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UK News

2005: April-June

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23rd June  Tom & Jerry View of Reality

The first thought that struck me was the lack of reality in expecting adults to police 16 & 17 year olds. They are able to have sex, get married, get a job, live alone etc, there is absolutely no way that the parents are going to have any say in what they watch or do in their own rooms. When I was that age total privacy was assumed. There was no way that my parents would presume to enter my space particularly when I had company etc. Arguments about lifestyle and space are common and I can't imagine many families rating the age restrictions on videos and games of sufficient importance to risk yet another row. The balance of power shifts once the youngsters have or will soon have the ultimate sanction to leave home and do their own thing.

So I suggest to the Government that they get a bit of perspective and accept that every generation has happily lived with adult pleasures being enjoyed a few years too early. It never harmed us so why should it harm the current generation. Behaviour is surely changing due to freedom, communications, housing, wealth and preferences for small family units etc, I really don't think that getting overly concerned about age restrictions on cartoon imagery will make any significant impact whatsoever.

 From the BBC

Ways of ensuring that parents know which video games are suitable for children are to be considered by the games industry. The issue was discussed at a meeting between UK government officials, industry representatives and the BBFC. It follows concerns that children may be playing games aimed at adults which include high levels of violence.

Violent games have been hit by controversy after the game Manhunt was blamed by the parents of 14-year-old Stefan Pakeerah, who was stabbed to death in Leicester in February. His mother, Giselle, said her son's killer, Warren Leblanc, 17 - who was jailed for life in September - had mimicked behaviour in the game. Police investigating Stefan's murder dismissed its influence and said Manhunt was not part of its legal case.

The issue of warnings on games for adults was raised on Sunday by Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt. This was the focus of the talks between government officials, representatives from the games industry and the BBFC.

Adults can make informed choices about what games to play. Children can't and they deserve to be protected, said Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell after the meeting. Industry will consider how to make sure parents know what games their children should and shouldn't play. "

Roger Bennett, director general of Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association, said: " A number of initiatives were discussed at the meeting. They will be formulated to create specific proposals to promote greater understanding, recognition and awareness of the games rating system, ensuring that young people are not exposed to inappropriate content.

Among the possible measures could be a campaign to explain to parents that many games are made for an adult audience, as well as changes to the labelling of the games themselves.

According to industry statistics, a majority of players are over 18, with the average age of a gamer being 29.

Academics point out that there has not been any definitive research linking bloodthirsty games such as Manhunt with violent responses in players. In a report published this week for the Video Standards Council, Dr Guy Cumberbatch said: The research evidence on media violence causing harm to viewers is wildly exaggerated and does not stand up to scrutiny.


19th June   Nutters in Unison

From The Guardian

Plans to make comedians sign a contract agreeing to avoid jokes which might offend minorities were criticised as an attack on free speech yesterday.

Councillors in Newcastle upon Tyne are to be asked to consider banning performers whose acts are branded offensive, racist, sexist or homophobic. It followed calls from the public sector union Unison to ban the comedian Roy Chubby Brown from playing the City Hall, where he has appeared regularly for 20 years.

The issue was passed by the council to its equalities board which has recommended the council bans from its venues "acts contrary to the council's visions, values and social inclusion agenda, and which conflict with its community leadership role".

Martin Callanan, the Conservative MEP for the North East, said: There is a difference between being grossly offensive and being funny and it is a difficult line to judge sometimes, but I think we have to err on the side of free speech. People who went to see acts like Chubby Brown knew what they were getting


11th June   Deep Throat in Edinburgh

From The Herald

Deep Throat , a documentary about what is arguably the most famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) pornographic film of all time, opens in cinemas around the country today. Next week, Edinburgh's Cameo cinema will present two midnight screenings of the original 1972 picture

Catherine Harper, of Edinburgh-based nutters Women Against Pornography, has a simple view of the film. Her organisation objected to Edinburgh Council's decision to grant the Cameo permission to show Deep Throat , but was overruled. We don't object to erotica, but to pornography. As long as films like this are being sold as entertainment, what message is being sent out? Films like this are about hate. We should be asking the question why has sex become about hate? [maybe because nutters like you think that you can impose your hateful morality on your fellow man]

The Cameo screenings of Deep Throat are on Friday and Saturday, June 17 and 18, according to Edinburgh Council guidelines, under a Restricted 18 certification. As such, the film can only be shown as a club screening, with club membership reserved for over-18s only and approvable no later than 24 hours in advance.


