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UK Government Watch

2008: April-June

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25th June   

Update: Child Regulation Action Plan...

Government publish action plan for Byron proposals
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

A comprehensive plan for how the Government intends to make the internet and video games safer for children and young people was published today by Children’s Minister Kevin Brennan, Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker and Culture Minister Margaret Hodge.

The Byron Review Action Plan sets out key milestones and deadlines to deliver all of Dr Tanya Byron’s recommendations as set out in her landmark report Safer Children in a Digital World.

The Action Plan outlines the Government’s proposals for appointing the Executive Board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. The Executive Board will be chaired by Department for Children, Schools and Families and Home Office Ministers and will include representatives from industry, the third sector, law enforcement and the devolved administrations. It will be responsible for driving the Council’s agenda.

The Action Plan sets out detailed actions and milestones including:

  • how the new UK Council for Child Internet Safety will be set up
  • the development of a self regulatory approach by industry which will make the internet safer for children
  • plans to raise awareness of e-safety issues among children, young people, parents and other adults through a public information and awareness campaign which will begin in summer 2008 as part of a £9m investment by Government in communications to the public about child safety
  • the role of schools and other services for children and families that can help equip and empower children and their parents to stay safe online.
  • reforming the classification system for video games, including plans to launch a consultation to consider all necessary evidence around current and future video games classification
  • how Government will work with industry to improve information and support to parents on video games


20th June   

Update: Suicidal Censorship...

Why do the government claim all their draconian laws are just closing 'loopholes'?
Link Here

Websites that encourage people to commit suicide could be shut down under changes to the law. The sites offer users tips on taking their own life and have been linked to around 27 deaths in Britain over the last six years.

The Government is considering closing a legal 'loophole' to outlaw the advice. Under laws introduced in 1961 aiding or encouraging suicide is illegal - but only if the offender met the victim face to face.

Madeleine Moon, MP for Bridgend in south Wales where a number of the 20 recent suicides are believed to have involved suicide sites and chatrooms, said: These sites can only be described as truly evil. The law needs to be changed. These websites are horrendous. They push and push people to kill themselves and tell them how to do it.

Vernon Coaker, the Home Office minister, told a committee of MPs that the Government was determined to act: Aiding and abetting suicide, online or offline, is illegal. Something should be done about it and they should be taken down .

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: There are difficulties as many of them are based overseas, but we're considering whether the law can be strengthened.


19th June   

Update: In the Lap of FemNazis...

Government propose new morality controls on lap dancing
Link Here

New controls on lap-dancing clubs are planned by the Government following the nutter outcry over their rapid proliferation across the country.

50 Labour MPs were demanding that ministers closed a planning rule that forced councils to treat the clubs in the same way as cafes. There are now 300 pole-dancing venues in England and they are opening at a rate of almost one a week.

Gerry Sutcliffe, the Culture minister, signalled a clamp-down on the clubs as he admitted that the Government was worried by their rapid increase.

Ministers are preparing to amend licensing legislation so that lap-dancing clubs are classed as "sex encounter establishments" alongside sex cinemas and peep shows. Sutcliffe wrote to all England councils last night seeking their views on the issue. Whitehall sources made clear the move was the first step to new planning rules being imposed on the clubs.

Roberta Blackman-Woods, the Labour MP for Durham won cross-party support in the Commons yesterday for the first reading of a Bill designed to bring in the new laws. But it is unlikely to become law due to a lack of parliamentary time.


13th June   

Arise Sir Nutter...

Rumours that Keith Vaz was offered knighthood
Link Here

Gordon Brown attempted to bribe MP with honour to push through terror legislation, alleges UK press

Censorship nutter MP Keith Vaz has been offered a knighthood by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, UK national newspapers have alleged.

According to The Times and The Guardian, there have been ‘strong hints’ that Vaz was offered the honour as part of a series of bribes from Brown to Labour MPs, in return for them voting for his controversial new terror detention laws.

Vaz, MP for Leicester East , has ‘strongly denied’ the rumour.


12th June   

Burnham Converges on Bollox...

Government looks to regulate internet similarly to TV
Link Here

The government have signalled its support for a common set of standards for internet content in response to worries about the impact of violent and sexual output online.

