Cloud Climax

 UK News Archive

 1998

 Menu  UK Film Cuts  
 Home  World  Nutters  
 Index  Media Liberty  
 Links  Info   Cutting Edge  
 Email  US   Shopping  


28th December

  Shame on Hammersmith and Fulham Council

From Time Out

Lap dancers have been ordered to grow their pubic hair in order to comply with a court ruling that patrons must not be able to see their private parts as they perform. The bosses of the Secrets dancing club in Hammersmith have told staff they must act or face the sack after a judge ruled that the girls must not display their "genitalia or excretory organs" during routines. I agree it sounds bizarre, but it is all about exposure , said Stephen Less, the club's leisure consultant. We are just trying to implement what was a very ambiguous ruling that genitalia and secretary [sic] organs must be hidden. The girls perform in G-strings, but they are not very substantial garments. Most of the girls have some pubic hair already, and they have been asked to grow it. Some of them don't want to have pubic hair, for hygiene reasons, but if they want to work here, this is how it has got to be. We are doing our utmost to comply .

The hair directive was introduced after a series of court hearings over the last nine months. The legal battle began in February, when Hammersmith and Fulham Council ordered that girls must not show their private parts while lap dancing. West London Magistrates Court overruled the condition in June, but last month, the council succeeded in having it reinstated at Knightsbridge Crown Court. We have been in negotiations with the Council since the hearing, and we have modified our practices somewhat , said Less, who estimates Secrets' total legal bill at around £30,000.

A spokesman for Hammersmith and Fulham said the council had not calculated how much the legal fees had cost the taxpayer, but pointed out the club had been ordered to pay its costs at the Crown Court. We have never said that Secrets is not a well run club, but we have got a lot of pressure from residents to act and we are trying to uphold the law , he told Time Out. Undercover officers will now visit Secrets to check the ruling is being adhered to. They will report to council lawyers who will decide if the new arrangements complied 'to the spirit of the law'.

Secrets has attracted controversy since it opened 18 months ago. Local residents led by the BBC's John Humphrys, claim it lowers the tone of Hammersmith. The head teacher of Godolphin and Latymer School complained after a 13-year old pupil walking near the club was accosted by a man who asked her to strip.

Hammersmith certainly qualify for the Hall of Shame both for their elevation of the rights of the whinger over those of the customers and for their assumption that nudity is somehow illegal anyway.

21st December

 Proscription Abuse

Very dodgy goings-on from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. They have apparently proscribed the porn satellite channel Eros on December the 9th but somehow failed to inform anyone in the industry. They are supposed to nominally give 21 days notice and hence the ban applies from December 30th. However this notice period is meant so that commercial operations can adjust their policies in a timely manner so as to comply with the (obnoxious and repressive) law. I shall be taking a close look at what other measures the Government try and push through whilst they think we are all on a Christmas break. This entire exercise smacks of a very lowlife attitude from Chris Smith and Co, very shoddy!

19th December

 Regular Satisfaction

Satisfaction Club Television (SCT) has started its regular digital hardcore porn service on Hot Bird 3 (13degs east).  It is encrypted in MPEG2/Viacess and uses the following tuning parameters: 12.303 Ghz vertical (V-PID 205, A-PID 206).  Its transmission time is: 1.00 till 3.00 CET.

18th December

 Searching for Cuts

The BBFC have opened up their searchable database of cuts. See www.bbfc.co.uk

An excellent move towards greater openness, my thanks to the BBFC

13th December

 Is Duval a Censor or a Classifier?

A short interview with the new censor, Robin Duval, in the Glasgow Herald (Thursday 19th November) had him wheeling out the usual claptrap about the BBFC being classifiers more than censors these days.

There was also mention of an early test of his limits as the distributors of The Texas Chainsaw Massacr e were seeking a video release.

Perhaps even more interestingly, I have heard a strong rumour that the distributors of The Exorcist are feeling very confident of a BBFC certificate and have pencilled in a video release for early next year.

Perhaps these releases will sort out whether Duval is a censor or a classifier.

12th December

 Penetration of Mainstream Market

Not strictly UK news but it serves as a useful contrast between attitudes to porn in the US and the UK where all forms of enjoyment are either frowned upon or illegal.

US P enthouse and Hustler magazines broke the penetration barrier in their December issues, showing photos of men and women engaging in the act.

The two magazines decided independently about a year ago to liberalize their editorial policies on penetration. Both say any controversy over the change likely will die down soon.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, two bookstore clerks were charged with obscenity for selling Penthouse to undercover officers. At the time, the officers seized copies of Penthouse, Hustler and some videos. Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler, announced he will pay legal costs for the arrested clerks. A Penthouse spokeswoman said the Oklahoma arrests were isolated incidents and that she believed the magazines would be in store sales racks throughout the state soon.

The arrests made Utah retailers skittish. Most either pulled their copies of the magazine or placed opaque, adhesive tape strips over the potentially offending photos. The Utah business owners said they were trying to keep things low-key so as not to attract the attention of state authorities.

A Salt Lake City lawyer who represents Penthouse said the move across the line to show sexual penetration was inspired, in part, by the growing tolerance and new sexual standards created by the widespread availability of sexual materials on the Internet.

11th December

 Texas Chainsaw Massacre Release

Today's newspapers are reviewing the latest cinema release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre complete with an 18 certificate. In fact the film is showing at the ABC Shaftesbury Avenue with a 18 certificate granted by Camden Council rather than the BBFC.

Congratulations to Camden Council and continued yah-boo to the BBFC who continue to ban a fine film that contains  little even remotely cuttable material.

20th November

  Talking Sense or Sensibility

Writing in the today's Guardian, Ros Hodgkiss, who resigned from the board in July, says the BBFC was being run on ridiculously paternalistic lines. She had left in protest at the "pompous" content of a censorship roadshow ordered by Andreas Whittam Smith, the president, to dispel the board's reputation for excessive secrecy,

Ros Hodgkiss, a teacher, who worked as a censor for three years, said protests from morality campaigners, or a hostile article about a film in a tabloid, was enough to send the office into panic. Controversy set the board backtracking on policy, or retreating into silence. A handful of letters constituted a public outcry.

She claimed decisions about cuts to "awkward" films were often put on ice, and the reports by examiners like herself filed away in drawers and ignored. She claimed many of the controversies which have dogged the board - like the row over David Cronenberg's Crash - could have been avoided if Ferman had not been such a "control freak".

The board was run by James Ferman, the chief censor, like a personal fiefdom, she said. After 23 years in the job, Ferman is to step down next month. Despite Ferman's liberal credentials, Hodgkiss writes: "I found him to be a chauvinist, but some others, I know, did not. The general view was that James was James and you had to adapt to his ways."

Since joining the board, Whittam Smith has taken a much more robust line on both pornography and violence, banning some films which Ferman had wanted to pass, including the video of Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs. She is also critical of Whittam Smith's, promise for improved BBFC openness. "So far he has not delivered. He does not have Ferman's commitment, nor his film literacy."

(See Confessions of a Censor for the full article.)

18th November

 More Deadbeats at the BBFC

I reported earlier that the BBFC had banned Deadbeat At Dawn . The video was submitted by Dave Gregory from the Exploited label and he made it absolutely clear that Whittam Smith was personally responsible for the ban. The story goes like this: I submitted Deadbeat at Dawn back in July hoping to release it alongside Vigilante . The BBFC sent me a not entirely unexpected cuts list for Deadbeat totaling two minutes of footage. I made around fifty cuts to remove all sight of chain sticks and throwing stars exactly as they requested. Most of the gore in the film passed unnoticed.  I resubmitted the film and started sending out preview copies, printed the sleeves, and ran a couple of ads, under the foolish assumption that because I had cut what they asked the film would be approved. Not so. Ferman watched it and through his secretary informed me that there was a problem with the violence in the film. A discussion was to be staged on the matter two days after the original release date: Oct. 26th. According to Ferman, opinions were split among the examiners. Then Whittam Smith entered the room, overruled all discussion and declared that the film was to be rejected. Democratic discussion! Anyway, Ferman said they didn't want to issue another cuts list and that I could submit a toned down version if I wanted to. He had this impression of the film reaching a massive audience of impressionable. I told him that he ought to consider, in future, the actual market for a film of this type. 1500 units max! Not a huge blockbuster by any account, but a healthy specialist market.

Sounds likely Whittam Smith was being particularly dictatorial that day, perhaps he was behind with his annual quota of bans as demanded by Jack Straw.

For those that would like to see the film in its full glory it will soon be released on US DVD. The distributors of the US version are glorying in the British embarrassment. They will certainly be looking to add the advertising "banned in the UK" to help them sell the disc.

16th November

 Custom's Shopping List

The UK regulation of pornography import is a disgrace. It is implemented in a manner more akin to Soviet style policing rather than that expected of a liberal democracy.  Customs have a secret list of things that they find supposedly obscene. The public are deliberately not made aware of the contents of such a list and get no guidelines whatsoever on what they are allowed to import. Of course the penalty for overstepping this secret line is truely gruesome and involves house raids, prison sentences etc.

Anyway, a recent edition of BBC's Panorama included an interview with a customs officer (complete with officious Soviet style minder hovering in the background to ensure that the interviewee did not say too much). The interview included a brief shot of the customs shopping list (titled Appendix F). Observant viewers were able to make out much of the list.

anal fisting Putting a fist in the anus for sexual gratification
analingus Oral contact with the anus
bestiality Sexual acts between humans and animals
bondage Tying a subject (usually female) in an unatural posistion for sexual gratification
buggery  
coprophilia An unatural interest in excretement which causes sexual arousal
cunnilingus Oral contact with the female genitals by a male or female
defacation Voiding excretement from the bowels
domination Putting a companion in a humiliating situation, eg on a dog lead, for sexual gratification
ejaculation Discharge of semen at the point of orgasm
enemas Flushing the bowels with water, usually to drink the product or torture the victim
fellation See "Anal" and "Vaginal"
insertion of an object Putting an object, eg a dildo or a vibrator in the vagina or anus for sexual stimulation
intercourse  
masochism See "Sado-Masochism"
masturbation Achieving orgasm through manual atimulation of the genitals by yourself or your partner
necrophilia Sexual intercourse with a corpse
paedophilia Erotic love for a child by an adult, sometimes involving coercion and abuse. Also refers to the material and paraphernalia used by a paedophile
sadism See "Sado-masochism"
sadomasochism Sadism" and "Masochism" are very general terms which may be summed up as follows. A sadist achieves sexual pleasure through inflicting torture and humiliation upon another person, the "sex object". Conversely, a masochist desires maltreatment as a means of sexual gratification.
scatology Eating excretement for sexual stimulation and gratification. See "Coprophilia"
troilism Sexual activity in groups of three. Nowadays it is generally accepted that it refers to groups of three or more.
urolagnia Sexual gratification in watching a person urinate, being urinated upon, or urinating on someone else. Also the drinking of urine, usually as it is being produced.
use of any object to attain sexual gratification
vaginal fisting Putting a fist in the vagina for sexual gratification.
15th November

 Blood Patch

As predicted previously, the BBFC are having difficulties with and so delaying SCi's "full blood" version of Carmaggedon II. Meanwhile, SCi has placed an upgrade on the Net that converts the 15 certificate version of Carmaggedon II into the "full blood" version.

The 15 certificate version featuring zombies and green blood has been licensed by the separate European Leisure Software Publishers' Association (ELSPA). The BBFC only need to get involved in the certification process when life-like animation is featured. As the full blood version is more life-like, the manufacturer voluntarily asked for an 18 BBFC certificate. SCi claims the BBFC is dragging its heels over a decision on the full-blood version and has issued legal proceedings in an attempt to force the body to make a prompt decision so any appeal can be held before Christmas. The BBFC have already taken two months so far in failing to make their decision.

SCi claims it is doing nothing wrong as the "patches" are on an American site and so are not distributed from within Britain. However, its British registered site - with a .co.uk address - provides links to the pages where the bloodier version of the game can be downloaded. The computer company says that 90% of its revenue derives from exports and that the patches are there to give players a choice.

This means that regardless of whether the 18 certificate version is passed, it will be available as an upgrade to the existing 15 certificate version. The BBFC is privately upset at this apparent sidestepping of the certification process but it is refusing to comment on SCi's application.

A spokesman for the board said the game was still being assessed by child psychologists, in the first referral of its kind by British censors. He added: The problem with this game is that it awards points for killing people.

Kevin Browne, a psychologist advising the BBFC on Carmageddon II, believes both versions of the game should be illegal and is outraged that the Net is being used to sidestep the certification process. It really isn't on for a company to ask for a game to be certified and then irresponsibly make the gorier parts available on the Net anyway. I fail to see why the games are considered separate just because one has zombies in it with green blood and the other people with more realistic red blood. The premise of the games is still the same. You get rewarded for running over pedestrians. In those predisposed to joyriding, it will reinforce their anti-social behaviour. You then have to ask the question that if they are excited by running over people on their computer, will they have the same disregard when accelerating at great speed in a stolen car in real life. (worse than that, they are so morally corrupted they may want to grow up to be psychologists!)

In the game, players race round a track and pick up bonus points by mowing down innocent bystanders - a feat accompanied by large splats of blood and flying limbs. Carmageddon II boasts improved graphics and more options to create "fender-bending mayhem" and includes a reminder that "reckless driving gains points".

(Look out for an interesting interview with Gianni Zamo, a BBFC examiner specialising in digital media. This will be in the next issue of Station magazine published on 26th November). 

