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2004: Jan-March

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31st March

  Irreversible Decision on Irreversible

Based on an article from The Sydney Morning Herald

The French film Irreversible has not been banned despite complaints from nutters of the Australian Family Association and the Reverend Fred Nile.

The Classification Review Board (CRB) on Tuesday decided against banning the film, directed by Gaspar Noe, which was released in Australia last month with an R18+ rating. After considering submissions from the AFA and the film's distributor, Accent Film Entertainment, the CRB exercised its discretion not to hear the application on the basis that it was out of time. In considering the out-of-time application and after viewing the film, the CRB considered there was virtually no prospect of the film's classification changing or banning the film from Australian audiences.

We are delighted with the decision, Accent spokesman Dean O'Flaherty said. This is a great decision for freedom of artistic expression and the right of adult Australian filmgoers to see internationally acclaimed films like Irreversible without having to leave the country.

Most of the criticism of Irreversible centred on a graphic and extremely violent nine-minute rape scene. The confronting film tells a troubling story about fate and the wrong choices made by three decent people during a single night of partying that plunge them into a nightmare.

Irreversible was first released in Australia on Thursday, February 12, to above-average box office figures, with a screen average in Sydney and Melbourne of $10,427 on its opening weekend. The film had previously been released in more than 21 territories worldwide, including the United States and Britain, completely uncut and as originally edited by its acclaimed director.

If banned, Irreversible would have joined US film Ken Park, which was banned from Australian screens last year because of its depictions of teenage sex, incest and auto-erotic asphyxiation. And in 2002, the explicit French film Baise Moi was banned after complaints that its R18 classification was too soft.


29th March

  Australian X

Based on an a sensationalist article from The Sydney Morning Herald

Overseas satellite television broadcasters are beaming 24-hour pornography channels - including hard-core broadcasts - for subscriptions of $5 a week.

The Herald has confirmed that European and Asian-based broadcasters are buying time on an Australian satellite service, New Skies Satellite, to telecast X-rated pornography on channels with titles such as Free-XTV, Blue Kiss, InXWorld, Sexz TV and Back Room.

Distributors are advertising the service, which they say is "like pay TV", for a $450 installation cost including a decoder box, and an annual $250 subscription. The promoters claim none of the licensing authorities - the Australian Communications Authority and the Australian Broadcasting Authority - nor the Office of Film and Literature Classification have the jurisdiction to monitor or ban the content.

New Skies is owned by a Dutch firm but has an operating company in Sydney. A spokesman confirmed yesterday its frequency was licensed in Australia by the ACA but defended its broadcast policy: We're just a wholesaler. We have nothing to do with the content.

One Perth-based distributor, The Mod Shop, advertises permanent access to 24/7 broadcast of hardcore erotic movies covering all genres: straight, fetishism, interracial, lesbo, orgies, hardcore adult entertainment. When contacted yesterday, a staff member said the service was legal because it was not covered by any Australian laws. We are telling our customers that it's the same as watching an X-rated video at home. You can watch it in privacy, provided it is not shown publicly or to minors. We have been dealing with the ACA and ABA and the censorship board says it doesn't fall within their jurisdiction."

A spokesman for the ABA said the board had discussed the issue last Thursday, had sought legal advice and was about to launch an investigation: We are aware of these services and have decided to instigate an investigation. We have legal advice that the services, though broadcast from overseas, still fall within the Broadcasting Services Act.

A spokesman for the Office of Film and Literature Classification said that because the services were broadcast rather than on film, they did not fall within its jurisdiction. A spokesman for the ACA said: We license the carrier, but not in terms of content.

The office of the Minister for Communications, Daryl Williams, said it was aware of the controversy and was investigating. Those who provide services that broadcast programs to Australia from another country have the same obligations under the BSA as broadcasters who provide the same service locally, a spokeswoman said.


9th March

  Land of the Not So Free

War mongering is considered fine yet a glimpse of a nipple causes outrage

From  AVN

Today the Senate Commerce Committee is expected to approve their version of a bill that will raise fines for broadcasts that violate FCC regulations. The House passed their version last week and a vote on the floor is expected the House this week.

