My first reaction to spotting a new satellite service called Red Hot Sex TV was a little bit negative. I was momentarily getting it confused with the UK softcore pay per view service, Red Hot TV.
But rest assured that the Red Hot Sex TV channels on Hotbird are fully hardcore and are presumably independent of the similarly named UK channels.
Red Hot Sex TV offers 4 channels that are broadcast 24 hours a day. They offer a mixture of US and European programming. I didn't spot any particular theme differentiating the 4 channels simply named Red Hot Sex TV 1,2,3 & 4.
Each channel shows a block of 4 different videos repeating throughout the day. At present there are no adverts beyond the details of the package and how to subscribe. This minimal advertising is only shown between videos and there are no advert
breaks intruding into films.
There is no time banding to assist in finding the start time of the films but this doesn't really matter much for the type programming that dominates the scheduling.
There is up to date programme information on the website, www.redhotsextv.com.This has daily listings showing which films are running on each of the 4 channels.
In terms of content, the low subscription prices necessitates material from the cheaper end of the market.The channels over rely on material that will be very familiar to Satellite X subscribers. There are way too many US programmes set in
suburban west coast homes. The programme buyers have done a good job though in selecting reasonable examples from the genre. Most of the US videos featured an attractive cast.
Promotions for the service boast of a range of films featuring various ethnic casts, but this variety is somewhat diminished by the fact that they are all similarly American.
Red Hot Sex TV also features a fair amount of European programing. Again cheaper end budgets mean that a fair amount of material is selected from producers specialising in amateur porn.I generally found that the European material more watchable
than the US productions.Perhaps a little disappointingly I didn't spot any British programmes in the line up.
As an aside, a couple of European amateur films featured performers wearing masks. Am I the only satellite X viewer that reaches immediately for the remote control as soon as I see face masks? Of course it could my personal tastes, but my
enjoyment of porn is proportional to the attractiveness of the cast. Wearing a mask puts the performers at the bottom end of the scale and so renders the film valueless.
It was good to see that some of my old satellite favourites from Rendez-Vous TV are still going strong. Patrice Cabanal was making some cheap but cheerful French amateur porn back in the 90's. And he's still going strong on Red Hot Sex TV.
The service is in its early days and the amount of programming available so far ensures that repeats are not a problem. Promotional materials suggest that there will be 2 new films on each channel per day.
The weakest aspect of the package is that the films are a bit samey . This is compounded by unimaginative scheduling. For example, I found one guy getting a bit obnoxious in an American film so I channel hopped, only to find the same guy
being equally unappealing on the next channel, albeit in another episode in the series.
Several times I channel hopped to find very similar American programmes on each of the 4 channels. Perhaps this issue could be addressed by reserving one channel for US programming and another for European material.
Films are broadcast with full credits at the beginning and end.
The bit rates allocated to the channels are adequate to not noticeably degrade the source material.There were no particularly high definition films to worry about providing a more critical technical review.
All in all a service with some decent material but which over relies on familiar American hardcore.
Red Hot Sex TV 1
Red Hot Sex TV 2
Red Hot Sex TV 3
Red Hot Sex TV 4
Hotbird 13 degrees east
Red Hot Sex TV 1 & 2: 12.207GHz Horizontal SR 27500, FEC 3/4
Red Hot Sex TV 3 & 4: 11.013GHz Horizontal SR 27500, FEC 3/4
Will move to
Red Hot Sex TV 1,2,3 & 4: 10.853GHz Horizontal SR 27500, FEC 3/4
The Video Recordings Act (VRA) of 1984 has shaped British film censorship for the last 25 years. So it was a bit of shock when it was found to be legally invalid last August. Somebody had forgotten the requirement to tell the European Union about
any laws that infringe on free trade. In this case, the VRA bans European countries from selling their wares in UK shops because of the lack of a British censor certificate.
In December 2009 the Government finally informed the EU that their videos weren't welcome in the UK. In the absence of any EU protest, the government could then re-enact their beloved censorship law.
Exactly the same law as that of 1984 was re-presented to parliament. All parties agreed to reinstate it, and it came back into force on 21st January 2010.This time unimaginatively labelled as the Video Recordings Act of 2010.
Satellite viewers may suggest that video censorship law isn't really very relevant to TV but they would be very wrong. The TV censor Ofcom has delegated a fair few of its decisions to the BBFC, the film censor. For instance if the BBFC ban a film
then it is also banned on TV. Similarly if the film censor cuts a movie on video then the TV channels have to broadcast the sane cut version. (There is a dispensation for old BBFC certificates though. TV companies can show uncut versions if the
BBFC agree that the film would no longer be cut if it were to be resubmitted today).
Another key element of the Video Recordings Act relevant to TV censorship is the difference between softcore porn videos given an 18 certificate, and hardcore videos given an R18 certificate. The TV censor then simply bans any film that the BBFC
rates as R18.
So on 21st January 2010, censorial order was restored to both the video world and the TV world.
Of course an old law revisited after 25 years got a few politicians thinking that they should have a bit of a tinker. After all it is a well established fact that all society's ills can be cured by censoring media a little more. Any doubtful
reader only has to look at examples such as the highly censorial Iran, Iraq or North Korea to realise how strongly censorship correlates to social utopia.
One particularly facile piece of law tinkering is a suggestion that seems to have originated from debates in the Daily Mail. Sports and music videos are generally exempt from BBFC video censorship on the sensible economic grounds that hardly any
of them need to have very expensive film examiners to sit down and watch every second of footage.
But the Daily Mail scratched around and found a few examples where they felt that vetting by the BBFC was required. Violent Ultimate Fighting Championship videos were cited as examples of sports videos that should be censored. Motley Crue music
videos were also singled out as examples needing state censorship. Apparently their Greatest Video Hits DVD, features topless lap dancing and a George W. Bush lookalike in a limousine with a prostitute.
Andrew Dismore, the Labour MP for Hendon in London has now proposed a bill to ensure that music and sport videos are properly scrutinised by the state. Surely the economics of censorship will ensure that this little bill goes the way of most
private members bills. It will simply fail to get the necessary time in Parliament to progress.
