Melon Farmers Original Version

UK News

2004: Jan-March

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24th March   Ethically Correct

Of course it is my ethics to avoid ethical products

From The BBC

The Bank of Scotland has launched a policy review after negative publicity over a deal involving pornographic magazines. The bank had provided £5m for a company called Remnant Media to buy 45 titles from the publisher Richard Desmond. The adult publications included "Asian Babes", "60 Plus", and "Big Ones International".

The Bank of Ireland, which had also provided finance for the deal, pulled out in response to public pressure. Shane O'Riordain, a spokesman for the Bank of Scotland, admitted its regrets about a decision which offended some of its customers. He said: We apologise for any offence or embarrassment this may have caused. We have listened to what our stakeholders have to say, and we will review our lending policies and processes as a matter of urgency.

The Bank of Scotland had participated in a £20m deal allowing Remnant Media to buy the top-shelf publications from Mr Desmond's Northern and Shell company. The Bank of Ireland, a partner in the venture, ended its involvement after protests from Irish women's groups and the Catholic Church. But the Bank of Scotland said it remains committed to going through with the agreement.


21st March   Melon Farming Politicians

The Lib Dem Spring Conference endorsed Policy Paper 63, Censorship and Freedom of Expression (pdf file) , as a statement of party policy on censorship.

And from Chris of the Lib Dems: As you will see the motion was passed with a huge majority. Thanks to all those who helped contribute via your site.

It is a shame that the papers have so quickly picked up on the 16-18 age issue.  They seem to have missed that the main thrust of the policy paper is to limit the censorship of available material such that only issues of harm will require strict control.

Nevertheless the policy will surely be well supported by melon farmers everywhere

Based on an article from The Independent

Youngsters aged 16 and 17 should have the right to watch and appear in explicit pornography, the Liberal Democrats decided yesterday.

The proposed relaxation in the law was agreed by a huge majority at the party's spring conference in Southport, despite pleas from one of its most prominent MPs, the work and pensions spokesman, Steve Webb, who argued for keeping the present age limit of 18.

The vote also commits the party to campaigning for teenagers from 16 upwards to be allowed to visit sex shops, which would be made easier to set up and run. The party's culture spokesman, Don Foster, said that it was inconsistent to allow 16-year-olds to have children, and be treated as adults in other respects, but to bar them from watching or taking part in explicit material - which they could access, anyway, from the internet.

Foster rejected what he called "misleading claims" that young people become violent just from watching violent images. He described 16- and 17-year-olds as "living in a twilight zone between childhood and adulthood", gaining different rights at different ages.

Foster said that bestiality, "snuff" movies and depictions of rape would continue to be illegal, and that the law should continue to protect those under 16. He also argued for laws against material that degraded women, and for protecting employees from exploitation.

But Webb retorted: "The question we should be asking is not whether the most mature 16-year-old can deal with the most explicit material. The question is whether the least mature 16-year-old can deal with the most explicit material.


9th March

  David Blame

Based on an article from The BBC

Initial steps were agreed by David Blunkett and US Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey during a meeting at the US Department of Justice in Washington DC. The Jane Longhurst case had "horrified" US officials, the spokesman said.  Websites featuring extreme sexual acts were blamed in the trial of the man who murdered the Brighton teacher.

Blunkett promised to raise the issue during his visit to the US after meeting the Longhurst family in London on Thursday.

A spokesman said: The Department of Justice were very interested in what we had to say and we agreed it was a significant problem, not in terms of numbers but in terms of the evil of these sites. We agreed that a specific group of officials would meet jointly to work out what the next stage would be. The deputy Attorney General said it was something they had been increasingly concerned about.

The spokesman noted the legal implications of a crackdown were " more complicated" than banning child porn, for example, because of the First Amendment in the US, which guarantees freedom of speech. But possible action could involve work with internet service providers and credit card companies, whose services allow people to pay to access the porn on the web, he added.


7th March

  Blunkett Jerks His Knee

Based on an article from The Telegraph

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, will urge America to crack down on internet pornography in talks in Washington tomorrow.

He said last week that governments had a "moral duty" to close down pornographic websites after meeting the family of Jane Longhurst, the Brighton schoolteacher murdered by Graham Coutts, a man who police discovered had regularly visited rape and murder internet sites originating in the United States.

In meetings with senior advisers to Warmonger Bush, Blunkett will ask the US administration to help Britain to close down such websites, many of which are run from California and Florida.

A Home Office official said: We hope to get some of the same co-operation we have had from credit card companies and internet service providers in tackling violent adult pornography as we have in closing down paedophile sites. It is very complicated. Unlike child pornography where there is a criminal offence by paedophiles, many of these sites, though disgusting, do not involve a criminal offence.