9th June   Hated Law

In the extreme people are killed, tortured and mutilated in the name of religion. It is often worthy of hatred. Even in day to day life it seems to be a characteristic of religious people that they try and impose their views on their fellow man. Surely I have a right to hate those that try and restrict my liberty and surely I have a right to communicate this opinion to those that care to listen.

From the BBC

A re-generated bill that would make incitement to religious hatred illegal is being unveiled by the government.
The legislation is an attempt to end extremist bigotry, but there are concerns it may stifle religious debate and even constrain comedians.

The bill forbids insulting words or behaviour that are intended or likely to stir up hatred on religious grounds. If it mirrors racial hatred laws, the maximum sentence for those found guilty will be seven years in prison.

The bill will apply to comments made in public or the media, as well as written material. The government says the legislation is a response to the concerns of faith groups, particularly Muslims, who feel they are not given the same protection under the law as others such as Christians or Jews.

But an earlier bill introduced prior to the general election was opposed in the House of Lords by those who deemed it to be an assault on the freedom of speech. They say religions must be allowed criticise each other, and this proposed new law could open a Pandora's box of prosecutions between faiths.

Rowan Atkinson has warned that comedians like him were at risk of prosecution for lampooning religious figures. But Home Office ministers pointed out that this was not the intention of the legislation.


4th June

Updated 9th June

  Deep Throat Coming to Hampstead

Deep Throat will be shown in Brighton the following week and then to Edinburgh and other cinemas depending upon council permission.

From Ham & High 24

The most famous and lucrative porn film ever made will make its UK mainstream cinema debut in Hampstead, London next week.

Deep Throat sent shockwaves through the worlds of politics, art, fashion and the law during the 1970s, spawning protests, lawsuits and moral outrage. It was  banned in 23 American states on obscenity charges and until now British audiences have only ever seen it in sex cinemas.

Next Friday it will be screened at the Everyman Cinema Club, in Holly Bush Vale. Those who wish to see Deep Throat must complete free membership forms at Everyman at least 24 hours before the screening.

And a straw poll on the streets of Hampstead showed locals are not getting their knickers in a twist about their moment in the sexual limelight.

Artist Lydia Kemeny said: I remember the controversy over the film back in the 70s but I think pornography is part of living these days. It's regrettable if this sort of thing gets into the hands of children but there's so much of it around that I don't think many people will be shocked. I would have thought though that people here are broad minded enough and well off enough to have got hold of the film already if that's what they're into.

Gillian McAndrew said the idea that the screening of Deep Throat in Hampstead would disgust residents was wide of the mark. It's a free world and I cannot see why people living here should be any less likely to be interested in the film than anywhere else , There seems to be an increasing audience for this sort of thing and if people don't approve they don't have to go. I think we're all old enough to make up our own minds.

Daniel Broch, managing director of Everyman, said: This is a rare opportunity to show a film that's in many ways a cultural phenomenon. We are screening it in conjunction with the launch of a new documentary called Inside Deep Throat , which examines the film's legacy on society. I don't think the concept of sex is alien to the people of Hampstead.

Deep Throat is only the second film ever shown in British cinemas to be rated R18 because of its content. The first was The Good Old Naughty Days , an explicit compilation of restored French blue movies from the 1920s which was released last year.


2nd June   When the State Suggests Self Censorship

Ian Bell's column seemed to be suggesting that there is some reluctance for the media to give us the full perspective about the risks of disaster from AIDs or Bird Flu. I couldn't read between the lines well enough to understand the form that political pressure was taking though. Perhaps the column has been censored. Anyway the article also has some interesting snippets about suggestions of past bouts of press censorship.