More serious tinkering with the Video Recordings Act is included in the Digital Economy Bill. The main change is to reassign the BBFC's games censoring role to another body. This was agreed by the Government after a long debate starting after
Tanya Byron's report into child media safety. The government have been persuaded that the Video Standards Council should rate all games targeted at 12 year olds or older. The VSC will also use the European PEGI ratings system rather than the
familiar BBFC classifications.
Mostly the law is not particularly relevant to video and TV censorship, but it does provide an opportunity for a bit of censorial tinkering.
In particular the government wants to make more of the textual BBFC consumer advice labels, such as contains moderate violence . Lawmakers are keen that these messages should be printed on DVD covers, film posters and maybe even TV
listings guides. They have proposed to make it mandatory to agree to a code of practice about printing consumer advice.
Perhaps the most censorial change to the VRA is that the BBFC will now be allowed to revoke their certificates. A power that has never been granted before.
And more ominously the government have added a clause to future proof censorship law. The new bill proposes that future changes can be made by the relevant Secretary of State rather than having to consult the people or parliament again.
These three censorship bills submitted in just three months are clearly expected to put Britain back on the righteous path. Surely more than enough new censorship law to cure all of society's ills.
Censorship is surely a serious problem for British Satellite X viewers. Never have there been so many authority figures working so hard to ensure that everything that is enjoyable in life is banned.
But occasionally we have to take a break, and take a look around the rest of the world...To gain a little perspective and realise that some other folks get it worse!
Starting in India, Fashion TV showed footage of a model's naked breast as part of its coverage of a fashion show by the late British designer Alexander McQueen. The channel was suspended for nine days,
The programme was said to offend against good taste and decency. It was found to be obscene, denigrating women and not suitable for children nor unrestricted public exhibition,
Meanwhile an Indonesian court jailed six people under the country's anti-pornography law for performing an erotic dance in a bar.
Four female dancers, the show promoter, and bar manager each received a two and half months sentence. The performance in Bandung, West Java, was said to have violated a repressive anti-pornography law that came into effect in October 2008. The
law criminalises all works and bodily movements deemed obscene and capable of violating public morality.
Am international TV channel found that when it comes to the censorship of gay kisses, they were damned if they do and damned if they don't.
New Zealand gays objected to a man-on-man kiss being blurred on the E! channel. The channel blurred over a scene from the movie I Love You Philip Morris with actors Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor kissing. They felt it was unnecessary and
conveyed the message that two men kissing is somehow shameful or unpalatable.
The American producers of the E! entertainment news programme said the scene was blurred because of the international nature of their broadcasts.Some territories demand that same sex kissing must be blurred. But Gay New Zealand television
producer Glenn Sims replied that: censoring such gay-themed content reinforces homophobia .
E! said that it tries to be sensitive to the different requirements of each territory and claims to be in the process of creating territory-specific versions of their programmes.
German TV censors seem to have a fight on their hands over a ban on fisticuffs.
The increasingly popular mixed martial arts fights of the Ultimate Fighting Championship have come under fire from the Bavarian television censors. The Bavarian Regulatory Authority for Commercial Broadcasting (BLM), has issued a preliminary
order barring UFC programming from the Munich-based network German Sports Television (DSF).
Zuffa, the UFC's parent company, said that it will appeal the order, and if unsuccessful it will file a lawsuit in a German court.
BLM head Dr. Wolfgang Flieger said, The Committee deems these television formats unacceptable by the sheer massiveness of the portrayed violence. In these shows you can witness acts of breaking taboos, such as hitting a downed opponent. These
acts contradict the general principle of public-service broadcasting.
You might think that French officials would have raised their glasses in celebration of a project to create the first Gallic television channel dedicated to wine. Instead, they appear intent on driving the station into exile, after deciding that
it will fall foul of the toughest laws on alcohol promotion in the western world.
The broadcaster Edonys has been warned by France's Higher Audiovisual Council that it will receive authorisation only if it drops plans for programmes featuring wine-tastings and expert discussions. The broadcasting authority deemed these illegal
under a law that prohibits all direct or indirect propaganda in favour of alcoholic drinks on television.
However, the station is refusing to amend its schedule and executives are now looking for a base outside France. Britain, Luxembourg and Belgium are among the options.
The USA must always figure in a news round up of excessive censorship. This time they have come up with a campaign against the use of the R word meaning retard. This laudable and politically correct campaign is detailed at www.r-word.org.
I can't help but think that the English language has a plentiful supply of similarly insulting terms. And even if all of these are banned, then it will soon dream up plenty more.
But really when it comes to the nutty world of censorship, Britain always deserves the last laugh.
The perennially offended Mediawautch-UK (as founded by Mary Whitehouse) recently got wound up by Channel 4's alternative comedy series Balls Of Steel , This features Pancho and Pritchard, The Pain Men who perform masochistic acts
including giving each other electric shocks and stapling paper to their tongues.
View complaints against the series were turned down by the TV censor Ofcom. So Mediawatch-UK turned to an 1861 law which forbids people from inflicting bodily harm on each other, even by consent.
They wrote to the Metropolitan Police asking the force to investigate the supposed law breaking.
But Scotland Yard told them that such a criminal investigation was not appropriate.
It is a pity the authorities don't say this to a few more British censorial killjoys.
If all the nations of the world were listed in order of being pleasant places to live, and then in order of being censorial places to live, what would we see?
Surely there would be a strong correlation between the most unpleasant places to live are those that are the most censorial.
So why then do so many people believe that increased censorship will improve society?
I guess that they rather assume that censors somehow know better than ordinary people . But in reality, the censors are just ordinary people too. Maybe even worse, as they may have risen to their exulted posts through greed,
arrogance and ruthless ambition,
Anyway, I thought it would be fun to gather up some viewing recommendations from those keen to call for censorship.
The News of the World seem to have taken particular issue with Liam Galvin's Killer Bitch . Perhaps it is the celebrity gossip angle that captured their interest
The newspaper gave the DVD some excellent hype:
Ultra-violent scenes starring Jordan's husband Alex Reid are to be cut from his new movie. Reid's gangster gore-fest Killer Bitch is currently with the BBFC, who will demand some of the sickest scenes are cut if the movie is to get even an 18
Of course the film censors at the BBFC didn't quite follow the script and passed the film 18 uncut.
