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Ofcom Watch

2011: Jan-March

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12th February   

Update: Political Censors...

Ofcom to investigate complaints about extremist material on Press TV
Link Here
Full story: Press TV...Political censoship merges with TV censorship

Ofcom has confirmed it is investigating the satellite channel, Press TV, after receiving a complaint from a viewer over its extremist messages.

Press TV is Iranian based and broadcasts in English and Urdu.

Programmes on Peace TV have included praise for mujahideen fighting British troops in Iraq, labelled Jews as an enemy of Islam and made claims about the 9/11 terror attacks being an inside job .

Press TV have come in for newspaper attention as a key figure in the company, Zakir Naik, has been banned from entering the UK for extremist preaching and that his presence was not conducive to the public good . The decision, later upheld by the High Court, was based on a sermon the Mumbai-based preacher had posted on the internet during which he said every Muslim should be a terrorist .

In his failed appeal against Ms May's decision, held last November, the cleric's lawyers revealed Naik was director and chairman of Universal Broadcasting Corporation Ltd, a company registered in Britain. UBCL owns a subsidiary firm, Lords Production Ltd, which has held the broadcasting licence for Peace TV since 2007.

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, former shadow minister for security, said: The Home Secretary dealt with Naik extremely effectively. I think she will be furious to discover he still has a licence to spread his poison on satellite television. Ofcom should revoke it immediately.

An Ofcom spokesman said: We are in the middle of an investigation about Peace TV. Ofcom will not tolerate extremism on British television, and transgressors will be dealt with.


10th February   

Update: The Babe Rules...

Ofcom reveal their detailed censorship rules for babe channels
Link Here
Full story: Babe Channels...Ofcom have it in for free to air babe channels

Ofcom have interpreted the TV advertising rules created by BCAP (Broadcast Code of Advertising) which forms part of the Advertising Standards Authority.


Babe channels must not mislead about pricing etc and in particular must not suggest that programming is live when in fact a recording is showing.

Pre-watershed Free-to-air Babe Shows (Daytime Chat)

The presentation of daytime chat should always be suitable for wide audiences, that is for audiences including children and young persons. Therefore the content should be suitable for children to view should they come across it unawares. Such services should not suggest that sex chat of any sort is available by using the numbers being advertised or otherwise, nor seek to suggest that the channel will be offering sexual entertainment services at a later time. All dress and behaviour should be non-sexual in tone and apparent intent. Presenters should not adopt poses or behave in ways that suggest sexual acts or sexual availability. Therefore, presenters should not cross the line between very

restrained glamorous presentation and sexual dress, speech, expression or conduct. Set out below are some of the key points that licensees should apply when broadcasting these services. Please note that the following points are not exhaustive.

Daytime chat broadcasters should:

  • ensure that presenters are wearing appropriate clothing, that adequately covers their bodies, in particular their breasts, genital areas and buttocks. Presenters should not wear revealing underwear, swimwear, gym wear or fetish clothing;
  • not broadcast images of presenters touching or stroking their bodies in a suggestive manner, in particular avoiding breasts, thighs, crotches and buttocks;
  • not broadcast images of presenters mimicking sexual intercourse by rocking and thrusting their bodies, or otherwise adopting sexual poses;
  • not broadcast images of any mimed sex acts; and
  • not broadcast close up and intrusive images of presenters breasts.

Website references

Under Rule 30.3, Ofcom licensed services that are broadcast without mandatory restricted access must not promote websites that contain material within the recognised character of pornography.

Post-watershed  Free-to-air Babe Shows (Adult Chat)

After 9pm any move towards stronger but still very restrained material containing sexual imagery should be gradual and progressive.

The 9pm threshold does not apply to Digital Terrestrial Television channels. On those channels adult chat cannot be broadcast before 12am or after 5.30am.

Please note that the following points are not exhaustive.