14th November

 Ferman On Drugs

James Ferman said this week that he wished he had cut Pulp Fiction, claiming its depiction of drug use had increased the number of young people injecting heroin. He continued to say that Quentin Tarantino's 1994 box-office hit was a socially irresponsible glamorisation of drug abuse which should never have been screened uncut even though it would damage a "wonderful" film.. (uncut at cinema, but it was cut for video). He said that some cinema-goers were likely to have tried to emulate John Travolta's character. Travolta shoots up heroin, drives along blissfully happy, picks up Uma Thurman, the most beautiful young woman in the film, goes dancing and wins the dancing competition .

Some anti-drug campaigners welcomed Pulp Fiction because of its scene where Travolta revives an overdosed Thurman by plunging a needle into her chest, but Ferman believes young people would have concluded they should avoid stupidity, not heroin. Thurman snorted it by mistake. Travolta used it properly and had a great time.

Mary Whitehouse, the veteran pro-censorship campaigner, said she was glad. It takes a certain amount of courage to come out and admit he was wrong. It needs people with courage to keep control of this medium. The effects, especially on young vulnerable people, can be severe. (Not a very dignified way to work out ones last few week in office, fancy saying stupid things that allow even Mary Whitehouse to gloat).

13th November

 Government Censorship

The Home Secretary Jack Straw announced today his proposal to designate Lord Taylor of Warwick and Janet Lewis Jones, the new Vice Presidents of the British Board of Film Classification, under section 4 of the Video Recordings Act 1984. The designation is subject to the approval of Parliament.

Lord Taylor and Janet Lewis Jones will replace Monica Sims and join Andreas Whittam Smith as the authority responsible for making the arrangements laid out in the Video Recordings Act.

Does designated mean that Jack Straw has now forcibly appointed all three presidential roles of the BBFC? Am I living in a nation of Thought Police and Government censors? Is Jack Straw a reincarnation of Stalin? Liberal minds want to know!

11th November

 First Impressions of Duval

Robin Duval, 57, who next year succeeds James Ferman as the director of the BBFC, said that he had been uncomfortable about the number of gratutiously violent films such as Eraser and Terminator which had flooded the market in the 1980s and 1990s, making icons of actors such as Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. He now welcomes the trend away from macho heroes towards more sensitive role models such as Leonardo DiCaprio.

He also said that he had not liked the violence in Quentin Taratino's films Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction and believed that Tarantino would soon need to find another hole to come out of creatively. I think Tarantino is an incredible talent, but I didn't particularly like the violence in those films. Having said that, I don't think Reservoir Dogs is as violent as its reputation suggests. It's very bloody but you don't actually see a lot of the violence on screen . It is a Hollywood problem, however. It is not reasonable to turn to the BBFC and say 'It's your fault - you should have stopped this . Hollywood is now moving towards less aggressive heroes like Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio who, let's be honest, is the opposite of machismo.

Duval said that he would not single out any violent films in particular for criticism but objected more to their high numbers. I didn't have any particular films in mind. The problem is where there is a flow of violent movies at once .

Duval's favourite film is the 1956 classic western The Searchers , starring John Wayne. He also cited Ingmar Bergman's 1957 film Smultronstallet (Wild Strawberries) as another favourite. "I must have seen The Searchers a dozen times or more," he said. "It is a great movie."

It was under Mr Duval's reign than the ITC allowed Channel 5 to screen Natural Born Killers. However, he defended the decision explaining that it had been broadcast very late and censored in parts.

Duval said: I think anybody that moves into a job likes to do things differently. Jim has done a fine job, however. I think fundamentally I'm very similar to him. I was very flattered to see myself called a Channel 4 liberal in the Daily Mail. I think a lot of people at Channel 4 would find that very amusing. I think the regulator has to be very cautious before steaming in and telling people they don't know sufficiently what's good for them and that they have to have it imposed. (This is the making of a classic I don't believe in censorship, but ....)

10th November

 Human Rights

The government's Human Rights Bill, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into British law, has received Royal Assent - although it will not come into effect until 2000. The act will allow people who believe their human rights have been violated to have their cases judged at home rather than in Strasbourg. The legislation is seen by many as the most important human rights reform in the last 50 years and the most far reaching legal change to our system since joining the European Community.

Lord Williams denied it would reduce the power of parliament by devolving power and responsibility to judges. He said: It gives judges discretion and obligations to decide our law in a way that is consistent with the European convention. It still maintains the absolute sovereignty of parliament and that is very important.

(So hands up those who think it will make a jot of difference to our non-existant right to free speech? How many of you think that Government censorship will continue unabated?....Thought so)

9th November

 New Censorial Labour

Yet another minister, Janet Anderson, has joined New Censorial Labour and has therefore been admitted to the Hall of Shame .

Films minister Janet Anderson has  confirmed that she was considering an Order which will proscribe the porn channel Eros TV. She said: Hard-core pornography is not acceptable in this country The Government will always put the welfare of children first. We simply cannot tolerate broadcasting of graphically explicit material of this kind. I received notification from the ITC of a pornographic service, Eros TV, which the Commission considers to be unacceptable and should be the subject of a proscription order. I have viewed the channel and consider that a proscription order would be in the public interest. In accordance with the terms of the EC Broadcasting Directive, the  broadcaster, the French authorities and the European Commission have  been notified that we consider this service to have manifestly,  seriously and gravely infringed the Directive's provisions on the  protection of children. If we are unable to resolve this matter within 15 days of this  notification and the broadcaster continues to transmit such offensive programmes, we shall proceed to make an Order effectively proscribing the service in the United Kingdom.

The Sunday People recalled that, as shadow women's minister, Anderson outraged MPs at the Labour Party conference two years ago when she said: Under Labour women will become more promiscuous.

(New Censorial Labour are currently excelling themselves in the hypocrisy stakes. They are currently pleading for tolerance and privacy when it comes to their own sexual pleasures, yet at the same time they are actively trying to ban the sexual pleasures of an awful lot of other people. They get no sympathy from me when they get caught with their pants down, they haven't done anything what so ever to deserve privacy and respect).

Porn channel Eros TV has moved on to the recently-launched Hot Bird 5 satellite (which has replaced Eutelsat II-F1) at 13 degrees East. From today, the D2-Mac channel will be available at 11.623GHz/V where it retain its existing transmission hours. The satellite's wide footprint will enable Eros to almost double its coverage across Europe, the Mid-East and parts of Russia. The announcement will end rumours that the channel is considering ceasing analogue transmissions. Meanwhile, viewing cards for Eros TV's digital service at 12.379GHz/V on Hot Bird 3 will become available in the next fortnight.

8th November

 Good Guys at the BBFC

The BBFC have decided to open up their website to the public free of charge. Gone is the £250 entrance charge. The public will then be able to access the 100,000 entries in the classified and rejected archives.

As the BBFC themselves stated: British citizens are entitled to know about decisions of the BBFC which affect their freedom to see the films and videos of their choice.

The Melon Farmers applaud this decision (especially as it will mean less work for us).

8th November

 Deadbeats at the BBFC

The BBFC have decided to ban the video release of Deadbeat at Dawn . This 1990 US film was directed by Jim Van Bebber. The leader of one of two rival gangs leaves but gets his girlfriend murdered for his troubles. He ends up taking revenge on both of the gangs invoking a fair bit of violence and some cheap gore effects in the process.

I found one review to give  an insight into what we are missing courtesy of our moral betters: Before seeing this film I heard a lot about its director and star Jim Van Beeber who has been said to have a style all his own. Deadbeat At Dawn shows clearly why Beeber is praised. His work has an intense feeling to it, pure raw power, and some different ideas. The creative camera work in DAD and style, along with the great lava lamp like intro's between scenes, are quite unique. What it fails to do in good acting and budget it makes up for in energy. The film is a little rough around the edges but it's just fun to watch. The conclusion is the high point of the whole movie, it has some great action sequences which are extremely brutal and violent.

From my limited research I cannot find any particular reason why this particular movie should be singled out for a ban. I suspect that Whittam Smith is playing silly buggers and arbitarily picking on the little films to keep his mate David Alton happy. Perhaps he will put me right in my conspiracy theories and issue a press release to justify this ban.

7th November

 New Direction at the BBFC

The BBFC have appointed Robin Duval as their new Director. He will take up the post on January 4th. He previously worked at the ITC as Deputy Director of Programmes.

James Ferman said of him, " We could not have found a better all-rounder for the post. Robin is an experienced film maker, a sensitive media regulator, and a man steeped in the best traditions of public service. " Andreas Whittam Smith said that he too was " delighted that we have been able to make such a strong appointment ."

On accepting the post, Robin Duval said, " I am honoured to be asked to succeed James Ferman, whose authority and expertise are recognised in the UK and internationally. He will be a tough act to follow. "

The Melon Farmers also welcome Robin Duval with the hope that one day British people will be treated with a little bit of respect and that maybe the BBFC will eventually live up to its name. More details available on the BBFC web page .

1st November

 Satisfaction with Satellite Sex

The Italian satellite porn channel Satisfaction Club Television (SCT) has returned in a digital MPEG2 reincarnation. It is available on Hot Bird 2, 11.843 Ghz vertical (Stream), encrypted in Irdeto and Hot Bird 3, 12.303 Ghz vertical (Croatian/Slovenian platform), encrypted in Viacess.

From January 1999, SCT in Irdeto will extend to a 24-hours-programm. The Viacess-version will have switched to a full-time-service from March 1999.

SCT is available in all European countries and North Africa for annual subscription of around 450 DM/500 000 Lire.

Meanwhile Eros TV has committed to maintaining an analogue D2Mac service for another year prior to going digital. It is not yet clear which transponder they will be using as they appear to have lost their existing one during the frequency swopping implented to accomodate the new Hot Bird 3 satellite.

1st November

 More Car Problems at the BBFC

Sales Curve Interactive, publishers of the video game Carmageddon 2, have again submitted to the BBFC a version of the game featuring zombies with green blood. The games plays in exactly the same way as the red bloodied version but the BBFC somehow think it less offensive to mow down zombie pedestrians.

Of course potential purchasers should not be put off, there is bound to be another internet patch to put things back to rights.

1st November

   Talking Censorship

Debates from ICA's Censorship season Channel 4 logoI was particularly impressed by the insight provided by Nick Jones, the film buyer for Channel 4, into the rather repressive relationship between channel 4 and the ITC. He illustrated this with a few examples whereby the ITC had arbitrarily whinged at Channel 4 without any prompting from public complaints.

  • The ITC had unbelievably complained about sex scenes in Muriel's Wedding that were screened 20 minutes after the 9pm watershed.
  • The ITC have also complained about the inclusion of John Woo's The Killer in FilmFour's schedules even though it has a video certificate and was scheduled after midnight. The ITC recently stated that any film with a video certificate would be suitable for transmission without quibble from the ITC, They are clearly not honouring this pledge. The ITC had previously whinged at Sky for showing the same film and Sky responded by cutting an outrageous 12 minutes from the film. Unfortunately Channel 4 have also cut the film but limited their cuts to 10 or 12s. Channel 4 very commendably announced that they had been forced to cut the film prior to the screening.
  • The ITC complained about FilmFour's clustering of violent films. each one may be OK but several in a row somehow becomes a no-no

Unsuprisingly Nick Jones feels that the appointment of the ITC regulator, Robin Duval, to the role of BBFC Director doesn't bode well for film and video viewers.

FilmFour launched with a massively advertised statement that they would show films uncut. Unfortunately they have not been able to live up to this claim. They are still forced into showing butchered video versions of films rather than the cinema versions. However, they are still pursuing a campaign to get this changed on the grounds that positive subscription to an encrypted film channel is closer to a cinema experience than broadcast television.

Channel 4 are planning a TV censorship event in February and are promising a few interesting films to support the event.

Nick Jones previously worked for the BBC and claimed that BBC2 no longer cut their films. However he did comment on the recent 9pm BBC1 showing of Se7en that was closer to Four and a Half . The BBC predictable received  an awful lot of complaints about this ludicrous act of censorship.

There were a few interesting comments about material such as Nick Broomfield's Fetishes recently shown on Channel 4 or Sick shown on BBC2. In such marginal material the minority TV channels have proved to be relatively adventurous. Fetishes was recently informally waved in front of the BBFC but they intimated that it would have to be heavily cut. In fact Channel 4 did cut it for the TV presentation but only marginally. It is certainly a worrying day when the BBFC are so far out of synch with broadcast TV that a video is practically banned (with resulting fines if caught supplying) yet one can record it off the telly anyway. Another area where this ridiculous dual standard applies is in the treatment of 18 rated sex films. The Adult Channel and the like generally buy in the cable or soft version of a sex film with all the hardcore edited out at the production stage. This can then be shown as is. The same versions when submitted for video, are cut even further by the BBFC for such stupid reasons as; no scene is allowed to continue for longer than 4 or 5 mins; no scene is allowed to show more than two participants etc.

A final irony on film/TV censorship was pointed out by a member of the audience. Jorg Buttgereit's Nekromantik is a classic film whose mere title would cause police and customs to fall about in horror. The film's most infamous scene is that featuring some corpse fucking. Channel 4 showed the entire scene as part of a documentary and that was perfectly acceptable. Yet the same scene in an entertainment video could potentially lead one to a jail sentence.