Based on an article by Ian Bell from The Sunday Herald

Years ago, I had my one and only brush with the D-notice system, that informal arrangement by which the government persuaded the media to censor themselves. A reporter in my charge with a well-developed suspicious streak had been spotted crawling through the undergrowth near a Scottish military installation. Now, here was a retired admiral on the line asking if I would mind terribly advising the chap on the fine print in the Official Secrets Act.

My then-editor was on the D-notice committee and had already been nobbled, so there wasn’t much point in arguing. The story hadn’t come to much in any case, and all I had to show for it was my own souvenir folder of D-notices dealing with old and very dull news. Over the years, though, I’ve wondered about the incident.

Our intrepid hack hadn’t found anything sensational, yet why had a very posh retired admiral warned us off? Had we missed something, or was the old boy simply following the habits of a lifetime, and of British officialdom down the decades? Was he merely justifying his wages or acting in the country’s best interests? And what would we have done if we’d discovered fishy goings-on?

Editors face these questions more often than the public probably realises. To some, in certain circumstances, a duty to the truth can seem like an excuse for irresponsibility. Another case in point: back in the 1980s, riots were sweeping England. Officially, nothing much was happening in Scotland. Unofficially, some of us knew that there had been serious trouble on some Scottish housing schemes. The papers wouldn’t touch the story. The authorities had decided that coverage might lead to “copy-cat violence” – an odd point of view, since the violence was already happening – and editors had agreed with them.

You could have called it a cover-up; you might equally have called it common sense. One truth was that Scotland had not been immune to the trouble; another was that editors did not want to give young people ideas and add to the trouble.

The tale of Scotland’s struggle with sectarianism followed a similar pattern for a long time. Why was it a “secret shame”? In part because editors believed that if they gave prominence to the issue of bigotry there was a risk, a real one they thought, of importing Northern Ireland’s troubles to the central belt. Given that this often-feared development never occurred in any serious way, credit could be claimed for self-censorship. It remains the case, nevertheless, that Scotland shied away from the problem of religious hatred for years, in part because some people chose to be “responsible”.

It cuts both ways. A large part of Africa’s population is being destroyed by HIV/Aids because the story has been told too slowly and too late. Why so? Because the victims are black, poor, far away and suffering from a complex of diseases misrepresented for two decades by a press keener to talk about gay plagues than about poverty and education.

The media, obviously enough, cannot tell every story. It is a fact of life, equally, that all governments try to hide the truth from their populations, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for bad, and sometimes because they see no other choice. People know as much, and expect nothing else. A government without secrets would, in all probability, be governing badly. So we make a judgement. Was it necessary to deceive us over the Iraq war? Not in any rational sense. In fact, if Bush and Blair had simply said that removing genocidal monsters is always a just cause, a few more people might have supported them.

In a small way, I’ve just tested the proposition. Epidemiologists have been predicting a devastating influenza outbreak for some time. The 1918 onslaught of Spanish flu may be a dimming folk memory, but it killed perhaps 50 million people. The pandemics of 1957 and 1967 were slight by comparison, but many still died. According to some scientists, unstoppable outbreaks of flu occur on average every 30 years. We’re due, and “bird flu” – the avian influenza virus known as H5N1 – looks like a candidate.

So far, only 50 people have died in southeast Asia and there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted from one person to another. Equally, there is no evidence that the nature of the virus will not change, making a pandemic affecting perhaps 20% of the world’s population inevitable. This is a flu against which our bodies have, as yet, no immunity, and against which we have no vaccines. According to expert articles published in last week’s edition of the journal Nature, official planning is inadequate while actual preparations are patchy. The threat is of a global nature and will need a global response. That isn’t happening.

If the experts are to be believed, in any case, this may be the time to panic somewhat. Professor Albert Osterhaus, the Dutch virologist who contributed to Nature, is in no doubt: where the pandemic is concerned it is a matter of when, not if. He is desperate to force governments to understand the nature of the threat. If H5N1 is mutating now, he claims, we are in big trouble. He also describes the prediction that 7.5 million could die as “optimistic”.