The Senate version of the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, introduced by Senator Sam Brownback, is expected to be less severe than the House counterpart. The present form of the bill calls for raising fines for the broadcast of indecent material from $27,500 to $275,000 with a limit of a $3 million fine for any one incident.

The House version of the bill originally called for raising fines up to $275,000, but after Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl Sunday half-time display of her right breast, the penalties were raised.

Jackson's faux pas launched Congressional investigations into the state of broadcast indecency, encouraging the House to raise their penalties, and creating an atmosphere of fear in broadcast radio and television.

A handful of deejays have already been fired for actions that would have previously been fined. Howard Stern has said that he expects to be fired sometime this week. Last week the FCC said they were close to wrapping up several indecency investigations, one of which targeted violations by Stern.

The Senate draft was written after Super Bowl Sunday, on Feb. 9, but reports suggest that the Senate won't push as hard as the House. The Senate is reportedly wary of the license revocation clause that was included in the House bill as well as possible First Amendment concerns regarding fining individuals rather than corporations.


29th February

 Irreversible  in Australia

Thanks to Andrew

Irreversible   is causing a real storm over here in Oz; had blanket coverage in the papers and on TV lately. It has been passed UNCUT with an R Rating but will have very limted release.

From  The Age

When screened at last year's French Film Festival, the rape scene in Irreversible   sent people running from the cinema. Some complained that the warnings about the film's content were not sufficiently strong.

Personally, the film left me breathless and disturbed. It contained both the most violent act I'd ever seen in a film, and the most brutal portrayal of a rape, even outdoing the gang rape in the 1988 Jonathan Kaplan film The Accused . It also struck me as a mature, adult film with a serious theme about that eternally topical question: what drives ordinary people to commit unspeakable acts of violence?

Impressed by the power of the film - written, directed, shot and edited by Gaspar Noe - I enthused about it to friends and colleagues but was convinced the film was going to have a great deal of trouble getting passed by the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) and the Classification Review Board. Recent controversies over certain films made it hard to predict what would happen.

In 2000, Catherine Breillat's Romance was initially Refused Classification before the Review Board overturned the decision and gave it an R. Adrian Lyne's Lolita received an R rating and the call to have it banned was rejected in review. Last year, Larry Clark's confronting Ken Park was Refused Classification because it had a bit too much real sex in it. The decision was appealed but upheld by the Classification Review Board.

The most controversial recent judgement, however, came in 2002 with the French film Baise Moi . This low-budget, hardcore retelling of Thelma and Louise first earned an R. At the prompting of the then Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, the film was sent to the Classification Review Board. Two weeks after the film's release, the R rating was rescinded and the film was taken off screens.

At that point, about 50,000 people had seen the film.

Given all this, it was hard to make a call on the fate of a film as confronting and disturbing as Irreversible . I frankly didn't hold out much hope, given the extreme violence and the brutality of the rape. When the OFLC assesses a film, they use the measures of "low", "medium" and "high" to determine the degree of violence, sex, drug use and coarse language. It is, of course, subjective. What one person regards as high-level violence in a film, another may deem medium. The intensity of Irreversible seemed destined for a rating of too high.

However, the film was passed without incident before Christmas, getting an R rating. Considering the recent classification controversies, one may be tempted to promptly interpret this as a shifting of the sands regarding film classification.

Yet the director of the OFLC, Des Clark, says the Irreversible rating was the result of applying standard guidelines to the film. He adds that narrative and dramatic context is important with such extreme content, especially in the portrayal of sexual violence, which is strictly forbidden in porn films. This film is very confronting and we look at the context and the impact of the film, so we do look at the drama of it. But in evaluating Irreversible , there were three elements that were of concern to the board. One was the sexual violence; two was the violence; and three was the (real) sexual activity in the film.

The sexual violence was very confronting in the rape scene with the knife and then the bashing after that. You don't see any detail in any of that. The detail that you see is, in fact, when she is taken to the hospital and you see the consequences of the bashing. As much as it's a very dramatic scene, it is simulated. You don't see a lot but you do have a very realistic sense of threat and menace. Within the impact test for an R-rating, it's very high.