The debate on BBFC censorship was interesting but less illuminating. Several old arguments were trotted out by James Ferman that because less and less cinema films were being censored, the BBFC were moving towards the ideals of the body that their name falsely claims. Whilst literally thousands of videos are cut and tens of thousands of videos are not available in the UK, I consider this argument to be  patronising and offensive.

Ferman did interestingly refer to his relations with the Governemnt over recent times. Apparently most influential politicians have been pretty hands off with two obvious exceptions, Margaret Thatcher and Jack Straw. Whilst neither tried to influence individual decisions, both proved pro-actively dead set against R18 sex videos.

Derek Malcom, the Guardian film critic, appeared to be something of a lapsed liberal as he seems to think that people cannot be trusted with videos in the home. Geoffrey Robertson QC does some sterling work in defence against accusations of obscenity but he was teased by Ferman for suggesting cuts on legal grounds even where the BBFC eventually passed films uncut.

30th October

  The Exorcist for Halloween

The 25th anniversary cinema re-release of The Exorcist is coinciding with halloween this weekend. I thought I would gather together a few news items in celebration.

It has been the case for some time that James Ferman has been a lone but powerful voice in demanding a continued ban on the video release. As Ferman is now sitting out his last few weeks in the Director's chair, perhaps fresh blood will see things differently. To this end, Warner Brothers have formally submitted the video for classification. At least we should get an answer, rather than the perpetual tease we have suffered up until now.

The US recently celebrated the 25th anniversary with a special edition video re-release and a Sunday afternoon TV showing. I have since heard that this TV viewing suffered some heavy cuts: The crucifix scene was watered down (the close up shot was cut) and the head spinning scene was cut where Regan said "...your cunting daughter".

Closer to home the cinema re-release has apparently kicked up a few protests. Religious groups, concerned by the film's graphic portrayal of demonic possession are asking once again for the film to be banned and are expected once more to lobby their local cinemas. Warner Brothers has received letters criticising its decision to mark the film's 25th anniversary by putting it out on general release and many of the 257 cinemas showing The Exorcist have been lobbied by protesters. Warner Brothers will not be posting the fleets of St John ambulances at cinemas to care for casualities as it did in 1974, but it is expecting protests.

One evangelical group in Wiltshire has a team of counsellors on hand this Halloween weekend to help people who feel they have been adversely affected by what they have seen on the screen. The Rev Malcolm Hathaway said that The Exorcist was evil: of course society's senses are dulled by horror and violence nowadays but The Exorcist is something different; the devil and the demonic are very real and have a very real affect on people, particularly young people who often cannot cope with their feelings afterwards. We will be there for those people. Hathaway even wrote to his local cinema in Salisbury asking it not to show the film but said that his request was ignored. It's going to be shown - there's nothing we can do about that but I will be placing adverts in the local paper warning people not to see the film and offering help to viewers who are disturbed by what they feel."

One for the Hall of Shame I think.

29th October

 Car Problems at the BBFC

Sales Curve Interactive, publishers of the video game Carmageddon 2 are seeking a court order to try and force the BBFC to get their act together. The BBFC have been doing their usual trick of perpetually delaying difficult decisions and wont even decide about a certificate for the trailer of the the game.

27th October

 Campaign for Freedom to See

The launch of Channel 4's new film channel on November 1st is being accompanied by what the channel's chief executive, Michael Jackson, describes as a "Freedom to See" campaign. The channel is meeting the Independent Television Commission to lobby for more liberal regulations covering films broadcast on satellite and cable television channels. At present, pay television channels are allowed to show only versions of films that have been approved for video distribution by the BBFC. Pay television is different to broadcast television in that viewers have to make a positive choice about what they watch , says Jackson. We already know from Channel 4 that when you explain the context of a film in detail you get far fewer complaints, because people have to choose to watch it and far fewer people who are likely to be offended wander into things.

The ITC looked at the proportion of complaints it received from satellite and cable viewers. In 1997, out of 2,894 complaints only 142 were about cable or satellite programmes. Then a research company, Millward Brown, asked 3,000 viewers about their attitudes to sex, violence and bad language on television. In every case viewers of satellite and cable television were found to be more liberal. Only a minority of cable and satellite viewers are shocked by what they see on television, and they were twice as likely as terrestrial-only viewers to agree that cable and satellite should be able to show more sex and nudity. We are not seeking an argument , says Jackson. We want to go with the flow of society. And people are more tolerant and they are more diverse. We want to work with the ITC over time to explore how people tolerate films.

The advertising pamphlet already boasts that: The FilmFour channel is uncut, initerrupted and broadcast in widescreen just as film should be. No compromises. We shall soon see whether they live up to their laudable declarations as Bad Lieutenant makes an appearance on the Novmeber 2nd. Will it be the horribly cut video version or the uncut cinema version?

26th October

 Bizarre Attitude

The Independent Television Commission (ITC) has notified the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Chris Smith, that the satellite service Channel Bizarre is unacceptable. (Strange! by all accounts it has proved a rather good service so far)

The unelected quango advised the Secretary that the channel should be subject to a proscription order under Section 177 of the Broadcasting Act 1990.

The satellite service was launched on 15 July, and transmits for up to four hours seven nights a week after 11pm. Its head office is in Maastricht, but it is also available to, and marketed to, viewers in the UK. The Commission decided that the service repeatedly included sexually explicit material which offended against good taste and decency, and that a proscription order would be in the public interest. (I personally cannot think of a more inhumane thing to do than to unnecessarily deprive one's fellow man of their sexual pleasure. The ITC are clearly depraved and corrupted.)

A proscription order makes it a criminal offence to supply any equipment for use in connection of the operation of the service; to supply programme material or arrange for its supply; to place ads on the service; to publish any programme details of the service; and to supply or offer to supply any decoding equipment to enable the service to be received.

14th October

 Howes about a Predictable Report

The Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC) have published a report, Men Viewing Violence , which presents striking differences between the attitudes of men and women to rape and violence on television. The study of 88 men of different ages and backgrounds was compared with a study of women viewers from 1992.

The women viewers all condemned rape and were concerned about the way it was portrayed on screen. Women indicated that no one had a right to rape and no one deserved rape, whereas male respondents were less likely to adopt that viewpoint

The men were shown extracts from the television drama Trip Trap , which relates how one man battered his wife and later raped her friend, with whom he was having an affair. While most were sympathetic to the abused wife, they tempered their reaction to the rape of the other female character because the victim was "deceitful". Some Pakistani and West African respondents said she had "learnt the hard way", while many young, white, working-class men argued she "deserved" it.

The commission said: Whilst women do not endorse rape under any circumstances, the men's attitude to the plight of the woman who was raped was almost dismissive. Many of the men drew a firm distinction between the "good" and "bad" female characters and some viewed the rape as warranted through her 'bad' behaviour .

Shown real closed-circuit television footage of a violent assault, young, white working-class men admitted they enjoyed watching it and did not think intervention was required. Although many of the men studied did condemn violence, some admitted they found it stimulating, they did not consider television violence to be a significant issue. While all men distinguished between factual and fictitious depictions of violence, there was little support for cutting violent scenes from fast-moving action films because they were seen as fantasy

Lady Howe said she did not want to make any firm recommendations to broadcasters, particularly by suggesting what they should or shouldn't screen. She said: What we are trying to do is give information to broadcasters so they can better self-regulate what they show and when they show it.

13th October

 Wrinkles in the BBFC

I reported last July that the the Skin Two CD-ROM had been languishing at the BBFC for several months. It finally got a certificate at the end of August but the experience of dealing with the BBFC left them a little battered and bruised.

Skin Two is a magazine featuring fetish and bondage material. They submitted a CD-ROM to the BBFC in March which was initially assessed within a week and immediately referred to Ferman. It remained in Ferman's office until mid July dispite numerous polite but increasingly frustrated phone calls. Eventually a slightly less than polite call resulted in the disc being passed on to Assistant Director Margaret Ford. She was able to review it and respond within a few weeks. Several cuts were demanded relating to images of women in bondage.  The cuts were implemented and an 18 certificate was finally issued at the end of August.

Skin Two rightfully felt aggrieved that they had paid £1000 in advance for the privilege of being censored only to be subjected to a totally unreasonable delay. Apparently Margaret Ford did apologise for the poor treatment and waived the fee for the second assessment (another £1000)

The real financial damage to the project created by a delay of this magitude is hard to calculate. The delay occured because one man, on whose opinion the classification depended was unwilling or unable to review the disc for 4 months, highlighting the potential for abuse of the censor's power.

11th October

 Award 4 Good Attitude

Excellent attitude from Channel 4: I was well impressed

FilmFour, the new subscription film channel to be introduced on November 1 by Channel 4, has appealed to the Independent Television Commission for the right to show films in their original, uncut cinema form. The ITC said that FilmFour had been told it would be able to show films only in a form cleared for video distribution - a restriction that applies to other broadcasters of subscription film channels. Channel 4 is likely to put forward a formal case to the commission, arguing that FilmFour subscribers should be allowed to see the version of films as screened in the cinema.

Channel executives believe that they should not have to show films in the form approved for video by the British Board of Film Classification because it is a channel that viewers choose to subscribe to.

Because video and television enter the home, the board imposes stricter standards on depictions of extreme violence and sexuality. Those standards often require bigger cuts for films shown on television than for those screened in the cinema.

Michael Jackson, the Channel 4 chief executive, promised yesterday that the film channel would be "risky, nearer the knuckle, edgy and provocative". It would "push the envelope of what can be shown on TV".

The channel will be available to about five million homes at a cost of £5.99 a month. It plans to show violent films such as Reservoir Dogs and to offer a "naked cinema" segment every Friday night. In its promotional video for the new service, Channel 4 promises that the films will be uncut - a claim that could put it in conflict with the Independent Television Commission.

11th October

 Thrill Kill Killed

An early preview of Playstation fighting game Thrill Kill recently fell foul of the BBFC over a dominatrix making orgasmic sounds on killing an opponent. Recent reports have stated that this controverisal title will now never see light of day.

The original publisher, Virgin Interactive has been consumed by the massive conglomerate Electronic Arts who have announced that the title will not be published by them, nor will it be tendered for publishing by any other party.

There are several possible resons for this:

  • Electronic Arts has taken a particularly nauseous moral stand over Thrill Kill 's apparent content (a slighty dubious morality when one considers the fact that  Electronic Arts publishes the Strike series featuring real world war scenarios).
  • To generate publicity for a change of heart and subsequent publication
  • To cover up the fact the title was an unsaleably poor product.
8th October

 Pulped not Burnt

A gay magazine, London Metropolis, planned to publish the Robert Mapplethorpe pictures showing anal sex that had recently escaped prosecution . Unfortunately their printers, Eastern Counties Newspapers got worried and sought legal advice. Their lawyers advised that the printers could be prosecuted and so the printers pulped the entire issue. (I suppose that the lawyers felt that although art students are unlikely to be depraved by a picture, gays were up for a bit of depravity and corruption)

mapple.gif (5102 bytes)
6th October

 The Ups & Downs of Satellite Porn

Eurotica/Rendez-Vous are still intent on an heroic legal battle against the UK Government's recent proscription order. In the meantime they are still selling cards to UK subscribers. The channel carries a few minutes of clear programming each night with the following banner: Viewers from the UK can purchase cards from Card Services. English speaking operators await your call. Delivery free to the UK. The viewing of Eurotica/Rendez-Vous with a valid card is not a violation of British law.

Worse news from Eros TV though. The hypocritically intolerant Chris Smith is confirmed to be in the process of setting up a proscription order on Eros TV perhaps due by November. It has been reported (this must be taken with some scepticism) that Eros TV are to close D2-Mac transmissions from this time. They currently transmit in analogue at 13 degrees east 11.658 V and are set to focus on their digital platform which at the moment is not fully operational. Current subscribers will be offered the deal of a digital decoder and a viacess smart-card.

Ironically if Eurotica/Rendez-Vous manage to overturn their ban, it would equally help their competitors, Eros TV, whose ban would then probably not come into force either. Good luck to Eurotica/Rendez-Vous in their commendable actions.

5th October

 The Panorama of Porn

Immediately after the video Makin' Whoopee won its appeal for an R18 certificate, the distributors submitted 4 further videos with similar strength material, ie with some hardcore content. The BBFC have now returned some of these with a list of cuts as long as one's arm.

This poses an interesting dilemma. If the material is absurdly judged as illegal then someone must have been at fault in granting the Makin' Whoopee certificate. If the material is legal then surely the BBFC are acting illegally in demanding cuts. The BBFC guidelines clearly state that for an R18 certificate, consensual adult porn should only be limited by the laws of the land, ie the obscene Obscene Publications Act. I hope that the distributors can sue for loss of earnings resulting from an incorrect decision.

In the meantime BBC's Panorama has been researching into James Ferman's call for the liberalisation of Britain's archaic porn laws. This is due to be shown on 26th October or soon after

1st October

 Crown Persecution Service Relent

An attempt by police to censor and destroy supposedly "obscene" pictures by the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe has failed in an landmark case, it was revealed yesterday. The West Midland's paedophile and pornography unit threatened to prosecute the University of Central England in Birmingham and Random House, the publisher, over two photographs by the controversial American artist. But the Crown Prosecution Service yesterday ruled that there was no realistic prospect of a successful conviction. (Notice that they are not willing to say that the pictures are not obscene) . The CPS argued that under the obscene publication laws a book must tend to deprave or corrupt a significant number of the people who see it. But this was highly unlikely because the two offending pictures were published along with 380 others and most of the people who would be interested were art students or artists. (Are they suggesting that the rest of us would be depraved? This assumption is far more offensive than any picture of anal sex!)