The culture secretary, Andy Burnham, said he wanted to see online content meet the same standards required for television as the boundaries between the two media continue to blur. Television in the UK is governed by the broadcasting code of Ofcom, the media regulator. There is no overall regulation for the internet.

In the same way that there are standards that are essential to broadcasting, in this converging world I believe there should be a set of standards online, Burnham told a media seminar in London.

He also floated the idea that websites such as the video-sharing portal YouTube should include warnings on clips which include bad language, violence or sex. If a clip on YouTube gets a million hits, it is akin to broadcasting and it doesn't seem to me to be too difficult to have an alert on that clip with regards to language or violence or for sex. That to me is not overly intrusive.

Referring to the recent government report by the child psychologist Tanya Byron, on the effects of the internet and video gaming on children, which raised concerns about a climate of anxiety, Burnham added that people felt a sense of risk and uncertainty about this world they are roaming.

He denied his focus on internet standards was due to the subject being a potential vote winner. It was, he said, a reaction to public concern. I just sense the moment in time where people need to have this kind of discussion about the online world. There is an unease out there about it. What I am challenging is this slight sense of helplessness.


12th June   

Better the Con that you Know...

Government sides with Ofcon against pan-Europe TV regulator
Link Here

The Government has sided with Ofcom against EU plans for a pan-European telecoms regulator.

The Government have never been convinced of the case for a new pan-EU regulator, notes Baroness Vadera, parliamentary under-secretary of state for business and competitiveness in a ministerial statement: You will be reassured to know that none of my opposite numbers in other member states, or indeed the views from the European Parliament, support the Commission's original proposals.

She goes on to confirm that Britain, together with Germany and France, intend on laying out their objections during a meeting with telecoms Commissioner, Viviane Reding in Luxembourg.

Vadera says that rather than a pan-EU authority the Government is in favour of a much smaller entity comprising the chairs of all 27 National Regulatory Authorities complemented by a small permanent secretariat appropriate only to undertake the revised remit.

Ofcom will undoubtedly take heart from the Government's stance, following a spat with the EU when the proposals were first announced. At the time Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards questioned whether such a body would undermine the watchdog's authority.


28th May   

Drawing Up Bad Legislation...

Government announces proposal to criminalise possession of indeterminate age anime
Link Here
Anime girl of indeterminent age

How the fuck are we expected
to know how old she is?

The Drawings and computer-generated images of child sex abuse would be made illegal under proposals announced by Injustice Minister, Maria Eagle.

Owners of such images would face up to three years in prison under the plans.

Under the Obscene Publications Act it is illegal to possess photos of child abuse but it is legal to own drawings and computer-generated images.

Eagle spouted the usual bollox that the proposed move would help close a loophole that we believe paedophiles are using.

The plans are part of the government's response to a public consultation exercise carried out last year. The results have yet to be published.

A Ministry of Injustice spokeswoman said the authorities had noticed an increase in the existing availability of these images on the internet. If we do not address the issues these images raise now it is likely their availability will continue to grow. They are often advertised as a legitimate depiction of child sexual abuse.

Eagle said the plans were not about criminalising art or pornographic cartoons more generally, but about targeting obscene, and often very realistic, images of child sexual abuse which have no place in our society.


15th May   

New Kids on the Block...

Government kick off the new children's censor
Link Here

Kevin Brennan and Vernon Coaker have announced that the UK Council for Child Internet Safety will launch in September 2008, six months ahead of the recommended timescale set out by Dr Tanya Byron in her recent report .

A mixture of children'
s charities and industry will be informed about how they can join the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, which will be responsible for developing and leading a Child Internet Safety Strategy and advising Government on e-safety.

On 27th March the Government accepted all of Dr Byron'
s recommendations in full and today the Government is committing to a timescale outlining the next steps which are:

• Inviting stakeholders to join the Council – 14 May
• Cross Department Action Plan - end of June 2008
• Launch of the UK Council on Child Internet Safety – September 2008
• First Child Internet Safety Summit hosted by the Prime Minister - spring 2009.

Kevin Brennan Minister for Children and young people said:

We are inviting experts within industry and children'
s charities to come forward and provide their expertise and advice by joining the UK Council on Child Internet Safety. By developing an e-safety strategy together, we can help children to learn and play safe online whilst at the same time supporting parents to manage new pressures they face in a modern technological world.