Another good recommendation is for the comic book super hero film, Kick-Ass . The Daily Mail picked up on this one through another celebrity gossip connection. The tabloid newspaper seems to have become obsessed by the antics of Jonathan
Ross, so a film co-written by his wife, Jane Goldman, was sure to come to their attention.
Christopher Tookey, the Daily Mail film reviewer wrote
Don't be fooled by the hype: This crime against cinema is twisted, cynical, and revels in the abuse of childhood. Millions are being spent to persuade you that Kick-Ass is harmless, comic-book entertainment suitable for 15-year-olds.
Don't let them fool you. Kick-Ass has been so hyped that it is certain to be a hit. It is also bound be among the most influential movies of 2010. And that should disturb us all.
It deliberately sells a perniciously sexualised view of children and glorifies violence, especially knife and gun crime, in a way that makes it one of the most deeply cynical, shamelessly irresponsible films ever.
The BBFC wrote a strong and reasoned defence of their uncut 15 rating:
None of the violence inflicted presents the strongest gory images which would be unacceptable under BBFC Guidelines at 15 and the comedic, fantastical tone of the film as a whole means that even the strongest moments of violent action have a
There are also many scenes in which weapons such as knives and guns are displayed and handled, including by a young girl who is shown to be proficient in their use. These are presented in a comically excessive manner and are designed to play up
the rather ridiculous idea of having trained a young girl to be an assassin.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is already very popular and hardly needs further recommendation. But the Philippines bishop, Leonardo Medroso, thought he would make a contribution towards the hype anyway.
He called upon the local censors to ban UFC from television, saying he was baffled why so many people enjoy the sight of two men pummelling each other until they are bruised and bloodied. He commented:
The unfortunate thing about this UFC is the way people cheer when a player is bloodied and unconscious on the floor.
He said UFC is proving to be a negative influence on the youth: The people are becoming barbaric over this. It's makes us like animals .
It is ludicrous to suppose that the millions of ordinary people who enjoy watching UFC are somehow becoming barbaric animals . But it does rather illustrate the point that it will hardly make for a better place to live if people of this
mental calibre are allowed to dictate limits to the freedom of speech of others.
By the time Kick-Ass and Killer Bitch get their chance on Sky Movies, the censorship furore will have died down. There may even by a chance that an evening's satellite viewing could coincidently consist of the controversial double bill
plus a few bouts of UFC.
The Daily Mail and News of the World will have forgotten all about their predictions of the collapse of civilisation. People will enjoy their evening's viewing, and society will survive perfectly well into the next day.
And Britain will be a better place to live, for not having taken notice of the nonsense of the Kick-Ass censors.
Who is meant to benefit from censorship? Is it really for the benefit of the viewer? Or is it really for the benefit of the censor?
I have been skimming through recent news on the subject and have come to my own conclusions.
First up was the well meaning, but ultimately selfish view, that the film censorship system could be used to try and discourage youngsters from smoking cigarettes.
An analysis of the 15 most-popular films to screen in UK cinemas each year since 1989 was carried out by the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies. It scrutinised 300 films, recording how often tobacco use and smoking paraphernalia, such as
cigarette packs, lighters, ashtrays, or a particular brand, appeared. The analysis revealed that tobacco or its paraphernalia featured in 70% of the films reviewed.
Ailsa Lyons of the University of Nottingham who led the study, said the findings demonstrated the need for the UK film censor (The BBFC) to review its guidance on smoking in films in order to protect vulnerable youngsters.
Professor John Britton added: It is well established that tobacco companies used films to promote tobacco products for many years, and adolescents who view tobacco use in film and who admire the lead actors whose characters smoke, were likely to
view smoking favourably.
The BBFC said the idea of imposing an 18 rating on films which feature smoking was simply not going to happen.
And rightfully so, the smoking researchers has failed think through the consequences of over zealous censorship. If say 1001 Dalmatians or Casablanca, were to be rated 18, this would be seen as silly by many viewers and the entire rating system
would tend to lose credibility. Parents would surely start ignoring ratings altogether. And the kids would end up still being able to watch films with smoking (and much more too).
Another example that caught my eye, was a mobile broadband ISP called Tibboh. The company had the interesting idea of applying and enforcing BBFC ratings, U, PG, 12, 15 or 18, on internet websites.
Sounds a good way of selling a service to anxious parents, but some of the examples suggest that the idea is too broad brush to be useful.
Social networks Facebook, Twitter and search engine Google are rated as 12. News websites including the BBC, the Telegraph and the Guardian are rated U certificate.
In reality the actual content varies from page to page. Some if it will be suitable for the rated age and some of it simply will not. Putting a median rating on a site isn't right. Of course rating each page individually would be the ideal, but
unfortunately it is just not commercially viable.
Politicians are also keen to use censorship for their own ends. After all censorship is such a powerful tool to solve all the world's ills.
In Australia, there is currently a major issue with politicians being reluctant to allow adult rated computer games.
Now gamers are very keen on the latest and greatest games. And if these much anticipated games get banned by the censors, than they get well miffed. So it is hardly surprising that they very decisively made their views known to the Government in
a recent consultation on the subject. 60,000 responded to the consultation with 98% supporting the introduction of an adult rating.
And the politician's response to this overwhelming opinion?
Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor confirmed that no decisions were made over the issue. Censorship Ministers have requested further analysis of community and expert views. It is not just the weight of numbers that need to be considered.
It is also the strength of the arguments on each side .
And in the meantime Australia continues with the most adult 15 rated games in the world. The majority of 18 rated games in Britain are cut just enough to get them a 15 rating. So what is sensibly and usefully rated as 18 in the rest of the world,
is with minimal cuts, 15 in Australia. Surely this can't be considered a good situation by censorial politicians.
Perhaps the ultimate cynical piece of censorship design is found in the USA. Again on the subject of computer games. State censorship is strictly banned by the US constitution, and so adult rated games are totally legal. There is one small
problem though. Moral pressures mean that a large majority of shops like to consider themselves as family friendly and therefore refuse to sell adult rated material out of their own choice.
The games producers found an ingenious solution to the problem, they came up with the idea of a 17 rating (labelled Mature). Shops are generally OK with selling the 17 rated games as they are suitable for children . And in terms of
content, 17 is close enough to 18 to make no difference whatsoever. So every game generally rated 18 in the rest of the world, is sold in the US with a 17 rating. Everybody's a winner!
