Melon Farmers Original Version

Satellite X

Columns from What Satellite magazine: 2014

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Good education...

15 year olds have learnt how to use strong language properly, so don't need nannying

Link Here20th January 2014

Every 4 or 5 years the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) initiates a major consultation to check that its censorship rules are still in line with the wishes of the public.

And every 4 or 5 years, the tabloid newspapers get all 'outraged' that the wishes of the public are somehow not in line with their own.

The BBFC has recently announced the results of the most recent consultation along with subsequent changes to the classification guidelines. The newspapers duly responded with contradictory articles expressing predictable outrage at the new rules.

The Daily Mail ran with the headline: "Surrender on film swearing: Children can see films full of obscenities as censors relax rules", whilst the Telegraph opted for the total opposite: "Film ratings to be toughened up amid fears over the sexualisation of girls".

The film at the centre of discussions for this year's update was The Woman In Black. This was a successful Hammer ghost story by James Watkins that sits exactly on the borderline between 12 and 15 ratings. In fact it was slightly cut for violence to ensure that it just about scraped into the 12 category.

The film was very well made and proved quite scary, even in this slightly sanitised 12 rated version. However it was too scary for some viewers, and the film went on to become the BBFC's most complained about film of the last four years. The resulting 130 complaints triggered one of the biggest changes to the guidelines. The BBFC announced that even if a film qualifies for a 12 rating in terms of violence, then it could still be rated 15 just for being a bit too scary.

The BBFC explained: "Greater weight will be given to the theme and tone of a film or video, particularly around the 12A/12 and 15 level; Particular attention will be given to the psychological impact of horror, as well as strong visual detail such as gore";

The BBFC seem to have lost the plot here. The BBFC went to the trouble of surveying the views of 10,000 people and found that 89% supported the 12 rating. But then the BBFC seem to have ignored the majority view and decided that it is more important to act upon the wishes of a handful of complainants, and so changed the guidelines to suit the vocal few.

Saying that, the new rules only require the BBFC to pay particular attention to the psychological impact. The Board did not suggest that The Woman in Black would actually be raised to a 15 if it were to be resubmitted today.

The most significant changes to the guidelines are for strong language. This is always a difficult issue for film censors. If film censorship is based upon following the consensus of opinion, then the majority probably favours restricting strong language. Parents will always want their children to avoid being exposed to bad language lest the kids pick up bad habits.. On the other hand if film censorship is based on minimising harm, then the reality is that the kids have heard it all already, and hearing a bit more makes little or no difference.

Adopting the latter more realistic approach, the BBFC explained that the strongest language, ie 'cunt' has lost much of its power to shock and can now even be used as a term of endearment. Given that 15, 16 and 17 year olds have heard it all already, then the BBFC decided that the strongest language is now acceptable at 15. Previously, repeated or aggressive use of the word 'cunt' would have led to an 18 rating.

The BBFC has also scrapped counting 'fucks' for a 12 rating. Previously, a maximum of 4 or 5 were allowed at 12, but now it's left to the discretion of the examiners.

In its press release the BBFC said that it would tighten up strong language in the lower categories. But the only change is that mild swear words can no longer be used repeatedly in a PG rated film. The BBFC also slipped in that only 'very mild violence' is now acceptable in a U rated film, whereas previously, 'mild violence' was allowed.

Political correctness is a modern malaise from which the BBFC is not exempt. The 2014 guidelines have spawned a new set of rules about anti-social behaviour. U rated films can only feature anti-social behaviour if it is disapproved of. PG rated films must not focus on anti-social behaviour, whilst 12 rated films are required not to endorse such behaviour. Thankfully there are no restrictions on 15 and 18 rated films.

Another subtle change appeared in the rules about sexual nudity in a 15 rated film. Previously strong detail was not allowed in a 15, but now strong detail is 'usually' not allowed.

The final change to the guidelines may be of interest to fans of Fifty Shades of Grey. Previously only 'mild' BDSM was allowed in hardcore pornographic videos rated as R18. Now, 'moderate' BDSM is allowed, as long as it is consensual and non-abusive.