Adult chat broadcasters should:

  • not broadcast shots of bare breasts before 22:00; .
  • at no time broadcast invasive shots of presenters' bodies. Ofcom cautions against physically intrusive, intimate shots of any duration; and against less intrusive shots that may become unacceptable by virtue of their being prolonged;
  • at no time broadcast anal, labial or genital areas or broadcast images of presenters touching their genital or anal areas either with their hand or an object;
  • ensure that presenters' clothing adequately covers their anal, labial or genital areas. They should also avoid adjusting their clothing (including clutching or bunching) which results in anal, labial or genital areas being exposed;
  • at no time broadcast images of any real or simulated sex acts (these include vaginal or anal intercourse, masturbation, fellatio or cunnilingus);
  • at no time include shots of presenters spitting onto their or others' bodies, or include shots of presenters using other liquids, such as oil and lotions, on their genital or anal areas.
  • at no time broadcast shots of presenters using liquids of a sort or in a way which suggests the liquid is ejaculate;
  • at no time broadcast sexually explicit language;
  • ensure any sexual language broadcast is restrained, and avoid its use altogether before midnight; and
  • ensure that where more than one presenter is in shot greater care is taken to avoid broadcasting the above images or language.

Website references

Under Rule 30.3, Ofcom licensed services that are broadcast without mandatory restricted access must not promote websites that contain material within the recognised character of pornography.

Post-watershed  Encrypted Babe Shows (Adult Chat)

Under Rule 23.2.1, advertising for telecommunications-based sexual entertainment refers to material that is of the strength that is only appropriate under mandatory restricted access and the other controls, including permitted hours, that exist for channels broadcasting adult sex material .

Standards for advertising material can reasonably be interpreted with reference to those standards that apply to the generality of such channels' content.

Under Rules 30.3 and 30.3.2, advertising for products that are considered to be pornography are permitted behind mandatory restricted access on adult entertainment channels only, between 10.00pm and 5.30am. However, Rule 30.3.1 is clear that advertisements, whether behind mandatory restricted access or not, must not feature (that is contain) R18-rated material or equivalent images.


8th February   

Update: Obscure Reasoning...

Now Ofcom ban even obscured penetration shots on adult encrypted TV claiming them to be R18 material
Link Here
Full story: Babe Channels...Ofcom have it in for free to air babe channels

   Ofcom TV Censors

Ofcom have revealed some of their TV censorship rules banning hardcore on UK TV even in encrypted adult paid for services. Ofcom have decided that sex is R18 (hardcore) material if it is obviously real from the physics of the interaction, even if the insertion details are obscured.

Ofcom found scenes on Climax 3-3 to be R18 material because: viewers would have reasonably believed that penetration was taking place despite there being no explicit shots of point of insertion.

Perhaps someone from Playboy should ask the BBFC to comment on this assertion. In reality it is pretty easy to distinguish simulated in intercourse from real intercourse even when blocked by the usual softcore techniques. A hard real connection between the performers is easily deduced from the movement of the bits and bobs left unobscured.

See  article from

Climax 3-3
1 July 2010, 22:15 to 22:45

Climax 3-3 was a channel broadcast under a licence held by Playboy TV. The channel was subject to mandatory restricted access with measures in place to ensure the subscriber is an adult. The channel however included some freeview sections broadcast without mandatory restricted access in order to promote the channel and encourage viewers to subscribe.

On 1 July 2010 between 22:15 and 22:45, the service showed prolonged 3 scenes of sexual activity.

The first scene showed two actresses' in a bar setting. This scene included the depiction of the insertion of a bottle, a straw, a dildo and a hand-held soft drink dispenser gun. The second scene showed what appeared to be a lone woman urinating in a barn. The third scene showed three actresses' in a barn who appeared to be inserting fingers and dildos into themselves and each other.

The sexual activity in all three scenes included depictions of: insertion of dildos, fingers and other objects either by one female on another or one female on herself; oral sex; and masturbation; During the broadcast the camera featured close up and intimate shots of the sexual activity but some activity was partially hidden by parts of the actresses' bodies.

On 2 July 2010 Playboy informed Ofcom that there had been a scheduling error by the company that organised the listing of its broadcasts and that this material had been played out by mistake without any protections.

Some time later Ofcom [conveniently] received a complaint from a viewer who said that broadcasts in the freeview section of Climax 3-3 on 1 July 2010 included some strong material that should have been subject to mandatory restricted access.