In addition, in the CPS's view, publication of the book could be justified as being "in the public good". It was also a defence to an obscenity prosecution that a book or article was published "in the interests of science and literature, art or learning".

The police were particularly disturbed by two pictures. One was Helmut and Brooks, NYC, 1978, which shows a form of anal sex and the other was Jim and Tom, Sausalito, 1977, which is of a man clad in a dog collar, a leather mask and trousers, urinating into another man's mouth.

In an unusual move the West Midlands police decided to announce the decision yesterday on local radio. Assistant Chief Constable Anne Summers took a copy of the £75 book on to the BBC's Ed Doolan Show to explain why no action was being taken.  Dr Peter Knight, vice-chancellor of the University said: The police made a bad judgement call. It should never have been referred to the CPS. This unprecedented case shows the Obscene Publications Act is ridiculous and out of date. (Too true!)

27th September

  Censorship in Black and White

The Commission for Racial Equality is being investigated by police for inciting racial hatred after a provocative advertising campaign depicting black people as rapists and orang-utans backfired.

The blatantly offensive advertisements which were designed as "shock tactics" to highlight racism in society, were posted on 192 billboards across the country on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. They gave no clue of the body's involvement and were intended as a "tease" to provoke complaints and test the strength of anti-racist feelings in society. A  second phase of posters is planned with the caption: "What was worse? This advert or your failure to complain?".

But the ruse rebounded on the commission when Avon and Somerset Police threatened the organisation with prosecution under the Race Relations Act - the same legislation used to create it in 1976. Officers on duty in Bristol on Friday complained to their superiors after seeing the adverts in the city centre. The force ordered the company responsible for the billboards to cover the adverts with blank paper. A file is to be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service.  The explanatory adverts intended to replace the originals have also been banned in the constabulary's area.

The Advertising Standards Authority, which had received more than 30 complaints by yesterday, has begun its own inquiry. The  Commission for Racial Equality who received 52 complaints themselves could have the embarrassment of being the first body to have its adverts vetted under new agreements with the poster industry.

The posters were purporting to promote companies and products. One, for the TDX-5 rape alarm, shows a white woman sitting on the top deck of a bus anxiously eyeing a young black man in the foreground. The accompanying slogan reads: "Because it's a jungle out there." Another, for a sports footwear manufacturer, shows a black man jumping to "slam-dunk" a basketball through a hoop. Next to him is an orang-utan in the same pose reaching for a branch. The caption reads: "Born to be agile."  The third poster, for a recruitment company, depicts two businessmen climbing a ladder, one black and one white. The white man is treading on the hand of the black man with the caption reading: "Dominate the Race."

18th September

 The Police Play the Snake in the Garden of Eden

A nudist club claiming to be a sanctury for 'liberated adults' was raided by police yesterday under the Sexual Offences Act after local residents complained of rumours of sex parties. Computer records and client lists were removed by police from the premises on the outskirts of Nevern in the Pembrokeshire National Park.

Run by a retired Army major, the Garden of Eden nudist club says that there is no limit to the self-indulgence on offer at weekend parties in its sauna, plunge pool and semi-tropical glasshouse. Roger Brett, its naturist owner, defended the club, visited by people from all over Britain and where underwear is banned. He said: I run a club for liberated adults and what they do when they get here is up to them. If they want to have sex with each other in private, then I'm not going to stop them . We don't run a brothel. We put on parties for liberated adults and what they get up to is their own affair. No one is suggesting that the manager of a hotel is arrested just because people stay in their bedrooms with different partners. The police had a look around and were very amicable.

According to an internet advert, special party weekends cost couples £20 and singles £100. It is a special place where you can fully express your sexuality," reads an internet advertisement. "The place is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure where there are no limits to self-indulgence. Ladies should not wear knickers unless they are prepared to leave them in the trophy room on departure .

Dyfed Powys police inspected computer records and took photos and video shots of the club. They are also applying through the courts to see film footage shot by a Welsh language television documentary which investigated the club. A police spokesman said: A search warrant was executed at the Garden of Eden. Certain items of documentary evidence have been taken into our possession .

Aled ap Gwynedd, a local councillor and Congregationalist minister, has written to Raymond White, Dyfed-Powys Chief Constable, demanding that the Garden of Eden is closed down. He said: I am absolutely appalled by what I have learned is going on at this place.  The only thing that I find appalling is the attitude of this councillor and the police involved in the raid. What sort of lowlife wants to deny their fellow man harmless sexual pleasure?

18th September

 More Persecution on the Cards

The European Union meet next week to discuss how to bring a ban on satellite & TV piracy on into force. It is strongly rumoured that pirate mac viewing cards will be banned shortly, this will mean it will be illegal to sell, use, maintain or even own such equipment.

I have little sympathy for pirate cards where a subscription is available. However, if a subscription  is denied then I see it as fair game. How is it that the EU have bowed to Hollywood's insistence on regional licensing by setting up some gruesome sounding enforcement methods (particularly in allowing another excuse for police house raids). The whole crime could have been eliminated by ensuring that films are paid for on a head count basis rather than a regional basis. EU citizens could then subscribe to any EU service from any country.

17th September

 Makin' More Whoopee

The distributors of Makin' Whoopee are rightfully trying to capitalise on their successful appeal for an R18 certificate. On the day after the appeal they submitted four further titles to the BBFC  containing similar strength material including some hardcore footage. It will be interesting to follow the progress of these titles.

By law, the content of R18 videos should only be limited by the laws of the land, notably the Obscene Publications Act. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the authorities to maintain that such videos 'deprave and corrupt'. Hardcore has become so commonplace in the western world that it is now provably clear that it is not turning entire populations into depraved monsters. Secondly as more and more people get to see hardcore, they realise for themselves that it does not deprave and corrupt. They therefore become less likely to admonish others, both in terms of community enforcement and support for the official line as enforced by juries.

15th September

 ITC Sees Some Sense

According to today's Independent, Peter Rogers, head of the ITC has said that from now on the ITC will allow anything that gets a cinema certificate to go straight on to TV. This will dispense with all the battles fought over such films as Reservoir Dogs in their efforts to get a TV showing. He went on to say that this should remove the opportunity of causing upset to certain moralising newspapers and rent-a-quote MPs.

Good news on two days running. Things are looking up

14th September

 Whoopee!

Excellent News! The BBFC have finally granted the R18 certificate for Makin' Whoopee! complete with hardcore content. James Ferman left things until the last moment and signed the certificate marginally before today's High Court action. Perhaps the BBFC were worried that a lost case in High Court may have set some sort of damaging precedent.

Congratulations to Sheptonhurst for their sterling efforts.  And of course, thanks to James Ferman for last years effort in starting the R18 ball rolling. I wonder what will happen next in this fascinating saga, hopefully a veritable flood of similar success.

10th September

 BBFC Desperately Hiding from a Hard Reality

As previously reported, the video Makin' Whoopee (complete with some hardcore content) successfully passed through the BBFC appeals procedure in July. Theoretically the BBFC should have complied with the appeal and issued a certificate. Instead, the BBFC decided to address the problem head on and they came up with the solution of going into hiding. Suddenly senior members of the board became unreachable and calls were not returned. I presume that the BBFC were buying time before their lords and masters at the Home Office dreamt up some appropriately repressive solution.

The distributors are gamely pursuing the elusive certificate via the legal process. They may have to call upon the high court to issue a Writ of Mandamus that would compel the BBFC to issue the certificate. This is an order (I think) used to deal with people or organisations that refuse to comply with legal processes. I wonder if there is a chance of Ferman or Whittam Smith spending some time in the clink for contempt.

On the subject of obeying the law it would appear appropriate to remind Ferman of a quote from his own recent annual report: The law may be an ass, but it is the Board's job to uphold it.

Update

The distributors go to the High Court on Monday morning (14th September). Lets hope it goes well for them

8th September

 Eurotica/Rendez-Vous Proving Stiff Opposition

Eurotica/Rendez-Vous are to return to court on Wednesday 9th September, to try and overturn the ban, placed on them by the U.K. government. Eurotica previously won an injunction and it is strongly rumoured that Wednesdays outcome will still not force an immediate ban in the UK. Eurotica have now stopped shipping their millennium 16 month subscription cards.

Update

Danish Satellite Television the owners of Eurotica Rendez Vous have been granted leave for judicial review on the basis that the Judge thought that there were complex issues that needed to be substantially addressed. There is no date for a hearing at this time. However, the judge refused to continue a legal order preventing him from outlawing Eurotica Rendez-Vous until after its operators have had a chance to challenge the action

So in the meantime, the proscription order will come into force but there is a certain risk for the Government because if the judicial review were to find in favour of Eurotica Rendez-Vous then the Government will have to compensate the channel for any losses incurred Chris Smith confirmed that an Order which proscribes the service in this country will into force at 00:01 Friday 11 September. From that moment it will be a criminal offence to supply dedicated equipment (e.g. smartcards) and programme material, advertise for or on Eurotica Rendez Vous, or to provide any other service in support of the channel.

Chris Smith said: Televised hard-core pornography is not acceptable in this country. We must guard against the possibility that children could be exposed to sexually explicit material of this kind . I received notification from the ITC of a pornographic service, Eurotica Rendez Vous, which it considers to be unacceptable and should be the subject of a proscription order. I considered that a proscription order was in the public interest. We are determined to protect children from satellite pornography and my message to pornographers is clear, we will not tolerate material such as this on our television sets, and the Government will not hesitate to take this action again in future .

Short of physical assault, I cannot possibly conceive of  a nastier thing to do to a fellow human being than to deprive them of their sexual pleasure.  Why on earth do politicians seem to glory in such debase treatment of their fellows?

Why do they insist on perservering with their lame excuse of protection of children? If this was an honest driving factor then surely pornography would be allowed in cinemas for example where age restrictions could be enforced.

One satellite news service reports that the ban has now been delayed again whilst the court case is referred to the European Court

5th September

 Crown Persecution Service

Apparently the police and Crown Persecution Service are still pursuing the University of Central England for carrying a copy of one of Robert Mapplethorpe's works. Jeff Rooker, the minister for food safety said that police are wasting their time investigating a book celebrating the work of Robert Mapplethorpe. He said that he had read a copy from the Commons library and found it to be a serious piece of artistic work . I am a bit surprised the Crown Prosecution Service has not yet thrown the whole thing out.

Refreshing to see a Government minister who is an independent thinker as compared with the rest of New Censorial Labour.

2nd September

 No Complaints about Satellite/Cable

The ITC have consistently received less complaints about satellite and cable TV than they expected. Eg in 1997 they received 2894 complaints about programmes on commercial television, of these, only 142 were about cable and satellite. 20% of commercial television viewing was to cable and satellite channels, yet less than 5% of complaints were about these services. In fact, subscribers were more likely to complain about advertising on cable/satellite than about the programmes.

The ITC therefore undertook research about this observation and published the results today. They feel that cable and satellite viewers not only have the option of the ‘off' button, but they can stop their subscription if they are unhappy with the service. They have definite images of the channels and generally know what to expect of them, so avoiding programmes that are not to their tastes. ITC Director of Programmes said: There is no suggestion that cable and satellite viewers are less likely to complain in other areas of their life . Indeed, consumer research has shown they do complain if they get poor value or customer service from satellite and cable operators.

Age and personality played a role in the likelihood of complaining about television programmes, which may also explain the lower level of complaints from cable and satellite subscribers. They tend to have a younger profile and research consistently shows that viewers' tolerance of stronger material on screen, such as bad language, violence and sexual portrayal, decreases with age, particularly from the mid-40s. Cable viewers are slightly less liberal than satellite viewers, perhaps because satellite owners actively go out and buy television services, whereas subscribing to cable is more passive, and is frequently linked to purchasing telephony services.

Top of the list of dislikes amongst older viewers (aged 45-65) surveyed was bad language, and older women also mentioned sexual portrayal, especially minority preferences such as homosexuality, lesbianism and transvestitism. They appeared to find this more objectionable than excessive violence. Another issue for older viewers was the perceived lack of morality in storylines. Younger viewers were more liberal about programme content. Many young men appeared to accept almost any adult material after the watershed. The 25-45 age group, in particular, objected to programmes being edited after the 9pm watershed.

August 30th

  Setting Up a One Sided Appeal

Today's Sunday Times carried the brief news item that the public is going to be given the right of appeal against censorship decisions under reforms planned at the BBFC.

Of course this is far more of a stitch up than it seems. The catch appears to be that only very carefully selected groups of people will be able to appeal and these are clearly likely to be pro-censorial. Whittam Smith alludes to this subject in the BBFC Annual Report: The House of Lords has twice debated the work of the BBFC since I took office. On the second occasion, Lord Alton moved a motion that would have given organisations such as children's charities the right, along with industry, to appeal against the Board's decisions. I have sympathy with the nub of the proposal, but I believe that the practical problems it raises, as regards expense and sheer volume of work, could be great. The amendment was defeated. However, the Board intends to establish an advisory or consultative panel for the interests of children. Its purpose would be to monitor the work of the Board and to advise it when necessary. I am presently engaging in consulting widely about how such a panel could most effectively be set up.

