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Ofcom Watch

2014: Oct-Dec

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Still claiming that a few whingers somehow represent the British public...

Departing TV censor, Ed Richards, comments on censorship trends under his tenure

Link Here 29th December 2014
Swearing, once a primary concern for TV censors and campaigners such as Mary Whitehouse, is of little concern to the modern viewer, the retiring head of Ofcom believes.

Ed Richards, who stands down at the end of this month, said one of the changes he has noticed during more than eight years in charge of the communications censor was that 'vulgarities' no longer upset the viewing public, provided they are not delivered in a threatening manner. He said:

They are more tolerant of light swearing, non-aggressive swearing, particularly in a comedy situation.

But he claims a new taboo had emerged, one that comedian Frankie Boyle had identified. Richards cited Boyle's joke about Katie Price's disabled son Harvey in a routine on Channel 4 as a key example of the some public intolerance of jokes made at the expense of people with disabilities.

In an interview with The Independent, Richards said:

Probably 20 years ago... making a joke about a child with a disability would have gone uncommented on, or not commented on as much as it has been. I think people were offended by that because it was making fun of a child's disability and people don't want to hear that any more.

He said the trend was part of a wider backlash against all forms of discriminatory content on television, something that was borne out by audience research conducted by Ofcom. As a result, some programmes from a previous generation of television could no longer be shown, he said.

[There are] comedies from the Seventies which had certain racial stereotypes in them which are unimaginable today and if they were shown people would find them offensive and that wouldn't just be people from black and ethnic minority communities, it would be everybody. I think the country has moved on in a very important way there.



Update: Ofcom's Top 10 TV programmes of 2014...

As judged by the number of complaints received

Link Here23rd December 2014
  1. Big Brother - Channel 5 - 3,784 complaints
  2. Celebrity Big Brother - Channel 5 - 1,874 complaints
  3. Cutting Edge: Going to the Dogs - Channel 4 - 1,805 complaints
  4. Benefits Street - Channel 4 - 967 complaints
  5. Coronation Street - ITV - 367 complaints
  6. The X Factor - ITV - 360 complaints
  7. EastEnders - BBC 1 - 316 complaints
  8. Emmerdale - ITV - 243 complaints
  9. Sky News (20/07/14) - 205 complaints
  10. Channel 4 News - 193 complaints



Censoring Audiences in an Online World...

Ofcom publishes a report titled 'Protecting Audiences in an Online World'

Link Here21st December 2014

Ofcom commissioned Kantar Media to conduct a series of deliberative research workshops with members of the public to understand what people think of current protections for audio-visual (AV) content delivered on different platforms and on a range of internet connected devices, and what protections they consider they should have both now and in the future.

Within this overall aim, the research sought to explore opinions towards protection and assurance options, namely: standards protections, content information signposts, and access control tools.

Selected key findings

Understanding and perceptions of current regulation

Regulation of AV content was considered to be highly important, yet there was limited understanding of how regulatory arrangements vary by viewing platform Overall (not focusing on a specific device or platform) the vast majority of participants thought that the regulation of AV content was highly important. The majority of participants had a very limited understanding of the current regulatory landscape, and particularly of how regulation varies by viewing platform. However, there was broad understanding that the internet generally was not a protected or regulated environment.

Devices: importance and expectations of protections

The research explored participants' expectations and perceived importance of regulation across a range of devices, drawing on uninformed discussion before participants were briefed on existing regulation and protection frameworks.

The regulation of TV sets was perceived as most important The majority of participants agreed that the often passive nature of TV viewing and potential exposure to inappropriate content meant that TV sets should be highly regulated, in particular, to protect minors and vulnerable individuals.

The regulation of more personal devices, such as smartphones and tablets, was considered less important as they were associated with more active viewing choices By contrast, the majority of participants, and particularly those of a libertarian viewpoint and the more technology engaged, attributed slightly lower importance ratings to the regulation of more personal devices such as tablets and smartphones, with viewing requiring a more active choice.

Similarly, participants also considered the regulation of laptops and desktop computers to be less important than TV sets due to the more active choice of viewing involved.

Games consoles were also perceived as relatively less important when compared to TV sets, with many participants failing to immediately recognise their role in delivering AV content.

However, the perceived importance of regulating personal devices increased when participants reflected on instances where they could be used by children viewing content unmonitored on private devices or via games consoles away from the main living room.

Platforms: importance and expectations of protections

The regulation of broadcast TV was considered most important Reflecting the discussion on devices, the majority of participants rated the regulation of broadcast TV as most important in light of the shared nature of viewing and the often passive choice of scheduled broadcast content. The vast majority of participants perceived broadcast TV as being generally safe, with perceptions founded on previous experience and the presence of well-established channel brands. For the majority of participants, brand perceptions extended beyond broadcast meaning people expected brands to retain the same quality standards regardless of method of delivery or point of access.