In a daring move, director Gaspar Noe digitally painted in an erect penis immediately after the rape to heighten the horror. Too much of that kind of detail is the type of thing that could have pushed Irreversible over the line but the fact that the director focused on creating a graphic impression instead of dwelling on graphic detail made a big difference.

So much for the sexual violence of Irreversible. Clark also addresses the violence of that shocking opening sequence. The board said in relation to that: 'In the board's view, the impact of this scene is high, due to the graphic visual nature of the violence together with realistic sound effects. Despite the darkened surrounds, the act of crushing the man's face is depicted in medium shot and is the main focus of the scene.

The general rule regarding sexual activity in film is that simulated is fine but actual sex is not. However, Clark admits after some pressing of the point, there has been some loosening up. The passing of Romance , which featured real sex, seems to represent a modest watershed in this regard. I suppose that did represent a shift, and there have been a few films since then which, in terms of impact and context, would have had small amounts of actual sexual activity in them. But it's not a huge ground shift. So yes, there has been a few films where this has happened but the board generally takes a fairly conservative view on actual sexual content and violence."

Baise Moi also featured real sexual activity and Irreversible does feature glimpses of men masturbating in the gay club. Those scenes, Clark explains, were acceptable because they constituted peripheral sexual activity but that was really background to the main action. There is a very, very small amount of peripheral, actual sexual activity. It's very small, nothing like that in Romance or Ken Park .

Given that the OFLC classifies hundreds upon hundreds of publications, video games and films each year without drawing any attention, it is decisions over films such as Irreversible that put the OFLC and its processes under intense scrutiny. Clark openly welcomes it.
We just seek to be consistent in our decision making, so there's no ground shift or anything particularly special about this film. It's just another decision that the board has made.


28th February

  15 Police Censors in Singapore

From The Guardian

The 27-year-old Singaporean film-maker Royston Tan is not obvious as a threat to national security. He has more than two dozen awards and his debut feature film, 15, last year became the first movie from Singapore to compete at the Venice film festival.

15 is the best Singaporean work for the last few years, said Philip Cheah, director of the Singapore international film festival, of the drama about a teenage gang of misfits struggling to survive in the abandoned underbelly of the city state's supposedly squeaky-clean society.

But Singapore's police, reflecting the government's obsession with social order and national stability, dubbed the film a threat to national security.

Much of 15, which is cast with real teenage gang members, has no discernible plot, due partly to the fact that one of the stars was arrested for stabbing another gang member halfway through filming. It is a no-holds-barred, fly-on-the-wall part-documentary, part-drama of their unconventional lifestyle. One "actor" repeatedly slashes his wrists with a box cutter, another forces a condom packed with drugs down his throat to smuggle overseas, two pierce each others' faces to insert studs and one squirms as he gets a rudimentary tattoo.

The act of inflicting pain on themselves is like a form of rebellion, Tan said. I think I do have a responsibility [to intervene] but I have a greater responsibility to tell the audience how they lead their lives.

The police were concerned about scenes which featured real-life gang chants which had resulted in gang fights when they were sung in public places, said a spokeswoman for the Media Development Authority, which oversees censorship. The film also named actual secret societies and their operational grounds which the police felt would serve to promote and give prominence to these gangs.

The censorship board reportedly wanted only one cut before approving 15's release in Singapore, a brief shot of a 17cm (7in) penis, while the police insisted on 26 further deletions. After four months of deliberations 15 was released with about 10 of its 100 minutes expunged, but with an 18 rating and not in suburban cinemas.

Tan had prepared a version for Singapore with the penis and a few other shots deleted but was not prepared for the scale of the controversy. But he says he is unable to discuss the way his film was treated. I've been advised not to talk about censorship, that we should move on, he said, admitting only that one of the stars, Shaun Tan (no relation), had told him police had interrogated him. Shaun [told me he] was threatened to be stripped and have cold water poured over him if he didn't give the answers they wanted," he said. "It's strange I haven't been questioned. I offered myself but they didn't want to speak to me.