Predictably it appears that consulting widely means consulting with the ludicrous David Alton.The BBFC is already heavily represented by examiners who are recruited from professions working with children. There has never been any indication that the BBFC do not take the issue of protection of children responsibly. Such a move by Whittam Smith must therefore be an imposition of increased censorship that will be cynically justified to the public on the back of protection of children.

August 30th

 Talking of TV Regulation

Programme maker Peter Bazalgette's MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival has generated some debate about the excessive regulation of UK. He argued that regulatory bodies such as the Independent Television Commission should no longer be able to impose their ideas of what is high-quality programming. With individual electronic programme guides, people will make their own selections and we will bar their children from what they judge as unsuitable material. The audience will police themselves.

Bazalgette called for the scrapping of the Broadcasting Standards Commission. He described the commission's chairwoman, Lady Howe, as the biggest busybody of them all . He called the regulatory body a toothless poodle and also called for a curbing of the powers of the Independent Television Commission.

Instead of regulators, Mr Bazalgette argued that viewers switching off will be the way to determine the quality of television programmes. Because of this ITV's obligation to air public service programming should be ended. He predicted that the 9pm "watershed" would wither away with the advent of multi-channel television.

Replying to Mr Bazalgette's criticism, a spokesman for the Broadcasting Standards Commission said: Whilst he may represent the views of some programme makers he has misread the views of the consumers of broadcasting. Viewers supported the principle of taste and decency guidelines and the 9pm watershed for family viewing .

An ITC source rubbished Mr Bazalgette's claims, citing several surveys it has commissioned which showed that the public wants regulation. The source said: Viewers feel there should be some sort of buffer...he is very much a television insider commenting on his perception of regulation. Our perception of what viewers want is very different.

August 29th

(From July 98)

  Home Office Meeting

ELSPA's Roger Bennett recently met with Linda Jackson, a senior Civil Servant at the Home Office, to discuss the simmering subject of games classification.

The meeting was requested by Lord Williams, the Parliamentary under Secretary of State at the Home Office, initially in response to the proposal from David Alton that warnings should be placed on driving games which present images of joyriding, but from that somewhat inauspicious premise it turned out to be both beneficial and fruitful.

The Voluntary Age Rating System was presented and it was explained to Ms Jackson how the industry, from publishers to retailers, had universally embraced and adopted it.

The need for the BBFC to be far more aware of the requirements of games publishers was also explained. Whereas a video or film distributor can make a 'cut' in a product relatively easily, to achieve the same effect in a game could be impossible. As a result, it is an absolute requirement that publishers should be informed as early as possible in a product's lifecycle of any areas which may present problems.

There is an obvious need for those assessing the classification of games to be experienced, knowledgeable and consistent in their decisions.

Still with classification, the recent proposal that demo discs should be VAR-rated before they are presented to magazine publishers for covermounting was also detailed. VAR-rated demos will ensure that no magazine publisher should ever be put in the position of having a title on its cover which should have been BBFC-rated but wasn't - resulting in them breaking the law and having an unsaleable product. It will also guarantee that no consumer will be exposed to a product content inappropriate to its age.

These, and other positive steps ELSPA has been instrumental in developing, were received with enthusiasm and a genuine interest by the Home Office, who were reassured to discover that the interactive entertainment industry had a trade body with a responsible attitude and pro-active systems in place to address Home Office concerns. It is anticipated that dialogue will continue on an ongoing basis, particularly with regard to classification.

August 28th

 A Rendez-Vous with the Details

On the very last day of Parliament before the recess the banning order was laid before Parliament meaning that unless someone challenged the ban in the high court the channel was to be banned on Thursday the 20th August 1998. If history has shown us anything it's that hardcore channels have never had the willing, the funds or the confidence in their case to challenge the government on this particular issue. This is despite the fact that many legal experts reckon that the banning of EC based channels by the UK govt. is based on a very dubious legal framework. Several legal experts have gone even further saying that this sort of action is in fact illegal under EC broadcasting law.

It has long been known that Eurotica/rendezvous were keen to fight the ban, and they proved their mettle (and their desire to protect their best source of revenue - the UK) by going to the high court on Wednesday the 20th August and successfully arguing their case. This means that the channel now cannot be banned before the 10th of September 1998, and that the 2 sides will now have to meet before then to discuss the case.

If the channel wins then the high court will probably rule that the case will have to be heard before the European courts. If this happens then it could be years before a result. Sources at Eurotica/rendezvous feel they have a good case, and if they do indeed win this would mean an end to bannings in the UK.

This would of course have plenty of very interesting effects on the UK satellite market. I have also heard that Canal+ may be interested in competing in the UK market if hardcore were to be sanctioned. I for one would therefore subscribe to Canal+ whereas I am not willing to part with hard earned cash for the current Sky service.

In the meantime lets condemn Chris Smith for his hypocracy of expecting tolerance for the minority sexual preference of gays whilst simultaneously banning the minority sexual preference of those that enjoy watching porn.

August 27th

 Milk Proves Distasteful to Whittam Smith

The BBFC had a recent change of heart towards a series of mild fetish videos featuring pregnant and lactating women. The first four in the series of Pregnant & Milking videos were passed 18 but Pregnant & Milking 5, containing similar material, proved personally distasteful to Whittam Smith and was therefore classified R18. Unfortunately for the distributors, this certificate precluded their usual mail order business so they appealed against the decision. Even more unfortunately for the distributor, the Video Appeals Committee turned down their appeal by a vote of 3-1.

The appeal highlighted a number of predictably alarming trends. First of all it must be emphasised that the video is strictly softcore. The only addition to the usual sexless material allowed by the BBFC is that some of the participants were pregnant and a couple of scenes showed milk spraying from breasts. The BBFC contended that reasonable people would find it offensive to have the video generally available even to those over the age of 18. I don't know who on earth gives the BBFC the right to speak on behalf of reasonable people, but any pretentions to such a right were surely forfeited when the BBFC started to become staffed with Jack Straw puppets. In fact the BBFC admitted to being deeply divided on this particular decision and it was the new president and his newly appointed cronies that swung the decision. At least this video provides measurable proof of a swing to the censorial.

The appeal also showed a serious defiency in the law in that R18 certificated videos are not allowed to be sold by mail order. This seems a strange constraint as one of the principles of the R18 certificate is that it keeps films out of the public gaze. Mail order seems ideal to uphold this requirement. Both the BBFC and Video Appeals Committee agreed with the need to relax the law on this point and showed a certain sympathy for the distributor who has basically been screwed by bad and increasingly discredited UK law.

August 24th

 Charges Dropped

A rare piece of good news. The police have dropped their charges against David Flint who suffered a police raid earlier in the year. Further good news is that all the videos that were siezed will be returned to him.

Update

I have heard that the police received an official complaint from a member of the public and that the case caused a few waves at the Home Office who asked to speak with the police force involved. Let us hope that the happy outcome of the case somehow reflects a more reasonable view from the Home Office.

August 22nd

 Obscenity Issue Referred to Home Office

There is a very tricky problem going down at the BBFC with regards to the certificate for Makin' Whoopee. On one hand the Video Appeals Committee have passed Makin' Whoopee as R18 complete with hardcore inserts. On the other hand, those dreadful people at the Home Office have decreed that there shall be no further hardcore material certifiicated.

The BBFC appear to be stalling in the issuing of the certificate possibly waiting for a reponse from the Home Office. One response may be to order a Judicial Review that may investigate the BBFC appeal procedure to try and find a loop hole that invalidates the appeal. A possible danger to the Home Office is that a high ranking judicial review may agree with both the appeal procedure and the conclusion that adult consensual hardcore does not contravene the Obscene Publications Act. This may then prove a pretty powerful precedent undermining Jack Straw's noxious stance on porn.

Given ever increasing familiarity with explicit porn in the UK, there must come a point when the vast majority of people have seen porn and according to the Home Office should therefore be depraved and corrupted. The fact that this is clearly not true suggests that only people making such a ludicrous and offensive presumption are so affected.

August 22nd

 Eurotica/Rendez-Vous Proscription Delayed

I saw an unverified posting to the European satellite news groups indicating that Eurotica/Rendez-Vous proscription had been delayed as the channel is taking the government to a highcourt debate over the issue. So the station is not banned in the UK until futher notice. Never before has a porn channel taking legal action of this kind to stay available to UK viewers.

The Obscene Publications Act seems to be coming under fire from many different quarters at the moment. There seems to a building groundswell of opinion that is no longer willing to accept that adult consensual porn 'depraves and corrupts'.

August 21st

 Thrill Kill

An early preview of Playstation fighting game "Thrill Kill" recently fell foul of the BBFC over one of it's characters (a dominatrix) making orgasmic sounds on killing an opponent. The developers were told in no uncertain terms that in its original state there was no way it would get a certificate. The offending samples were removed forthwith, but I fully expect more trouble to come from this self-proclaimed "sick-puppy" of a game

August 21st

(Reprinted from Feb 98)

  The BBFC Just Doesn't Understand

The BBFC should not be responsible for the age ratings on video games, according to Roger Bennett, ELSPA's (The European Leisure Software Publishers Association) Director General. He told GameSpot UK, today: The control of video games ratings should be taken away from the BBFC and given to an independent body.

ELSPA is concerned that the BBFC does not understand the difference between computer games and videos or films. "The visual content in video games is entirely different to that in films," said Bennett. "It is not the whole issue. Computer games are interactive products, unlike film watching which is a passive experience."

ELSPA is also trying to make the BBFC much more aware of the requirements of game publishers. An article in the association's magazine said: "Whereas a video or film distributor can make a 'cut' in a product relatively easily, to achieve the same effect in a game could be impossible. As a result, it is an absolute requirement that publishers should be informed as early as possible in a product's life cycle of any areas which may present problems."

The BBFC's treatment of the gaming industry over the last couple of months has angered ELSPA. "If the BBFC rates something, then fine, we'll stand by their decision ," said Bennett, "but what we don't like is the amount of time it takes them to decide and the lack of communication they have with us. We feel that at times they have treated our members in a dilatory and arrogant way." He said that ELSPA have approached the BBFC about setting up a joint committee between themselves, which would enable informed decisions to be made. The BBFC have yet to reply.

Bennett argues that an independent committee, whose sole aim is to rate computer games, would be able to do things much more practically. For example, suggestions were made that the packaging of the game 'Grand Theft Auto', which was given an 18-rating, should also carry warnings with words to the effect of 'Don't drive your car like this'. Bennett says: "This idea is patronising to our consumers. Even 10-year-olds can tell the difference between fantasy and reality."

August 20th

 Black Market Survey

Recent commendable statements from James Ferman have highlighted the developing UK black market for pornographic material. The following background facts and figures on the subject were extracted from a press article by Tobias Jones.

Pornography per se is not illegal, but, given such wording, the legal dividing line between pornography and obscenity has become blurred, and juries have been reluctant to convict. "One jury," says a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police, "may find something obscene, others wouldn't. There are just no clear parameters. It depends entirely on the make-up of the jury, so it's a continual testing ground, entirely open to interpretation."

The number of seizures by the Clubs and Vice Squad within the Metropolitan Police is on the increase. Some 44,000 videos were taken in 1997, and 181 video recorders; that compares with a mere 28,000 videos and 19 recorders three years earlier (the figures exclude CID operations).

But while the industry is mushrooming, successful prosecutions are rare. For 1996, in magistrates courts in England and Wales, there were only 312 convictions for possession of obscene material - there were 153 acquittals. Legal risks are clearly worth taking in such a lucrative industry.

"It's a grey area," admits Mike Thomson, a spokesman for Customs and Excise, "and, basically, it's up to courts to decide what is obscene or not." In the 1996-7 financial year, there were 8,029 detections of obscene material by Customs (as compared with 7790 detections of drugs). That figure resulted in the seizure of some 45,000 items, from CD-Roms to single photographs.

Customers expect to part with about £50 on a typical visit to a sex shop. The profit puts in perspective the £19,000 which each of the 11 sex shops in Soho pays to Westminster City Council for a licence each year. The cost of printing off copies of continental magazines is low, and it is cheap to run off videos from a mastertape.

But for all the promise of these shops, and whatever they are prepared to provide under the counter, the real boom in pornography is not happening here. It comes instead in areas that are outside the control of Mr Ferman's BBFC. As Tim Brain, Deputy Chief Constable of Gloucestershire and the police spokesman on pornography, admits: "Since the introduction of the Obscene Publications Act, the law and technology have developed to a stage at which the legal position on pornography is unclear and makes effective enforcement difficult."

For, in the same way that domestic videos ushered in an era of blissful porn-privacy in the 1970s, the Internet and satellite television in the 1990s have not only cut out the embarrassing necessity for a middleman, they have also by-passed almost every legal obstacle, avoiding any form of import control and bringing to this country the almost unregulated worlds of Continental Europe and North America.

Brett Pittam is the sales manager of X-Net, a bi-monthly Internet magazine "for men", which has become the third best-selling of all Internet titles. He says: "Of the top 100 sites visited on the Internet, 95 per cent are of an adult nature; it's the adult market which is driving Internet technology forward." The magazine has listings for 1,500 adult websites, many capable of showing video images, which effectively turns them into cinemas. To give an indication of popularity, the website for Desire Direct, a UK introductions magazine, has 1.5 million hits every month. (compared to a grand total of 301 hits that the National Viewers and Listeners Association website has achieved!)

On TV, although the satellite porn of Red Hot Dutch is now defunct, several replacements, eg Rendezvous (from France), are easily accessible. A spokeswoman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, concedes: "The technology to scramble or jam television channels from the Continent simply doesn't exist.