In summary the changes will result in a few more uses of the word 'fuck' in 12 rated films; nearly all strong language will now be allowed in a 15 rated film; and a very occasional scary, but not particularly violent film, may now get a 15 instead of a 12.

So if you were worried by newspaper headlines saying "Film ratings to be toughened up", don't be. It was all just 'outrageous' tabloid hype.



Be Careful what you wish for...

Challenging internet censor ATVOD may result in new laws against porn

Link Here13th February 2014

Britain's Video on Demand censor, The Authority for Television on Demand (ATVOD), has revealed concerns that its legal basis for censoring porn is at risk. Unfortunately the likely outcome is not that ATVOD will back off from its excessive censorship rules. No, it seems that the government is planning new anti-porn legislation that would allow ATVOD to continue unabated.

ATVOD is currently suffocating the British adult website industry by imposing onerous child protection rules that simply don't allow viable operation. In particular ATVOD demands that any visitor to a British video porn website must supply a credit card before being able to view hardcore. Sorry debit card holders, you are not allowed to view porn! But who's going to supply credit card details to a potentially dodgy porn site where they are not even allowed to look round first, nor even see a sample of what's on offer.

There are alternative age verification systems but these involve typing in lots of personal information. Surely a paradise for identity thieves should people be foolish enough to go along with it.

ATVOD is able to impose these onerous rules by claiming that hardcore porn seriously harms children.The European Audio Visual Media Services Directive provides serious harm as a justification for censorship. The directive was implemented in UK law as follows:

"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". .

ATVOD claim that hardcore porn qualifies as such material, and so gives ATVOD the authority to impose Draconian censorship of websites.

However it is not actually proven that hardcore porn 'seriously harms' under 18s. Even anti-porn campaigners speak in terms of kids picking up bad attitudes rather than being seriously harmed. But given that all the young people seem to be watching porn anyway, and society is getting by pretty much as normal then the case for claiming serious harm looks to be untrue. If anything society seems to be getting better, crime rates are on a steady decline, and there doesn't seem to be a particular problem of depraved, corrupt and seriously harmed children.

Perhaps ATVOD should ask some of the parents of the many children who have seen porn. Is your child seriously harmed?. I don't suppose many will say yes. They're still just normal kids.

Recent minutes from ATVOD's December board meeting reveal that the censor feels a little bit under threat.It is seeking new laws to provide a firmer footing for its censorship regime. Such a law is currently being debated by the government as indicated by the minutes:

"The Board noted the Government's plans to legislate to outlaw material which goes beyond R18 and to remove any doubt that R18 material needs to be kept out of reach of children. The Board noted that the proposed common framework for media standards might include provision for protection of minors, hatred, consumer protection and protecting individuals. Meetings with other media regulators were being held under Ofcom's chairmanship to consider this issue".

Such rules could have quite an impact on porn viewers because an awful lot of foreign porn 'goes beyond R18'.In particular rough sex and/or squirting go beyond R18 guidelines. About a fifth of all standard porn videos submitted to the film censor are cut. So a similar fraction of unclassified porn, obtained via the internet, would suddenly become totally illegal.

ATVOD is also seeking that banks and payment services refuse payment services to adult websites by similarly claiming that providing hardcore porn in a way that can be seen by children contravenes the Obscene Publications Act, which states:

"An article shall be deemed to be obscene if its effect, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it".

Effectively ATVOD is claiming that hardcore porn depraves and corrupts kids. But again the reality of so much porn being viewed, and so few depraved and corrupt kids, rather disproves the claim.

It seems that the banks agree that ATVOD is overstating its case. The board meeting minutes reveal:

"The Payments Industry's conclusion that the Obscene Publications Act does not provide adequate grounds for blocking payments and that firmer statutory underpinning is required"

The minutes conclude that there is real risk to ATVOD if new legislation isn't forthcoming:

"For the next update of the Risk Register consideration would be given to the risk to ATVOD of an absence of relevant legislation in relation to R18 material".

This is probably a reference to a legal challenge initiated from a campaign group called Some Common Sense. The group describes itself as a loose alliance of individuals opposed to the introduction of government regulation of the internet in the United Kingdom.

So maybe a bit of warning to those who are unsurprisingly challenging ATVOD rules, it could all end up with something even worse!



Dangerous porn...