Ofcom considered:

  • Rule 1.17 Material equivalent to the British board of Film Classification (BBFC) R18-rating must not be broadcast at any time .

Playboy confirmed that the material had been broadcast without mandatory restricted access and in error and had now put in place stringent new checking processes to ensure this would not happen again.

Regarding the explicitness of the material and whether this was of R18 equivalent rating, Playboy said that there were a limited number of borderline shots of angles where there could be some debate over whether the object or finger penetration was simulated. It said that when deciding whether to edit out certain shots from its material it always sought advice from the BBFC. It said that it went by the rule that if it cannot be argued that penetration is not occurring, then it must be cut . For example fingers may be bent at the knuckle rather than penetrating, objects may go underneath or behind an orifice, and if objects are filmed from behind there could potentially be a gap between the orifice and the object. With regard to what appeared to be urination by one of the actresses, Playboy argued that it always ensured that the point of exit was obscured so that it could be argued that the act was simulated, for example, by using a water bottle hidden by a leg.

Playboy argued that there was nothing broadcast which could be construed as unarguably R18 or equivalent i.e. full-on penetration . It did accept that there was a very fine line between simulated and non-simulated activity.

Ofcom Decision: In breach of rule 1.17

In considering the content of this programme Ofcom asked itself first whether the content of the programme was equivalent to that in a BBFC R18-rated film or video.

Ofcom first examined a scene during this broadcast which included what appeared to be a lone actress urinating. Ofcom considered that this scene had a clear focus on the act of urination and that, as with other material in this programme, was broadcast for the primary purpose of sexual arousal. In the circumstances, Ofcom considered that this particular content was of an equivalent standard to R18-rated material and its broadcast was therefore a breach of Rule 1.17.

Ofcom next examined other scenes in the programme which appeared to show either vaginal or anal penetration by various objects, including dildos, fingers and a bottle. Ofcom recognised that these scenes were less clear. However, viewers would have reasonably believed that penetration was taking place despite there being no explicit shots of point of insertion. In particular, Ofcom considered that despite the partially obscured nature of the images, viewers would have been left with the clear impression that penetration by the bottle had occurred in the first scene and that penetration by dildos had occurred in the third scene.

In any event, this material clearly constituted at the very least adult sex material -- i.e. images of a strong sexual nature that were broadcast for the primary purpose of sexual arousal and should not therefore have been broadcast without mandatory restricted access. Ofcom welcomes the proactive stance of Playboy with regard to this matter.

However, this is a serious breach of the Code. Material equivalent to BBFC R18 content must not be broadcast at any time. As a result, the Licensee is put on notice that this present contravention of its licence is being considered for the imposition of a statutory sanction.

Breach of Rule 1.17


7th February   

Survey: Babe Channels...

Let Ofcom know what you think of their repressive TV censorship
Link Here
Full story: Babe Channels...Ofcom have it in for free to air babe channels

Ofcom has recently switched babe channels from being censored as TV programmes to being censored as advertising.

The TV censor has used the more restrictive rules to ban anything even remotely sexual from free to air TV.

Bluebird TV are clearly not impressed by Ofcom's prudery and have organised a survey of babe channel viewers and will report the findings to Ofcom.

Ofcom need a bit of education in this area, they seem to be continually claiming that the babe channel audience actually want the repressive censorship that Ofcom dishes out.

The survey is very detailed and a bit obtuse at times, but it is the first I have seen that goes beyond the vague wishy washy surveys that you usually get.

...Fill in the survey [Note ignore the misleading links at the top of the page, the link to the survey is in the middle]


25th January   

Update: Ofcom Babe Bulletin...

Fines or bans on the way for Live XXX, Live 960 and Northern Birds. Final warning for Playboy's 40 n Naughty
Link Here
Full story: Babe Channels...Ofcom have it in for free to air babe channels

Bluebird TV
Live XXX Babes, nighttime
Northern Birds, nighttime

Ofcom received complaints about alleged inappropriate content broadcasts but the Licensee, SEL, failed to provide recordings of the programmes requested regardless of the approaches made by Ofcom.

