manchester United TV have to spend half its viewing time to pundits extolling the virtues of Arsenal, Liverpool and
Thankfully the US Senate voted down the proposal.
New Zealand's contribution is provided by Bill Hastings. He is the self assured Chief Film Censor who has called for parents to be jailed for allowing their underage children access to violent video games. He thinks that prosecutions would serve
as shock value to other families.
Hastings said that it is already law that anyone caught knowingly allowing a child access to restricted video games, such as Grand Theft Auto, could be punished by up to three months imprisonment or a fine of up to $10,000 (£3900). So far
no-one has been prosecuted under the law.
It is part of growing up that young people push to do things a little bit before they ought. This law would strike fear into many New Zealand parents. And that's before considering what benefit it is for kids to have their parents jailed!
Australia are very censorial when it comes to the internet. Even standard adult hardcore is illegal on the Australian internet. But it came as a bit of surprise to find that they already have a law on their books than potentially bans the entire
World Wide Web.
The Australian internet censor banned a political anti-abortion web page featuring some unpleasant imagery. They then took action against a website with links to the banned page.
Under a 2007 law, sites that link to banned content are themselves considered to be banned, and if hosted in Australia, site owners can be ordered to remove the links, or be fined $11,000 (£5250) a day.
The legislators didn't really follow through their thinking though. For example, the site that linked to the offending anti-abortion page nay be linked to by another 100 sites and each of these are now illegal. And of course there are likely to
be 10,000 other sites linking to the first 100. Pretty soon the whole web will be illegal, Also the major search engines link first and ask questions later.
So there you have it, a world where old books have to be burnt, where all parents live in fear of being jailed, the internet is banned, and shock jocks have to be fair.
The TV censor Ofcom has been gradually chipping away at free to air softcore over a series of
decisions made over the last couple of years. Ofcom had already put a stop to anything naughty on the babe channels, it has restricted what the encrypted adult channels can show on freeviews, and has had words with film channels showing so
called erotic thrillers.
Now Ofcom have sorted out two more nails out for the coffin of sex on free to air TV.
Playboy One was a strictly softcore free to air channel that started up in 2005. At the time mild softcore was generally acceptable, even on the main broadcast channels. Playboy One was operating late at night and located within the adult
section of Sky's electronic programme guide, and so seemed reasonably safe from hassle from the censor.
But Ofcom then started to re-interpret their rules to gradually ban softcore from unencrypted channels.
Playboy argued that Ofcom were being unfair to have changed the rules making softcore content verboten by 2007/8. But to no avail, Ofcom's new interpretation of the rules proved unviable for Playboy One and it closed in September 2008.
But closure was not enough for Ofcom. They have also fined Playboy £22,500 for transgressions of Ofcom's programme code.
Ofcom justified the fine with a hard line interpretation of their programme code. Rule 1.24 states: "Premium subscription services and pay per view/night services may broadcast 'adult-sex' material between 2200 and 0530 provided that there
is a mandatory PIN protected encryption system, or other equivalent protection".
Ofcom investigated seven programmes shown on Playboy One: Jenna's American Sex Star, Adult Stars Close-up, Blue Collar Babes, Sexy Girls Next Door, Sexy Urban Legends, Sex House and Sex Guides.
These programmes were said to include [softcore] sequences depicting masturbation, oral sex, clear labial detail, sexual intercourse, and full nudity. Some also included strong language in a sexual context.
Ofcom concluded that the explicitness, strength and/or sustained nature of the sexual content and language was unacceptable for broadcast on a free-to-air channel. The primary purpose of this material was sexual stimulation. This was considered
to be 'adult-sex' material under Rule 1.24 and so should not have been broadcast free to air.
Ofcom added the ominous threat that: "adult channels should be in no doubt of Ofcom’s concerns about the broadcast of sexual material which is too explicit. Should further such cases be considered for sanction in future, the Committee will
continue to regard them very seriously. If highly graphic sexual material is broadcast without editorial justification on a free-to-air channel even on a single occasion it can be a very serious breach of the Code".
The second nail in the coffin of free to air sex was delivered to mainstream channels that like to show a bit of sex behind the pretence of being a serious documentary.
In particular they were targeting the documentaries that show sex scenes obscured by pixellation.
The focus of their warning was a programme called Sin Cities shown on free to air Virgin 1.The episode in question focussed on the issue of men who are married to actresses who work in the US adult film industry.
Ofcom noted that throughout the majority of the programme there were repeated scenes of actresses engaged in sexual acts but with the act of penetration and genitalia considerably masked.
Virgin Media argued that the material was justified by the context and that: the programme had a serious editorial purpose; the sexually explicit images were appropriately masked; and the programme was broadcast late in the schedule and was well
In Ofcom’s opinion the content did not provide adequate editorial context for, or analysis of, what the broadcaster described as the moral dilemmas of being married to a porn star.