Are you absolutely sure there are no dangerous pictures lurking in long forgotten nooks of your PC?

Link Here10th March 2014

Britain became a dangerous place for porn collectors in January of 2009. That was when the possession of 'extreme pornography'. was banned under the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008.

Of course the concern to a typical Satellite X viewer is what is covered by the definition of 'extreme porn'. And actually, the wording of the law is pretty reassuring. The bar is set pretty high, and little, if anything, of what one may see on a hardcore satellite channel falls within the scope of 'extreme pornography'.

For the record, images or videos are considered extreme if all 3 of the following conditions are true:

1. The image must be pornographic which means that it must have been "produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal", This condition excludes explicit material that is produced for academic reasons or for sex education.

2. The image must be "grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character". These are rather subjective terms but presumably they are intended to ensure that only hardcore images can qualify as extreme. Clearly these terms exclude softcore material and sex scenes in mainstream movies.

3. The image must portray in an explicit and realistic way, one of the following:

(a) an act which threatens a person's life,
(b) an act which results, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts or genitals,
(c) an act which involves sexual interference with a human corpse
(d) a person performing an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal.

So the definitions are pretty extreme and one would expect few people to be caught out be the law, When drafting the law, the government commented in an impact statement that only a few prosecution were expected.

So how come there have been thousands of prosecutions? There were 2236 prosecutions in the first three years after the law came in.

The answer lies in the way that the law has been used. Thankfully the authorities haven't been going out of their way to track down porn viewers. As far as I know, none of the prosecutions have actually resulted from investigations that started from a suspicion of extreme porn possession.

No, what has happened is that people have been caught out when being investigated for other crimes. It is a standard police procedure for suspects to get their PCs, laptops, phones and tablets seized. Police forensics then go through the devices with a tooth comb and regularly find some images that may qualify as extreme.

Now this is where it all starts to get a bit dangerous. Because the search is related to suspicion of a crime, then investigators are hardly likely give people the benefit of the doubt. Secondly a major failing of the law becomes apparent, there is no concept of minimal possession.

Actually if someone is caught with just a few offending images, then it is more likely to indicate that a person has no interest in that type of porn. If they had an interest, then surely they would have built up a larger collection. But unfortunately this logic is not part of wording of the law and a single image is enough to get people into trouble.

Surely the vast majority of readers have no interest in such prohibited images and so naturally don't think that have any. But how many might have forgotten that jokey email from a friend that contained a couple of bad taste pictures. It could still be languishing in a long forgotten email folder labelled 'humour'.

Prosecutions have been indeed been initiated on such flimsy examples. One man was famously prosecuted for a jokey tiger porn video clip. Another was prosecuted for possessing fisting pictures with the claim that this would be likely to result in a serious injury. Both of these cases were successfully defended with the help of specialised lawyers, but not everyone is lucky enough to be so well assisted.

Now the government has introduced a bill with an extension to the definitions of extreme porn, A fifth category will be added to the four listed above, i.e. an image or video that portrays, in an explicit and realistic way, an act which involves the non-consensual penetration of a person's vagina or anus with: a penis; another part of the body; or anything else. The category also includes non-consensual oral sex.

If one reads the proposed law with the prompt of it being a ban of 'simulated rape porn' then it reads eminently sensibly. But what about a spanking or BDSM video? These by definition have an element of portraying a non-consensual scenario, even when it is absolutely clear that in reality everything is totally consensual.

Also it is commonplace for films to include rape scenes for dramatic purposes. For example, Baise-moi, a 2000 French crime drama by Virginie Despentes and Coralie features a very unpleasant rape scene complete with explicit penetration. Actually the film is 18 rated by the BBFC and hence exempt from prosecution, but there are probably similar examples on European satellite TV that have not been approved by the BBFC.

One can't help but think that porn has got a little bit more dangerous, especially for fans of spanking and BDSM. There are fifty shades of grey when it comes to consent, and under this law, all of them could lead to jail.



Extra Censorship...

Extension of British film censorship threatens the existence of small distributors

Link Here10th April 2014

Who'd have thought that a moral panic about sexy pop videos could be a threat to the very existence of Britain's horror film industry?.