Most participants wrongly assumed that catch-up programming was subject to the same regulatory standards as broadcast TV because the content had previously been broadcast.

However, perceptions of the regulation of on-demand and other internet content varied amongst the participants There was broad understanding that the internet generally was not a protected or regulated environment.

However, participants' views on how this might be addressed varied widely. The more libertarian participants stated that on-demand services should not be as highly regulated as broadcast TV in light of the active choices made by viewers.

Conversely, those of more protectionist viewpoints associated on-demand services with TV-like content and thought that regulation was highly important.

For the vast majority of participants, regardless of their broader social attitudes, the greatest concern with other internet content centred on protecting children and vulnerable individuals from viewing unsuitable content. Protectionists favoured content standards as the most effective means of protecting people online, while libertarians were more likely to cite access controls as the best means of protecting vulnerable individuals yet still preserving online freedoms.

However, many participants, protectionists and libertarians alike, expressed doubts over the practical feasibility of offering meaningful protection and assurance online due to the vast volume of AV content and the international origin of services.



Censoring and harming the interests of audiences and citizens in content services...

Ofcom consults on its plan of work to introduce further internet censorship in the coming year

Link Here20th December 2014
in 2014 Ofcom has played its part in a massive step up in internet censorship British adult websites. It has enthusiastically enforced the totally unviable age verification rules that have crucified British internet businesses involved in the adult video trade. It has embraced discriminatory new rules banning depictions of women enjoying sex and it has declared war on kinksters who enjoy the likes of spanking  and BDSM.

Now it is consulting on an ominous new extension of internet censorship that the government refer to as developing a common framework for media standards. Presumably this means that they are seeking to apply TV standards to the internet.

In what surely must be a gigantic disconnect with the basics of the English language, Ofcom ludicrously write that their repressive censorial nastiness is somehow beneficial. And Ofcom describe their work plan for the coming year in classic Orwellian doublespeak:

Protecting and promoting the interests of audiences and citizens in content services

Protecting audiences from potentially harmful content remains a priority for Ofcom. Next year, Ofcom will continue to work with other groups to promote the safety of audiences online. This includes working with the UK Council for Child Internet Safety to protect children and supporting the Government in developing a common framework for media standards.

Update: More proactive monitoring

29th December 2014.

Another worrying idea to extended censorship is:

Ensure content complies with broadcasting rules by taking a new targeted approach to our enforcement activities for TV broadcasters...Extending monitoring of TV content to detect content which raises issues of potential audience harm, particularly of channels about which we receive few or no complaints;



Extract: Unreported outcome of Ofcom getting involved in blasphemy case...

Ofcom rules that a Pakistani news channel that sided with a religious lynch mob against GEO TV, should have also reported the views of the accused

Link Here 18th December 2014
Full story: Blasphemy in Pakistan...Blasphemy laws used for personal vendettas
Sometimes Ofcom has an unenviable job. The TV censor investigated complaints about one sided news reporting on the ARY News channel of a massively important blasphemy case against another Pakistani news channel, GEO TV, which was accused of blasphemy.

ARY News, 15-16th May 2014

ARY News broadcasts news and provides general entertainment programming, in Urdu and English, to the Pakistani community in the UK.

Six complainants alerted Ofcom to four news items as well as five editions of the programme Khara Sach, a current affairs programme broadcast between 14 May 2014 and 27 May 2014 by the Licensee.

The complainants objected to critical references on ARY News about the Independent Media Corporation, and in particular, allegations that services owned by the company, including Geo TV, had committed blasphemy against the religious character Mohammed.

Ofcom noted that the allegations of blasphemy arose from the broadcast of the programme Utho Jago Pakistan on Geo TV in Pakistan on 14 May 2014. This edition of Utho Jago Pakistan featured a re-enactment of the wedding of the programme's guests Veena Malik, a Pakistani actress, and Assad Khan Khattak, including a group of live musicians performing a renowned devotional qawwali. The singing of this qawwali during the re-enactment of the wedding was criticised by some clerics and parts of the Pakistani media as disrespectful to Mohammed.

We noted that the complainants in this case considered that the four news items listed above were not duly impartial. The complainants also considered the news items and the five editions of Khara Sach contained: one sided hate speech in all reports .

This religious song, playing in the background of a fake marriage led to inevitably extreme consequences.

The owner of Pakistan's biggest media group, Geo TV along with actor Veena Malik and her husband was sentenced to 26 years in prison by an anti-terrorism court for allegedly airing a blasphemous programme. Shakil-ur-Rahman, owner of Geo and Jang group, was accused of allowing the airing of a blasphemous programme by Geo television in May, which played a religious song while staging a mock marriage of Malik with Bashir.