Ofcom concluded that this material exceeded the expectations of the audience for a programme of this type dealing with sexual themes and content but with some serious and observational editorial purpose. Ofcom does not consider Sin Cities to be
a work of sufficient seriousness or rigorous enquiry to attract special latitude in the strength of material it can properly contain.
Ofcom worryingly concluded: "Licensees should consider carefully whether the need to obscure images of sexual activity or intrusive nudity is in fact an indication that the material as a whole is unsuitable for broadcast".
So I am afraid those late night documentaries about the fascinating world of pixellated sex are now also for the chop.
There have been a few fascinating articles in the worlds press on the subject of sex on TV. Some of them well worthy of a
comment in Satellite X.
The entertainment trade newspaper Variety reported on the success of a sales tax on porn in Italy.
One of the Silvio Berlusconi government’s first measures was to introduce a 25% porno tax as part of a 2008 bill to help replenish the country’s credit crunched coffers.
Conto TV, a growing digital terrestrial on-demand paybox, whose core business is porn, took the tax in its stride. It aired a cheeky advert spot urging Italians to contribute to saving the Italian economy by becoming customers.
The tax was also framed with the intention that some of the funds raised would help subsidise the hard-hit Italian film industry. This seemed to be ell appreciated and perhaps even contributed to a more positive image of the adult industry.
However, Variety reported that the government seem to have failed to follow through their good intentions and is pocketing the entire $80 million or so haul.
Variety also reported that the grim economic outlook seems to be prompting a rise in the number of Italian viewers turning to porn on pay TV.
The number of customers shelling out to watch a pay-per-view hardcore porn movie on the Hot Club channels broadcast by Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia has been growing. This has been generating a hefty income of some $2.6 million per week. According
to the financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore, the take is at least 10 times that of Sky’s regular on-demand movies.
Past experience of watching Hot Club channels is that they are top quality hardcore films from studios such as Private, Vivid and Dorcel along with some good Italian produced material.
I would guess the market must be huge for viewing an occasional high quality porn film. Surely this appeals to a lot more customers than those willing to subscribe to cheap dedicated channels where the programming budgets inevitably lead to much
Our very own Sky must be green with envy of not being able to offer similar pay per view treats in the UK.
I was somewhat less impressed by research reported by the Telegraph.
According to recent studies, children who watch TV programmes intended for an adult audience are a third more likely to become sexually active in their early teens. The younger they are exposed to screen content meant for their parents, the
sooner they lose their virginity during adolescence.
Dr Hernan Delgado, who carried out the study, said: Television and movies are among the leading sources of information about sex and relationships for adolescents. His team tracked 754 girls and boys, between the ages of six and eighteen, and
recorded their viewing habits over a sample weekday and weekend day.
The participants' onset of sexual activity was then identified during the second stage of the study. Then six to eight-year-olds watched grown up shows they were more likely to have sex earlier when compared those who watched less adult-targeted
I suspect that this research is nonsense and that the underlying correlation is that parentally restricted viewing indicates a generally more pro-active middle class upbringing. And such youngsters are more likely to be spending their evenings
doing home work. They will surely be holding off from doing the naughty stuff (at least until they get to university).
I also read about a bill being debated in the House of Lords which aims to control the online sale of age-restricted goods.
Baroness Massey's Online Purchasing of Goods and Services (Age Verification) Bill is calling for all online retailers who sell age-restricted goods to establish a system to allow them to determine whether or not a person purchasing the products
meet the legal minimum age. The main products which would be affected by the Bill are: knives; alcohol; tobacco; some video games and DVDs; solvents and spray paints.
The provisions suggest using specialist companies to carry out verification or online databases to verify the age of the buyer, rather than users merely ticking a box to confirm that they are over 18.
I ventured onto the web site of one the American companies offering such verification services and found that it has worryingly accurate information on who lives in my house and how old they are. However I was a little bit unconvinced that this
would prevent youngsters from accessing adult services. They easily know sufficient details about their parents to fill in all the details required to convince the system.
But if they don't, you may want to think carefully when your 15 year old son is apparently busy doing his homework on his laptop and asks: "Dad, what year were you born?
There Britain's TV censor has been hard at work over the last couple of years to ensure that there's no worthwhile adult entertainment on
And there's no sign that Ofcom are easing up. With unabated censorial zeal, Ofcom have recently handed out 2 large fines to UK broadcasters trying to make the best of the TV censors softcore only rules.
Ofcom fined Portland Enterprises Ltd £27,500 for showing a little hardcore female masturbation on its softcore TVX 2 channel.
Ofcom judged that TVX 2 breached ofcom's rule 1.25 which says that "BBFC R18-rated films or their equivalent must not be broadcast".