MP, Martin Salter, the Labour member for Reading West, said: The Home Secretary told us he would be putting it to the American administration that there is a moral interest as well as a political interest in taking action. There is a pseudo-liberal view that if it is on the internet, it is OK, but these sites have a corrupting effect and seeing someone murdered is not acceptable.


4th March

  Clipped to Death

So why don't the police and Trading SubStandards send (a well protected) undercover officer everyday into every clip joint?

From The Evening Standard

Clip joint hostess Camille Gordon was stabbed to death in a Soho street after a row with a disgruntled customer. He argued with her and the club's bouncer thugs over a rip off believed to be more than £250.

The man left the Blue Bunny Club in Archer Street - one of Soho's notorious "clip joints" where customers are ripped off with false promises of sex - and returned 10 minutes later when he stabbed Ms Gordon in the heart.

On Monday Ms Gordon was at the door of the club, enticing prospective customers inside. The suspect is black, about 25 years old and wore a dark hooded coat and blue jeans and a hat with a white strip. He spent about 10 minutes with her in the club.

He then had an argument about the extortionate bill. He left but returned about 45 minutes later, at about 7.10pm, when she was again at the entrance. He attacked her before fleeing towards Great Windmill Street and Shaftesbury Avenue.

She staggered back into the club but died in hospital an hour later. A post mortem examination revealed she died from a single stab wound.


26th  February

  Blaming my Local MP for knee jerk politics

From Andrew

I Wonder if a blanket denial of access to a website (or set of websites) is possible/practical?:

The family of Jane Longhurst, the teacher murdered by Graham Coutts, are to meet the Home Secretary David Blunkett tomorrow, reports The Scotsman. They will ask him to close down web sites like those Coutts visited. Just because it may be difficult to block or shut down these extreme pornographic Internet sites is no reason for not trying. I have absolutely no doubt that the presence of these sickening images on the Internet was a factor in my daughter's death, said Liz Longhurst. The visit has been organised by Labour MP Martin Salter, who will attend with fellow MP David Lepper. I am confident that Mr Blunkett genuinely wants to help block access to these sick and depraved Internet sites which glory in violent images of death and torture of women in the name of sexual gratification, said Salter. Next Monday Longhurst will join with Reading councillers and the Mayor in launching a nationwide petition urging denial of access to "extreme Internet sites".

(I  am well unimpressed by my local MP, David Lepper, jump on the knee jerk bandwagon). I think I will be voting LibDem with their more healthy attitude to censorship and blame).


26th  February

  Clipping the Thugs

I have always wondered why trading Standards harangue those that sell things that people genuinely want to buy yet can't be arsed to send some undercover officers to root out these blatant thugs

From The Observer

They are as much of a draw to London's West End as the theatres, restaurants and historic pubs. Now Soho's 'clip joints', the illegal sex dens that lure men with the promise of 'adult entertainment' before extorting hundreds of pounds with the threat of violence, are set to be closed for good by a new police initiative.

Existing police powers are to be combined with those of the fire brigade, council inspectors, immigration officers and an investigative unit of the Inland Revenue known as the Joint Shadow Economy Team to help close the clubs. Inspector Tim Ruprecht of the Soho sector team told The Observer: 'The plan is to frustrate their operations by finding every possible flaw in their business practices which allows us to shut them down. We will harass them at every stage so that they are forced to close down once and for all.'

Earlier this month the Illusions clip joint in Great Windmill Street was closed after the fire brigade discovered it had no emergency exits. While this was seen as a success, at least six other clip joints continue to operate in Soho.

Punters pay a fee of around £5 at the door in the expectation of seeing a striptease or meeting prostitutes. Once inside they find themselves in a small room furnished with a few tables and little else. A hostess appears, encourages the customer to buy her a drink and sits talking for a few minutes. Soon afterwards the customer is presented with a bill for several hundred pounds and threatened with violence if he does not pay.

Staff are regularly arrested on suspicion of blackmail but victims rarely pursue the allegations, so the charges are dropped. 'There is a problem getting witnesses to come forward,' said a spokesman for Westminster Council. 'They are either returning abroad or do not want their family to know the type of place they have been visiting.'

Earlier this month the Soho Cabaret, a clip joint next to Soho Parish School on Great Windmill Street, had its application for a public entertainment licence rejected. The venue wanted to stage shows featuring female dancers but objections were raised by the police, teachers from the school and trading standards officials.

Officers from the Soho police team have recorded at least 20 incidents of alleged extortion and blackmail involving the club in the past two months. In one case, a victim was handed a bill of £625. Another was told he would be 'turned into hamburger' unless he paid £380.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the owner of one Soho clip joint offered an insight into the workings of the business: In the old days there would be hardcore films or some kind of sex show but because the council clamped down on that we had no choice but to go down the extortion route, he said.