You can’t make rules about the truth, least of all in the media. If we were facing what the biologists call an extinction event, foreknowledge would be irrelevant. What could you do other than pull the blankets over your head? In the case of avian flu, according to those who understand it best, the first problem is one of political will. Even at the risk of panic, people need information if they are to put pressure on their leaders.

It won’t help the cornflakes go down more easily. It won’t help the sun shine more brightly. For those of us who remember the great nuclear stand-off of the cold war, it might mean a return to wondering idly what, if anything, we might do if the worst did happen. But the greatest glory of journalism is its ability to get politicians off their backsides. That seems the obvious course now. Where H5NI is concerned, publish and damn them.


20th May   Paper Monopoly

From The Guardian

The Office of Fair Trading yesterday paved the way for a shake-up in the distribution of newspapers and magazines in Britain with the publication of a controversial draft ruling.

Publishers warned that local newsagents would go the way of the village greengrocer if yesterday's ruling became law, while the OFT accused the industry of wielding the "spectre" of editorial censorship to campaign for the reversal of the draft ruling.

The OFT expanded a view first put forward in a preliminary finding last month that the current system, where distributors have exclusive rights to deliver magazines in a certain region, is anti-competitive and should be opened up to market forces.

Newspaper publishers have been sucked into the argument despite their distribution arrangements receiving an exemption from the OFT. They argue that separating magazines, currently delivered in the same vans, would undermine the economics of the entire system.

Mike Newman, chairman of the Newspaper Publishers' Association circulation executive, said delivering a few newspapers to smaller agents is only economically viable if the same distributor is able to deliver in bulk to larger retailers such as supermarkets. We believe that the OFT's provisional view, if maintained in its final opinion, would threaten the current near universal availability of news and opinion in all parts of the country. Large retailers will hoover up the best deals and everybody else would be left holding the baby. It sounds like an old chestnut but where are the bakers, greengrocers and butchers [in villages]? "

Becket McGrath, the OFT case officer leading the inquiry, dismissed fears that a change in magazine distribution could lead to supermarkets holding editorial sway over magazines as they become the dominant vendors of periodicals. We don't think the situation will arise where you have super-monopolist supermarkets which will determine what people will read. They [publishers] have introduced it as a spectre to get the attention of politicians."

McGrath said joint distribution of magazines and newspapers would be retained if it remained the most efficient way of delivering both prod ucts: If the most efficient way of distributing magazines is through the same vans that newspapers are distributed in, then it will happen naturally.

He said opening magazine distribution to competitors would benefit consumers because under the current system it is publishers, and not readers, who dictate what appears on retailers' shelves. The system is rather topsy-turvy in that it is run by publishers in their interests. They determine what goes to retailers and when. Retailers were telling us that they could not tell the wholesaler that they want so many copies of a magazine because that's what the public wants. They get what the wholesaler and the publisher tells them they are going to get.

A deadline of June 17 has been set for replies to the draft ruling. A final decision is expected by the end of the summer.


17th May   Child Porn Definition Now Stretched Beyond Paedophilia

I believe the authorities have made a big mistake. It is perfectly legal to have consensual sex with a 16 or 17 year old and hence cannot be considered paedophilia. However indecent pictures at this age are now considered illegal (but not Paedophilic).

Before the definitions matched and any successful prosecution could rightfully carry with it the social outrage associated with a serious crime. Now before casting stones we must keep asking the question: were images of people below the age of consent or not?

And perhaps even to answer the IWF's query about the lack of reporting, perhaps pictures of 16 & 17 year olds are not considered worthy of reporting to the police.  It is hopefully ludicrous that any manager would saddle anyone with the horrendous tag of paedophilia for glamour shots of people above the age of consent.

From the BBC

The IWF, UK's child porn watchdog has launched a campaign targeting people who download illegal images at work. Recent legislation makes it easier for technology managers to report incidents such as staff downloading child porn.