Ofcom claimed that a viewer had complained about the programme Bathroom Bitches broadcast on 4 September 2008 at 21:53. Although encrypted, it contained R18 equivalent material. The Programme included prolonged and explicit scenes of a woman
masturbating, some of which were shown in close-up and also depicted the use of a dildo. Ofcom considered that the content broadcast was equivalent to BBFC R18-rated material because of the sexual explicitness.
It does seem a bit strange that a subscriber would complain about a channel showing exactly what one would expect of an adult channel, but there you go.
Portland admitted the Code breach, stating that: Regrettably, the programme contained such footage [R18-rated equivalent material]. Ofcom therefore recorded a breach of Rule 1.25 and fined the broadcaster on the supposed grounds that encrypted
porn has the potential to cause harm to under-eighteens, and children in particular.
Ofcom fined RHF Productions Ltd £25,000 for broadcasting the URLs of websites that feature hardcore teasers without an age verification mechanism. The Red Hot pay per view channels were broadcasting the links between 21 July 2008 and 28
Ofcom had already warned the broadcaster a few months earlier about the perceived offence and explained in their broadcast bulletin:
"Ofcom were again alerted to the offending Website URLs. The Website URLs led to websites which, although they included a warning on their front page, contained extremely explicit sexual material (equivalent to BBFC R18-rated material).
This did not require registration to view and could be seen by under-eighteens".
It seems that the R18 content was limited to a few short teaser videos attempting to entice readers into subscribing to a members only section of the website where the full hardcore videos were available.
The censor judged that these teasers breached Rule 1.2: "In the provision of services, broadcasters must take all reasonable steps to protect people under eighteen".
Ofcom noted that whilst the content of the websites, to which the Website URLs led, was not broadcast material, and therefore not subject to the Code, the on-air references to the Website URLs were clearly broadcast content and must comply with
the Code. The on-air references to the Website URLs did not comply with the Code because they led users to websites allowing unrestricted access to R18-rated equivalent material.
It is tempting to think that this is a minor transgression and was soon rectified by removing the teasers from the website. However it probably closes off an important marketing angle for UK adult TV companies. It must be a little frustrating to
try and sell softcore in a hardcore world, but one of the possibilities is to broadcast the softcore version and then point people to where they can watch the uncensored version on internet TV.
But given that UK channels hype up their content by suggesting that it is stronger that it really is, then surely sceptical viewers may need a bit of convincing that the website is really uncensored. That's why it is so important to have
hardcore teasers available before the viewer commits to paying.
There is a wider issue here, that could massively effect adult entertainment on the Internet. It seems that the UK authorities would like to see all hardcore content restricted to age verified areas of the internet. But age verification means
typing in a fair amount of information, eg the amount required to authorise a credit card payment. Surely too much effort for those just browsing who need to see what they are buying before committing to the effort of entering lots of personal
Lets hope that Ofcom never get given the job of internet censor. They would fine websites £25,000 every time they feature hardcore content without age verification, or even links to another site featuring the same.Surely they would soon
become the richest censor ever to wield the scissors in the history of the world. Perhaps the excess money could then be diverted into funding the BBC so that the licence fee could be scrapped. But lets not give them ideas!
"Two steps forward, one step back". A much used phrase that applies to most things, including censorship.
Danish TV viewers will soon find out that going digital is not all it's cracked up to be. On the 1st of November, the two million or so antennae-based televisions will have to be switched to digital. But unfortunately and predictably, the Danish
government has taken the opportunity to impose a few new rules on broadcast TV.
In particular, the government has decided to ban any station broadcasting material deemed to cause serious harm to minors’ physical, mental or moral development.
City TV station Kanal Kobenhavn is one station that needs to make significant changes if it wants to keep its broadcasting license. Kanal Kobenhavn’s trouble is with it's popular pornography programming it shows late at night. The station has
been showing sexy movies for 25 years, but the new regulations forbid any content that contains pornography or gratuitous violence.
It is predicted that nearly all Danish television will be much tamer and more morally rigid as of the first of November.
Over in Ireland the authorities are reviewing various censorship ideas particularly with the aim of reducing public spending.
The Irish Department of Finance has published a report proposing a mega-merger of censors. This will include the telecoms regulator ComReg, the new Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and also the Irish Film Classification Office.
Maybe it will indeed save the country money, but if ever the office gets censorial then their restrictions will apply to broadcast TV, cable & satellite TV, cinema, DVDs and as much of the internet that they can manage to control.
Perhaps Sweden has made the best proposal for genuine progress. After nearly 100 years, Sweden may finally be poised to shutter the agency charged with censoring films deemed unsuitable for adult audiences.
The planned dissolution of Sweden’s film censorship agency, Statens biografbyrå (SBB), means that Swedish filmgoers aged 15 and older will no longer have to wonder whether or not a particular film has been censored by the state.
The proposal comes as a part of the findings of a government-mandated inquiry into how to update laws governing how films are reviewed.
According to current regulations, SBB can censor any film which depicts events in such a manner and in such a context as to have a brutalizing effect and is judged to have explicit or protracted scenes of severe violence to people or animals or
depicts sexual violence or coercion or presents children in pornographic situations.