These next steps show our commitment to acting on Dr Byron'
s recommendations with the same pace and strength that they were set out. By engaging across Government and industry we will provide a robust and coherent strategy within the outlined timeframe.

Culture Minister Margaret Hodge said:

The freedom the internet brings must be balanced by appropriate safeguards, and this ke recommendation from Dr Byron's landmark report will help children and parents safely enjoy the wealth of benefits that the internet can offer.


23rd April   

Labour Dragon Lanced...

Lords fight for St George, free speech and jokes about gays
Link Here

Comedians and church leaders have claimed a victory for free speech after Government plans to ban jokes about homosexuals were rejected in the House of Lords.

Peers inflicted an overwhelming defeat on the Government by amending the Criminal Injustice Bill to protect the freedom of speech of comics, rap artists and those who criticise other people's sexuality.

The television stars Rowan Atkinson and Christopher Higgins, who is himself homosexual, are among the prominent figures to have spoken out against the proposal to create a new offence of incitement to “homophobic hatred”.

Following the amendment, the offence will apply only to those who incite violence or harassment against homosexual men and lesbians, rather than jokes or broader criticism about alternative lifestyles, such as lyrics in rap songs.

Religious groups had campaigned against the Government proposal, saying it would criminalise those who voiced concerns on a range of issues, from the teaching on sexual orientation in schools to depictions of homosexuality in film and television.

Peter Tatchell, the prominent homosexual rights campaigner, also spoke out against the measure, arguing that freedom of speech should be sacrosanct.

Peers backed the amendment, tabled by the former Conservative home secretary Lord Waddington, by 81 votes to 57. He was supported by the Labour peer Lord Clarke of Hampstead, who told their lordships that critics of homosexuality should be able to speak freely without risk of police action.

If it is accepted by MPs, the new freedom of speech protection would prevent prosecutions such as that currently under way against the Oxford University student, Sam Brown, arrested after he called a police horse “gay” during a drunken conversation with two mounted police officers.

Ministers are now considering whether to seek to fight the amendment when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.

A spokeswoman from the Ministry for Justice said: We are disappointed by the outcome of the vote in the Lords on Lord Waddington's amendment.

Campaigners say they are confident the amendment will not be thrown out, as the Government is keen to rush other measures contained in the Bill, including a ban on strike action in prisons, on to the statute books.


11th April   

Offsite: Concerns About Political Games...

Byron on Vaz and a concern about her review being hijacked for political games
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

Tanya Byron was speaking to Paul Jackson of ELSPA:

I met Mr. Vaz and Giselle Pakeerah as part of the process and it was a difficult meeting that had to be handled sensitively and carefully. IT was, after all, the mother of a child who had been murdered.

I felt it was an important meeting, as I know Mr. Vaz has many criticisms of the games industry - and these are often reported widely and can be quite damaging for the industry. I talked to him about my positive experience of the industry – and my experience of ELSPA members in this room.

I think different people will pick up different elements of the report and that's fine – I've been surprised that it's met so many needs for so many people. But my biggest fear is that it will be used for currency – whether that's political or currency within the industry. I don't want that to happen.


That's not to say, however, that it's as simple as violent games making people violent. I've never said that, and would be sure to disagree with anyone who inferred that from the Review.

...Read full article


4th April   

Update: Retailers Sold on BBFC...

But games producers not so sure
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

Dr Tanya Byron has told the biggest names in UK video games publishing that retailers persuaded her to give more power to the BBFC over PEGI.

Addressing ELSPA members in Portman Square, London at a closed meeting this morning, also attended by specially selected press, Byron said that retailers very strongly backed BBFC logos on the front of all games boxes to assist the with parental confusion at the point of sale.

However, publisher bosses such as EA UK general manager Keith Ramsdale, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe president David Reeves and SCE UK boss Ray Maguire showed their disagreement with the decision during a show of hands.

Despite largely positive soundings on the Review in general, when asked if they would prefer the current hybrid of BBFC and PEGI classification or one single ratings system, around 90% of ELSPA members opted for the latter.