The Judge also sentenced both Malik and Bashir along with TV host Shaista Wahidi for 26 years each. The ATC also imposed a 1.3 million Pakistani rupees fine on the convicts and ordered that their properties should be sold to raise the fine, if they failed to pay it.

The judge said in his judgment that all four accused committed profanity. There are reports that all four are out of Pakistan. Rahman resides in the UAE and the other three also went abroad after receiving threats by militant organisations. It is not known when the arrests would be carried out.

It is a little unfair to sum up reams of Ofcom justification in a couple of lines, but the most pertinent comments were:

Our view was that the alternative viewpoints presented during the programmes were insufficient, given the range and frequency of strongly critical comments against Independent Media Corporation and the Pakistani Government.

We also observed that: despite the fact that the story covered in the bulletins centred on material broadcast by Geo TV, during the four news programmes only one brief referencewhich could be reasonably described as offering the Independent Media Corporation's viewpoint was included (It just runs a ticker stating that they regret if someone's feelings have been hurt) and that this itself contained an implied criticism of that broadcaster.

We concluded that, on the specific facts of this case, the news programmes were not presented with due impartiality and were therefore in breach of Rule 5.1 of the Code.

(Rule 5.1: News in whatever form. Must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality) .



Ofcom's New Banner...

Sharon White appointed new chief TV and internet censor

Link Here17th December 2014
The Ofcom Board has announced the appointment of Sharon White as Chief Executive.

Sharon will join Ofcom in late March 2015 from HM Treasury, where she is Second Permanent Secretary.

An economics graduate, Sharon has 25 years' experience in the public sector and Government, starting with spells in Washington, the No 10 Policy Unit, and the World Bank. Sharon later worked in the Department for International Development, the Department of Work and Pensions, the Ministry of Justice and the Treasury.

Sharon White said:

The communications sector is vital to the economy and delivers essential services to everyone in the UK. I look forward to starting in this fascinating job and building on Ofcom's considerable track record.

Sharon's salary will be £ 275,000 per annum.

The appointment is subject to government approval.



Ofcom Behemoth crushes small website operator... falls victim to a 1500 pound censorship fine for not following impossible age verification rules

Link Here13th December 2014
The adult website HardGlam (at and others) has been fined £1500 for transgression of ATVOD's internet censorship rules:

Rule 1: A person must not provide an on-demand programme service unless, before beginning to provide it, that person has given notification to the appropriate regulatory authority of the person's intention to provide that service. A notification must be sent to the appropriate regulatory authority in such manner as the authority may require and must contain all such information as the authority may require.

Rule 4: The provider of an On-Demand Programme Service must pay to the appropriate regulatory authority such fee as that authority may require under section 368NA of the Act.

Rule 11: If an on-demand programme service contains material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen, the material must be made available in a manner which secures that such persons will not normally see or hear it.

The usual complaints about not registering for censorship, allowing hardcore material available without the onerous age verification requirements and not being responsive to the censors finger clicking.

Perhaps more interesting is how Ofcom relates to dealing with an adult industry minnow. Ofcom noted:

The Service Provider submitted written representations to Ofcom on 13 November 2014. The Service Provider also attended an oral hearing on 2 December 2014, supported by two family members.

Firstly, the Service Provider apologised for previous lack of engagement with ATVOD and Ofcom. He explained he had not intended to delay or impede the regulatory process and that there were a number of exceptional personal circumstances which had led to him (in his words) putting his, head in the sand . He noted that he was not well connected in the adult or video on demand industries and had run a business focusing on niche fetishes (principally women smoking) for nine years without realising compliance with ATVOD rules was required. When ATVOD contacted him, he had not known where to turn for advice and, having previously fallen victim to scams, had erroneously believed registration with ATVOD was either a scam or at least not a legal requirement. He said that Ofcom's involvement had alerted him to the seriousness of the situation and, following receipt of documents from Ofcom on 26 October 2014, he had taken steps to disable the websites under referral pending the outcome of Ofcom's sanctions process. Ofcom had noted this on 18 November, and also noted that the services remained unavailable as at the date of the oral hearing.

Secondly, the Service Provider noted that his was a very small business and provided turnover details which were not available to Ofcom at the time of its Preliminary View. The Service Provider said that he had struggled to make a profit with his original company, J&L Visuals Limited, and had liquidated that company in October 2010. He said that with so much content available free over the internet, subscription based providers were now struggling to cover costs. After seeking alternative employment, the Service Provider explained he had returned to the internet business, as sole trader under the HardGlam name. The Service Provider said that he did not have full accounts for the relevant period but he provided information about his very modest sales during the period from 26 April to 13 November 2014 and on his monthly running costs. The Service Provider said the assumptions in Ofcom's Preliminary View massively overstated the size of his business and expressed concerns about his ability to continue the business were a fine over four figures to be imposed.