But the agency rarely exercises its power to cut scenes from films, or orders a film banned altogether. The board last cut scenes from a non-pornographic film in 1996, when three scenes were removed from Martin Scorcese's gangster movie Casino,
despite protests from the director.
The inquiry proposed that a new body be created to replace both the SBB and the Swedish Media Council (Mediarådet), another state agency aimed at protecting youngsters. The new agency will assume SBB’s current duties of managing the four
levels of age restrictions for films in Sweden (all ages, 7+, 11+, 15+). Moreover, the new agency will no longer employ censors, but instead will include a team of film examiners tasked with determining the appropriate age restriction for a
given film, rather than censoring it.
The inquiry also proposes that film companies be allowed to submit their films for review by the new agency voluntarily. However, films not reviewed by the new agency would automatically be classified as only appropriate for viewers 15 years and
The word progress doesn't really apply in the Ukraine. Simple possession of pornography has just been made a criminal offence after Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko signed a law to that effect.
Now pornography can be kept only for medical purposes, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice. The ministry also warns that possession of a large number of identical images will be considered evidence of trading in pornography, which is
Punishment for possession of pornography will include fines and imprisonment for up to three years. There has been no mention of any restrictions on the scope of this act and so it seems that owning a copy of Playboy is enough to get Ukrainians
It is not really much consolation to Ukrainians but the sudden imposition of an absolute prohibition on porn may prove interesting for the rest of Europe. Sociologists and the like can now research and compare the 'before' and the 'after' of a
complete ban on porn. So will Ukraine suddenly be freed from crime and social ills? Will the new law reverse perceptions of 'declining morality'?
...Of course it won't, but it may be progress to be able to demonstrate that censorship is not a panacea for all of the World's ills.
When British viewers sit down to watch an evening of TV, they will be probably aware of how film censors, TV censors and TV company self censors all connive to foreshorten the viewers' pleasure.
However when it comes to TV advertising, few will be aware of the complexity of organisations that get involved in the censorship process.
The basic process is that one group writes the rules, the second pre-vets adverts before they are screened and the third group handle any flak from viewers.
Advertising codes are the responsibility of two industry Committees:
- The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)
- The Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP)
Both of the groups are independently administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
Clearcast is the company responsible for the pre-transmission examination and clearance of television advertisements. As part of their licensing agreements with Ofcom, broadcasters are required to clear advertising before it is broadcast and
advertisements transmitted on UK terrestrial and satellite channels should be submitted to Clearcast for approval. Clearcast is owned and funded by eight commercial broadcasters all of whom are represented on Clearcast’s board. Other
broadcasters using Clearcast for clearance pay individually for Clearcast’s services.
Pre-production scripts and finished commercials are considered against the BCAP Television Advertising Standards Code and Clearcast’s own Notes of Guidance. Clearcast also assign broadcasting restrictions such as 'only suitable for after the
watershed' or 'not to be shown in programmes of interest to children'.
But just because Clearcast clear an advert, it does not mean that the viewers will agree. In this age of the easily offended, some viewers are very quick to reach for their pens. It is the previously mentioned ASA who investigate customer
complaints after adverts are broadcast.
Now some viewers may be quick to complain, but rather bizarrely, the ASA are not so quick to investigate offending adverts. In the large majority of cases TV, adverts have already run their course by the time the ASA have reached their decision
The ASA also have no sanctions at their disposal beside asking offending advertisers not to broadcast the adverts again.. If the advertiser ignores the request, then the ASA has to go to one of the government trade departments to get bans and
sanctions enforced. Sanctions therefore are rarely, if ever, used.
In exceptional circumstances the ASA can fast track their decision and get adverts banned whilst they are still running. A recent example was for billboards for a medical product used the slogan "Want longer lasting sex?" with
"Sex" being written in very large letters.
A necessary characteristic of a censor is a strong hatred of anything to do with sex, so the written word surely qualifies and the ASA jumped in quickly to get the advert banned. The ASA may have been a little over the top in this case but at
least they use some advertising industry creative wit to sweeten their censorial message.On their website they use the "Want longer lasting sex?" example to warn other companies: "Getting a rise out of the watchdog can result in
your ad coming down".
The ASA once had a slogan asking people to consider whether adverts were "legal, decent, honest and truthful". But censorial morality sometimes overrules truth. A recent John Smith beer advert suggested that a pint of beer may assist a
beer drinker to inform his partner that her new dress rather emphasised her large bottom. Now in these moral times nothing positive can be claimed about the demon drink, so the ASA concluded that the advert should be banned as it "breached
the Code by suggesting that the beer could increase confidence". But of course, for better or for worse, alcohol does suppress inhibitions and so does indeed increase people's confidence. So much for the ASA's criteria of being "honest
In its latest Annual Report revealed that it had its busiest year ever in 2008, with a record number of ads (2,475) changed or withdrawn as a result of ASA action. The ASA received the highest number of complaints (26,433) about a record number
(15,556) of ads with a 27% increase in the number of formal upheld rulings. But for the first time, none of the top ten most complained about ads of the year was found in breach of the Advertising Codes.