Byron used the opportunity to praise the UK publishing sector and the manner in which it self-regulated prior to the Review and once again, Byron took the time to dismiss inaccurate reports that she recommended stricter penalties for retailers.

See full article from Mad

Retailers and wholesalers of video games in the UK have pledged to offer their support in implementing an age rating system for games, as recommended by Tanya Byron.

Speaking at a meeting today,The Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) said its 200 members will adopt the main conclusions of the government-led study.

The ERA's members account for around 90% of packaged entertainment sales in the UK, a market it values at £5.3 billon which includes Game, HMV, Zavvi, Woolworths, WH Smith, Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys as well as many independents.


2nd April   

Tired Faces...

How many more reports on the harms of social networking sites?
Link Here

Facebook and other social networking sites would have to advertise the 999 emergency number on their pages under new Government guidelines to improve the safety of children online.

A copy of the draft guidance, obtained by the Telegraph, shows that the Home Office wants sites like Bebo and MySpace to display adverts for the emergency services to encourage children to call the police directly if they think they are being targeted by people who might be trying to abuse them.

It also suggests sites should take steps to make it more difficult for children to lie about their age and gain access to sites aimed at older users.

These could include offering free software which parents could download to enable them to restrict the websites children visit and the amount of time they spend on them.

In the first report by the Home Office into social networking sites, a powerful coalition of experts warn that children are at risk of online bullying, sexual "grooming" by paedophiles and online fraud.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, will publish the 73-page document on Friday, which also warns parents about anorexic websites which encourage teenage girls to compete to lose weight, and sites which promote self-harm and suicide.

It is understood that sites will be urged to set the default privacy settings of under-18s to "private" to prevent strangers accessing their profile pages. Currently, the default settings on many social networking sites are "open", allowing personal information to be shared with all users.

Most children and young people use the internet positively but sometimes behave in ways that may place them at risk, says the document, which has been drawn up by the Home Office's taskforce on online child protection in consultation with websites, mobile phone operators, children's charities, parent groups and academics.

Young people may also engage in behaviour that is risky to themselves including cyber-flirting and cyber-sex. These situations can quickly escalate to a point where they may lose control.

Parents will be issued with an eight-point guide on how to ensure that their children use social networking sites safely. They will be urged to discuss with their offspring the dangers of flirting online and meeting strangers they have encountered on the internet. They will also be encouraged to contact the police immediately if they suspect that their children are being "groomed" by online predators.

See full article from the Guardian

Millions of children are using social networking websites intended for older users, according to a study by the media regulator, Ofcom.

Research into internet use has found that, among children with internet access, more than a quarter of eight to 11-year-olds claimed to have a profile page on a social networking website. This is despite nominal age restrictions aimed at preventing pre-teens from using such sites.

MySpace, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, says its users should be at least 14 to register, while Facebook and Bebo claim an age limit of 13.

The study, commissioned by the regulator's media literacy unit, surveyed more than 7,000 adults and children around the UK.

It outlined a disparity between the perception of social networking among adults and children. While 65% of parents said they set rules for the way their children used social networking sites, only half of children said their families had laid down restrictions. A further 43% said their parents placed no limits on what they could use sites for.

The use of the internet by children is something of a hot political topic at the moment. As well as the Byron review, the home secretary is due to unveil a series of reforms later this week that are aimed at increasing safety for children online. These are believed to include a voluntary code of good conduct for websites.


2nd April   

Update: The Calendar Game...

Timetable for implementing Byron Review recommendations
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

The Byron Report suggests a timetable for changes in classification

By Autumn 2008:

  • Consultation on changes to classification system underpinned by clear plans for potential legislative change
  • Industry commits to develop minimum standards for parental controls
  • Campaign to raise awareness of age ratings and parental controls underway
  • Retailers make improvements to in-store information
  • UK Council for Child Internet Safety establishes sub-group on online gaming
    Industry and classification bodies commit to develop single set of standards for managing safety in online games

By Spring 2009:

  • BBFC and PEGI agree and publish standards for managing safety in online games
  • Research into role of video game advertising on underage game play completed
  • Industry guidelines on advertising of video games produced

By Summer 2010:

  • Changes to classification system in place
  • Ongoing monitoring and enforcement of sales of age-rated video games.
  • Government identifies ways for game based learning to be evaluated in different educational environments

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