These places started out as legitimate businesses and the average bill was £30. We were the first people to charge £100 and more because we knew we could get away with it. We have five hostesses, one waitress and one person on the door. Once men are inside all the hostess has to do is sit with him and make him think he's going to get sex. The hostesses earn 27 per cent of the man's bill. The waitress takes 13 per cent off each of the hostesses.

Then the council insisted we put a price list on each table, so we did. It's printed in gothic script in red ink on red card. We keep the lights low so you can't actually read it. If the cops come we turn the lights up and there it is.

The drinks have exotic names but none have alcohol in - we don't have a licence for that. When the bill arrives it includes the hostess fee, the waitress fee and a service charge. Depending on how much we reckon we can take the punter for, it goes from a few hundred to £600.

The girls walk out with £300-400 for a shift, and the club can make two grand on a good day. When punters refuse to pay we threaten to call the police. Then the girls will start shouting at them, humiliating them and calling them every name under the sun. It almost never gets violent - that would bring too much trouble - we just intimidate people into paying up.'

Years of operating on the fringes of legality mean the operators have learnt to use every trick to help them avoid prosecution. Customers who are taken to cashpoints are presented with receipts which state: 'Due to being unfamiliar with the Soho area I have requested that someone show me where I can obtain funds.'

A Soho Cabaret menu shows the cheapest drink is the Blue Lagoon, price £95. The dearest is Le Cabaret Special which costs £225. There is a hostess fee of £95 and a service charge of 25 per cent.


26th  February

 Mail Order Test Case Update

Officially now recognised as a test case at Liverpool Magistrates Court, 2nd April 2004

Liverpool City Council v Interfact Limited

The issues of principle to be determined in this case are:

  1. whether a licensed sex shop can supply R18 videos by way of mail order ore telephone order or wehether supply can only be made to a person physically present in the licensed sex shop.
  2. whether a licensed sex shop may offer to supply R18 videos by way of mail order or telephone order

I have also been informed that Pabo (the mail-order company owned by Beate Uhse) are going to court over the mail-order R18 issue and will appear after the case above. This case is again brought by Liverpool Trading Substandards.

Pabo have German directors and supply from Holland and hence the supply side seems totally legal. Point 2 above is therefore crucial in that Liverpool Trading Substandards seem to be contending that although the supply is perfectly legal then they are still not allowed to offer to supply by way of mail order or telephone order.

It is interesting to follow through some of the ludicrous outcomes that would occur if this point were to be upheld. All sorts of, eg web site intermediaries, may be liable for hassle.  In addition the concept may be extended to the purchase of foreign mainstream DVDs.

I presume our authorities will be proving the harm that would otherwise be caused when justifying their noxious attempts at mass censorship


22nd February

  Passionate Violence

From The Sunday Times

The Mel Gibson film The Passion of the Christ is to receive an 18 classification in Britain because of its graphic scenes of violence against Jesus.

The decision has disappointed Icon, Gibson’s film company, which had expected the same 15 rating that it has received in Ireland. This would have enabled the film to reach a far wider audience.

Sources at the BBFC said this weekend that there had been no doubts about giving an 18 rating to what it considered “a very violent film”.

The board’s decision has been backed by one of the few people in Britain to have seen the film. It doesn’t surprise me, said Steve Chalke, a Baptist minister who recently wrote a book called The Lost Message of Jesus. It was the most violent film I’ve ever seen. And I’m including Reservoir Dogs and A Clockwork Orange . This film is an hour-and-a-half of unmitigated violence against Jesus.

However, Chalke believes that The Passion of the Christ is an accurate portrayal. It depicts Jesus being bound, kicked, whipped and spat at. He suffers relentless blows to his body and has chunks of his back torn out by whips.

The film opens on March 26. It has worried some in the Jewish community, particularly in America, where it opens on Wednesday. It has been condemned as anti-semitic because it shows Jews capturing Christ, though Romans commit most of the violence.

Lord Janner, former president of the Board of Deputies, which represents British Jews, said he hoped this film does not create ill will among our community . Gibson denies the film is anti-semitic.


9th February

  Blame in Brighton

If I remember correctly my local MP David Lepper was a member of the local branch of Liberty. I wonder why he is getting involved in this sensationalist blame campaign.

From This is Brighton & Hove

MPs are to consider banning porn web sites in the aftermath of the Jane Longhurst murder trial .

Brighton MP David Lepper is putting down an Early Day Motion in the Commons calling for a review of the law. He is hoping to get support of MPs from all parties. The motion is being jointly proposed with Martin Salter, MP for Reading where Jane's family live.