It is fascinating to winder why people complain about TV adverts. The adverts are pre-screened by a team who know the rules well, and even if complaints are upheld, then it is unlikely that the decision will have any bearing on an advertising
campaign that has probably run its course already.
I can only conclude that UK advert viewers simply enjoy a good whinge. (Just as I do!)
I woke up the other day in a feverish sweat. I'd been dreaming about being thrown back in time to a time when Mary Whitehouse's campaigners were clamouring for an end to all sex on TV; to a time before Britain had even heard of video censorship;
and to a time when Chucky was a devilish doll being held responsible for the moral disintegration of childhood.
And like all the best Nightmare on Elm Street experiences, it all turned out to be horribly real.
A little over a quarter of a century ago, Britain got caught up in moral panic whereby horror films tagged as 'video nasties'. These were found to be undermining British life as we know it. So the answer according to Graham Bright, a junior Tory
MP, was to appoint the British film censor to the role of mandatory pre-vetting all video recordings sold in the UK.
However the lawmakers of the day forgot one very important step. Britain had signed up to free trade in Europe. The requirement to get the censor's pre-approval for video sales to Britain rather restricted European sellers from supplying to
Britain. Hence Britain should have informed the Europeans about this restriction to free trade. But the Government failed in this task and so the Video Recordings act of 1984 was never properly enacted, and so is no longer in force.
No doubt the Government will soon put this right but for the next couple of months Britain will be free of most of its video censorship law.
In particular DVDs may be released without state approval from the BBFC, Retailers are free to ignore age restrictions, though they would be unwise to do so, as there are probably other child protection laws that can be called up as temporary
replacements. Perhaps a more useful outcome is that R18 rated hardcore DVDs can be sold from non licensed sex shops and via mail order. It is an also an opportunity for individuals to sell off unwanted R18s to other people. (As if anyone
realised it was against the law in the first place).
There are now a few months to consider whether the Government will propose a word for word replacement law or whether they will take the opportunity to tinker and make the law even more censorial. Theoretically the law could also be eased up a
bit, but that would seem very untypical of this particular government.
It seems a bizarre and tragic coincidence that the infamous Chucky should also return to the newspaper headlines just when the Video Recordings Act is being reconsidered. Notoriously Chucky of Child's Play 3 was linked to the murder of Jamie
Bulger in 1993. This time round, the demonic doll is being linked to the recent child murder in Doncaster.
The Bulger tragedy previously resulted in a little tinkering with the Video Recordings Act. Penalties were increased and the censors were empowered to treat home video more strictly than for cinema. Politicians and campaigners at the time were
pushing for far stricter censorship measures, but the Government wasn't too interested.
The main political mover of this more censorial update was the not so Liberal Democrat, David Alton, but no doubt the Mary Whitehouse campaigners now named Mediawatch-UK were supportive of the tightening up of the law.
Things don't change much and Mediawatch-UK are still calling for a further tightening up of laws governing TV, videos and DVDs. In a submission to the TV censer just this autumn, Mediawatch-UK wrote:
"We would suggest that there is only one sure way of effectively protecting the under-18s and that is to not permit ‘adult sex' material on television at all It is no justification to argue that such material is shown at the Cinema and is
easily accessible on the Internet and should, therefore, be permitted on TV!"
"We would also observe that if the Obscene Publications Act 1959 were to have fulfilled Parliament's intention to "strengthen the law" much of the material in this category would be illegal and the numerous regulatory and other
problems associated with it would not arise. It is not enough to hope that potential harm and/or offence for all viewers would be lessened".
The policies haven't changed much but at least the personnel are changing. After 30 years of working at Mediawatch-UK, the Director John Beyer stood down at the end of September.
So we've had 30 years of censorial campaigning from John Beyer, 25 years of a mythical Video Recordings Act and 20 years since further clampdowns in the wake of the Jamie Bulger tragedy. The question is, has it helped? Has it stopped the 'moral
decline' in Britain? Has it made any difference at all? Do we really want to go through all this again with another attempt at a Video Recordings Act? Surely not!
A long awaited press release entered my in-tray this month. A rather dry message announced that all Philips TVs will soon incorporate a built in Internet TV service.
The supplier of the service is a company named Global Digital Broadcast (GDBTV). They will provide channel management software and an Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) detailing the available internet TV options.
These services will include hardcore adult channels: Private; Harmony Films; Seymore Butts; Vivid; DBA Supercore XXX; Sweet Pictures; Belais Production APS; TV Polari XXX; the PornXXX channel; and Wrist Action;
The service will also include the almost inevitable TV shopping channels, but this time around, the range will be extended to adult shopping channels with all sorts of stimulating goodies for sale.