But the Internet Watch Foundation said some managers feared finding themselves caught up in criminal proceedings. An IWF survey of 200 firms found 74% of managers would not report guilty staff to the police and 40% would not take steps to discipline or dismiss them.

The IWF, which has called its campaign Wipe it Out, said there was a combination of reasons for this. There was a fear they would be held liable, concerns they could lose their jobs and just a general lack of idea of what to do with such material, said a spokesman.

The report did not, however, establish how widespread the problem is. Anecdotal evidence suggests there is a problem and there have been court cases of people downloading illegal images at work, said the IWF spokesman.

The IWF is keen to raise awareness of changes to the Sexual Offences Act which, from May last year, provided a conditional defence to protect network managers who need to store potentially illegal images of children as evidence. The defence is only valid if the incident is reported within a set amount of time.

The age at which an indecent picture of a child is considered illegal has also been raised from 16 to 18. Any employee with glamour shots of 17-year-olds is now behaving illegally, said the IWF spokesman.

He acknowledged that some child pornography finds its way on to work computers via spam.

In 2004, the IWF received 17,255 reports of illegal child images [but were they above or below the age of consent?], 20% of which were websites. Only 1% of online child pornography is hosted in the UK, according to the IWF.


15th May   Necking in Your Local Cinema

Sounds like Beyer lost his voice for a while, but he found it in his arse.

From The Independent

Deep Throat , the most infamous and lucrative porn film ever made, is to be shown in UK cinemas for the first time after a landmark decision by film censors. Its distributor is negotiating screenings at independent chains, among them City Screen.

The film will be shown alongside a newly made documentary about the movie called Inside Deep Throat which examines its making and the effect of its taking porn into the mainstream. Although Deep Throat was widely seen in the US, in the UK it has been shown only in sex cinemas. It became possible to buy it on video or DVD at sex shops following a change in guidelines applied by the BBFC in 2000.

Because of the film's hardcore content, the BBFC has given it an R18 rating. It will be only the second such movie with that certificate to be screened in British cinemas. The other, The Good Old Naughty Days, was a black and white curio filmed in France a century ago.

A spokeswoman for the film's distributor, Momentum Picture, said the release of Deep Throat was merely to put the documentary into context. There will be strict safeguards over screenings of the film. Cinemas will need to seek a special dispensation from local authorities; they must operate a membership scheme, and there must be no under-18s on the premises.

The Duke of York's Picture House in Brighton has lined up late-night weekend screenings and a number of City Screen's cinemas, including those in Liverpool, Edinburgh and Cambridge, are hoping to show it.

John Beyer of the campaign group Mediawatch-UK thought it was a worrying move.
Film classification is something that needs a thoroughgoing review. Its history] has been to relax at every opportunity to accommodate every whim of film-makers.


15th May   Generation of Injustice Bill

The legislation is clearly bollox. Communication should never be criminalised without some sort of context that provides a justification for the removal our rights to free speech. Broad brush prohibitions will only lead to injustice and vilification of crap law. This should be a serious law with properly thought out and practical restrictions.

To leave crap legislation vague with the idea that the police can be trusted to use it correctly is abhorrent. The history of injustice is littered with examples of police bending vague law to suit their own purposes.

Based on an article from The Guardian

New badly thought out legislation intended to protect children from sex offenders could land the publishers of teen magazines in jail, industry bosses have warned. The new sexual offences law, being discussed in the Scottish parliament, includes a clause that bars anyone from communicating with a child, where any part of the communication is sexual.

The teen magazine industry's regulatory body has warned that the bill, intended to prevent the "grooming" of children by paedophiles, could also incriminate magazine publishers as well as teachers and health professionals, who give advice about sexual matters to children under 16.