Lepper said: I have also written to the Home Office and I am meeting with ministers as soon as possible. Graham Coutts visited rape, murder and strangulation web sites both before and after strangling Miss Longhurst, the 31-year-old teacher from Brighton.

Lewes Crown Court heard how they fuelled his sexual fantasies and contributed to Jane's death. Coutts, 35, from Hove, was jailed for life. After the trial, Jane's family launched a campaign to rid the internet of the "monstrous" web sites.

Ray Wyre, one of the country's leading experts on sex offences, is backing the move and said Jane would be alive today had it not been for internet porn. Wyre, founder of the Centre for Investigations into Prevention and Study of Sex Crime Abuse in Milton Keynes, said web sites legitimised disturbed fantasists and some even offered users advice on escaping prosecution. He said he was convinced there was a direct causal link between pornography and crime.

The campaign is being headed by Jane's mother Liz, and Jane's partner Malcolm Sentance, who lives in Brighton. They have been backed by Sussex Police. Detective Chief Superintendent Graham Cox, head of CID, said porn sites were not the only concern. He said an internet link had been established in a suicide in Sussex. Cox said he would welcome research into the idea of destroying the sites electronically in ways similar to virus protection systems.

Peter Haydn-Smith, consultant forensic psychiatrist with East Sussex Health Care, said people like Coutts were very rare. Such acts represented sadistic control and while some people enjoyed these perversions, very few would go too far. He said any site that showed violence was not desirable but he was unsure how they could be policed.


5th February

 Watching the Internet Watch Foundation Watch the Sensational Press

I am not sure how the sensationalisation from the press will take hold but perhaps the following may provide a reasonable indicator of the response from the authorities:

From The Internet Watch Foundation

In March 2003, Graham Coutts strangled 31 year old Jane Longhurst with a pair of tights and then hid her body in a storage unit, keeping it as a ‘trophy’ and visiting it regularly for over a month.

The prosecution said Coutts was a frequent viewer of violent pornography on the internet and suggested an “obvious parallel between the images he chose to access on his computer and the scene that confronted him at the storage location…..he acted out for real on the unfortunate Jane Longhurst the fantasies on his computer, the strangling, the killing and raping of her.”

The trial ended today when a jury returned a ‘Guilty’ verdict and Judge Richard Brown sentenced Coutts to a minimum of 30 years saying: In seeking perverted sexual gratification by way of your sordid and evil fantasies, you have taken her life and devastated the lives of those she loved and of those who loved her.

The remit of the IWF includes assessing potentially illegal adult & obscene material submitted to us via our Internet ‘hotline’. Adult Content is governed under the UK Obscene Publications Act and any prosecutions and sentencing relating to such content, are at the discretion of the judge, in each individual case.

Obscene Publications Act 1959

Adult websites can be cited in criminal cases, however, the Act is a complex piece of legislation, which is not necessarily easily defined, explained or enforced.

There is different legislation applied to adult content all over the world, in terms of what is legal and illegal.

Legislation over internet content, comes under the jurisdiction of the country of source, therefore the IWF and UK Law Enforcement Agencies can only control material hosted in the UK.

At the IWF we do sometimes receive complaints about websites & material which contains adult content, but unless they are hosted in the UK and may potentially be ‘borderline extreme’ in terms of content, i.e. it is unclear as to whether the images may be illegal, it is not within our remit to further investigate these sites.

In those cases, our highly trained Internet Content Analysts may feel they warrant additional scrutiny by the UK Police and forward them to the relevant law enforcement agency. They then decide whether any prosecution may be actionable in a UK court of law.

It is our view, that if the two websites cited in this specific case, were hosted in the UK that we would have referred these sites to the UK Police for further investigation under the Obscene Publications Act.

Child abuse images are generally thought to be globally unacceptable so, in the main, there are clear guidelines and legislation internationally, on possession and distribution of such images.

Such content is governed under more specific legislation:
Protection of Children Act, 1978 (England and Wales)
Civic Government Act, 1982 (Scotland)

In relation to child abuse images, the UK ISP’s are stringently regulated under this UK law.

They work with the IWF on a 'notice and take down' mechanism and as such, the percentage of UK hosted potentially illegal content has been reduced from 18% to 1% since 1997.

Due to the increasing diversity in social attitudes, 'adult' content, the context in which it is viewed & possessed and any 'influence' it may have, is very difficult to govern.

This may go some way to explaining the difference in legislation and Government & Industry attention & resource covering ‘adult’ & extreme ‘adult’ content, compared to child abuse images.


3rd February

  Mail Order Judgement

There is a very important test case approaching that will examine the Video Recordings Act and in particular the interpretation of restrictions to mail order videos from sex shops. The phrases "Offer to Supply" and "Supply by way of Mail Order" for R18's will be tested.