Thirdly, the Service Provider noted the impact of the steps taken by Ofcom and of his own failure to engage earlier with the process on himself and his business. He said that since Ofcom had taken action in relation to the Service, his main payment provider had suspended payment provision in relation to the Service and he had not been able to receive any income or publish new content, leaving him with the costs for the premises he used for filming but no income to cover those costs. He indicated that he had to borrow money to cover these costs..



So what censorial nastiness is ATVOD cooking up next?...

Guess who's paying these people to sit around a table dreaming up ideas to censor the internet?

Link Here 11th December 2014
ATVOD recently published minutes from the September board meeting which predated the recent government censorship decree for internet porn.

The law was discussed at the meeting but this seems a little irrelevant after the law was published. Other related issues that cropped up were:

Secret Censors Pact

The Board NOTED the progress being made with development of a MoU with Ofcom and BBFC. Once finalised the MoU would be published and made available to Industry Forum members.

Move to censor the internet to the same level as TV

The Board AGREED that ATVOD should offer to provide Ofcom with the benefit of its expertise with regard to the work Ofcom is undertaking on a common framework for media standards.

You can run but you cannot hide

The Industry Forum meeting had supported working party proposals for a process designed to confirm whether an on demand service fell under UK jurisdiction. The Board DISCUSSED the details of the scheme. It was expected that the final scheme would be brought to the November Board meeting for approval.

Licence to kill the adult trade

The Board NOTED that there had been no recent communication from DCMS on proposals to consider the feasibility of a licensing scheme for foreign pornographic websites.

More censorship rules to follow

The Board AGREED that finalisation of ATVOD's additional guidance for adult providers should be put on hold until the new AVMS Regulations was introduced.

In league with the devil

BBFC presentation on 18, R18 and unclassifiable material 8.1

Murray Perkins, BBFC, attended the meeting and gave a presentation which included examples of material classified at 18, material classified at R18 and material which had been refused a classification.



Update: Big Fat Lawyer Paychecks...

Ofcom in court for a judicial review of the way it handled complaints about Big Fat Gipsy Wedding

Link Here28th November 2014
Full story: Big Fat Gypsy Wedding...TV winds up the easily offended
Ofcom were in court today being accused of treating broadcasters more favourably than the public. The TV censor was the subject of a judicial review at the High Court on the way it dealt with complaints around Channel 4 programme Big Fat Gypsy Wedding .

The Traveller Movement, which is bringing the case on behalf of the traveller and gypsy communities, has accused Ofcom of favouring broadcasters, highlighting its decision to send draft harm and offence complaint reports to them, but withholding the documents from the people complaining.

The case revolves around complaints made by the Traveller Movement concerning C4's airing of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and Thelma's Gypsy Girls. According to the Movement the shows breached the Broadcast Code for depicting children in a sexualised manner and depicting violent sexual assault of girls and young women as normal in traveller communities.

Ofcom rejected the complaints in November 2013.

The judge heard the case and reserved judgement until a later date.



New Chief TV Censor...

Ofcom announces acting Chief Executive when Ed Richards leaves

Link Here23rd November 2014

The Board of Ofcom has announced that Steve Unger will step up as acting Chief Executive at the end of the year.

Steve is currently Director of the Strategy, International, Technology and Economist Group at Ofcom. He will step up as interim Chief Executive when Ed Richards stands down at the end of December.

The process to appoint a permanent Chief Executive is under way and the Board of Ofcom will announce an appointment in the New Year.

Steve will take on the full responsibilities of Chief Executive and become Ofcom's Accountable Officer while the process for appointing a permanent successor to Ed Richards is under way.



Update: Political Censorship...

Ofcom censures Russia Today news channel for biased reporting of the Ukraine crisis

Link Here13th November 2014
Full story: Russia Today Propaganda TV...Russia Today, English language international propaganda channel
Propaganda channel, Russia Today, has launched a dedicated UK TV channel that broadcasts five hours of programmes a day made out of its new London studios.

But it hasn't taken before the UK TV censor Ofcom has got involved to investigate the channel for biased news.

The channel has already been threatened with statutory sanctions by Ofcom after the Kremlin-backed news channel breached broadcasting regulations on impartiality with its coverage of the Ukraine crisis.

Russia Today, or RT, was summoned to a meeting with Ofcom after it was found guilty of breaching the code governing UK broadcasters in a ruling published  this week.

The censor flagged up four separate reports, all broadcast in March this year, all dealing with the situation in Ukraine. Ofcom said it recognised that RT, which is funded by the Russian government and launched a UK version last month , would want to present the news from a Russian perspective . But it said all news must be presented with due impartiality ... in particular, when reporting on matters of major political controversy .

It follows three previous breaches of impartiality rules, and Ofcom called for a meeting with the broadcaster to discuss compliance with regard to its due impartiality . It said it had put the channel on notice that any future breaches of the due impartiality rules may result in further regulatory action, including consideration of a statutory sanction .