The Licensee was put on notice in Bulletin 171 that the two breaches published would be added to the Licensee's compliance record and would be considered for sanction, in addition to the three breaches previously recorded in Bulletin 170.

Following the four further contraventions recorded in this finding, Ofcom considers that the nine breaches of SEL's licences recorded are individually serious and have been repeated. As a result, these contraventions of its licences will be considered for the imposition of a statutory sanction.

Bluebird TV
Live 960, daytime

Again Ofcom received complaints about alleged inappropriate content.  The Licensee; Hoppr, failed to provide the recording of the material requested regardless of the approaches made by Ofcom.

The Licensee was informed in Bulletins 144, 169 & 170 that the further recorded licence condition breach would be referred for consideration of the imposition of a statutory sanction.

Following the further contravention recorded in this finding, Ofcom considers that this breach and the breach recorded in Bulletin 170 of Hoppr's licence condition are individually serious and have been repeated. As a result, these two contraventions of its licence will be considered for the imposition of a statutory sanction.

Bluebird TV
Live 960, nighttime

On this occasion Ofcom were themselves watching so didn't require recordings.

Ofcom noted that between 00:20 and 01:30 on 25 September 2010, the content included a nastiness in the jail section with a presenter wearing striped knickers and striped legwarmers. She adopted various positions including: on all fours with her bottom to camera; sat over a toilet seat and over a bed with her legs open; and, stood up holding onto the bars of the jail setting with her legs wide. While in these positions she: stroked and licked her nipples; rubbed her genitals in a sustained and vigorous manner simulating masturbation, both over and inside her knickers; rubbed herself with her fingers and against the bed while her knickers were removed; and, spanked her buttocks harshly so as to leave a red mark. During her performance and due to her pulling at her knickers which at one point she removed, labial and anal detail were visible.

Ofcom considered this a breach of:

  • BCAP Code Rule 4.2: Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards.

And again Hoppr seems set for a fine or ban as Ofcom concluded:

This contravention of the BCAP Code is therefore a further example of poor compliance by this Licensee within a short period of time. This serious and significant breach will be taken into account in Ofcom's consideration of the imposition of a statutory sanction.

Red Light Lounge, daytime
Red Light Central, nightime

The service 40nNaughty is owned and operated by Just4us TV, a wholly owned subsidiary of Playboy TV UK/Benelux.

Ofcom received complaints about the above four broadcasts of Red Light Lounge. The complainant was concerned that the content of the material was far too graphic especially when children could inadvertently view this channel . The complainant said that the female presenters on screen were behaving in a very provocative sexual manner miming sexual acts which was totally inappropriate for the time of day and the content was of an incredibly strong sexual nature .

Ofcom also received a complaint about the above broadcast of Red Light Central. The complainant said that during the broadcast the female presenter on screen was licking her fingers and simulating oral sex, she performed other strong sexual acts during this same time period. Her bikini knickers were far too small and allowed her vaginal lips to be exposed .

Ofcom found these programmes in breach of BCAP Code:

  • Rule 4.2 ( Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards. )
  • 32.3 ( Relevant timing restrictions must be applied to advertisements that, through their content, might harm or distress children of particular ages or that are otherwise unsuitable for them )

In this case Playboy was given a final warning

In August and December 2010 Ofcom recorded breaches of the Broadcasting Code and BCAP Code, respectively, against Playboy for content broadcast on its licensed service Tease Me TV 24.

In light of the above and Ofcom's recent concerns with Just4Us and Playboy's compliance, Ofcom is now requiring the licensees to attend a meeting at Ofcom to discuss its compliance procedures.

Ofcom also puts Just4Us and Playboy on notice that it must take all necessary and appropriate measures to ensure its channels comply with the BCAP Code in the future.

Ofcom will not expect further breaches of this nature to occur again.


18th January   

Nanny Mark...

Kitemark launched for internet filtering software
Link Here

A new symbol has been launched which aims to help consumers identify internet filtering software that has been designed to a high standard and which is both effective and easy to use.

The BSI Kitemark for child safety online is only awarded to filtering software that is easy to install, easy to use and effective in blocking online content such as pornography, violence and racism.