I wonder if there is a censorship system anywhere in the world that has been devised purely for the benefit of viewers?
The satellite TV censor, Ofcom, has been working hard lately by getting itself noticed with plenty of articles in the national press.
The cynical reader may note that this could be something to do with political noises suggesting that Ofcom is due a little scaling back so as to save the country a fair few pounds.
But let's not to dwell on such tittle tattle, let's just see what Ofcom have been saying.
The first item is that Ofcom have announced that they will be changing the way that they regulate the free to air babe channels. These are the channels where sexy girls try and entice viewers to call the presenters on premium rate phone numbers.
The basic change is that in the past these have been regulated as TV programmes by Ofcom. However they will now be considered and regulated more logically as advertising.
Traditionally this means stricter censorship rules. However babe channels simply can't exist within current advertising rules, so Ofcom will kindly relax these rules to allow the channels to continue broadcasting.
Also the censorship task will not be picked up by the current advert censors at the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).. Instead the task will be implemented by Ofcom, at least for the time being. More or less exactly the same as before then.
The main impact on viewers is that broadcasting hours will be significantly cut back on the Freeview babe channels. From 1st September 2010 Babe Channels will not be allowed to broadcast before midnight. No changes for satellite and cable viewers
The logic behind this differing approach is that satellite and cable services have an Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) where adult material can be segregated out for those that want to avoid it. Freeview set top boxes don't generally offer this
categorisation, and so Ofcom feel that viewers, particularly children are more likely to stumble on the babe channels inadvertently.
Ofcom have also been studying strong language on TV. They have produced a report titled: Audience attitudes towards offensive language on television and radio .
In it they write:
Ofcom recognises that the use of language changes over time. Likewise the impact of the offence it may cause also changes over time.
In the five years since Ofcom last published research on attitudes to offensive language, we have received complaints about the use of terms which may not have previously been considered potentially offensive. In addition some words are now
considered of heightened sensitivity and are seldom broadcast, while other terms are considered less offensive than in previous years.
They found that the mildest words were considered acceptable in most situations (e.g. arse , damn , tits').
Most participants found the words 'cunt , fuck , motherfucker , pussy , cock and twat unacceptable pre-watershed and also wanted care to be taken over the use of the words bitch , bastard ,
bugger , dick , wanker , shag , slag and shit .
Post-watershed, cunt and motherfucker were considered the least acceptable words discussed in the research. Most participants also wanted some care to be taken over the use of the word pussy .
In terms of discriminatory language, nigger and Paki were seen as the most offensive words. Some discriminatory language polarised responses, particularly retarded , gyppo , pikey , gay and cripple
Overall, most potentially offensive words were not seen to be unacceptable in principle. Any offensiveness is more to do with the context and manner in which they are used, for example whether words are used aggressively or repeatedly.
The daily newspapers seemed to pick up on this point of most words being generally acceptable. They used this as a basis to write stories suggesting that they fear there will be more strong language on TV.
A more careful reading suggests that the status quo will be maintained perhaps with slightly different words triggering censure. Ofcom confirmed this in a statement:
Our research shows that audiences remain concerned about a range of language that they find offensive. For this reason we are not considering any changes to our robust rules which protect the public, and in particular children, from offensive
The most bizarre output from Ofcom this month was the censure of TelevisionX for including the internet address televisionX.com in a yellow button information page giving subscription details.
The website was found to contain hardcore porn which was not rigorously protected from access by children, beyond the usual age declaration entry screen.
Now Ofcom understandably feel that hardcore websites should not be advertised anywhere on Ofcom licensed broadcasts. But really, allowing the text TelevisionX but disallowing the text TelevisionX,com is ludicrously pedantic. Perhaps
Ofcom have never heard of Google!
Censorship issues can sometimes generate an awful lot of hot air over very little. One only has to recall how much press attention was lavished on Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand after a bad taste radio gag got a little out of hand.
But sometimes censorship can be a whole lot more devastating. Especially where money is concerned, and especially where World Cup football levels of money are concerned.
Some 5 million Thais awoke one morning, a few days into the World Cup, to find that their entire TV package had been turned off.
Thailand has similar TV options to the UK. There are 6 broadcast channels, there is an encrypted pay TV package along the lines of Sky, and there is a free-to-air satellite option, very much like Freesat.
This package uses C-band satellite and is very popular in rural Thailand. Especially as the local broadcast TV signal is often weak or impossible to pick up. The package is not large, mainly the 6 standard broadcast channels and another dozen
cheap and cheerful music and old movie channels.
And just like the UK's Freesat the satellite footprint extends well beyond Thailand's borders. In fact it extends right across Burma, Bangladesh and into India.
The problem was that Thailand's main channels had shared out World Cup coverage between them and were obviously relaying the same programmes on satellite.
The local World Cup Copyright-owner reported that in India, the football was restricted to pay TV, but people were bypassing this local charge by watching free to air satellite from Thailand.
The solution to the problem was to totally turn off all of the main channels that were carrying the football. They were turned off in their entirety, 24 hours a day, for the entire month of the competition.
Thai aerial installers must have made a fortune.
The USA have also been busy dreaming ideas for big censorship. A bill is progressing through the US administration that will give the president the power to turn off the entire internet. Barack Obama would be able to hit the kill switch for up to four months without even seeking congressional approval.
The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, which is being pushed by Senator Joe Lieberman, would hand absolute power to the federal government to close down networks, and block incoming Internet traffic from certain countries under a
declared national emergency.
You surely can't get much bigger censorship than that.
But there is another big idea coming out of America that could have enormous impact on many aspects of life, in particular what we can watch on TV or via the internet.
The White House has outlined a national strategy for what it calls, trusted digital identities, used for a nationwide identity infrastructure.
For example, individuals would no longer have to remember an ever-expanding and potentially insecure list of PINs, usernames and passwords to login into various services. People would instead be able to obtain some as yet undecided token or
device, such as a key fob or smart card, that could be used to authenticate themselves. This could be used for different types of transactions eg, online banking, accessing electronic health records, sending email or watching age restricted TV,
The idea is simple enough but no-one has yet built up the necessary infrastructure to make it work, something really only government level agencies can deal with. Britain's ID card may have paved the way, but it was clearly getting a bit too
complex and expensive to be politically viable, or even economically viable. But perhaps if America were to throw its weight at the task, then they may do somewhat better, and then be able to cheaply sell the solution to other countries.