Sheptonhurst and Liverpool trading sub-standards go to court on April 2nd. Both sides have indicated that if they lose there will be appeals.

Let's hope that this ludicrous prohibition can finally be laid to rest.


2nd February

  Mobile Entertainment

Based on an article from The Feature

Several UK carriers and content providers have gathered in London last week to try and find a solution to their censorship requirement: how do they make adult content easily available to those who are willing to pay for it, but keep the material out of the hands of kids?

UK carriers have already agreed on a code of conduct that says buyers must be 18 to buy a phone with unrestricted Internet access, with an "independent commission" determining what content kids shouldn't be able to access.

Silly me for thinking parents should be able to decide what's appropriate for their children. Silly them for thinking it will take a group of enterprising teenagers more than a few days to find a way around the blocks, like they've done with everything else that's been thrown at them. But I digress.

The networks' fear is that if they don't come up with an effective solution quickly, the government will step in to regulate mobile adult content, which really isn't just porn, but also includes other content like violent games, gambling, and unmoderated chatrooms. But this business is looking too lucrative for the carriers to let any control slip out of their hands and into restrictive government rules.

Fair enough, but let's be realistic about things. It's true that while parents can exert control over a wired Net connection by putting a PC in a shared space in their house, or limiting access, that's not so easy with a Net-enabled phone. But adding blocks and filters to phones does little more than provide a challenge for teenage hacker wanna-bes. And how do you keep pace with the changing online landscape, where sites appear and disappear constantly? Say something like is on the banned list. What about somebody's personal site where they've scanned in some porn and put it up on the Web, how do you keep track of those? Special boob-sensing algorithms?

What's most likely to happen is that users of these locked-out phones will only be able to access "approved" sites, rather than kept off "unapproved" sites. Does this sound familiar? It should, as it's the same walled garden approach that was one of the nails in WAP's coffin.

A board member of the Mobile Entertainment Forum, one of the trade groups behind the "Delivering Mobile Adult Content Responsibly" conference. says in the BBC article that the companies are trying to make adult content not easy to find accidentally. I thought people only said "Oops, I found this porn -- on accident!" as a lame excuse. With the weak navigation and user interfaces of many mobile content offerings and browsers, the chances of somebody finding some naked pictures "accidentally" on their mobile is ridiculously low.

While the idea of protecting children is noble, they also need to be careful to not stifle the still-young mobile content business. After all, "adult content" like porn and gambling has been a solid financial foundation for many a media technology, like cable and satellite TV and yes, the Internet.

The BBC article, of course, ends with the obligatory doomsday paedophilia warning that's become standard in the British press in these pieces. The head of the "Cyberspace Research Unit" at the University of Central Lancashire (who is said to be an expert on paedophiles' use of technology) says there's already software that "would allow someone to grab information about a child via their phone and build up useful information about when they are vulnerable."

More information than luddite paedophile techniques like stalking? And anyway, wouldn't an easy way to identify a child over the mobile Net be to identify phones with the adult content blocks?


26th January

  R18 Hardcore at the Cinema

Based on an article from The Times

Explict pornographic films from the silent era are to be screened in British cinemas after the chance discovery of 300 reels in the attic of a “very respectable family” in France.

Orgies, gay and lesbian sex and a dog flirting with a nun are among the subjects featured in the films, which date from 1905 to 1930.

Some of the hardcore material will startle the most blasé 21st-century viewer, even though it is in black and white with a tinkly piano , a spokeswoman for the BBFC said.

The owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, stumbled across the collection while clearing out his attic. The films, edited into a 71-minute compilation called Good Old Naughty Days , were intended for screening in brothels and many of them star staff and clients. For obvious reasons, none of the participants wanted to be identified.

Michel Reihac, the project’s producer, said: It’s rather delightful to watch these ‘actors’ having to readjust their wigs and fake moustaches in the middle of their scenes so as not to be recognised. He added that the films were a part of the secret history of cinema. The bedroom callisthenics of modern porn are already here, but what comes as a surprise is quite how jolly and no-holds-barred the shenanigans are: malefemale, female-female and male-male.”

Right from the very first days of silent movies, the camera seems to have been the perfect voyeuristic tool to film people making love. An underground production system started taking shape very early on, allowing private collectors to satisfy their own secret passion for transgressive sexual footage. He noted that production standards were far in advance of films being made elsewhere at the time — as well as an inventive and often humorous array of diverse couplings

They were shown regularly in the waiting-rooms of sophisticated brothels. They also educated young men who would visit brothels on Sundays after Mass, “along with their uncles”. M Reihac said that they would watch the films to learn how to perform sexually. He added: They basically received a sexual education from these films and could go on to practise what they had learnt. By watching these films one can easily see that the modern porn industry did not invent anything. Everything had already been filmed by our great-grandparents.”