Morality campaigners have highlighted sexy music videos, from the likes of Miley Cyrus, Rihanna and Robin Thicke, as being unsuitable for children. And the campaigners first task is to establish a music censor whose job it is to judge the age suitability of pop videos.

In the past, music DVDs, religion, sport and documentaries have all been specifically exempted from needing a British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) certificate. Presumably when the 1984 Video Recordings Act was being drafted it was felt that these categories were not controversial, and so were unlikely to need vetting by censors. These exemptions are not absolute anyway. The law defines some exceptions to the exemptions. A video is not exempt if it depicts: human sexual activity; gross violence towards, humans or animals; human genitals; or techniques likely to be useful in the commission of offences.

Even the sexiest pop videos do not really qualify as depicting sexual activity, so have been exempt...until now!

The government has now enacted new rules in 'The Video Recordings Act 1984 (Exempted Video Works) Regulations 2014'. The government opted out of getting these new rules debated in Parliament by declaring them to be a 'statutory instrument' rather than a law.

These regulations extend the list of content that is not exempt from BBFC classification. The new list is lengthy, but the new clauses casting the widest net, say that a video is not exempt if: it depicts or promotes violence or threats of violence; it includes words or images intended or likely to convey a sexual message (ignoring words or images depicting any mild sexual behaviour); it depicts human sexual activity (ignoring any depictions of mild sexual activity); it includes swearing (ignoring any mild bad language); and it includes words or images that are intended or likely (to any extent) to cause offence.

The list seems to have been authored with the help of the BBFC who use the word 'mild' when something is suitable for a PG rating. The wording of the list means that any material must be submitted to the BBFC when it is around the 12 rating level or higher.

Perhaps at first reading that sounds a fair sort of level, but in reality most material of interest will trigger at least one of these clauses. After all, except for children's films, there are not many Hollywood films that qualify for a U or PG rating these days.

Campaigners will be well pleased, sexy music videos will no longer be able to escape the BBFC's clutches. But unfortunately the new law is not restricted to sexy music videos, it applies to lots of other content too. In particular it applies to previously exempt DVD and Blu-ray extras.

Many distributors like to provide a wealth of extras, sometimes stretching to an entire DVD of additional material, But BBFC censorship does not come cheap. At the very minimum it costs the time of a professional to sit through each extras.

The additional expenses probably won't affect the profitability of the DVD of a Hollywood blockbuster, but it will be a massive hit on the profitability of DVDs, say with a distribution of a thousand copies.

And in most cases, this money is totally wasted and achieves nothing. Extras for a 15 or 18 rated horror are extremely unlikely to change the final rating of a film. A 'making of' documentary isn't generally going be any worse than the main feature.

Perhaps the most obvious consequence is that distributors will simply drop the extras. But extras are not included out of pure generosity, they add value to a product. Obviously many viewers enjoy watching them, but even if people don't watch them, the extras still contribute to the perception of a movie. Lavishing a release with a comprehensive bonus section sends the powerful marketing message that the movie is well worth the effort.

Then there is the issue of foreign competition. If distributors drop the extras, then many customers will opt to buy the bonus laden foreign versions instead.There are not many countries that saddle their industries with such expensive censorship requirements as Britain, so there will be plenty of alternatives.

Satellite TV viewers will be affected even though such channels don't actually show the extras. Extras tend to add to the perception of the film and hence to the buzz when the film appears on TV. In effect the marketing for a DVD makes the movie more attractive for TV too.

So what's the answer? Surely the fairest solution would be that the government should pick up the tab for the classification of DVD extras. After all they are the only people that will benefit from this unnecessary censorship. That's if appeasing the likes of the Daily Mail is considered a benefit.

The trouble with pandering to those that want censorship, is that classifying sexy videos and DVD extras will end up making no discernible difference to the original problems. Unfortunately campaigners will never acknowledge that their idea isn't actually a panacea for all society's ills. No they will assume that the measure has failed because it is not censorial enough, and so will simply call for even more censorship. Extra censorship one may say.



A watershed for the watershed...

In an age of catch up TV, campaigners seek age ratings for TV

Link Here7th May 2014

"Age Ratings You Trust" boasts the front page of the British Board of Film Classification website. And it seems that the message has found its way into government circles.