The Jovial Jihadist...

The BBC Trust and Ofcom are not impressed by Radio 1's Newsbeat interviewing a jihadist who likened his experience in Syria to computer gaming

Link Here12th November 2014
Newsbeat , BBC Radio's youth-orientated news service, has committed a serious breach of editorial guidelines by broadcasting an interview with a British jihadi who compared fighting for the terrorist group Islamic State to playing a computer game.

BBC Trust is not impressed

The BBC Trust said Newsbeat had a responsibility to protect children and young people from unsuitable content and that the broadcast should have come with an appropriate warning for Radio 1 listeners, many of whom are at school.

In the piece, broadcast last June, Newsbeat used a clip from an online video called The Isis Podcast , in which a young British man using the name Abu Sumayyah Al-Britani talked of the pleasures of jihad. He was introduced as speaking from an internet cafe' near his training camp in north-west Syria .

A Newsbeat reporter said: Some say Isis is overtaking Al Qaeda as one of the world's most dangerous jihadist organisations. Sumayyah believes what they are fighting for is right. The terrorist was then heard saying: It's actually quite fun. Better than, how you'd say, what's that game called, Call of Duty. It's like that but really... 3D you know. You can see everything that's happening in front of you, you know it's real, you know what I mean?

The Trust found that Newsbeat had also failed to sufficiently challenge the statements put forward in the Isis video and had failed to meet the BBC Editorial Guideline that demands that contributors expressing contentious views, either through an interview or other means, must be rigorously tested .

Newsbeat accepted that the report should have been preceded by a warning and that more contextual information should have been included. It stressed that the film was not an Isis propaganda vehicle but a podcast produced by two freelance journalists studying the terror group.

Nor is Ofcom impressed

Meanwhile Ofcom has also been investigating the Newsbeat interview. After an extraordinarily long report Ofcom concluded:

The Code does not prohibit particular individuals or organisations from appearing on UK television and radio just because their views or actions have the potential to cause offence, provided broadcasters comply with the Code. To do otherwise would be a disproportionate restriction of the broadcaster's right to freedom of expression and the audience's right to receive information and ideas. This is especially the case in news and current affairs programming, where broadcasters may wish to give coverage to or interview individuals or organisations with extreme and very challenging views as part of their legitimate and comprehensive coverage of the news. Broadcasters should be able to report on terrorist groups that pose threats internationally and domestically. This is clearly in the public interest and expected by viewers and listeners. However, where highly controversial individuals or organisations are given the opportunity to articulate their views on television or radio, broadcasters must always ensure that they place those views in context by, for example, providing appropriate challenge to those views and giving warnings as appropriate.

Breaches of Rules 1.3 and 2.3

  • Rule 1.3: Children protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them .
  • Rule 2.3: In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context...Appropriate information should also be broadcast where it would assist in avoiding or minimising offence .



Nobody gives a fuck...

Chief TV censor explains to parliamentary committee that TV viewers are no longer wound up by strong language

Link Here8th November 2014
Ed Richards, chief executive of the TV censor Ofcom was called to give evidence to the Commons culture, media and sport committee. He outlined findings published earlier this year by Ofcom saying that TV viewers have become more tolerant of violence and swearing. But that sexist or racist language of the 1970s is far less acceptable than it once was.

Richards, who is about to stand down after 11 years in the job, told MPs there has been a big change in tolerance levels in the past few decades. According to the Ofcom's latest research, published in July, only 35% of viewers think there is too much violence on TV, down from 55% in 2008. Just 35% think there is too much swearing, down from 53% six years ago, while 26% believe there is too much sex, a slight rise from 25%. Richards told MPs:

People are more tolerant of a degree of violence than they were. They are much more tolerant of certain forms of swearing than they were. There are still some words, very few to be honest, but still some words which are off limits or only in certain circumstances.

They are much less tolerant, interestingly enough, of language which is regarded as discriminatory or unfair or unjust towards people. That's a big change if you think of the Seventies and some of the programmes which went out then. The public just do not want to see that any more.

One of the MPs who quizzed Mr Richards, former Labour Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, said he felt UK broadcasters are now too intolerant of nudity while being willing to accept violence and sex on screen. However, Richards denied that British television has become more prudish about nudity and was importing American values and morality .

Vivienne Pattison, the director of moralist campaign group Mediawatch-UK, said that if it was true that viewers were less concerned by bad language but ludicrously claimed it was simply because they had become desensitised to it.

What she really means is that as viewers experience material, they are better able to come to their own conclusions and put it all in perspective. And the more they are given chance to have their own reasoned opinions, the less likely they are to agree with Pattison's simplistic nonsense.



Update: Government propaganda campaign against Google/Facebook encryption...