The intention is to make grooming of children by predatory paedophiles a criminal offence, but current drafting within the bill lacks the necessary clarity to differentiate between actions to protect the child and those [intended to do] harm, said Dr Fleur Fisher, chairman of the teenage magazine arbitration panel. Agony aunts and advice columns in teenage magazines are one of many important sources of information for kids who want to ask about things that they feel they can't talk about elsewhere. To mop up anyone who has anything to say about sex in the same category as a predatory paedophile is absolutely mad. It is completely irresponsible.

The legislation, part of the Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) bill, is intended to protect children from sexually explicit communications, such as adult pornography or indecent text messages sent by mobile phone. A Risk of Sexual Harm Order, or RSHO, can be implemented where a child is deemed to be at risk. Subsequent breach of the order and conviction can lead to the offender being imprisoned for up to five years. Although the new law would apply only in Scotland, it could affect magazines published elsewhere in the country but distributed north of the border.

Dave Thomas, the director of public and legal affairs at the Periodical Publishers' Association, which administers self-regulatory body TMAP, said the legislation was potentially very serious not just for publishers but for all who work with young children.

An amendment to clarify the bill's intent was withdrawn on the basis that the Scottish deputy justice minister, Hugh Henry, would publish relevant advice for chief constables on the practical use of the legislation.


11th May   Irrelevant Illiberals

Ludicrous musings from Kennedy. I find it hard to believe that 'millions' were swayed by the idea of allowing 16 year olds into sex shop. Slightly more likely that increasing local taxes for half the households in the UK may be more relevant. For a moment I thought the Lib Dems had come up with a well thought out policy worthy of melon farming praise. Dismissing this due to a moment of minor political embarrassment hardly lifts the LibDems thinking ability much above the level of knee jerking has beens

From the Daily Record

Charles Kennedy yesterday promised to scrap soft-line policies on drugs and porn amid fears it cost his party millions of votes.

The Liberal Democrat leader told his MPs he wanted a 'clean sheet' of paper to draw up a programme relevant to the modern world.

Senior party figures believe their policy not to jail any drug user turned off a lot of potential Tory and Labour supporters. There was also widespread anger at the Lib Dem policy to allow 16-year-olds the right to buy booze and hardcore porn. And their plans for a local income tax would have hit millions of two-income families struggling to make ends meet.

Kennedy said he was fed-up at having to follow policies decided by poorly attended Liberal Democrat party conferences. He said: We must reconsider whether it should be possible to commit the party to controversial policies on the basis of a brief debate in a largely empty hall. We must adopt a clean sheet approach.'

He said the party needed to look afresh at all our policies to ensure that they are relevant to changing time and circumstances . He said the move was vital to ensure the Lib Dems did not waste their 'golden opportunity' to seize the initiative in the new Parliament and overtake the Tories as the official opposition.


8th May   Scottish Tits Revealed

There are some pretty nasty people masquerading as politicians who obviously don't give a stuff about their voters or justice. This is dire law in the making, Opening up the definitions so that half of all images of young people can be classed as child pornography. This could devastate the lives of all sorts of innocent people.

In addition it will downgrade offences involving child pornography. Before it was clear that a serious crime was committed when charges involve child pornography. Now there is the distinct probability that it could be a police stitch up and the images under question may be marginally erotic, clothed pictures of a seventeen year old,

From The Times

Newspapers and magazines that publish topless or titillating pictures of young models face being prosecuted under new legislation. The bill, currently going through the Scottish parliament, will make it an offence to portray girls under the age of 18 in a sexually suggestive context. It goes further than legislation south of the border and raises the possibility of tabloid newspapers that have 17-year-old page three girls and “lads’ mags” such as Loaded and FHM being banned from sale in Scotland.

The law currently prevents publications from carrying sexually suggestive pictures of girls under the age of 16. The Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill aims to raise the age limit to 18 to bring it in line with England and Wales. However, ministers intend to go further than measures south of the border which do not extend to page three girls or models dressed in erotic underwear. Scottish legislation would include a tighter definition of “pornography” to include any image which implies a sexual context.