Reg Bailey, censorship campaigner and chief executive of the Mothers' Union, advises Downing Street on the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood, He has called for the introduction of a cinema-style ratings system for all broadcast content.

He explained that the increasing use of time-shifted viewing of TV, via PVRs or catch up TV on the internet meant that the current 9pm watershed could not survive in its current form. He said: "If you go to the age-rated system, 12, 12A, PG, it is simpler and has a high trust level".

Bailey was the author of the 2011 report, 'Let Children be Children'. It was a very influential report which has been the basis of many of David Cameron's policy ideas for the censorship of TV, Video on Demand, and the internet.So no doubt the idea will be considered seriously by the powers that be.

Moralist TV campaigners have been making similar claims for quite a while. Mediawatch-UK has even gone as far as suggesting that the internet should be reinvented with age restricted websites somehow limited to post watershed hours.

A newspaper report quoted figures that 10% of all television viewing is now time-shifted rather than live. Given that a lot of TV is just viewed in the background, or else is not applicable to time-shifting, eg rolling news, then the amount of programmes of particular interest watched via time-shift is likely to be a lot higher than 10%. In my household nearly all relevant TV is time-shifted, either to watch post-watershed programming during the daytime, or else simply to be able to skip excessive quantities of advertising,

This large quantity of time-shifted programming surely gives weight to the calls for new methods of implementing age restrictions. UK authorities seem to concur with the observations. Tony Close, director of content standards at the TV censor Ofcom, responded to Bailey's idea: "The TV watershed is an important way to protect children. We recognise the growth of on-demand TV viewing poses new challenges. We are working with government to ensure that children remain protected".

A spokesman for the government's Culture, Media and Sport department said: "More needs to be done to ensure safety measures and tools that prevent children watching post-watershed programmes, such as locks and PIN protection, are more widely used. We will keep progress under close review and if necessary consider the case for legislation to ensure that audiences are protected to the level they choose".

But I don't suppose that the suggested cinema style age ratings will ever be used for TV. It's not they are unuseful or inaccurate, its more that they would be likely to reveal unspoken and unpalatable truths about pre-watershed programming.

A lot of pre-watershed drama shown in the evenings is routinely classified with a '12' rating by the BBFC for home video. Soaps for instance, naturally include or imply levels of violence that are simply not allowed in the children's rating of U and PG. Similarly sex references included in soaps are often simply not allowed in cinema's children's ratings.

The broadcasters would be mortified if they were forced to stick to PG guidelines for pre-watershed peak time drama. And no doubt adult TV viewers would be none to impressed either.

The reality that the most interesting televisual entertainment is not really quite officially 'suitable for children' can also be seen by casting one's eyes over the latest cinema offerings. The large majority of Hollywood blockbusters are rated 12. There is hardly anything that would appeal to adults and teenagers that is rated less than 12.

So it would seen unlikely that any TV rating system will follow cinematic lines. It would be more likely that ratings could follow a more vague notion of parental guidance, perhaps with a little extra information to parents about content such as violence or sex references. However, a vague approach would not be particularly useful for implementing age restrictions on catch up TV or Video on Demand.

US TV has a system of ratings based upon 4 classifications, General Audience, TV-PG, TV-14, and TV-MA.(Mature Audience). There are additional categories for children's programmes, and there are additional pointers to violence, sexual situations, suggestive dialogue, and strong language. For reasons of practicality and expense, programmes are rated by the broadcaster themselves rather than any external ratings body.

Everything seems rather vague about mapping these ratings to actual ages except for the 14 rating. This middle rating is widely used and provides a focus for TV morality campaigners to attack, eg "Is this programme really suitable for 14 year olds?"

I suspect that nobody will be able to dream up a sufficiently flexible TV rating system that works effectively for viewing by people aged 1 to 101, sometimes viewing as a group, and sometimes viewing unsupervised and alone.

For all this talk of something new and complex, we really only need one TV rating: Parental Guidance Required.



Draconian Days...

The continuing fascination with Video Nasties and the moral panic of the 1980's

Link Here10th June 2014

The 12th of July 2014 is a special day that may be of interest to Satellite X readers. It is the 30th anniversary of the Video Recordings Act which also marked the official conclusion of the Video Nasties moral panic.