A poll last week conducted by Teletext received a vote of 64 per cent (out of the 1,274) in favour of more sexual content in videos.

August 19th

 Pigs, Filth and Police Embarassment

As reported earlier under the heading Pigs, Filth and Police Censorship , Southampton police had seized promotional material advertising Irvine Welsh's new novel Filth.

A few days later they have now decided not to press charges and the promotional material was returned to the bookshop in person by Superintendent Wyeth (pictured right?)

Pihs Filth and Police Embarassment
August 19th

 Makin' Whoopee With the BBFC View of Obscenity Law

The BBFC have just issued a press statement with the headline Video Appeals Committee In Surprise Obscenity Decision. This revealed the excellent news that another R18 video certificate has been issued for a video containing snippets of hardcore. Of course this decision is little do with BBFC who are now bound by Jack Straw's repressive reading of the Obscene Publications Act. Instead we have the Video Appeals Committee to thank for a more enlightened view of the law.

The story started last September when the distributors, Sheptonhurst (associated with the Private Shop chain), submitted their video Makin' Whoopee for an R18 certificate. The 1997 video was made in the US by Jace Rocker. It has a vague storyline about advertising executives pursuing a movie star for a product endorsement. The video submitted video was not the original version and had presumably been pre-cut to R18 standards.

At this time the BBFC were issuing R18 certificates to videos with explicit but brief hardcore. The BBFC indicated that the video would be passed uncut via an 'interim clearance form'. Sheptonhurst went away to produce their release publicity and packaging etc based upon this information (eg to add 100% hardcore on the cover) . To make matters worse, the distributor had also purchased similar titles on the strength of this interim information. By the time final certification was due, Jack Straw had stepped in with his own repressive view of the Obscene Publications Act, This left the BBFC with little option but to suggest the usual extreme and comercially damming cuts. Feeling justifiably peeved Sheptonhurst went to appeal with a persuasive set of arguments.

Sheptonhurst argued that:

  • The video contains only heterosexual and lesbian sex. It is completely consensual and non-violent. There is no hint of stronger sexual material.
  • The BBFC had originally accepted the legality of the video by the issuance of the interim R18 certificate and Sheptonhurst had purchased additional titles on the strength of this information.
  • The BBFC had issued certificates to similar material which have never been prosecuted by the authorities.
  • Just because the BBFC had received new instructions from the Home Office it does not mean that these neccessarily reflect a correct interpretation of the law.

The BBFC argued that:

  • Potential viewers may include children who may be harmed
  • The video contravenes the Obscene Publications Act (because Jack Straw says so, they didn't think so last year)
  • There exists small print to say that an interim certificate is not binding

The Video Appeals Committee unanimously decided that the video work is not obscene within the terms of the Obscene Publications Acts and that it should be granted an R18 certificate.

It will certainly be interesting to see the response from the Home Office and the enforcement agencies. I guess that a response will be required as their is no reason why this judgement wouldn't equally apply to many thousands of other sex videos waiting in the wings.

Update

As soon as Sheptonhurst were notified of the outcome of the appeal, the appropriate certification forms were returned to the BBFC for signing. These still have not been signed despite nudging by solicitors. Are the BBFC stalling for time whilst they cook up some sort of counter measure?

August 18th

 A US Perspective To Our Troubled Times

Thanks to my Melon Farming friends in the US

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Exorcist

Warner Brothers are releasing an NTSC 'Collectors Edition' of The Exorcist on VHS, Laserdisc and DVD. This widescreen version features an uncut edition plus the recent BBC documentary. It may be ordered from the US without fear of the undie-sifters (After all, it has got a cinema certificate, so can hardly be judged as obscene). It is released on the 25th of August.

US cable TV is also joining in the celebration. A&E (The Arts & Entertainment Network) is going to show the uncut movie on Sunday 30th August at a time when other channels have religious programming.

Compare this with the current BBFC attitude from James Ferman. Whittam Smith has recently said that he would at least watch the film but I have a mental image of him with a little Jack Straw devil whispering in his left ear and a David Alton devil whispering in his right. (Wish I could draw!)

Mocking the UK treatment of Straw Dogs

Warner Brothers have recently issued an NTSC version of Straw Dogs in an unrated and uncut format. The cover artwork carries a large banner boasting that the film had been "Banned in the UK". Of course the Americans aren't wholly without censorship problems, all previous US releases have been in a heavily cut R rated version.

In fact it was this heavily cut R rated version that was recently submitted to the BBFC and was eventually banned by Whittam Smith. (I wonder which ear?)

Lolita on TV

Lolita has not had a happy passage into distribution in the US as most of the film distributors were reluctant to take the risk. However the film has now found its way on to TV via the premium channel Showtime. MGM have now taken the film for a selective cinema distribution. The TV showing created a lot of press coverage, but mostly it centered around playing the movie down & praising it, rather than the "ban this filth" journalism of the Daily Mail.

I wonder if the Daily Mail are going to continue their ridiculous campaign when it is time for a UK video release? Don't forget to watch Critical Condition when it features the Daily Mail and their action over Lolita.

Jerry Spring Accused of Arranging Fights

One of the hottest videos on sale in the US is "Jerry Springer-Too Hot For TV". This features material that the US networks wouldn't screen, in unexpurgated form. I wonder if it was this material that found its way onto daytime ITV causing a rebuke from the ITC.

August 17th

 Exorcising the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Nightmare

Thanks to Phil Martin for a story I missed whilst away.

A Radio 4 programme on 5th August featured a debate on the motion: Total freedom of expression would be a dangerous nightmare . The proponents were Andreas Whittham Smith & Frances da Souza, the opponents, Chris Dunkley & Mark Kermode.

The audience were asked to vote on the motion before and after the debate. 2:1 in favour at the start of the programme, 1:1 afterwards; so a shift towards the voice of reason. There was also a listener telephone poll but I have not heard the result.

Whittam Smith dropped in a couple of gems:

  • Mark Kermode asked Whittam Smith to give The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a cinema certificate. Whittam Smith replied that the answer was not clear cut. (he's right in a way, our viewing rights have been hacked away using a chainsaw)
  • In response to the motion: Total freedom of expression would be a dangerous nightmare , Whittam Smith stated that we are already living in that nightmare.

Given this last quote it was interesting to read in last weekend's Independant On Sunday that Whittam Smith has agreed to watch The Exorcist with view to considering a video release. Perhaps the politics has swung a little too far to the cut and ban it wing and it is time for a small compromise. I look forward to being able to see The Exorcist on the video shelves.

August 16th

 Hard & Penetrating Problems for Idiots

Few directors are brave enough to incorporate hardcore sex footage into mainstream films but Lars Von Trier has apparently made a good effort. His film, The Idiots was well be received by the critics when it was recently premiered at Cannes. He hopes that the film can be passed by the BBFC for the arthouse circuit but erections and explicit penetration may offend police, customs, magistrates, Jack Straw and a mere 36% of the UK population (a recent Teletext poll).

Of course, juries, 64% of the UK population and the BBFC should support an uncut certificate but that counts for very little in a supposedly free country such as Britain. The predictable outcome is that the film will be cut or banned but technology may yet save the day. To ensure good publicity for the film, the film's publicists were handing out lots of copies of the uncut version on DVD. Plenty more where they came from no doubt.

August 13th

 Pigs, Filth and Police Censorship

Police have been accused of censorship after they seized copies of a poster from a shop window showing a pig in a officer's helmet. The posters, promoting cult author Irvine Welsh's latest book Filth , were on display at a book store in Southampton. Officers seized the posters after spotting them in the shop window. Stunned staff at the shop could do nothing as police pulled down the posters and confiscated them as evidence. The police confirmed that the posters were seized under the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act which deals with offensive and obscene material. Now police say they may pass the matter onto the Crown Prosecution Service.

The police have been strongly criticised for confiscating them by the bookshop's owners and civil rights campaigners. Liz Farrat, campaign manager for the civil rights group Liberty criticised the police for being "over-sensitive", calling the move a "ridiculous over-reaction". The threat of criminal sanctions over what is a light-hearted derogatory image will do little to enhance public confidence in the police she said.

Under the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act there is an offence of "intentionally causing harrassment, alarm or distress through threatening, abusive or insulting words, behaviour or displays". Such an offence carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and/or a £5,000 fine. Apparently books were not seized, even though they present the same image, because they were not in public view.

The Booksellers Association has now taken up the case.

(Another case of police Power Abuse, I don't think it will go to court though, it would only prolong the hysterics)

Pigs Filth and Police Censorship
August 12th

 Ferman Calls for the Legalisation of Hardcore

James Ferman has today been doing the TV sound bite rounds on the subject of legalising explicit and consensual hardcore pornography. The basic thrust of his campaign is that there are now more black market outlets for porn than legal ones and these black market outlets do not differentiate between sex and violent or degrading porn. He believes that allowing legal but approved hardcore will take the demand out of the black market as most customers are basically after straight sex videos. He also states that no scientific research has identified harm as a result of explicit consensual pornography.

(Whilst I support Ferman's campaign, it is a little disappointing that these calls appear only in response to a practical enforcement problem, not because the British subject has the right to watch non-harmful material. Also interesting to note that Whittam Smith does not appear to be actively joining in the campaign)

August 11th

 Sex and Bondage, The BBFC Annual Report

The latest Annual Report from the BBFC is released tomorrow (ie Wednesday 12th). Saturday's Telegraph carried two articles from an advance copy of the last report with James Ferman as Director.

James Ferman said that violent pornography that undermines a "healthy society" is flooding Britain because the Government has failed to control the sex film industry. The "flourishing black market" in obscene videos is growing out of control and must be tackled as a matter of urgency.

He identifies the spread of violent pornography as the main failure of the classification laws since he took over. However, Mr Ferman's proposed solution is highly controversial. He calls for licensed sex shops to be given greater freedom to sell explicit films in order to halt the flow of the worst obscene material. The law has been applied by police and magistrates in too strict a manner to allow the material the customers want. Thus we are left with a flourishing black market which mixes pornography with obscenity, which is not conducive to a healthy society. As we enter a new Millennium, we must find a solution to the problem of pornography which will not go away.

Ferman's position is supported by other Board members. Their report states: Pornography will once again be swept under the carpet where, in the name of the law, it will be mixed up with violence and degradation. The law may be an ass, but it is the Board's job to uphold it, even in the face of astonished disbelief from the rest of the world. In recent years there has been a vast increase in the number of unlicensed sex shops in London and nationwide. These shops carry illegal and unclassified sex material, much of it containing violent and degrading scenes of a kind which the Board would cut without hesitation.

Ferman argues that the BBFC should target its efforts at "classification" rather than "censorship". He defends the Board's decision to allow the showing of controversial films including Crash, about a couple who have sexual fantasies about car crashes, and Lolita, which deals with a man's relationship with an under-age girl. He urges the public to accept that cinema is an art form which should explore controversial topics. No regulator has the right to muzzle such a medium or to block avenues of exploration and therefore no subject matter should any longer be taboo . He said there is less need for controls than when he became director in 1975. He said: Times have changed and governments and public authorities must ensure that any remedy is not disproportionate to the mischief it is designed to cure.

The increasing violence In Bond films was also noted by the report. Earlier 007 productions, starring Sean Connery and Roger Moore, were harmless entertainment, far higher levels of violence have been injected into recent productions.

The censors fear that the secret agent is being turned from a traditionally British action hero into an aggressive Hollywood-style fighter in an attempt to improve ratings. The latest Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies, had to be cut in several places to remove sequences that glorified aggression in order to qualify for the target 12 classification. The report continues that the latest Bond, Pierce Brosnan, followed the pattern of the recent Bonds of being slightly too violent for its intended audience .

The board says screen violence has, in general, decreased in the past year. However, the report warns against the trend to increasingly scary scenes in films aimed at children. They identify Stephen Spielberg's film about dinosaurs The Lost World: Jurassic Park as a borderline case which only just got its PG classification.

August 10th

 Proscription for a Nasty Culture Infection

The porn channel Eurotica/Rendez-Vous will soon be proscribed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. The order takes effect from August 20th according to information broadcast by Eurotica/Rendez-Vous

The channel is gamely trying to fight the ban by offering to extend new yearly subscriptions to the end of 1999. Such subscriptions can be legally bought until the order takes effect and will be perfectly legal for the duration of the subscription period.

This is the first proscription order by New Censorial Labour.

July 21st

  Good News with a Snarl

A rare piece of good news from the BBFC, they have decided to grant an 18 cinema certificate to Dobermann. This 1997 French gangster film by Jan Kounen has been doing the festival rounds and has been noted for its violence.

As usual, Whittam Smith seems to have been pushing for a ban on the grounds that the unwashed riff-raff amongst us will want to see the film for the sake of the violence rather than for the art. The more reasonable majority of the BBFC successfully muzzled him so as to continue a good long absence of films banned at the cinema.

The distributors will submit the film for a video release but given the recent record, this would seem unlikely. In the meantime we will have to make do with Dobermann the video game.

For the record the film has been released elsewhere with the following certificates:

  • Italy VM14
  • France 16
  • US R
  • Norway 18
  • Finland K18
  • Germany 18
July 20th

 Violent Warnings

The BBC, ITC & BSC have jointly initiated a working party who have just published the report 'Violence And The Viewer' covering the portrayal of violence on UK television.