If the purpose of the picture is sexual titillation, it would fall inside the law, said Stewart Stevenson, deputy convener of the Justice 1 committee, which is scrutinising the bill. I think this is something The Sun will have to look at very carefully. It is not surprising that the Scottish parliament should be paying considerable attention to this. As a parliament we have a high proportion of women so we have a less male sentiment than Westminster. That’s good for women and social morals as a whole. I think we are taking very progressive steps that other legislators in England and elsewhere should look at. I am quite confident a move like this will have widespread support, probably unanimous support in the Scottish parliament and I think it reflects the opinion of the majority of women.”

Pauline McNeill, convener of the Justice 1 committee, said: There is a whole bunch of scenarios, it could apply to topless models, glamour models. Newspapers or publications which publish photographs of 17-year-olds could be leaving themselves vulnerable. It’s certainly going to make things different and could come into the gambit of prosecution.

The law would mean that UK-wide publications that carried sexually suggestive pictures of 16 and 17-year-old girls would have to editionalise north of the border or face prosecution. Sam Cairney, the managing director of Model Team Scotland, said the law could cause difficulties for agencies that wanted to use younger models in national advertising campaigns. Girls of 16 and 17 can get married, so it should be up to them or their parents if they want to take part in lingerie shoots,  she said.

The Scottish executive said: The legislation will mean that indecent photographs of 16 and 17-year-olds are criminalised. It would be up to a court to decide if a page three photograph fell into that category.


7th May   Television in the Frontier Zone

From The Guardian

Media regulators across Europe could be forced to police internet content for taste and decency in the same way as television programmes, according to proposals under consideration in Brussels. The plans have led to fears at the British media watchdog Ofcom that this may stifle innovation in the nascent broadband content industry and prove impossible to enforce.

This year the UK regulator will review the likely impact of broadband and other new services such as 3G over the next decade and consult the public and the industry over whether content delivered over them can and should be regulated.

The issue has come to a head as Brussels debates changes to a revamped Television Without Frontiers directive, which sets the agenda for European media regulation. New draft proposals are due to be issued later this year. The thinking in Brussels is that it will contain plans for Europe-wide regulation of television-style broadcasts over the internet.

And with overseas content providers able to broadcast internationally over the internet, there are also concerns that it would put British companies at a competitive disadvantage.

The proposals, if implemented, would run counter to Ofcom's determination to reduce its regulatory burden and switch to a "light touch". Robin Foster, Ofcom's senior partner in charge of strategy, said: [Television Without Frontiers] seems to be geared to extending traditional broadcasting regulation into new media and the internet. The slight worry is that it takes a very regulatory approach to new media, which may have a number of benefits, but it may not be positive and may stop new ideas developing in a broadband world. We shouldn't just assume that we should regulate.

Instead, Ofcom is believed to favour a mix of existing laws, such as those on obscenity and copyright, and advocating greater media literacy so consumers can block unwelcome content themselves. One idea floated last year would be to rate content on all websites.

The industry, from internet service providers to websites, is also sceptical over whether the medium can be regulated in any meaningful way.  A spokesman for the Internet Service Providers' Association, a trade body, said: There's been laws passed against spam. But in a situation where spam is coming from around the world and there are different laws in place in Europe and the US, what do you do?

Already an increasing number of broadband subscribers watch television programmes over the web as prices come down and connection speeds increase. Later this year telecom companies including BT and France Telecom's Wanadoo plan to launch video-on-demand services to be delivered over broadband lines via a set-top box to the television.


5th May   Tesco Nuts

From The Guardian , Thanks to Nick

Tesco is to obscure the front covers of men's magazines such as Nuts and Zoo . The men's titles, which also include Front , Loaded , Maxim and FHM , will be moved higher up Tesco's magazine stands and given less shelf space so that, in some instances, only the masthead is on view.

The supermarket giant said it was responding to customer concerns about the new generation of lads' magazines, but denied accusations of censorship. A group of our customers are shocked by what is on the front covers of these magazines , said David Cooke, the senior buying manager at Tesco. Some express surprise that we sell these titles, others see them as outrageous and pornographic. It is a vibrant magazine sector and we want to continue to sell these titles, but we are a family-based supermarket and we have to be mindful of how to display them.