The system will of course feature child protection technology. The press releases outlines "dual PIN protection for age verification as standard security". Hopefully this won't be too obtrusive and will be effective in keeping the kids
GDBTV managing director, Jim Deans, summarises well: "While set-top box services remain popular, we have always known it would be an integrated TV service which would really launch IPTV into consumers’ homes. We are happy we can also now
extend this service to our adult clients".
A little research of the set top box system already in place from the same company reveals that Pay per view pricing ranges from £1 for gonzo shorts to £8 for top notch, high production value adult films.
I think Jim Deans is correct. Having a built in system available will facilitate a massive take up of the option for Internet TV. And surely this will cause seismic impacts on the Ofcom censored softcore adult channels currently competing on UK
cable and satellite. I can't see many people opting for drastically censored softcore material when it is just as easy to watch hardcore on internet TV.
But guess what, in the same week that GBTV's press release announced a step towards practical Internet TV, the TV censor Ofcom published a consultation on the future regulation and censorship of Video on Demand (VOD) services.
Under revised European law, content on VOD services such as BBC iPlayer, 4OD, ITV Player, SkyPlayer and Demand Five will all be regulated from 19 December 2009.
Regulation of these services is a requirement of the EU's Audiovisual Media Services Directive and covers all VOD services which are, according to the Directive, TV-like. The Government plans to give the overall duty to regulate these services
Electronic versions of newspapers, private websites and unmoderated user generated material (hosted on services such as YouTube) will not be regulated.
Ofcom is proposing that two bodies carry out most aspects of the regulation on its behalf: Ofcom proposes that VOD services are regulated by the industry body, the Association for Television On Demand (ATVOD), and that advertising included in
those services, is regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
But thankfully VOD programming would not be subject to Ofcom's Broadcasting Code. The European law allows only a more minimal set of rules.
Content must not contain any incitement to hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality.
Content must not provide material which might seriously impair the physical, mental, or moral development of minors unless it is made available in such a way that ensures that minors will not normally hear or see such content.
Sponsored programmes and services must comply with applicable sponsorship requirements.
Under Ofcom's proposals any complaints that viewers have about video material that they feel has breached these rules will be assessed by ATVOD or the ASA. BBC material is a special case and will be assessed jointly by the BBC Trust and Ofcom.
And whilst on the subject of viewer complaints, Mediawatch-UK have announced that their new director is Vivienne Pattison. She will follow in the censorial footsteps of Mary Whitehouse and more recently John Beyer.
Vivienne Pattison said "Mediawatch-UK performs a vital role in creating good media values and seeking to protect the young and vulnerable from offensive and harmful material. Gordon Brown has expressed personal concern about the violence
and pornography that children and young people are easily able to access and I am looking forward to working with government and regulators to press for better standards in broadcasting".
It is going to be fun and fireworks in the Mediawatch-UK Office when they realise that Britain is just about to enter the reality of hardcore pornography readily available on a standard TV.
Mary Whitehouse once famously accused the Beeb of promulgating "the propaganda of disbelief, doubt and dirt ... promiscuity, infidelity and drinking".
I hope someone at the time retorted "You ain't seen nothing yet"
Politicians and censors are very fond of the cliche about the fine balance between the rights of one group of people vs those of
Ofcom, the TV censor, is always treading the fine line between politicians and campaigners who would like to see sex on TV totally banned and viewers who would like to watch some good arousing adult entertainment.
But unfortunately compromises in the genre of TV Sex don't really do much to please anyone.
The Ofcom compromise of banning hardcore and allowing software is one such case. Anti-porn campaigners are not happy that there is still sex on TV and adult viewers are not happy with the somewhat unfulfilling content.
Now uncontented viewers don't make for very commercially attractive prospects in terms of making money from the rather poor content on offer. But some clever enterprising people have come up with a few ideas on how to make money from Ofcom's
The answer of course is to make the softcore programming cheap or free and to use it to advertise premium services on other less censored media.
And so much of UK adult TV has basically become glorified advertising.
For example, free to air babe channels feature alluring presenters who entice viewers into premium rate phone services (PRS), or else direct them to internet websites where they can see more of babes who have whetted their appetites.
To some extent, the encrypted softcore channels do similar. Most material is produced in both softcore and hardcore versions. The softcore version allowed by Ofcom becomes like an advert to sell the hardcore version either on DVD or else
available on the channel's associated website.
Now Ofcom have been thinking along similar lines, and have recently announced their results from a consultation about what to do about what they call Participation TV. This includes babe channels but also extends to other variations such as
programmes aimed at advertising premium rate services featuring horoscopes or quizzes.