It's not really right to celebrate the introduction of video censorship in the UK, But we can at least celebrate the cultural phenomenon of the video nasties. It still serves to remind us of the ludicrous overreactions that can be conjured up by press and politicians when they get the bit between their teeth.

Perhaps the highlight of the anniversary celebrations is a new documentary by Jake West and Marc Morris. It is titled, 'Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide 2: Draconian Days' and is the follow up to the very successful first part released in 2010. The promotional material sets the scene very eloquently indeed:

"The United Kingdom was plunged into a new Dark Age of the most restrictive censorship, where the horror movie became the bloody eviscerated victim of continuing dread created by self-aggrandizing moral guardians, and the film charts the consequences of this, including subversive social culture that sprung up around it. With fascinating interviews and more jaw dropping archive footage, get ready to reflect and rejoice on the passing of a turbulent time".

The documentary expands upon the well known list of Video Nasties and details a new list of 82 other films that were seized by the police during the video nasties panic. The difference being that the new list of films did not lead to obscenity trials.

These videos were seized under an Obscene Publications Act (OPA) Section 3 Seizure Order. This is a plea bargaining gambit whereby victims admit that the videos are 'obscene' in return for the resulting confiscation being the end of the matter. Victims were therefore able to avoid the possibility of fines and jail under a full obscenity trial. The authorities benefited from being able to continue imposing their 'not very obscene' definitions of obscenity without worrying about them being challenged in court. This arrangement has allowed the OPA to persist for many years, even where the material targeted has absolutely no chance of 'depraving' or 'corrupting' anyone.

Notable films that were seized by police under this mechanism were: Dawn of the Dead, Dead Kids, Deep Red, Friday the 13th, The Hills Have Eyes, Mark of the Devil, Night of the Living Dead, Phantasm, Rabid, Scanners, Shogun Assassin, Suspiria, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Xtro.

Of the 72 films on the original Video Nasties List, 59 have now been released in the UK with approval from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). Of these certificated releases, 40 have been uncut and 4 were even passed with a 15 certificate.

There are 13 films still unreleased in the UK. Nine are the horrors: Absurd, Blood Rites, Fight for Your Life, Forest of Fear, Frozen Scream, Human Experiments, Mardi Grass Massacre, Nightmare Maker, The Werewolf and the Yeti. Four are the Nazi or prison exploitation films: The Beast in Heat, The Gestapo's Last Orgy, Love Camp 7, and Women Behind Bars.

It is unlikely that any of the unavailable horrors can be thought of as still banned. It's more that they are unavailable for distribution, or else simply not good enough to make it worthwhile to try. Possibly the Nazi films may still hit a few alarms bells at the BBFC due to sexual violence still being a no-no. In fact Love Camp 7 was banned by the BBFC in 2000.

Of course the internet age means that overseas releases are readily available for purchase in the UK. Bearing this in mind, the only video nasties not yet spotted on DVD are Delirium, Nightmare Maker and Human Experiments. And the latter should be up for a release soon.

There are several interesting recent and upcoming releases to look out for. The Gestapo's Last Orgy is set for an uncut US release on the recently resurrected Intervision label. Also the uncut version of Cannibal Holocaust is set for a high profile US Blu-ray release on the Grindhouse label. Actually it has already been released on Blu-ray in the UK, but suffered just a few seconds of cuts for animal cruelty. Bloody Moon and Axe are also set for US releases on Blu-ray.

There is one other new release to look forward to, namely NEKRomantik. The film was first released in 1987, a little after the video nasties, but it still held as a censorship icon from the same era. The film has never been submitted to the BBFC before now, presumably because it was thought that the BBFC would ban it outright. The promotional material gives a few clues as to why:

"A German motorway cleaner takes rotting bodies home to a lover who has a necrophilia fetish. This involves the skinning of a rabbit, use of a metal pipe in conjunction with a condom, nudity, and graphic sexual scenes with dead bodies".

It has now been passed 18 uncut for release by Arrow. And it probably won't be long before it is grabbed for satellite showing on the Horror Channel.