Finally Ofcom would get a PIN system replacement that they could trust enough to let people watch grown-up TV.
When Ofcom banned hardcore from British TV several years ago, they explained their reasoning was that the current PIN technology was simply not adequate to protect children.
They do have a point, the current single mandatory PIN implementation is about as much use as the proverbial chocolate teapot. Even the simplest and most basic protection is near impossible, eg allowing a teenager the PIN to watch daytime 15
rated films whilst banning access to 18 rated adult sex channels.
With the super new American trusted identification scheme, then all such requirements will become state controlled and trivial. Teenage daughters will be properly restricted, whilst adults will be able to watch full on hardcore.
Of course, the fact that you are watching porn will be instantly relayed to the various vetting and protection agencies, should you ever need checking to work with kids, or marry a Home Secretary, or whatever. But hey that's big censorship for
The media is very fond of claiming that porn drives technology. And indeed the internet is a fine example of clever people finding 1001 ways for viewers to obtain their adult entertainment.
But somehow, clever technology is easily trumped by human psychology. For all the mega-tera-giga bytes of porn available on millions of websites and scores of gadgets, many a viewer would prefer to open a beer, relax on the sofa, turn on the TV,
and flick through the channels on something as simple as a remote control.
And it is that simplicity that is the key to actually getting something up and running that may finally make a go of Internet TV. The major TV companies are ganging together to grasp the opportunity and get one up on the anarchy of the website
Under the banner of Project Canvas, the BBC, ITV, BT, Five, Channel 4, Talk Talk and Arqiva are developing the standards for Internet TV. They hope to produce a simple to use interface that will become familiar to all TV viewers which will be
built into all set top boxes and TVs.
This project has been debated for a long time by the BBC regulators at the BBC Trust. The debate has been basically about the inherent control freakery built into the idea.
In an ideal world there is no reason why an international standard shouldn't be adopted that would allow any internet content provide to offer their programmes to every viewer. But of course that would inevitably destroy the concept of
simplicity. The TV companies understandably would prefer their own system where the owners of the system retain control over who gets invited in.
After a long debate the BBC Trust have finally given the system the go ahead with their view of the comprise between openness and control.
And indeed key parts of technical specification will be copyrighted to maintain control of the companies authorised to build set top boxes or incorporate the functionality into TVs.
The BBC Trust has imposed certain conditions that try and make it fair for companies getting on board. In particular to ensure that costs to join the system are fair as are electronic programme guide placements. Perhaps of more interest to adult
viewers is the condition: Entry controls in terms of technical and content standards will be minimal .
Little has been mentioned so far about opportunities adult companies to get involved in the system. But somehow that simple phrase could easily lock them out. The minimal content restriction being that hardcore R18 content is not allowed.
Theoretically Internet TV is the opportunity for hardcore providers to get a chance to enter the TV market.
Ofcom's ban on hardcore content only applies to broadcast, satellite and cable TV. The ban does not apply to content delivered by the internet. The internet is governed only by general British law banning obscenity and extreme porn. Standard R18
hardcore is not considered to be obscene or extreme, and so is perfectly legal to publish on websites and for viewers to download.
But one can't help but think that the Project Canvas participants may feel tempted to enact that minimal content restriction, as being no hardcore .
Of course the censors and regulators are also working behind the scenes to ensure they can maintain their control freakery on what people watch.
The new TV censor with responsibility for Internet TV is the Association For Television On Demand (ADVOD). Ofcom are actually the ultimate censors but they have delegated the task to ATVOD.
Theoretically the censorship of Internet TV according to European law should be light touch and should certainly allow for hardcore pornography. But of course there are riders about adequate child protection that could be used to target adult
Hopefully the European wide nature of the law should ensure that hardcore is allowed. It is hard for Britain to argue that R18s are harmful when they are allowed throughout the rest of Europe TV without being considered seriously harmful.
The BBFC alluded to this line of reasoning in their 2009 Annual Report. The BBFC wrote:
Both Ofcom and ATVOD have made clear that, in their view, content which has been classified by the BBFC in any category, including 'R18', would not be considered likely to seriously impair those under 18, and therefore does not need to be
placed behind access controls .
However the European rules could be used to harangue small adult providers. It sounds quite fair to ban race hate material from Internet TV or allow a right of reply for anyone aggrieved by content. But simply recording all content or setting up
the bureaucracy to deal with complaints may be prohibitively difficult or expensive for small players. In fact ATVOD have already decided that all companies providing Internet TV will have to pay a flat fee of just under £3000 for the
privilege of being censored.
So for all the grandiose concepts that porn drives technology let's hope that this is not all undone by the phrase: content standards will be minimal . I'd hate to have to coin the phrase: The pen is mightier than the porn .
Perhaps it is something to do with planetary alignment, or perhaps it is down to sun spot activity. But whatever it is, the dark forces of censorship have been in the Ascendency in these last few weeks.
First up, the TV censor Ofcom handed out a gigantic fine on several babe channels of the Tease Me stable. The channels were fined a grand total of £157,250.
The channels had been winding up Ofcom for months with programming that was considered too sexy for free to air channels.
Ofcom claimed a long list of offences that broke their rules:
Children must be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them.
Adult sex material nay only be broadcast by subscription or pay per view services provided that there is also a mandatory PIN protected encryption system, or other equivalent protection, that restricts access solely to those authorised to view;
and there are measures in place that ensure that the subscriber is an adult.
Generally accepted standards must be applied to the contents of television services so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from harmful and/or offensive material.
In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.
The material found in breach related to unsuitable adult material, shown for the sole purpose of sexual stimulation. Some footage contained inappropriate explicit sexual imagery including intrusive images of, simulated masturbation and oral sex,
genital and anal detail. In some cases, the material was considered to be of such strength that it was only suitable for transmission with mandatory restrictions (e.g. under PIN encryption). In one programme, in particular, the material was of
such strength that it was considered to be equivalent of BBFC R18. There were further breaches relating to daytime chat. In these cases, the broadcaster transmitted material which was considered to be unsuitable for pre-watershed viewing in that
the content was inappropriately and overtly sexual.