The films have been restored by the Centre National de la Cinématographie, the equivalent of the British Film Institute. Good Old Naughty Days has a restricted R18 classification, but arthouse cinemas can show the film with a special licence. The Other Cinema, near Leicester Square, in Central London, will show it on March 26. Other venues nationwide will follow.


17th January

  Censorship of the (Un)Justified Kind?

Based on an article from The Guardian

Peers have called on the government to shut down an extreme rightwing website which the Guardian revealed was being used by hardliners to plan a campaign of "violence and intimidation" against opponents of the British National party and other far right groups.

The Redwatch site carries hundreds of pictures and details of anti-fascists, many taken during protests against the BNP, with the slogan "Remember places, traitors' faces, they'll all pay for their crimes".

The Guardian uncovered a secret hit list of targets, including social workers, journalists and politicians, on a secure email network attached to the site, which also gave instructions for bomb-making.

Speaking during questions in the House of Lords last week, the Liberal Democrat Lord Greaves said: A great deal of the material upon the website appears to be sent by active and leading members of the British National party. The material consists of more than 1,000 photographs of anti-Nazi, anti-racist activists with their addresses, telephone numbers and, where applicable, car registration numbers.

He said the site, which is linked to the Nazi group Combat 18, breached the law on incitement to violence and incitement to racial hatred, and asked what the government was doing to tackle those responsible.

The Home Office minister Baroness Scotland said: We have discussed this with the police, the information commissioner and the Internet Watch Foundation, all of whom are aware of these websites. We are currently working on an e-crime strategy that will include consideration of issues such as these."

Since he made the speech Lord Greaves's picture and details have been posted on the Redwatch website. Details of Baroness Scotland have appeared on Stormfront, a linked site.

In June the BNP, which has sought to position itself as a respectable, mainstream political party under the leadership of Nick Griffin, is expected to field a record number of candidates in the local and European elections.

Many who have spoken against the party and appeared on Redwatch have suffered harassment and violence.

From Hansard

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to take action to deal with threats and intimidation arising from websites which provide personal details of active opponents of fascist and racist parties.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal) : My Lords, we have discussed this with the police, the Information Commissioner and the Internet Watch Foundation, all of whom are aware of these websites. It is important that the provisions of the Public Order Act 1986 and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 be used when breaches occur. Anyone with concerns should make them known to the relevant authorities and to the Internet Watch Foundation. We are currently working on an e-crime strategy that will include consideration of issues such as these.

Lord Greaves : My Lords, I thank the Minister for that helpful reply. The website concerned, Red Watch, was set up about two years ago by Combat 18, a Nazi hit group. It is registered by the National Front and the White Nationalist Party. A great deal of the material upon the website appears to be posted on it and sent to it by active and leading members of the British National Party. The material consists of more than 1,000 photographs of anti-Nazi, anti-racist activists with their addresses, telephone numbers and, where applicable, car registration numbers. I believe that the Minister confirmed that the security and police forces are looking at the matter. Will she reconfirm that? Will she also tell us whether they are devoting sufficient resources to this particular problem which quite clearly involves breaches of the law, incitement to violence against individuals and their property and incitement to racial hatred? This is a serious matter. Just because the people concerned are on the Left does not mean that they deserve less protection than if they were businessmen or other people. Will the Minister confirm that?

Baroness Scotland : My Lords, I confirm that all proper steps will be taken if any person is found to be in breach of the law. The difficulty that we have experienced is that operators of certain websites have sought to avoid overstepping the conduct that the legislation defines as criminal. They fly very close to the wind. I reassure the House that although we intend to keep the position under review we do not believe that the absence of charges so far against any particular website has yet established that we need new offences or safeguards. However, I confirm that the matter will be kept under close scrutiny.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth : My Lords, I am very grateful for the noble Lord's Question. The Chief Rabbi drew attention to the growing threat of racism on Radio 4 last November following the bombing of synagogues in Istanbul. It seems to me that the matter goes beyond present legislative abilities. Do the Government agree that the precious gift of freedom of speech is being abused and that action needs to be taken to protect very vulnerable people, including some young people, and to make clear to those who are just getting on the thither side of existing legislation, but not quite, that there are limits to the toleration that the rest of the community can extend to them? 


16th January

  Ratings Report: Must Do Better

From Mega Games

Apparently the ESRB is so worried about struggling computer game sales and the growing concerns about their effects on young gamers that it commissioned a study in order to convince parents that video game content is thoroughly checked and correctly labelled. Although the study's results are questionable because of the small sample size, it still does provide indications that parents agree with ESRB ratings.