The main conclusions are:

  • A Statement of Common Principles on the portrayal of violence on television has already been agreed with existing UK broadcasters. This sets out an agreed basis for editorial decisions across the whole range of services available. The Statement covers the role of violence in broadcasting; scheduling programmes; the portrayal of violence; programme information & warnings; and public education.
  • New entrants to UK broadcasting should be expected to subscribe to the Statement of Common Principles
  • The nine o'clock watershed should be vigorously defended; and the emerging multi-channel digital services should continue to uphold established UK family viewing policies.
  • Information For Viewers. There should be a renewed effort by all broadcasters to reinforce the public's understanding of the role of the nine o'clock watershed. Viewers should be given clearer information in on-air announcements and programme listings about violent content in programming. Ambiguous language should be avoided. Warnings should be easily accessible on Teletext as a point of reference for viewers who join a programme late, perhaps by using a standard code (corresponding to the 888 subtitle page) so that viewers can call up any on-air warning they have missed. Broadcasters should work with all types of listings providers, including EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) operators, to improve the usefulness of information on specific programmes.
  • The Role of Media Education. A national strategy for media education, especially for young children, is needed which should be led by Government.(Surely they must be kidding, the only answer politicians know is extreme censorship, they hear only votes and never any logic)
  • An industry group of regulators, broadcasters and programme-makers should initially be set up to establish appropriate initiatives and partnerships with teachers, parents and Government. (How about a voice for viewers without children)
  • Research. Broadcasters should continue to work with the BBC, ITC and BSC to improve definitions of violence and to investigate further the boundary between the acceptable and unacceptable depiction of violent scenes on television.
  • New Technology. Regulators, broadcasters and programme makers should continue close collaboration so that new concerns about violence on television which may result from changes in the broadcasting environment can be fully addressed.
  • The shortcomings of a range of classification and parental control systems adopted by other countries were noted, including their inability to provide consistent and reliable content classification. Digital pay-per-view and subscription services, which may operate on the basis of an eight o'clock watershed, combined with classification and a parental control button, should be carefully assessed.
  • The V-Chip and other electronic gate-keeping devices offer only an inadequate "quick-fix" solution to the problems of regulating violent content on television. Evidence from overseas indicates there is no satisfactory gate-keeping system in operation elsewhere. Electronic devices do not offer realistic protection to those they are designed to protect because children have proved especially adept at unscrambling them. Furthermore such devices threaten to disrupt, or even destroy, the existing strong watershed contract between broadcasters and the family audience in the UK. The report suggests that any use of electronic methods of this kind, such as EPGs combined with a parental control button, should be carefully assessed following their introduction in the UK.
July 18th

 Rubbing Us Up the Wrong Way

Details have been emerging about another example of Whittam Smith's dictatorial crusade to ensure all our viewing is suitable for an average Daily Mail reader.

Frisk is a quality US art-house film directed by Todd Verow based on a respected novel by Dennis Cooper. A video certificate was refused earlier this year with the following justification: The work is set in an erotic world of sado-masochism and portrays the sexual appetites of a young man for whom killing and engorging the victim become the ultimate thrill. The treatment is cold, lacking remorse, deliberately without moral standpoint. It plays with the idea that these killings are a part of the fantasy world of the protagonist, but the viewer is invited to share that world by experiencing the killings as both realistic and the peak of sado-masochistic pleasure. The harmful effect of the video derives from its repeated juxtaposition of sex and gross physical assault, which could have a disturbing and dangerous impact on vulnerable viewers.

However it has now emerged that four BBFC examiners saw the video and unanimously recommended that it should be passed uncut. Like Seven, most of the violent incidents occur off-screen and would not have posed any real problems to the previous regime at the BBFC. Unfortunately the concept of a gay serial killer offended or disgusted Whittam Smith and he overruled his examiners and rejected the video.

The BBFC have previously attempted to maintain a sense of consistency and generally consider precedents when making their decisions. The video can readily be compared with such decisions as Seven and Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer. The fact that Frisk is demonstrably less violent should provide excellent grounds for an appeal. Unfortunately the distributors, Dangerous to Know, seem to have recently developed cold feet over their planned appeal. It would seem a shame if Whittam Smith was allowed to get away with an unjust and possibly homophobic decision without at least a challenge, especially where the case is so potentially winnable.

July 13th

 Original Sins Banned

Another casualty to report at the BBFC. Original Sins, a 1995 US film by Matthew Howe & Howard Berger has suffered the fate of bein g shelved indefinitely.

Perhaps a few clues as to the reasons may gleamed from a recent review in Flash & Blood: Described as a catalogue of depravity encompassing sex, gore blood drinking, sacrifice cannibalism, iconic rape, pastoral buggery, anal rape, incest, necrophilia and a rape/suicide that climaxes with the rapist cutting his throat at the point of orgasm. The review continues to say that the film is not made well enough for the above list to really make an impact.

I have heard that the video has now been through the BBFC process suffering from the usual delaying tactics imposed on controversial films. Cuts were finally suggested but Screen Edge implemented them by various means, ie adjusting the screen ratio, blanking the picture and superimposing black bars across the offending material. The BBFC did not like this approach, presumably because the viewer is made aware of the censorship and so the BBFC have effectively stalled the process indefinitely.

For those that want to see why the video was banned it was available from the US on the Something Weird Video label but may still be obtained, try contacting HGoober@aol.com

July 11th

 Appeals for Sense at the BBFC

Whittam Smith's recent run of crazed censorial decisions has rightfully caused a stampede towards the Video Appeals Committee. This is an independent group of people (including John Wood a former deputy DPP, Biddy Baxter, Claire Rayner and Fay Weldon) who can overturn BBFC decisions.

Up until the appointment of Whittam Smith, this group had only heard 11 appeals over 12 years, presumably because decisions in the Ferman era were a little more reasonable. They have now got to hear appeals about the decisions to ban:

  • Pregnant & Milking
  • Changing Room Exposed
  • Bare Fist: The Sport that Wouldn't Die
  • Maniac

I hadn't heard of the decision to ban the sex video Pregnant & Milking before, but the BBFC have previously given certificates to videos in the same series. Apparently Whittam Smith unilaterally banned it on the grounds that he found the subject matter distasteful.

I have also heard that there another couple of submissions causing problems to the BBFC (or Whittam Smith maybe) ie:

  • Funny Games on video
  • Doberman for a cinema release

How come so little news about rejections and appeals etc is being posted on the BBFC website. I thought they were supposed to be offering us a more open and accountable face these days.

July 10th

 Star Arrest

A court in India has reportedly issued an arrest warrant for media mogul Rupert Murdoch after charges that his Star TV network shows obscene movies. Star Movies is increasingly popular among India's young people because of its late-night soft porn films. The warrant was issued after Murdoch refused to accept a summons sent to his addresses in US and Australia. India's Foreign Ministry will now try to serve the summonses through diplomatic channels. (For once I support Murdoch and hope that India gets diplomatically told to fuck off)

July 3rd

 The Starship Troopers Story

Starship Troopers was originally viewed for a cinema certificate in November 1997 by the usual panel of 2 examiners. They passed the film 15 and the decision was rubber stamped by the pricipal examiner Michael Bor. I guess that none of the senior management were alerted to the impending problems at that stage.

The cinema release was very succesful but the BBFC received numerous public complaints about the violence and gore. The subject was also brought up at the BBFC roadshow meetings where it was cited as an example of inconsistent classification.

In April this year, the video was viewed by another pair of examiners who again recommended a 15 certificate. James Ferman viewed the video himself and the original decision was overidden in favour of an 18 certificate. I have heard that tempers at the BBFC became a little frayed over this period ! This 18 video certificate was finally awarded in June with support from Whittam Smith who also insisted on the 18.

July 1st

 Whittam Smith Bans Straw Dogs

Straw Dogs was originally passed for an X certificate in 1971 with cuts. On export to the US it suffered the loss of the the second rape sequence so as to achieve an R rating. This R rated version was re-submitted for an 18 cinema certificate in 1995 and passed. The distributors submitted the video for classification in 1996 but the BBFC were not too impressed. The distributors continued with their efforts and James Ferman eventually approved the viewing of the video for possible classification.

As is normal for controversial films, the video was viewed by a fair number of examiners most of whom wanted to pass the video 18 (without further cuts). Whittam Smith has personally stepped in and blocked this certificate and so the video remains banned. Whittam Smith's tally of banned videos is certainly increasing rapidly and there are more in the pipeline.

June 26th

  Smash and Grab

Another alarming story of the police sending the heavies around on the merest shred of evidence is reported in the latest edition of the excellent Trash City.

The zine publisher of Dark Carnival relates his tale: In late October, the plain clothes knocked on the door at this address. They had a warrant to search the premises and I was told to open the back door where there were more coppers waiting in case I did a runner! I was immediately arrested for 'Obscene publications for publicational or financial gain' and told to sit down while the 8 officers took my place apart. They basically cleared me out totally of stock, as well as my own mags, paperwork, computer files, the lot. They wanted to search two locked rooms upstairs (my landlord's bedroom and junkroom) but he was at work so they kicked the doors in (and found nothing of course). I was then taken to my girlfriend's flat which was also searched, and all my videos were taken from there. I was taken to the station, booked in, searched and chucked in a cell, thankfully only for an hour before being interviewed (the usual stupid questions about snuff movies, stills from 'Cannibal Holocaust'; being real, selling video nasties etc etc). I was then released on bail. The good news is that when I answered bail, they said they were not going to charge me, but that they wanted to keep some of the videos (titles from the banned list and hardcore porn) which I signed away. They also wanted some of the stuff they'd sent to London to be checked out by the Obscene Publications Squad which included Darkside, Headpress, Divinity, Penthouse Comix, In the Flesh, Mondo Argento, Necronomicon Book, Killing for Culture, Uncut, Fatal Visions, Lord Horror and a load more. I wouldn't agree to that so they said that, if we couldn't come to some agreement, it would have to go before a magistrate to decide, which I was quite happy to do. Finally they let me have everything back except one copy of the Blackest Heart which had some stills from porn movies in showing erections, so I let them keep that. Apparently I was raided because some guy in Hampshire got the same treatment (He was selling banned videos) and they found a flyer for Dark Carnival. They said it was a letter talking about videos, but I know it was a lie, because I don't know the guy and have never dealt with him before. I'm seeing my solicitor about some sort of compensation, at least for the smashed door (update, needless to say, they won't pay anything)

It seems that the only crimes revealed in this raid were those committed by the police. Particularly the fact that they somehow managed to confiscate property that is totally legal to own (but not to sell and they clearly failed to prove this otherwise the poor guy would have been in even more trouble).

June 18th

  The Irish Perspective

The Republic of Ireland is to lift a 52-year-old ban on books alluding to abortion, miscarriage and contraception censored because they were regarded as advocating the unnatural prevention of conception or the procurement of abortion or miscarriage .

(It is hard to believe that other European countries could have worse censorship than Britain, but somehow Ireland always seems to manage this)

June 17th

 Afterbirth Paté Tastes OK After All

Television taste and decency regulations were thrown into disarray yesterday when the two TV watchdogs disagreed over a programme which showed a family making pate from a human placenta.

The Independent Television Commission, which licenses and regulates commercial television stations, has thrown out 21 complaints about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's TV Dinners programme just three weeks after the Broadcasting Standards Commission censured the programme. The ITC judged the programme as "unsensational and responsible". It noted that the programme had been preceded by warnings about its content and said it was not the first time the topic had been dealt with on prime-time television.

By contrast, the BSC said in its last report that the programme breached a convention in a way which would have been disagreeable to many . and would have taken many viewers by surprise , despite the advance warnings. The BSC noted that some of those complaining referred to the eating of placentas as cannibalism .

At the time of the BSC's judgement, Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall was defiant: If I wasn't getting a number of complaints I would consider I wasn't doing my job. It was one of the stories I most enjoyed doing. There's a lot of complacency in the way we approach our diet and food production, which is why I'm quite happy to be seen eating squirrels and, indeed, placenta. People need to be shocked to make them think about the issues in eating food.

June 16th

 After Tony & Jack Wooed Us

The Gay Men's Press speaks out in the Guardian against Straw & Blair following on from their recent customs raid

In the last fortnight a government that wooed the gay vote has rejected two gay rights measures, the Sexual Orientation Discrimination Bill and an amendment to the Crime and Disorder Bill, on the grounds that they would undermine the family

Many gay people may find this ironic, but we have particular reason to do so, We pioneered gay book publishing 20 years ago and have had no previous trouble with the law. But on May 18, HM Customs arrived at our office with a warrant to search for indecent items , on the strength of an unsolicited German book addressed to our company. Finding nothing else to confiscate, they seized computer equipment containing all our books in production for the autumn season. A month of legal representation has failed to obtain its release.

When the Customs prosecuted Gay's The Word bookshop in 1984, they admitted that in their eyes anything gay was ipso facto suspect. (In the same year, our book Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin was publicly burned). It seems that little has changed in 15 years.

Indeed it sets a disturbing precedent for a book publisher to be harassed as we have now been. The Customs notoriously have wide discretionary powers, but as a recent Guardian article explained their underlying remit is set by government.

Is it Jack Straw the public should thank for this attempt to close down an internationally respected gay publisher, or are we being directly Blair Bashed? (My money is on Jack Straw being the villain)

June 15th

 Fundamentally Wrong

A coalition of Christian and Muslim fundamentalists is urging video stores not to stock Crash. The group, which includes Yusuf Islam, the former singer Cat Stevens, believes it can call on the support of up to 105,000 members across both faiths who will boycott any store that puts Crash on its shelves. The believe that the film should have been banned because of its perverse depiction of human sexuality woven into the violent imagery of road carnage. Their ally Chris Demetriou, the pastor at the head of the fundamentalist Cornerstone Ministries group of churches said; We will be deciding how exactly we can most effectively affect the release of this kind of video .