Britain's internet censors at Ofcom call for easier snooping

Link Here 5th November 2014
In the wake of a GCHQ for increased internet mass snooping capabilities, Ofcom internet censors have chipped in with calls for Google and Facebook to make state snooping easier.

Ofcom's chief executive, Ed Richards, has said technology companies such as Google and Facebook have social responsibilities. He said:

 I think it's fair to say that there are social responsibilities that come with a media that are as prevalent and significant as those social media [companies] have become.

It's absolutely right to ask what society should expect of those organisations as responsible companies with an impact on society.

At one level what he is saying is clearly right in the sense that social media are being used by all sorts of different communities, clearly including terrorist and jihadi [groups], and are part of the way that groups like that communicate.

His comments came after the new director of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, called on US tech companies to do more in the fight against terrorism in the Financial Times, declaring that privacy had never been an absolute right .

Ofcom's chair, Patricia Hodgson, seemed to suggest that snooping wasn't just targetted at terrorism but even down to supposed crimes such as extreme pornography. She said:

It's certainly the case that there has been a struggle to keep up with this shift [in] the use of social media, the most extreme abuses of it, for terrorism or illegal pornography.

There are obviously arrangements whereby the government can categorise material [relating to terrorism or illegal pornography] and issue take-down notices.

But there were very great difficulties where that material is on the cusp, that doesn't fall very clearly under those arrangements.

The chair and chief executive of Ofcom were giving evidence to the Commons culture, media and sport select committee on Tuesday as part of a review of the regulator's work.



Dogged Censorship...

Ofcom bitches at the World's Crazy Fools

Link Here26th October 2014

World's Craziest Fools
BBC3, 30 June 2014, 19:00

World's Craziest Fools is a series of programmes presented by actor and professional wrestler Mr T. Video clips of people acting foolishly are shown accompanied by humorous voiceovers from the presenter.

A complainant alerted Ofcom to the use of offensive language during an episode shown on 30 June 2014 at 19:00. About five minutes into the programme the song Move Bitch by the rapper Ludacris was used as background music to accompany a montage of clips showing car drivers behaving in various stupid or dangerous ways.

Ofcom noted 25 instances of bitch which were clearly audible while the song was played. The duration of the montage using the music was about two minutes.

Ofcom consider Rule 1.16:

Offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed unless it is justified by the context. In any event, frequent use of such language must be avoided before the watershed .

Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 1.16

Ofcom's guidance on Rule 1.16 makes clear that:

Milder language in the early part of the evening may be acceptable, for example, if mitigated by a humorous context. However, in general, viewers and listeners do not wish to hear frequent or regular use of such language, including profanity, before 2100 .

Our research on offensive language noted that the word bitch is considered by audiences to be offensive language of medium acceptability which they group with other words considered to be stronger swear words. This research said that, although some thought there were contexts where it was acceptable to use this word pre-watershed, audiences considered that care needed to be taken , particularly where children were likely to be listening or watching and where programmes were intended to be family viewing.

Ofcom noted that there were 25 audible uses of the word bitch in this one item in the programme over a period of two minutes. In our view it was therefore clear that in this pre-watershed programme there was frequent use of offensive language.

We took account of the various points made by the BBC which it suggested helped to mitigate the offence caused by this repeated use of offensive language. These included that the use of this song in conjunction with a montage of traffic and parking clips made clear that in this context the song was intended to be comedic, rather than offensive towards women. Nonetheless we noted that the programme was pre-recorded, and there was therefore an opportunity for the producers to research and reflect on this choice of music for a pre-watershed programme.

The BBC also argued that any potential offence was mitigated by the humorous nature of the programme in general, and blunted, rather than intensified by its repetition. However, Rule 1.16 requires that the frequent use of offensive language must be avoided before the watershed. Ofcom's research on offensive language2 indicates that some audiences feel that the frequent use of a word can increase its offensiveness. In Ofcom's view, therefore, the repeated use of the word bitch in this song did not blunt the potential offence caused.

Breach of Rule 1.16



Ofcom whinges at 'fucks' in a live daytime Lily Allen concert...

I bet half the kids being 'protected' would have sworn at the radio if the gig had been cancelled

Link Here 25th October 2014

  Radio 1's Big Weekend
BBC Radio 1, 24 May 2014, 17:15 to 18:45

BBC Radio 1 hosted an annual live music event in Glasgow called Radio 1's Big Weekend , with segments of the event broadcast across the weekend.

Three complainants alerted Ofcom to the use of offensive language during the event's live broadcasts. Two of the complaints related specifically to Lily Allen's set aired between 17:30 and 18:15 on 24 May 2014 and one complaint was made about offensive language across the whole weekend. Ofcom noted that there were six instances of fuck during Lily Allen's 45 minute performance.