The cover of this week's Nuts, from publisher IPC, features a full page picture of two topless models embracing each other and the strapline "Sophie and Kayleigh - together for the first time!" along with another headline promising "Readers' girlfriends - in thongs!"

Emap's Zoo, which relaunched with an expanded entertainment guide last month, features five semi-naked women on the cover - three of them topless - as part of a "30 Sexiest British TV Babes" supplement.

Cooke said MPs and child protection groups had also expressed their concerns. He said it would be unfair to single out a particular title for criticism because they all have their moments. We get feedback from our customers every day and we want to bring that back to the industry , he told the Magazine 2005 conference in London today, organised by the Periodical Publishers Association. The changes will come into effect on Monday, he said. They won't be put on the top shelf but they will be moved up [magazine stands] where possible, and some of the content will be covered up but you will still be able to see the masthead. We will make sure that some of the less risky titles, such as Men's Health, Stuff and T3 , have their full front cover on display."

But Cooke denied accusations of censorship, first levelled against Tesco six months ago when it was claimed the supermarket had demanded changes to the content of several lads' magazines. Our desire is to accommodate all our customers, not to tell editors what is or is not on their cover, he said.
We will continue to stock them as long as our customers continue to buy them."


13th April   Supermarket Supercensors

Probably the next censorship battle will be with monopolistic commercial interests who consider that they are holier than the rest of us. This story seems particularly relevant when it coincides with news of how dominant Tesco have become in retailing. It seems that they even want to dominate the mighty Wal-Mart (ASDA) in terms of nutter morality and censorship.

Thanks to Simon

The producers of the DVD: British Babes Go Wild 2 (classified 18 without cuts by the BBFC) are being forced to cut their film by 15 minutes in order for it to be sold with copies of FrOnt magazine at the shameful Tesco.

The distributors were informed by Tesco marketing dept that they will have to remove the scenes that they dont like and resubmit it to the BBFC before they'll consider it acceptable to be sold in their stores. Seeing as the film is basically a softcore title available uncut across the country at Virgin/HMV/MVC and on, and the fact that removing some scenes will result in it retaining an 18 certificate reeks of appalling censorship on behalf of Tesco.

I find it incredible (and scary) that in this day and age, faceless individuals are deciding what is acceptable, effectively over riding the decision by the BBFC.

Unfortunately the distributors and FrOnt magazine have decided to bow to Tescos demands and re cut the film (resulting in resubmitting to the BBFC). There will be disclaimer at the front of the DVD to state that it has been cut in accordance with Tesco for promotional use with FrOnt magazine and that the uncut version is available to buy elsewhere.


13th April Regulatable Media

From OfcomWatch

The Europeans are discussing what regulation can be applied to what media. In particular there is the European Convention on Transfrontier Television (ECTT), which is currently under review.

Under consideration is the question of whether the regulation of new media services is undesirable, or simply impracticable at the present time. In line with the discussions that surround the revision of the Television Without Frontiers Directive (TVWF) the view exists that it is rather the latter than the former. This implies expanding the scope of the Convention to cover new interactive and personalised services such as video-on-demand that should be regulated in a flexible manner and not necessarily subject to traditional (and highly interventionist) modes of broadcasting regulation.

Along these lines, the discussion document for the ECTT supports the need to develop a new model of content regulation that will apply to all electronic media horizontally and in a technologically-neutral fashion, involving where needed self and co-regulation. The fuzzy and yet to be defined concept of “regulatable content” is used to refer to “broadcast-like” content, to content “delivered by the new technologies and capable of influencing public opinion and people’s minds”, and to “licensable service”.

How to devise a model of horizontal, technologically-neutral, graduated regulation of ‘regulatable’ content ? It is certainly quite a challenge. If you have any ideas you have time until the 15th of May to submit comments (in English or French and no more than 4 pages long) to: These will feed into the review of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television (ECTT).

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