It was good to see though that the Tease Me channels have continued to get in Ofcom's bad books since the fine. No doubt they are scoring points towards their next mega fine.
Sex on TV also got noticed in Parliament where a small group of MPs signed up for an Early Day Motion penned by Barry Sheerman proposing that:
This House deplores the easy access children have to pornography by means of satellite and cable television; and calls on Ofcom, the appropriate regulator, to amend its broadcasting code in order to ensure that access to pornographic material is
only available via a secure authentication system.
The film censors at the BBFC have also joined in the censorial craze by taking their scissors to two up n coming releases.
I Spit on Your Grave is a 2010 US revenge film by Steven R Monroe. It is a remake of one of the most infamous of the video nasties that so terrorised the 1980s.
The BBFC made 17 cuts totalling 43s for a cinema release. The BBFC explained their cuts:
Company was required to make a total of seventeen cuts during three separate scenes of sexual violence in order to remove potentially harmful material (in this case, shots of nudity that tend to eroticise sexual violence and shots of humiliation
that tend to endorse sexual violence by encouraging viewer complicity in sexual humiliation and rape).
The original version of I Spit on Your Grave is a 1981 US film by Meir Zarchi. Even for its 2010 DVD/Blu-ray re-release, the BBFC still required 2:54s of cuts. The BBFC commented on their latest cuts: Company was required to make cuts to
scenes of sexual violence in order to remove potentially harmful material . Previous versions were all cut by 7m:02s.
As soon as the Daily Mail get hold of it, I have a feeling that A Serbian Film is likely to become the most celebrated video nasty of modern times.
The BBFC made 49 cuts totalling 3m:48s for the 2010 DVD/Blu-ray release, commenting:
This Serbian language film with subtitles is about a former Serbian porn star, who is lured out of early retirement by an offer of money to participate in an 'artistic' porn film for the 'foreign market'. When he is forced to participate in
abusive activities he tries to pull out but is drugged and is forced to continue with the filming.
The filmmakers have stated that A Serbian Film is intended as an allegory about Serbia itself. The Board recognises that the images are intended to shock, but the sexual and sexualised violence goes beyond what is acceptable under current BBFC
Guidelines at '18'. The Board has therefore required 49 individual cuts to the work amounting to approximately three minutes 48 seconds.
And as for the details of those abusive activities , they are probably best left to the lurid journalists of the tabloid press. I can guarantee that they will be shocked and outraged like never before.
No doubt there will then be plenty of intrigued viewers eagerly anticipating its appearance on satellite TV.
People say history repeats itself , but that rarely seems to apply to film censorship. Thankfully modern film makers are always pushing censorial limits.
But a couple of recent stories have been circulating on the internet suggesting that perhaps things haven't changed quite so much as one may think.
On a bit of a nostalgia trip, who can forget the wonderful Monty Python and the Holy Grail? The sight of the ineffectual Black Knight losing his limbs one by one in an attempt to block the passage of King Arthur, was quite notable at the
time. The pumping blood and the classic line: Tis but a scratch made for some truely surreal comedy.
But as in modern times, it was not the blood that worried the censors of the time, it was the use of the word fuck .
An illuminating 1974 letter has been unearthed describing suggestions from a film censor on how to achieve the desired A rating. The censor had seen an uncut screening of the film. He told the film makers that it would probably be rated AA
(for 14 year olds and over).
He made suggestions how the film producers might be able make cuts to reduce the rating to the desired A (which is the same as the current PG , no age restrictions, but parental guidance advised).
The suggestions were:
to lose as many shits as possible
take out Jesus Christ if possible
lose oh, fuck off
lose the oral sex used during the temptation of Sir Galahad the Chaste
lose the French taunt of I fart in your general direction
lose the French derision, we make castanets out of your testicles
In the end the film producers ended up losing the oral sex gag, and overdubbing Jesus Christ , The A certificate was then granted for a cinema release. The film was later passed 15 uncut for DVD.
Coincidental then to see a film maker in 2010, still having to lose the word fuck to reduce his film's rating from a 15.
Stephen Woolley, wrote in the Guardian about his new production. Made in Dagenham . He argued:
There is no violence, nudity or moments of suspense, horror, mutilation, or torture of women a constant theme in other 15-certificate movies such as 'The Expendables', 'The Last Exorcism', 'Kick-Ass' and 'Resident Evil: Afterlife'.
Our crime was this: instead of crikey or cor blimey words that definitely would not be used on the factory floor in Dagenham in 1968 the characters in our movie liberally, as my family did growing up in the ungentrified part of Islington in the
60s, punctuate their sentences with the word fuck used in a non-sexual manner such as: 'For fuck's sake, hurry up'. Made in Dagenham's dialogue has the authenticity of the period and the milieu.
It does seem a little backward to get hung up about the use of such commonplace banter. But no doubt the film censors of the BBFC will justify their policies via their regular and comprehensive surveys of public opinion. Surely a fair amount of
people prefer to see strong language banned from films, even though it is commonplace in real life.
But leaving strong language to one side, the BBFC have been making much more progressive decisions about what adults may choose to view.
Horror Channel viewers may be particularly interested to learn that the censor has recently been easing up on old cuts to the notorious video nasties of the 1980's
Dario Argento's Inferno is set in an apartment that is inhabited by an evil spirit that causes a number of deaths including, stabbing, guillotining, and drowning.
The film has just been passed totally uncut. But actually the cuts for violence were waived years ago. The modern films censor's sensitivities are now to do wish animal protection. Inferno had previously been cut for cruelty to a cat. and also
cruelty to a mouse in being eaten by a cat. The film distributor, Arrow, somehow persuaded the BBFC to pass the film uncut. The Uncut label is good for sales, but no doubt the BBFC will get a hefty post bag of complaints from those not so
Another video nasty being released uncut for the first time is Nico Mastorakis Island of Death . Luridly hyped in the 1980's as a saga of bestiality, incest & torture. Women and goats are raped, people are nailed to the floor. lesbians
are torched and homosexuals are forced to drink paint.