The police declined to comment on this allegation.


22nd February

  Transparency In Ireland

From The Sunday Times

Ireland’s film censor plans to overhaul the classification system so that parents can tell the level of sex, violence or bad language in movies. John Kelleher plans to launch a website listing every movie passed by his office with accompanying advice describing its content. Film posters will also have to carry warnings alerting viewers to scenes of sex, violence, drug use or bad language.

The film censor’s plans are modelled on the British classification system, which provides detailed explanations of its decisions and gives consumer advice on individual films. I think most people have a broad idea (what the classifications mean) but they can’t relate them to particular films — we haven’t explained them in the context of specific films, said Kelleher . There are parents who are more concerned about one thing rather than another, like sex scenes.

The website is one aspect of Kelleher’s plans to make his office more consumer friendly. The job has hitherto been low profile with no onus on the film censor to explain his decisions. Kelleher has commissioned research to establish what film viewers want from classifications and will draw up guidelines based on the findings. Part of our research project is to discover whether the existing classifications are understood and acceptable and, if not, how we can make them more consumer friendly, he said. I would like to see this office move towards being a consumer advice operation rather than a restrictive censorship process .

Kelleher has already made film distributors insert cautions on movie posters. Mystic River , Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-nominated film, carries the warning “contains violent scenes”. Posters for Song for a Raggy Boy, which contains a scene where a teenage boy is raped in a lavatory cubicle, bears the caution this film contains scenes of explicit violence which may disturb some viewers.

The film censor has been prompted to put these warnings on some films partly because of the change in 2001 in film classification that replaced the PG, 12 and 15 certificates with 12PG and 15PG. The difference between a 15 and a 15PG certificate is that children younger than 15 can see a film classified 15PG as long as they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.

However, in the absence of further information about the film, it is difficult for parents to gauge whether there is sexual or violent content in the movie unsuitable for their children.

The BBFC provides detailed explanations of its decisions on its website and gives consumer advice for individual films. For example, the website says that Lost In Translation , which is rated 15 in the UK, “contains moderate nudity and sex references”. Cold Mountain , starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law, is classified 15 in Britain and the advice on the BBFC website is that it “contains strong sex and violence”. Both films are certified 15PG in Ireland.


4th February

  Jackson's Stand Proud

From Fox News

The chief federal regulator of broadcasting said Monday he is supposedly outraged by the Super Bowl halftime show which wound up with singer Justin Timberlake tearing off part of Janet Jackson's costume, exposing her breast

Janet Jackson's nipple Timberlake blamed a "wardrobe malfunction," but Federal Communications Commission chief Michael Powell called it "a classless, crass and deplorable stunt." MTV, which produced the show, and CBS, which broadcast it, both said they had no idea that their halftime show Sunday night would include such a display.

The two singers were performing a flirtatious duet to end the halftime show, with Timberlake singing, "Rock Your Body," and the lines he sang at the moment of truth were: I'm gonna have you naked by the end of this song.

With that, Timberlake reached across Jackson's leather gladiator outfit and pulled off the covering to her right breast, which was partially obscured by a sun-shaped, metal nipple decoration.

The network quickly cut away from the shot, and did not mention the exposure on the air.

Janet Jackson's nipple decorationIn a statement, nutter Powell said, I am outraged at what I saw during the halftime show of the Super Bowl. Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration. Instead, that celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt. Our nation's children, parents and citizens deserve better.

I have instructed the commission to open an immediate investigation into last night's broadcast , he said, vowing it would be "thorough and swift." Earlier, an FCC spokeswoman, Suzanne Tetreault, said it was launching a routine investigation because it had received complaints.


25th January

  Canadians Stand Proud

From Yahoo News

A song lauding the joys of an "enormous penis" is not obscene because the object of the lyric's affection isn't necessarily sexual, a Canadian regulator ruled on Friday.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council was reacting to a complaint from a Calgary radio listener to a joke song that declared: I've got the cure for all of my blues/I take a look at my enormous penis/And my troubles start a-meltin' away.