It's taken a few decades, but it seems that the era of the Video nasties will soon be laid to rest. On the 12th of July I will be surely raising a glass to the good times that we've had in the last 30 years.



50th Anniversary of the TV watershed...

Isn't it getting a little late in the day to be continuing with the TV watershed?

Link Here6th July 2014

The TV watershed celebrated its 50th anniversary in July. The idea was conceived in response to a 1964 act of parliament requiring children to be protected from unsuitable material.

Fifty years on, the TV censor Ofcom is still championing the cause. To mark the event, Ofcom published a survey showing that most adult TV viewers are aware of the 9pm watershed as a way of indicating what is suitable for young viewers. The survey found that 94% of adults in the UK are aware that the watershed requires broadcasters to show programmes unsuitable for children only after 9pm. Furthermore Ofcom say that 78% of viewers believe that 9pm is about the right time for the watershed.

The same survey also found that there have been significantly falls in the amount of viewers saying that there is too much sex and violence on TV. Ofcom reports that in the past five years that those complaining of too much violence have declined from 55% to 35%; too much sex from 35% to 26%; and too much strong language from 53% to 35%.

Ofcom analysis suggests that much of this decline in unhappy viewers is down to over 65s lightening up about violence and strong language. Presumably this age group are now enjoying the likes of the Game of Thrones just as much as young folks.

And perhaps even more tellingly, Ofcom found that there has been a large increase in people continuing to watch programmes that they considered offensive. 19% continued watching such programmes compare with just 5% five years ago.

Ofcom then went on to consider how the watershed applies to internet based TV. Ofcom made the rather guarded statement:

"Ofcom is working with Government, other regulators and industry to ensure that children remain protected if they choose on-demand TV over traditional broadcast TV, where Ofcom's strict watershed rules apply. This would mean that consumers have a clear understanding of the protections that apply on different platforms and devices, and know which regulatory body to turn to if they have any concerns".

Of course anything internet based is unlikely to implement age restrictions based on time of day. The internet equivalent is to control viewership by parental controls based on permissions being granted by PINs and passwords.

But it is not a straightforward equivalence. The 9pm watershed cannot be considered as age restriction mechanism in its own right.It does not mean a time when all children are expected to be in bed. It is unlikely that many teenagers will be in bed by 9pm. No, the watershed is generally defined as an indication to parents that after 9pm parents must take charge of what their children of watching, knowing that some of the material being shown after 9pm may be unsuitable for children.

In fact given that many children are up well beyond 9pm then it doesn't take much thinking to realise that the system does little to assist parents in these post 9pm decisions. Announcements at the start of programmes often include a few comments about a programme containing violence and strong language etc but these rarely provide any guidance on how this maps to suggestions for age restrictions. In the more exact science of film classification, 12, 15, or 18 rated films may all contain violence and strong language but are very different in terms of age suitability.

I don't really see how parents are expected to know the suitability of programmes for their kids. Presumably the assumption is that the family are watching together and so parents will see as they go whether the programme is suitable. But once has to wonder how this can work in a multi TV household.

I suspect few parents end up imposing many restrictions on what their children watch.

The advert censor, ASA, provided some interesting figures about the make up of night time TV audiences when trying to determine at what time of day, alcohol adverts can be allowed on TV to minimise them being seen by children.

ASA take a stricter approach than a 9pm watershed. ASA says that alcohol adverts should not be seen in any programmes that have large proportions of child viewers, even after 9pm. Presumably ASA considers that it must override parental discretion when it comes to alcohol advertising and try and impose a more absolute ban on ads being seen by children.

ASA recently considered alcohol advertising on several music channels. For many such channels, the viewership is low and audience figures are likely to be inaccurate. But nevertheless ASA felt that figures could be used to estimate proportions of youngsters viewing.

Music channels that intuitively appeal to younger children, The Box, Smash Hits and Heat were unsurprisingly found to have very high proportions of children viewing until 10pm and still a significant proportion after 10pm.

Channels appealing to older children, Kiss and Kerrang were found to have a high proportion of under 18s viewing until 11pm and significant proportions until 1am.

ASA ended up suggesting that alcohol adverts should be banned before 10pm and 11pm respectively on these two groups of music channels.



The Daily Fail...