An independent study released recently found that parents overwhelmingly approve of the ratings assigned to computer and video games. The study, conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, was commissioned by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).

arents find computer and video game ratings to be highly accurate, wrote Hart Research in a memorandum summarizing the results. The tastes and values of ESRB raters consistently and reliably match those of American parents.

The study showed 400 randomly selected parents footage from popular computer and video games. Respondents were then asked if they considered the actual ESRB rating about right, too strict, or too lenient. Interviews were conducted at ten shopping malls in different regions of the United States in order to ensure geographic diversity.

An overwhelming majority of the time (84 per cent), parents agreed with the ESRB ratings or thought the ratings were too strict. Parents described the actual ratings as about right in 77 per cent of all instances and too strict seven percent of the time. These results are consistent with previous studies measuring parental agreement with ESRB ratings.

This study confirms that parents find ESRB ratings accurate and trustworthy, said Patricia E. Vance, president of the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Parents can shop with confidence, knowing that ESRB ratings provide the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions.

ESRB ratings have two parts: rating symbols, which provide general age-appropriateness recommendations, and content descriptors, which are short phrases that tell consumers about specific content elements that may be of interest or concern. Content descriptors also help explain why a game received a particular rating. 

ESRB rating symbols include EC (Early Childhood), E (Everyone), T (Teen), M (Mature), and AO (Adults Only). ESRB currently uses more than thirty standardized content descriptors, including edutainment, cartoon violence, and strong language.


14th January

  Wives Roasting

Based on an article from
Thanks to Carl at

Scenes in Footballers' Wives, featuring a four-in-a-bed sex session, have been banned by TV bosses. The sex scene in the new series was pulled by ITV chiefs who feared a backlash from viewers. (Why would spineless bosses fear a back lash?)

Their decision follows allegations of a similar act - known as "roasting" - which was made against real footballers by a teenage girl. The TV show was to have featured the drama's screen siren Tanya Turner, bisexual team captain Conrad Gates, his wife and a hunky

One programme insider said: Footballers' Wives has always featured sex scenes which cause a bit of a stir. But these scenes were just one step too far, particularly because of the current 'roasting' controversy.

Viewers would have been shown the scene in the first episode of the new series. But a show spokeswoman said: There is no 'roasting' and the scene will not be shown in its entirety.


11th January

  Sensitive Beeb

From The Telegraph

Kilroy-Silk: I won't be gagged about the evils of Arab states .

Robert Kilroy-Silk, the BBC television presenter suspended after launching a vitriolic attack against Arab states in a newspaper column, yesterday defended his right to criticise despotic Middle Eastern regimes.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Kilroy-Silk said: If I am not allowed to say that there are Arab states that are evil, despotic and treat women abominably, if I am not allowed to say that, which I know to be a fact, then what can I say?

The presenter, whose daytime talk show, Kilroy, on BBC1, could be dropped altogether depending on the outcome of an investigation by the Corporation into an article written for last week's Sunday Express, insisted that he was not racist. Whatever else I am, I am not a racist I have done more for race relations than the Commission for Racial Equality, empowering black people and presenting them in a positive light. I have gone out of my way to do that, sometimes I might have gone too far.

He said that he had made similar comments about the treatment of women and human rights abuses in the Arab world while on an official visit to Saudi Arabia. He said: The Arab princes loved it. They kept asking me: 'Where is the militant?'

Kilroy-Silk insisted that the offending column, headlined We owe Arabs nothing", had been printed in error and had first appeared in the paper last April, at the height of the war with Iraq. He said the original piece, entitled US Loathsome? Shame on Them , was a response to criticism of the allied campaign by Arab states. He blamed its reappearance on the fact that a secretary in his production office had sent the wrong email attachment to The Sunday Express, where a series of unauthorised changes were made.

There are a number of significant differences between the two articles. The second one seems to have been altered to ensure its topicality. The second article also goes further than the first in linking Arab states with the atrocities of September 11. It blames Arabs for the "murder of 3,000 people".

The presenter, who said he would be back at work this week despite the suspension of his show, appealed to the BBC to stand by him. I hope they will say, 'How can we properly resolve this situation and keep him as an asset to the BBC?'I'm disappointed that the BBC didn't feel able to support me. I understand its need to say the column is nothing to do with it but my impartiality on the programme has never been a problem.

A BBC spokesman declined to comment on specific issues while an investigation was under way.


11th January

  Sensitive Americans

Lets hope the gag about the US bullies at least gets the widest possible audience :) Lets also hope that the movie doesn't so enrapt passengers that a large number wait to the end of the movie before going to the loo.

From The Telegraph

It is meant to be one of the most cheerful and uplifting films of the moment, but Love Actually , the box office hit seen by millions of Britons, has been judged to be too frightening for airline passengers.

British Airways has decided that the film will have to be censored before it is shown on its aircraft because of a reference to September 11.