Ofcom recently announced that they were going to change their programme guidelines to consider babe channels and the like as advertising. They wrote:
The changes to Ofcom's Broadcasting Code, which will come into effect early next year, mean that premium rate services may only be included in editorial TV and radio programmes, such as phone-in competitions and votes, where they are related
to the main editorial purpose of the show. This move will not affect shows such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, Big Brother or competitions within shows.
Where broadcasters wish to promote PRS services more extensively than permitted under the revised Broadcasting Code rules, then this should be considered as falling within the category of advertising and will be regulated under the
Advertising Code .
But the rub here is that advertising is censored even more strictly than normal programming. The Advertising Code currently limits advertising of Premium rate services of a sexual nature to encrypted channels. And hence free to air babe channels
would no longer be permitted.
Possibly thinking of the European rights challenges that may occur should Ofcom totally ban such innocuous programming, Ofcom has decided that a bit of a fudge is order. Ofcom wrote:
New research has found that promotion of these particular services on TV is generally acceptable to viewers in their current form, where they are appropriately scheduled, clearly labelled and identifiable in an appropriate section of an
electronic programme guide (EPG), as this minimises the risk of offence from chancing upon them.
Ofcom proposes updating the Advertising Code to allow promotion of these particular services on television to continue, subject to further conditions, and are now consulting on these changes .
Ofcom have outlined several options for consideration in the consultation but have identified one of these as their preferred solution:
Allow promotion of PRS of a sexual nature on dedicated teleshopping channels subject to scheduling restrictions and labelling rules.
Any services featuring promotion of PRS of a sexual nature would be clearly labelled and positioned on the EPG as adult services including adult content, lessening the risk of unwarranted offence and allowing viewers to choose to exclude
such services from viewing.
With such labelling information available, a scheduling restriction of 9pm (to limit risk of exposure to minors) would therefore be sufficient. Consumers would continue to have access to services and benefit on the same basis as today.
However, under the labelling rules proposed, broadcasters operating on Freeview would not currently be able to carry promotion for PRS of a sexual nature, since Freeview does not currently offer clear labelling of channels in a separate
adult EPG section .
So it looks like babe channels will be banned on Freeview but will continue unchanged on satellite and cable (unless of course the advertising censor thinks otherwise).
My first real acquaintance with hardcore satellite TV was with a French channel named Rendez-Vous TV. From an age when adult channels
always seemed to be teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, Rendez-Vous TV lasted a fairly long time. I always has a soft spot for the presenter Zara Whites who so fluently explained to English, French and Italian speaking customers that outages
were temporary and that full service would be resumed in the coming weeks.
So when I popped in a new viewing card to get reacquainted with French satellite TV, it was good to see Zara Whites starring in the first film that I sat down to watch.
The channel is Dorcel TV and it is the satellite arm of the long running French porn production company, Video Marc Dorcel (VMD). The company woodpecker logo has been the mark of good quality porn for as long as I can remember.
It may be worth mentioning that although everything about Dorcel TV is essentially French, the small print reveals that the channel is actually licensed in the Netherlands. (Coincidentally my favourite 'French' actress Zara Whites, was actually
Dorcel TV is based upon VMD's extensive stock of good quality hardcore. The actresses are generally well known and production qualities are high. Typically the films are set in a rich man's world. French mansions and chateaus provide the setting
for many a VMD film.
The Dorcel TV schedules also include a fair number of magazine style programmes, again concentrating on the glamourous side of life. Perhaps Jet Sex is the most obvious example. There are also porn star bios and 'Making Of' programmes.
The French adult industry seems a little more enthusiastic than most. The industry maintains an almost Hollywood style publicity machine with star appearances, an industry magazine, Hot, and the publication of top selling DVD charts. Possibly
the hype contributes to anticipation of new titles and generates a little more interest in following the latest starlets. This enthusiasm tends to just add a little something and elevates French movies to being amongst the best in Europe.
It is also good that VMD haven't followed the American lead in featuring overly contorted grimacing, as if slutty expressions makes for good porn. VMD use attractive actresses and more naturalistic acting. Certainly works better for this
Technically, Dorcel TV seems to broadcast with sufficient bandwidth to avoid distractions due to excess compression. So given the good quality of the original, the broadcast quality is also good. English language versions of the films are
The channel broadcasts hardcore 24 hours a day. There are occasional advert breaks in films with about 3 minutes of phone sex ads at a time. All films are broadcast with complete titles and credits. Films generally start at odd times and there
is no attempt to start films at regular times such as on the hour.
It is interesting that the permanent on screen age warning is 16 rather than the 18 Brits may expect. At first this almost seemed a little off putting in that it may indicate something less than full hardcore. But do not worry, the channel
features real hardcore and goes a little beyond what the British Board of Film Classifiers would prefer you not to see, even at R18. The British film censor routinely cuts some of the rough sex elements that Dorcel TV broadcasts.
The channel has a good website at www.dorcel.tv which includes up to date programming details. There is also an option to watch Dorcel TV via the internet with good value options for a range of subscription periods.