Newspapers, politicians and moralists are calling for censorship, but the people seem unconvinced

Link Here3rd August 2014

British newspapers, and in particular the Daily Mail, give the impression that censorship is the panacea for all the world's ills. Politicians, moralist campaigners, and newspaper columnists all queue up to suggest ever more censorial solutions for putting the world to rights. And there's hardly a contrary word allowed in opposition.

But the Daily Mail view of the world is somewhat blinkered, and conveniently chooses to ignore one itsy bitsy little spanner in its pro-censorship works...the people.

For months the Daily Mail has been heavily promoting the idea that Internet Service Providers should offer a one size fits all family internet filter in the name of child protection. The newspaper featured an endless succession of articles about the merits of network level filtering, where all computers and smart phones in a household are all subject to the same level of censorship. Politicians were badgered into supporting the initiative, and there were an endless supply of moralist campaigners willing to endorse the idea.

The newspaper must have been gutted to find that when internet users were finally offered the filters, the large majority of customers simply weren't interested in using them.

Just 4% of new Virgin customers opted for website blocking to be installed, along with 5% of new BT customers and 8% of new Sky customers. However TalkTalk had been heavily promoting its HomeSafe blocking solution for some time and probably established itself as the choice for customers actively seeking out child protection. So the company reported higher uptake with 36% of its new customers opting for filters.

Using published estimates for the amount of subscribers to each company reveals that less than 12% of all new customers opted for website blocking.

Presumably parents aren't willing to put up with being restricted to websites suitable for children. Maybe to attain a greater take up, then somebody needs to find a solution that can tailor the level of blocking to each individual member of the family.

However it is a little worrying that the unholy triumvirate of newspapers, politicians and morality campaigners may now call for laws to force families to use the unpopular blocking systems.

Another area where people power is confounding pro-censorship campaigners is in the popularity of the 12A cinema rating. Before 2002, films rated 12 were strictly restricted to over 12s. Since 2002 under 12's can be admitted when accompanied by adults. This has made a big impact on family cinema going. Before 2002 'family films' were essentially children's films and, despite brave faces, were of little appeal to many adults. Since 2002, 'family films' genuinely do appeal to all ages, and so audiences have improved.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) Annual Report for 2013 highlighted that a record 321 cinema films were given a 12A rating, up a third from 234 in the previous year.

Of course the clear popularity of this rating does not sit well with moralist campaigners. Some have ludicrously tried to spin popularity and profitability as something sinful and wrong.

Miranda Suit of the Safer Media campaign group said she always suspected that when the 12A category was introduced it would benefit the film industry far more than parents or children. She said:
"12As are a gift to the industry, allowing a whole extra group of children, the under 12s, to provide a new revenue stream, as long as they are with an adult. Meanwhile the BBFC are happy to allow surprisingly explicit violence and sadism in 12As, as evidenced by the complaints made about 12A Jack Reacher".

Jack Reacher was mentioned because it was the BBFC's most complained about film of 2013. But as only 26 people actually complained
then one has to suspect that the vast majority of cinema goers are well contented with the BBFC rating for this film. Indeed, the overall low level of complaints rather suggests that all BBFC ratings are pitched about right.

Vivienne Pattison of the campaign group Mediawatch-UK also chipped in with a complaint about the popularity of the rating. She said:
"The increase would appear to underline the fact that producers want to get that crucial 12A rating because it means children can go and leads to a substantial increase in the potential audience".

One has to leave the last laugh at the Daily Mail. Last December the newspaper had a rant about a sexy video for the Beyonce album entitled Beyonce. The Daily Mail blew a fuse claiming:
"Beyonce faced a backlash on social networking sites over vile lyrics and pornographic videos on her new album released on Friday, to the surprise of her fans"

But later on in the article the reporter had to admit that the her 'vile lyrics and pornographic videos' were actually immensely popular:
"The singer's surprise album launch brought down the website as millions of fans rushed to download her latest work with 80,000 copies selling in three hours".

What newspapers, politicians and moral campaigners try to totally blank out, is that sexy entertainment is actually very popular indeed. And it is not something that people will voluntarily give up on without a damned good reason.

"Power to the people", I say.

John Thomas Toys ®


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