The decision has infuriated the film's producer, Duncan Kenworthy, who described the censorship as "ludicrous". It will prompt renewed concern that the airline is over-reacting to the threat of terrorism.

British Airways, which plans to screen Love Actually , on flights from March, insisted, however, that the film would have to be cut before it was suitable to be shown to passengers.

A spokesman for BA said that the offending passage was an opening speech by Hugh Grant, which includes the lines: When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge. They were all messages of love.

The spokesman said: We have made a very small edit to the beginning of the film and removed a reference in the script to the tragic events of September 11. We feel that this is justified given the terrible events of that day and in no way detracts from the rest of the film .

Kenworthy, however, criticised BA's argument, adding that he was disappointed by the way in which airlines generally imposed more stringent cuts than those demanded by sanitised American television networks. I find it ludicrous. If it's OK to watch on American television it should be available for viewing on airlines.

He also expressed surprise that airlines were unconcerned by a scene later in the film that portrays a young boy deceiving security personnel at Heathrow and sprinting through several checkpoints.

Kenworthy said that despite his protests, film producers had no choice other than to bow to airline pressure because of the substantial sums of money involved in licensing agreements. He added: I don't like censorship at any point, BUT I am contractually obliged to provide a version acceptable to the airlines. [yeah yeah]

BA issues guidelines to an outside agency, which provides its on-board entertainment, asking it to select films with a "general appeal" to the broad range of ages and nationalities on its flights.

Films containing foul language and graphic scenes of a violent or sexual nature are rejected or censored. Portrayals of air crashes or hijackings are also cut. Passengers on flights operated by Virgin Atlantic, BA's rival, will be able to see Love Actually uncut on flights from February, although a warning about the Hugh Grant speech will be printed in the in-flight magazine.

Lysette Gauna, the head of media at Virgin, said: As long as sufficient information is given on the nature of the movie and we offer channel-blocking to parents, we believe that we can let passengers watch the movie as the director intended.


10th January

  Video Recording Cabaret Act

Many thanks to Simon for this fascinating chat . I half remember once getting a copy of the 18 rated Last Seduction with The Independent so precedents may already be set.

Simon to the BBFC:

I’ve recently seen an advert for the Daily Mirror on television saying they were giving away a free DVD of Cabaret this weekend. To the best of my knowledge this film has a 15 certificate. As paperboys/girls, many of whom are under 15, will be delivering this paper I was wondering what the Board’s position on this is, as surely an underage person supplying a film with an above-age certificate is illegal. Could you put me straight on this matter. Thanks for your help.

It would be illegal to supply the disc to a person under 15. However, it is not illegal for somebody under 15 to supply the disc (at least there is nothing in law that specifically forbids it).

Surely though the papershops etc... are supplying the film to a person under 15 in order for them to deliver it.

That's a good point - we'd completely missed that one. You're quite right, this could well be an offence.

Does this mean that any newsagent across the UK who sells a copy of the Daily Mirror tomorrow to anyone under 15 would be in breach of the law?

Yes. The BBFC itself has no role in enforcing the Video Recordings Act. If you remain concerned (and rightly so!) we suggest you point it out to Trading Standards.


2nd January

  Blaming Porn for Soham

From an interview with the shameful Dr Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham in the Independent

We think that we have so many rules and regulations we can stop things from going wrong. We are lulled into a false sense of security. But then, whether with the two little girls in Soham or the two giant towers in New York, evil is suddenly back and as a culture we don't have the coping mechanisms. But evil is powerful and it matters. In Christianity we have a God who takes the pain of the world upon himself. And thereby provides healing and new life which is a way out of it.

Sex is one touchstone in all this. Our culture screams that sex is for enjoyment, for recreation. But sex is like fire. It brings warmth and life to a relationship. Yet we light our fire only in the fireplace; if we lit it wherever the room was chilly we'd burn the house down. If we don't keep sex in its proper place perhaps we shouldn't be surprised when it backfires on us. I don't know what sort of a mindset Ian Huntley had but I do know that he grew up in a world so soaked in a free-and-easy sex culture, a pornography culture which says 'sex is there for the taking, everyone wants it really', without any sense of human dignity or of the preciousness of sex.

In a society which has seen a sexual revolution within a generation it is fair to ask, historically, 'Which generation in which culture would you trust to tell the truth about sex? Would you chose one like ours, which has produced so many bruised, wounded broken families, domestic chaos, and teenage pregnancies'?

If this ignores the fact that many other eras have been characterised by sexual licence it reveals something of Dr Wright's personal history. As someone who's been a pastor of students for many years I have picked up the pieces, time after time, of those kinds of relationships. As a society we need to take several steps back and ask whether we like where we've got to.

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