It been developed through collaboration between the British Standards Institution (BSI), the Home Office, Ofcom and representatives from ISPs and application developers.

The first BSI Kitemark for child safety online was this week awarded to web security service Netintelligence, which was vigorously tested to ensure that it met the required standards.


8th January   

Update: Pandering to the Easily Offended...

Ofcom to 'Provide appropriate assurance to audiences on standards'
Link Here

Ofcom have published their priorities document which outlines their work programme from 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012.

The headline section of interest to Melon Farmers reads:

Provide appropriate assurance to audiences on standards.

This includes streamlining the broadcasting standards procedures and considering new regulatory approaches to content regulation.

Later in the document they provide a few more details

  • 5.49 While the media landscape continues to evolve, providing appropriate assurances to audiences on standards remains an essential part of our role. We are considering the current framework for this and future requirements for content regulation.

Implement streamlined standards procedures:

  • 5.50 The assessment of complaints about, and investigations into, possible breaches of broadcasters' licence requirements play a crucial role in ensuring that the public is protected, particularly in areas such as the protection of under-18s, harmful or offensive material, unfair treatment and infringements of privacy.
  • 5.51 It is vital that our procedures for conducting these investigations and, where necessary, imposing sanctions, are as effective as possible.
  • 5.52 As part of a wider review of how Ofcom carries out its work we are consulting on proposed revisions to our procedures for:
    - Investigating breaches of broadcast licences.
    - Investigating fairness and privacy complaints.
    - Considering statutory sanctions.
  • 5.53 These revised procedures are intended to make our investigations faster and to deliver greater value to our stakeholders. Following consultation we intend to implement any revised procedures in 2011.

Where appropriate, consider new regulatory approaches to content regulation

  • 5.54 In addition, we will continue to review our wider regulatory approach to content regulation to ensure that it remains fit for purpose and that it continues to serve the interests of citizens, consumers and stakeholders.
  • 5.55 There will be a number of challenges in this area. Changes in technology, including the emergence of mass-market IPTV services in the UK, and the evolution of ondemand services, will challenge the existing regulatory structures, which were designed predominantly for a linear broadcasting world. We will continue to work with our co-regulators, such as ATVOD, to develop these regulatory structures, and we will consider how regulatory approaches to content regulation might further evolve to remain fit for purpose and proportionate.


8th January   

Update: Just Poor News Reporting...

Ofcom say that the BBC is free to interview nutters to 'balance' its news if it wants to
Link Here

TV Censor Ofcom will not intervene over complaints about BBC News using  an anti-gay extremist to 'balance' the Elton John Surrogacy story.

Viewers have also complained directly to the BBC who has also rejected the complaints.

Ofcom said that its remit meant it was not able to assess the BBC's decision to invite Stephen Green for an interview as broadcasters have editorial freedom.

Those who complained to Ofcom were told:

Ofcom has no creative input into programmes. Broadcasters have editorial freedom in deciding who to invite to participate in programmes including news items such as this. We are therefore unable to comment on the BBC's decision to include the brief interview with Mr Green in this segment. We can therefore only assess the actual content of the item.

We assessed the news report against Rule 2.3 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code which requires broadcasters to ensure material that has the potential to offend to be justified in view of the context.

Ofcom said that the news article had a celebratory tone which was briefly countered by Mr Green. Whilst we fully recognise that many consider Mr Green's view to be nave and archaic, we must acknowledge that he is entitled to hold it and these remarks (which were clearly signalled to reflect his own opinion and not the broadcaster) did not contain any aggressive incitement or derogatory language.

Consequently, we will not be recording a breach of Rule 2.3 of the Code on this occasion.


7th January   

Big Brother TV Censor...

Big Brother heads the all time list of whinges to Ofcom
Link Here

The Metro has totted up the all time list of TV viewer complaints to Ofcom.

Running from 2004 to 2010 the totals reveal the most whinged about programmes as follows:

  1. Big Brother 57,942 viewer complaints
  2. X Factor 15,882
  3. Jerry Springer: The Opera 8,860
  4. Coronation Street 2,028
  5. Jonathan Ross & Russell Brand 1,943

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