All in all, a very good channel which provides remarkable value considering that it is included in some low cost satellite packages. Possibly the glamourous settings are a bit over used and therefore the channel probably works better as part of
a package. This then provides the variety that Dorcel TV lacks as a standalone channel.
Dorcel TV surely outclasses and is outlasting my old Rendez-Vous TV. But I must admit to a few fond nostalgic memories of Rendez-Vous. I wonder if Laetitia and her wonderful cast of amateur nurses are still going strong in France?
Hotbird 13 degrees east
SR 27500, FEC 5/6
Decrypted using Viaccess
Included on Elite Fusion 6 Viewing Cards for the channels: Redlight Premium, Free-X TV 1, Free-X TV 2, X-Dream TV, French Lover TV & Dorcel TV.
2009 started badly and then went rapidly downhill. Censors have been gaining ground throughout 2009.
January saw the BBC return of Jonathan Ross after his suspension for jokes at the expensive of Andrew Sachs and his granddaughter.
The next few months saw a race to be the most easily offended with clean up TV campaigners competing with the newspapers as to who could be the most outraged or offended by every minor bad taste joke on TV. There then followed a period when the
BBC and its private censor, the BBC Trust, were playing leap frog. They were competing as to who could come up with the most restrictive rules to ensure that nothing the slightest bit offensive or challenging could ever blight the airwaves
again. The final portion of the year has seen comedians lining up to have a knock at the creativity stifling character of the new BBC.
January saw the Dangerous Pictures Act come into force
This law criminalised the possession of pornographic images depicting sex with corpses, animals or involving serious injury. At first glance it may sound reasonable, except for that little word 'depicting'. In particular sexy horror films many
now lead to a stretch in jail. A sex scene in a vampire horror may qualify as both pornographic and depicting serious injury. Eg Dracula plunging his fangs into an exposed breast.
In practice the first few prosecutions were mostly linked to other crimes. The offenders were picked up for other reasons, but a search of their gadgets revealed a few more charges to add to the list. One unfortunate victim was charged with an
old viral video found on his phone. The sort of bad taste joke video that many of us have had a good titter about in the past. Perhaps time for a cleansing of our email archives.
November saw the publication of a bill including the Scottish variant of the Dangerous Pictures Act. Scotland has proposed to extend the scope of the prohibition. It will also cover obscene pornographic images which realistically depict rape or
other non-consensual penetrative sexual activity, whether violent or otherwise.
April saw the TV censor Ofcom start a sequence of decisions to put a stop to any adult fun on satellite TV.
It started with a £22500 fine charged to the already defunct Playboy One for broadcasting softcore porn on a free to air channel.
In May Ofcom fined Red Hot Television £25000 for featuring links to hardcore websites without sufficient age verification protection. Ofcom also fined TVX £27500 for showing snippets of hardcore during encrypted programming.
In June Ofcom decided that the watershed should be 10pm rather than the usual 9pn watershed for innocuous sexy programming on the free to air babe channels.
In July Ofcom decided that the watershed should be 11pm for the free teasers used to promote encrypted adult services.
In November ofcom decided that the babe channels should be removed from FreeView altogether on the grounds that the Freeview Electronic Programme guide did not identify babe channels in a special age protected area.
April saw the advertising censor, ASA, ban a John Smiths advert for suggesting that beer emboldened a guy to comment on his girlfriend's fat bottom. Dr Allan Dodds, a consultant neuropsychologist wrote to the Guardian to put the ASA straight:
"I hope that Courage Brewers have the conviction to stand up to such an absurd denial of the facts. Alcohol reduces both fear and inhibitions. Dutch or otherwise, courage is courage".
September saw a change of management at Mediawatch-UK.
Mediawatch-UK are the modern reincarnation on Mary Whitehouse's National Viewers and Listeners Association. John Beyer had gamely been dishing out lame sound bites to the press for the years since Mary Whitehouse resigned. Beyer has now handed
over the reigns to Vivienne Pattison.
Pattison has already shown a fondness for the line of reasoning: "Studies link exposure to film violence with violent behaviour. If there is the slightest chance that media violence can cause harm, is it worth the risk?".
As a fan of media violence I can hardly concur with her logic. But given that exposure to religion or politics is also linked with violent behaviour then perhaps she has a good point.
November saw the Dangerous Cartoons Act receives Royal Ascent
This is the end of the road for collectors of Japanese Hentai anime. Now any cartoon porn featuring characters under 18 years old will soon be illegal to possess. The rub for anime fans is that the characters are drawn in an ageless stylised
manner that could easily be deemed young by an aggressive prosecutor. In reality it is impossible to tell, but the legislators didn't let such practicalities get in the way of a bad law. Anime collectors may want to check their collections.
And my prediction for 2010.
More of the same from the censors. But hopefully the politicians will be spending all their time electioneering rather than writing more censorial laws.