The last of the recent batch of uncut nasties is Mario Bava's Bay of Blood . A perverse reworking of La Ronde involving 11 graphic murders.Again time has diminished the moral panic, and most of what was threatening civilisation in
the 1980's, is now trivial when compared with modern torture porn .
And before any readers point out that I have omitted the original I Spit on Your Grave from the list of uncut nasties, I suggest that you read the publicity blurb again.
The distributors cleverly describe the DVD as Featuring new uncut material previously unseen in the UK . In fact the latest version is still cut, but less so than before. Even if violent horror doesn't trouble the modern censor so much, he
is still pretty concerned about the sexual violence in the film.
But for all of this progress, I bet the producers of Made in Dagenham , still smarting from their drubbing by film censors, are recalling the Monty Python line: I fart in your general direction .
Society has been going downhill for as long as I can remember. Well at least according to the morality campaigners. They have been getting wound up by sex, violence and bad language on the telly ever since the thing was invented.
You'd think by now we would have gotten some way down the slippery slope and life would be like something out of Clockwork Orange. But no, in reality life in 2010 is surely better than any of the bygone golden ages of morality that campaigners so
fondly allude to.
But now it seems that people are starting to see through some of the nonsense doom mongering. Recent news stories suggest that some of the most well known of the decency campaigners seem to have started to descend their own slippery slopes.
One of the dominant US campaign groups is the Parents Television Council (PTC). They have been particularly notable for coordinating vast letter writing campaigns, should anything naughty be spotted on the telly.
The New York Times recently reported that the recession has caught up with the PTC. The newspaper speculated that parents were realising that not having a job is much worse for kids than letting them watch Family Guy. In 2009 PTC revenue declined
by over 25%, resulting in a scaling down of its staff by almost 40%.
One disgruntled ex-PTC employee told the newspaper that while the PTC put the organisation's membership at more than 1.3 million based on petition signers, just 12,000 people answer the Council's yearly fundraising pitches.
Back in Britain the most dominant TV decency campaign is that of Mediawatch-UK, the group founded by Mary Whitehouse. A little over a year ago the group was headed by John Beyer who was very active in writing to newspapers, responding to public
consultations and writing articles for the members. Whilst disagreeing with more or less everything he wrote, he was at least amusing. His idea to accuse the BBC of antisocial behaviour and then to suggest that they be served an ASBO was
But since the leadership has changed to Vivienne Pattison these efforts have pretty much dried up. One can only speculate that the recession has had an effect here too, and that campaign work has been scaled down somewhat.
As a little further evidence of hard times Mediawatch-UK provides a daily media news service to their website readers. (See www.mediawatchuk.org.uk). From their own hit counts it seems that the average daily readership for this service in October
2010 was just 15, and one of those was me.
Still Vivienne Pattison is still going strong providing trivial and censorial sound bites to the likes of the Telegraph and the Daily Mail.
People say: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". So when I heard that another well known morality campaign has decided to re-launch itself with a new name, then one can guess that all was not well before. The group is mediamarch who
describe themselves as: "a voluntary group seeking to reduce the harmful effects of the media on our children, families and society". As their name suggests, they used to organise regular street protests. But these seem to have dried up
in the last 3 or 4 years.
They have now re-launched themselves as the charity safermedia (See safermedia.blogspot.com). I am not sure how campaigning to censor other peoples viewing can be considered very charitable though.
With the notable exception of John Beyer's ASBO for TV, taste and decency campaigners often speak in the language of cliche, and seem a little short on wit and originality. It is good therefore to find a campaign trying to be a little more
creative than most.
A Dutch group, Bond Tegen Het Vloeken, or The League Against Blasphemy and Swearing, campaigns via posters at bus stops and in railway stations to combat what it sees as profanity and blasphemy.
Posters have become collectors' items thanks to their originality. For the last soccer World Cup, the organisation chose an image of a striker with an angry face who had just missed a goal. The slogan was: "A curse always shoots wide of the
Last autumn the poster showed a colourful parrot and the words: "Cursing must be learned. Don't repeat it parrot-fashion!"
The organisation has not only tasked itself with highlighting profanity, it also makes suggestions on how to lessen it. It has strung together a list of distinctly weak alternative words to use in moments of stress. Many of them are botanical in
origin: instead of 'Shit!' why not try 'Moss!' suggests the organisation.
But of course for all of their wonderfully creative efforts, the organisation's annual Cursing Monitor, inevitably shows ever increasing use of profanity in radio and television.
It seems to be a unifying characteristic across all moral campaigners that they are very quick to pronounce the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it. Yet when it comes to demonstrating this with actual analysis of social trends,
their heads seem stuffed with moss!
As no doubt reported in the news section of this magazine, the TV policeman Ofcom has dramatically put out his gloved palm and yelled: Stop! Enough Teasing .
For 18 months the satellite and Freeview Tease Me babe channels have been pushing Ofcom beyond its censorial limits. Ofcom have been continuously complaining that the Tease Me babes have talked too sexy, dressed too sexy, and acted too sexy. In
fact 60 breaches of the Ofcom code have been recorded.
Even last July's £157,250 Ofcom fine wasn't enough to cool down the ardour of the Tease Me babes. So now Ofcom has snapped, and banned all four of the Tease Me channels.
Announcing the ban, Ofcom's Director of Standards, Chris Banatvala, interestingly said:
We want to be very clear that Ofcom are required by Parliament to protect audiences through the Broadcasting Code. We simply will not tolerate serious and repeated breaches of the Code and have therefore decided to revoke these licences.
Audiences should be assured that we will continue to take action to stop broadcasters breaching the rules in this area.
Now it is clear that Ofcom have to enforce their rules to keep their Parliamentary bosses happy, but the second half of the statement Audiences should be assured... is revealing.
It seems that Ofcom believe they are doing babe channel audiences a favour by enforcing their complete ban on what they call adult sex material , ie anything that is a turn on.
Surely there can't actually be many viewers of these channels that want everything sexy to be banned.
Ofcom should target their censorial assurances to moralists and politicians. Not to the long suffering British TV sex viewer who gets to see so little, when they would like to see so much more.
Actually Ofcom is not the only British censor to have a whinge at Tease Me TV. The advertising censor, or Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), also took a recent pot shot at the channel.