At 17:27, immediately prior to Lily Allen going on stage, the on-air presenter, Scott Mills, broadcast the following warning:

Now don't forget this set may contain some strong language, it is live on Radio 1's Big Weekend. We're about to see Lily Allen. If you're easily offended please go to the website and check out some other performance.

Lily Allen's set contained 11 songs in total, three of which included fuck . Following the first instance of fuck in each song the broadcast was immediately interrupted with an apology from the on-air presenter, with these apologies repeated at the end of the tracks.

Ofcom Rule 1.14:

The most offensive language must not be broadcastâ?¦when children are particularly likely to be listening.

The BBC pointed to the warning for strong language before Lily Allen's set began, and the multiple apologies broadcast during and after songs which included fuck .

The BBC said that at two points during Lily Allen's performance it considered whether to cut away from her set because of the repeated use of the word fuck . However the senior producer decided on balance to continue for various reasons. These included the producer's view that few children would be listening, the very clear signposting and apologies already given. However the BBC stated that in retrospect it believed Radio 1 should have stopped broadcasting live Lily Allen's set after the second song when she used offensive language, and only broadcast the remainder of her performance once it had been edited.

Ofcom Decision: Breach of rule 1.14

In this case the BBC clearly had prior experience with this live event from 2011. It is also important to note that in this case BBC Radio 1 was both the event promoter and broadcaster. It therefore had greater control over this event, and for example the order and content of the performances, than if it was one for which it had negotiated the rights to broadcast. Also as Lily Allen's material was well known, and her use of strong language in performance well established, it was reasonably predictable that her set could contain the most offensive language during a live broadcast of Radio 1's Big Weekend.

In light of Ofcom's decision in 2011, we considered that the BBC should have been more aware of this risk when broadcasting the same event in 2014. We are concerned that it did not take more measures both before and during the broadcast to ensure compliance with Section One of the Code taking into account that the event was to be broadcast at a time when children were particularly likely to be listening. Ofcom noted, for example, that in addition to consideration of the scheduling of the acts, the BBC also had the option of cutting away from Lily Allen's set after the first occasion when she used the most offensive language but failed to do so.

Therefore, in light of all the above factors, Rule 1.14 of the Code was breached.

Update: The BBC Trust also investigates

29th October 2014. See  article [pdf] from

In a similar investigation to Ofcom, the BBC Trust concluded:

Trustees were particularly concerned that this breach had come after several similar incidents in which the BBC had broadcast high profile music events which had included offensive language. They noted previous occasions when this had taken place: July 2005's broadcast of Live 8; July 2007's broadcast of Live Earth and Radio 1's Big Weekend of 2011. They considered that the BBC had an even greater degree of responsibility in regard to Radio 1's Big Weekend because it had editorial control in advance that it would not necessarily have over other events. They considered that, while artists were not paid for their performances, it was not the case that they did not benefit from taking part. They were able to reach a very wide audience, had the benefit of wide TV, radio and online coverage and had the advantage of widespread publicity that came with the coverage.

Trustees found that in relation to the output broadcast live on Radio 1 and online there had been a serious breach of the Editorial Guidelines for Harm and Offence; in particular, Guideline 5.4.22 which states: We must not include the strongest language before the watershed, or on radio when children are particularly likely to be in our audience, or in online content likely to appeal to a significant proportion of children.



Update: Ofcom takes pleasure at censoring Studio 66...

Babe channel offends the TV censor for being slightly too sexy

Link Here24th October 2014
Full story: Babe Channels...Ofcom have it in for free to air babe channels

Studio 66
Studio 66 TV3, 4 June 2014, 22:15
Studio 66 TV1, 6 June 2014, 01:45

Studio 66 Nights was a segment of interactive adult chat advertising content broadcast on the service Studio 66 TV. The service, broadcasting on a digital satellite platform, is freely available without mandatory restricted access and is situated in the adult section of the electronic programme guide (EPG). Viewers are invited to contact on-screen presenters via premium rate telephony services (PRS). The female presenters dress and behave in a sexually provocative way while encouraging viewers to contact the PRS numbers.

The licence for Studio 66 TV3 is owned and operated by 965 TV Limited.

Ofcom received a complaint that at 22:30 the on-screen female presenter was rubbing her genitals.

We assessed the material between 22:15 and 22:45 and noted the female presenter was wearing a thong and white vest top pulled down to expose her breasts. During the broadcast, the presenter sat for extended periods of time with her legs apart and repeatedly stroked and rubbed her genital area through her thong. On a further two occasions she moved her hand underneath her underwear and appeared to rub her genital area. The presenter's thong also failed to adequately cover the area around her genitals and this area was exposed on a number of occasions during the broadcast.

Ofcom considered BCAP Code Rule 4.2.This states:

Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards .

Ofcom rules for babe channels include that adult chat broadcasters should:

  • at no time broadcast anal, labial or genital areas or broadcast images of presenters touching their genital or anal areas whether with their hand or an object
  • ensure that presenters' clothing adequately covers their anal, labial or genital areas.

Ofcom Decision: Breach of BCAP rule 4.2

In this case, the material was clearly at odds with the Guidance. The location of the channel within the adult section of the EPG and the time of broadcast were not sufficient mitigating factors to ensure serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards by the broadcast of this material on an advertising-based service was avoided. Rule 4.2 was therefore breached.

We also noted the Licensee's assertion that certain non-PRS adult channels (regulated under the Broadcasting Code) broadcast much stronger material by way of free-to-air and unencrypted promotional clips than the Licensee's channels. Ofcom noted that these kinds of promotions for adult services are typically very short in length, and consist of a rolling series of very brief, tightly cut clips shown on editorial services which are specifically licensed to broadcast adult sex material', subject to various restrictions.

Ofcom has noted the various measures taken by the Licensee to improve compliance after being alerted by Ofcom to the broadcast of this material. Nonetheless, Ofcom puts 965 TV on notice that should similar breaches of the BCAP Code occur on this Licensee's chat or adult chat services it will consider further regulatory action.

Ofcom found similarly against the complaint on Studio 66 TV1.



Duh! I missed a bit!...

TV censors who were a bit slow to delete a 'fuck' from Monty Python Live forgiven by Ofcom.

Link Here7th October 2014

TV censors own up to missing a bit

Monty Python Live (Mostly) was a live broadcast of the final stage performance of the remaining members of Monty Python at London's O2 arena, on the classic comedy channel Gold.

Ofcom received two complaints about offensive language being used during the broadcast. Ofcom noted the following exchange around 19:24. It was part of a sketch involving Australian Bruce characters, where all the performers on stage wore the same khaki shirts, shorts and hats with corks hanging from them, and spoke with Australian accents.

Eric Idle: Have we got anything? Punk Bruce, can you give us a hand?

Bruce character: [Off-screen] I can give him a hand here.

Eric Idle: Oi, oi, stop that Bruce. You, oi. [Produces a football referees' red card] Straight off, off. Go on. Off. Fuck off. [A loud bleep was then heard]

At 20:55, the presenter of the programme Dara O'Briain said the following:

One thing I must explain, viewers at home missed certain parts of the show. And this I have to explain, Gold would like to explain, was not their choice. In particular, it was these two later verses of the penis song, the second was about bottoms and the third about lady gardens, that's the most polite way I can put this. This is all regarded by Ofcom as being a little bit too much at 7:46 in the evening. Equally some bad language was bleeped. Gold obviously want to apologise for that, being the policy they have to make because of Ofcom. By the way, one naughty swearword, by the way, did slip through. So I apologise for that. And I want my face to indicate a level of professional sincerity as I read those words off the autocue. I cannot apologise enough.

Licensee UKTV said it had decided to put in place a three minute delay on the live feed of the performances from the venue to enable its compliance team to bleep the language where necessary. It said the scripted language was:

Successfully bleeped throughout Part 1 but unfortunately an unscripted fuck was not successfully bleeped...the bleep [came] in fractionally too late. This was the result of human error...¦for which we sincerely apologise.

The Licensee said its compliance team then: instructed host Dara O'Briain to apologise to viewers for the missed language.

Ofcom Decision

Rule 1.14 states that the most offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed. Ofcom research on offensive language1 clearly notes that the word fuck and other variations of this word are considered by audiences to be among the most offensive language, particularly when used in an aggressive manner.

The broadcast of the word fuck in this programme around 19:24 was therefore a clear example of the most offensive language being broadcast before the watershed.

However, Ofcom took into account that the Licensee had chosen to take measures before the programme to minimise the risk of offensive language being broadcast by delaying the on-air feed, that the use of fuck was not scripted, and that the host of the programme apologised on air after the incident. In light of these factors Ofcom considered the matter resolved.



Talented creator of fine words and unjustified censorship...

UK's chief TV and internet censor resigns

Link Here 3rd October 2014
The Ofcom Board today announced that Ed Richards will stand down as Chief Executive at the end of December 2014. He will continue to lead on all operational, financial, economic, competition and policy matters until that date.

Ed Richards said:

It has been a privilege to lead Ofcom during such an exciting and dynamic period in the evolution of the UK's communications sector.

It is never easy leaving a job that you enjoy greatly but I have always felt that once I had completed eight years as Chief Executive this would be the right time to move on.

Richards was a talented generator of fine words about 'light touch' or 'evidence based' regulation. But it was all just bollox. Ofcom have created a highly censorial environment...just because. Particularly for anything sexy, which is either banned or else shunted into totally uneconomic backwaters where it is almost impossible for adult companies to viably operate.

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