The listener's complaint that the song was obscene fell flat before the council's members, who said the item did not break its code of ethics.

The discussion of penis size is not in and of itself sufficiently unequivocally a sexual matter that it can be said to be in breach of the code, the council said.

Calgary's CJAY-FM replied to the complaint by saying most of its core audience -- men from 18 to 49 -- enjoyed such items as "Enormous Penis" by Da Vinci's Notebook, which also features the line: I gotta sing and I dance/When I glance in my pants.


18th January

  Unpixellated Pubes

From Mainichi Daily News

Despite an adult movie industry that arguably stoops lower than any other country on earth, a perverse paradox means the law forbids the display of private parts. But now Japanese adult movie fans are free to watch their favorite flicks uncensored and unobstructed in the privacy of their own homes.

And all because of a totally unexpected source: Subscriber numbers have continued growing ever since we started in December 2002 and we have about 30,000 Japanese homes on our list. But, we're actually a network that beams programs to Guam and never really had any intention of trying to get Japanese customers, a spokesman for J-Wave Sat TV Inc said.

J-Wave has, however, been swamped with orders for its dishes in Japan, with demand so high that installations are made only after applicants spend a month on a waiting list. Internet applications to receive the service have also flooded in. J-Wave broadcasts six regular and two adult channels, the latter totally unobstructed by the digital blackout usually used in Japan, but now freely visible here.

Because J-Wave is intended to send programs to Guam, American regulations apply and there's no need for a mosaic to be applied. You can see the company's programs in Japan simply because the satellite it uses covers such a huge area, an adult movie industry writer says. Dishes cost in the vicinity of 35,000 yen, then all you need to do to watch is pay the monthly 6,000 yen charge to be able to watch all its programs. Most of the adult channel features are hardcore Western movies, but there're 90 titles a month, 35 of them new, that come from Japan.

We buy our movies from a company in the United States that manages movie rights. If the rights belong to a company in Japan, we always contact them and make sure we have their approval before the show airs. We haven't received a single complaint about the way we're running our business, " the J-Wave Sat spokesman said.


15th January

  Animated Censors

From The Telegraph

The publishers of Japan's Manga comics, which feature graphic sex scenes, were left reeling yesterday after a judge ruled that comics could constitute pornography.

The judge handed Motonori Kishi, the company president, a one-year suspended sentence for publishing a book, The Honey Room, that he ruled was mostly devoted to undisguised, detailed portrayals of sex scenes. no healthy society today could allow the book.

The author and book's editor also received fines as the judge said bodies were drawn in a lifelike manner with little attempt to conceal genitalia, making for sexually explicit expression and deeming the book pornographic matter . There will be an appeal.

Manga is one of modern Japan's most popular cultural inventions. Read by adults and children, Manga books and magazines cram shelves in convenience stores and bookshops and are the preferred reading in crowded railway carriages.

Until now, the Manga industry has escaped any censorship though it has attracted criticism from abroad for portraying scenes such as child rape.

The Honey Room was published in 2002 with an initial print of 20,000 copies and sold across Japan. Such pornographic comics, advertised as for adults only, form a significant sector of the Manga market.

The publishers defended The Honey Room on the grounds of freedom of expression and argued that drawings could not be considered as lifelike as photographs or video images


15th January

  Bloody Nutters

Based on an article from Mediawatch-UK

Swearing on mainstream television could be outlaws in the US.  A proposed law would forbid seven of the supposedly worst profanities and impose stiff fines on broadcasters who ignore it.  Nutters in the UK media will watch its progress closely to see if similar action could be taken to censor language on British TV. 

The US legislation, the brainchild of Republican senator Doug Ose, comes after U2 singer Bono caused nutter outrage by swearing during a live broadcast of an awards show.  A survey of mainstream broadcasting over the first six months of last year by the pressure group mediawatch-uk found 'fuck' was used more than 1,400 times with more than 1000 other swearwords.  mediawatch-uk chairman, John Whatmore said: I have a lot of sympathy with the senator.  All the words he has listed are undesirable in public.  Church and moral groups would love to see a similar law here.’

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