A phone sex advert came to the attention of the ASA because it was broadcast free to air at breakfast time. But the ASA also asked the supplementary question about whether the advert should be allowed even during adult viewing time after the
The advert featured a 15 minute mock documentary titled The Bare Tits Project , a parody of the film, The Blair Witch Project . The advert showed three women, who were frequently topless, in a woodland setting. On-screen text
invited viewers to get in touch via a premium rate phone number: if you want to talk to some really naughty girls, call the number on the screen now .
The ASA concluded that the imagery and premium rate contact number suggested that the service promoted was of a sexual nature and should therefore have been restricted to encrypted portions of adult entertainment channels. They added that the
advert must not be broadcast again unless so encrypted.
So the ASA came to the conclusion that adverts for anything of a sexual nature are simply not allowed, even on a special interest channel when the adverts themselves are not overly sexual.
Its a good job that the advert censor is not the TV censor. Otherwise all babe channels would have been banned there and then. After all their only purpose in life is to continuously advertise sexy premium rate phone numbers,
But the judgement also raises fascinating questions about other forms of advertising for sexual services.
The ASA reasoning would seem to apply equally to printed media, eg phone sex adverts in the back of tabloid newspapers and magazines.
Surely the child protection line of thinking is very similar to that of babe channels. Children are unlikely to be watching or reading because the general content is not of interest to them, but there is nothing actually stopping them from
watching or reading, should the opportunity arise.
So perhaps by analogy. all sex material adverts should be banned, unless they are protected by some sort of age checks.
And then of course there is the internet...The ASA reasoning would require that all sexual material, and all advertising for sexual material, be restricted behind secure age verification.
This would of course be a totally unrealistic approach to internet censorship...But the rub is...
That the ASA is extending its remit to cover the online realm.From 1st March 2011. Online marketing and ads will then be subject to the same strict advertising rules as traditional media.
An ASA spokesman said that this is a massive step, and since consumers don't differentiate between adverts on TV or online, then online claims should be subject to the same strict scrutiny as those in traditional media.
The new rules will apply to adverts and any statement on a website that is intended to sell products or services. Websites will be given until 1 March 2011 to comply with the new rules.
The ASA will also be given new sanctions against online ads found to be in breach of its regulations, including the removal of paid-for search advertising and the right to place its own advertisements highlighting an advertiser's non-compliance.
It will certainly be interesting see how this pans out from next March. There must be at least a few hundred million unprotected sex ads for the ASA to work through.
Many years ago. when Britain's TV censor Ofcom first started, the bosses spoke fine words about minimal intervention and joined up regulation. Of course there was never any chance that censorship would be minimal, and it soon became
apparent that anything very sexy would be banned from TV,
And as for joined up regulation; well UK viewers can watch hardcore movies on TV delivered via an internet phone line, but not via a cable. How joined up is that?
But censorship and logic rarely make good bedfellows, and it is the same the world over.
For years Australians have struggled with the censorship of video games. The politicians have consistently refused to allow an adults only 18 rating. The top rating available for games is MA15, equivalent to the UK 15 rating.
Presumably the politicians believe that banning adult games prevents youngsters from getting hold of them. But in reality it didn't work out as intended.
A few games were banned outright, causing much annoyance amongst adult gamers, particularly when some of these banned games were high profile and much anticipated.
However the majority of games considered adult in the rest of the world, were edited down to 15, with the least edits possible. The investment in modern games is too enormous, and the returns too great, to abandon a game just because it was
banned on the first submission to the censor.
The end result, as noted by South Australian Attorney-General John Rau was: The current MA15 rating was a grey area that included both family-friendly games and material very, very close to being declared adults only .
Surely the answer is to add an 18 rating and let the classifiers choose where a game is best positioned. But no, Rau has suggested adding the 18 as required, but then removing the 15 rating. He claimed that the new regime would grant parents
greater certainty that PG games were appropriate for children.Removing the 15 rating would force distributors to either clean up their games to the point where they could be classified PG or force them to accept an adults-only rating.
In practice neither of these options are helpful. Editing them down to just getting a PG rating would repeat the previous problems and games would end up in the wrong natural category. Arbitrarily re-rating 15 games to 18 would undermine respect
for the ratings. Parents would start thinking: I don't see anything bad in 18's so I let my kids play them .
Some great thinking going on in the USA too. America's news media is wonderfully diverse, ranging from some very responsible reporting down to shock jocks reading the news as they see it .
Unsurprisingly the media censors of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) feel that news media should be better regulated. They have suggested a public service test with criteria such as showing approved ratios of women or minorities, and
greater disclosure of funding and proprietorship.
Rather strangely the FFC argued their case saying that: government should create new regulations to promote diversity in news programming .
Er...how does imposing a standardising set of rules on all news outlets promote diversity ?
Meanwhile the government of Venezuela has been having a few bright ideas too.
A parliamentary bill introduced by the Vice President is seeking to impose time restrictions on adult content available on the internet. Specifically, adult fare would be allowed only after midnight, bringing it in line with TV and radio.
There is no explanation how such a requirement would be achieved though. But the British clean up TV campaigners of Mediawatch-UK will be interested, as they also have been calling for a watershed for the internet.
Germany has also been thinking about internet child protection. They are more practically considering age verification rather than a watershed though.
Age verification processes are already in place for German porn sites, which require users to have their age and identity checked eg by visiting a post office with papers in hand. But now a new law extending the concept comes into effect from 1st
January 2011. This will task anyone operating a German (.de) domain with adding an age certificate to the website.
Although it sounds simple on paper, it may not be that easy for those websites allowing user content. They could police everything that is uploaded to ensure that is within the site classification, but this may not be convenient or cost
effective. Alternatively the site could set a high rating to allow all user content, but then they may lose readership due to the hassle of ID checks.
New Zealand's Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) must be doing something right though. They seem to have negligible viewer complaints.
Their most recent annual report said it received just 210 complaints in the year. (Ofcom received more than 10 times that amount for just a couple of sexy pop performances shown on X Factor before the watershed).
But yet again, the New Zealand TV censors have their beady eye on the internet. BSA chairman Peter Radich said it was becoming more challenging for broadcasters to observe standards of good taste and decency while similar standards did not apply
to internet broadcasting.
Hopefully more a case of joined up wishing than joined up thinking.