Those opposed to current censorship criteria in Britain, including J G Ballard, the author of the book on which Crash is based, are optimistic that Mr Whittam Smith's reign will be characterised by less restrictive rulings. If the decision to release Crash just as it was made was influenced by him, then I applaud it and hope it's part of a new trend. (As wrong as the fundamentalists above, I'm afraid). No one who sees it will miss the dreamlike quality and they will realise the absurdity of the original controversy. This film does not assume that anyone would take it literally .

June10th

 BBFC On Line

Welcome to the BBFC now on line .

There's good news and bad news. On one page you get the statement: British citizens are entitled to know about decisions of the BBFC which affect their freedom to see the films and videos of their choice.

On another: All access to Classified works and Rejected works databases is for subscribers only. If you wish to subscribe please send the following details to us enclosing a cheque or postal order for the sum of £250.00 plus VAT

June 7th

 Customs Mount Raid on Gay Men's Press

The publishing company Gay Men's Press (GMP) has been forced to suspend business after a mob handed raid by Customs. Customs claim to have intercepted a package from Germany containing a book depicting underage models. 5 officers spent four hours combing the office and found nothing. Of course, they did not stop there and proceeded to do the company some real damage by seizing all their computing equipment. A Customs spokesman confirmed that no charges have as yet being brought. We searched the premises and took away items for examination, but cannot make any further comment at this point as the investigation is still ongoing.

An owner of GMP believes that the company has been unfairly targeted by Customs who grossly over-reacted when they turned up on his doorstep. He fears that GMP could end up losing thousands of pounds and lose vital business as a result of the raid. Since starting 19 years ago, we have never once experienced any trouble at all. We have always operated entirely within in the law and wouldn't dream of importing text or pictures that were indecent. The problem is that like all publishers we receive a steady stream of manuscripts and printed matter which we haven't asked for, or ordered, no doubt like this German book. Such items are not imported in any legal sense . GMP has vowed to fight any criminal charge brought against it, and is prepared to go to civil court to force Customs to return the computers by June 2nd.

(I feel that Customs should be made to compensate any person or company who suffers financial loss as a result of Customs operations when no evidence of a crime can be found. Does not this heavy handed policy open the doors to industrial espionage by arranging for a dodgy parcel to be sent to a competitor and sitting back whilst Customs do all the heavy work?)

June 3rd

 Never Trust a Chemist

Heavy prison sentences of 18 months plus a 10 year listing on the sex crimes register were handed down to two homosexual masochist lovers who were deeply into a foot & sock fetish.They had amassed a collection of 10,000 pairs of used socks by advertising that they were collecting them for charity. The couple were also into masochism and paid ever increasing amounts to get others to beat them with belts etc.

Both men pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit acts of gross indecency and to incitement to commit unlawful wounding on each other.

Although it is an interesting news item, the reason it appears in censorship news is that the couple were shopped by a firm of censorial film processors who reported a roll of supposedly obscene pictures to the police. Film developers were also responsible for shopping the student who recently took snapshots from a Robert Mapplethorpe book.

The moral of the story is:
Never give your real name and address to film developers!,
they are a bunch of no-good snitches who deserve to get buried in a pile of 20,000 men's used socks.

June 2nd

 Mark Fisher: Minister for Old Farts

Government press release identifying a new censorship catch phrase Protecting Human Dignity. One for the Hall of Shame I think!

Mark Fisher, Minister for the Arts, today welcomed a Recommendation by the European Union's Council of Ministers which aims to promote the development of the audiovisual and information services industry through measures aimed at protecting children and human dignity.

The Council of Audiovisual and Culture Ministers, meeting in Brussels last Thursday under his chairmanship as part of the UK's Presidency of the European Union, agreed a Recommendation which is addressed to Member States, the audio-visual and information services industry, and the European Commission. It recommends a number of measures to foster a climate of confidence and promote the development of the European audio-visual and information services industry and its global competitiveness.

The Recommendation recognises :

  • that the development of audio-visual and information services is of vital importance for Europe, in view of their significant potential in the fields of education, access to information and culture, economic development and job creation.
  • that a climate of confidence is essential for this potential to be achieved, and that the development and full competitiveness of the industry will be assisted by the protection of certain important public policy interests, in particular the protection of minors and human dignity.
  • that differing national laws and circumstances across the Community reflect cultural diversity; and as such particular attention must be paid to the principle of subsidiarity. (ie the UK can keep its repressive censorship regime)
  • that the sharing of good practice throughout the Community and improved self-regulation by the industry can contribute to the protection of minors and human dignity.

The Recommendation includes indicative guidelines for a code of conduct which sets basic guidelines for broadcasters and businesses providing on-line services and sets out protection measures such as:

  • a warning page, visual signal or sound signal.
  • descriptive labelling and/or classification of contents
  • systems to check the age of users.

The Recommendation complements the proposed multiannual Action Plan promoting the safe use of the Internet. This Community programme, which was discussed by Telecommunications Ministers on 19 May, will fund the development of filtering and rating software to control harmful material on the Internet and to encourage the establishment of hotline reporting mechanisms for illegal content. This proposal follows a recent Council Resolution on illegal and harmful material on the Internet.

Welcoming the Council's Recommendation, Mark Fisher said; I share the concern of parents that pornography and other harmful material should not be allowed to proliferate on the Internet or in the other new audio-visual services. Our children should not be exposed to such material. Their protection is of paramount importance to all Member States, and the early unanimous agreement of the Council is testament to that. The transfrontier nature of these services does not respect traditional or national boundaries, and a co-ordinated European response sends a positive message to the international Community. The Recommendation is based firmly on the principle of self-regulation by the industry, which is in accordance with our strong belief that the development of the industry should not be hampered by unnecessary regulation. I commend the measures already taken by the UK industry in this area, and hope it will respond positively to this Recommendation. I also pay tribute to the initiative of the Commission in its work in this area, and to the contribution made by the European Parliament .

May 29th

  Shooting the Messenger

I was reading about the former head of German Compuserve who got a 2 year suspended prison sentence for the crimes of other people using his facilities without any chance of him being able to know what was going on . There I was thinking that surely this couldn't happen in a civilised country, even the prosecutor was calling for an acquittal. Then I remembered that the same thing is going on in the UK:

INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER SUED FOR FAILURE TO ACT AS CENSOR

Internet Freedom condemns the use of British libel law against Demon Internet. Successful use of libel law to hold Internet Service Providers responsible for material they transmit would turn them in to censors and be a major blow to free speech. Laurence Godfrey, a London science lecturer, is suing Internet Service Provider (ISP) Demon Internet Limited for defamation over a message posted on the Net. His High Court writ claims damages of UKP 50,000 and includes aggravated damages and an injunction banning Demon from repeating the same or similar words. According to Godfrey, a defamatory Usenet message was posted to soc.culture.thai under the pretext it was sent by him. When Demon was asked to remove the article, Godfrey alleges they refused. According to Godfrey it is not a case of censorship but simply a matter of damages: I don't wish to challenge anyone's right to freedom of speech but I have a right to damages if I'm damaged by their exercise of their right to free speech. Demon's view is they should allow anything to go through and not edit or control it.

This is the fourth libel case taken out by Godfrey. Two years ago he received an out of court settlement in Britain's first Internet libel case against physicist Dr. Philip Hallam-Baker. Godfrey also won settlements against an Australian ISP and the Canadian online Toronto Star newspaper. However, claiming a bogus right to damages is in direct contradiction to the right to free speech. Godfrey is clearing demanding that statements which he does not agree with should be censored. Demanding that compensating damages should be paid by those who refuse to do so means that free speech becomes available only to those who are financially able to risk being sued for libel.

May 24th

 Shocked Audiences Weep and Retch at Sunday Telegraph Reporting

The Sunday Telegraph have run a story about the BBFC Roadshow with the Headlines:

Censors show XX-rated films to public

Shocked audiences weep and retch at scenes of sex and violence

Apart from the headlines and first couple of paragraphs the article is a strightforward description of the BBFC's attempts to meet the public. In fact some of the material is taken from my report on this site and so clearly must be balanced and contsructive! Anyway the shock horror tablod introduction to the article is clearly bollocks and is backed up only by the comment from Andreas Whittam Smith: Some of the stuff is pretty strong, two women at the meeting last month in Liverpool became upset at some difficult sexual material.

Come on Sunday Telegraph (I know you are reading this article) don't descend to the depths occupied by the Daily Mail. The BBFC roadshows are a genuine attempt to enter into a dialogue with at least a few people. It is a little bit inevitable that they will have to cover some 'difficult' material.

ps Andreas Whittam Smith is not the successor to James Ferman as noted on the picture captions. The two published pictures captioned as clips removed by the censors are no such thing. Both videos have lost footage from rape scenes that have nothing to do with the pictures.

May 21st

 Broadcasting Standards Commission to be Abolished

The House of Commons Select Committe on Culture, Media and Sport have published a report stating that the BBC's commercial and public service functions should be independently regulated. It also called for a streamlining of content regulation including the abolition of the Broadcasting Standards Commission (called until recently Council).

The ITC, OFT and OFTEL seem to have shared out content regulation amongst themselves.

May 19th

  Porn Star F ucked by the Courts

Porn star Vinnie Curran (who?) has been jailed for eight months. He made sex videos of himself in various outdoor locations including a police station, a graveyard and even oustside the very court where he was sentenced. He was convicted of outraging public decency and a credit card offence.

May 17th

 Another History of Obscene Attitudes & Book Banning

The extraordinary lengths to which the British authorities went to ban James Joyce's novel Ulysses are revealed in previously-secret documents just released. The driving force behind the ban was Sir Archibald Bodkin, the Director of Public Prosecutions, who decided that the book was obscene after reading only 40 of its 732 pages.(Hey, that sounds like more effort than modern book banners seem to make)

A copy of Ulysses was seized by customs officers at Croydon Airport in 1922 and, in the week that followed, Sir Archibald read pages 690 to 732, which deal with Molly Bloom's orgasms. The pages that he read appeared to be composed by a more or less illiterate vulgar woman and the book contained a great deal of unmitigated filth and obscenity . (The Daily Mail still use this text to describe Crash & Lolita)

A Home Office official, identified only as SWH, agreed and wrote: The passages which he has marked are foul in their obscenity and cannot be justified by any literary motive . Leavis's proposal to lecture on the book to male and female students alike produced a horrified reaction from SWH, who described the academic as a dangerous crank .

The ban was so strict that when Joseph Lask of Stepney, east London, asked a library for Ulysses, the Home Secretary ordered his post to be vetted in case he tried to import a copy from France. In 1936, the ban collapsed when Ulysses was published in London and a Whitehall conference decided no action should be taken.

May 17th

 A History of Homophobia & Book Banning

Recently revealed Government documents have disclosed the extraordinary measures by ministers to suppress a book written in the 1920s about lesbianism which they thought threatened to cause moral outrage. Memos show how Stanley Baldwin's government conspired to pervert the course of justice, and intercept mail sent to publishers of Radclyffe Hall, a lesbian writer of the Twenties, so that her book, The Well of Loneliness was not sold or published in Britain.

Now deemed a classic, The Well of Loneliness will be serialised soon in Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4 and is being made into a film. But in 1928, Jonathan Cape, the publishers, were the defendants in an obscenity trial which prevented the book's publication for 20 years. Eminent writers such as E M Forster and Virginia Woolf wanted to defend the author's right to publish.

The files show that Sir William Joynson-Hicks, the then Home Secretary, plotted with other senior government officials, including the Lord Chancellor and the Director of Public Prosecutions, to suppress any expert witnesses coming forward during the trial. Sir William issued warrants instructing the Post Office to intercept mail to Hall's publishers and for Customs to seize all copies, some of which had been published in France. The issue even embroiled Baldwin and Winston Churchill, the Chancellor of the Exchequer exposing their homophobia and the lengths they went to to suppress any expert witness from giving any evidence.

Sir George Stephenson, representing the Director of Public Prosecutions wrote: In my view this book would tend to corrupt the minds of young persons if it fell into their hands and its sale is undesirable. Chartres Biron, the chief magistrate of Bow Street court, denounced the book for describing unnatural practices between women of the most horrible and disgusting kind .

Diana Souhami, whose biography of the author is published next month by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, was told by the Home Office last year that she could not see the files because they could compromise national security, despite the death of Hall more than 50 years ago. She was told that the matter would be reviewed in 2007, but even then they could not guarantee she would be allowed to see them. Only after a four-month campaign, during which Ms Souhami was supported by the Campaign for Freedom of Information, were the files released. (And proved that the claim about national security was of course bollocks)

May 13th

 Blair's Censorial Adviser Caught with his Pants Down

The Daily Mail reporter Paul Johnson has been found to have been cheating on his wife for 12 twelve years. As one of the most outspoken censorial writers for the Daily Mail I had to laugh, particularly as he had described his own sin of sexual promiscuity (prior to being caught of course) as crying to heaven for vengeance. Being of a Christian bent he liked to be punished for his sins, his lover stated that Paul loved to be spanked and it was a big feature of our relationship. I had to tell him he was a very naughty boy.

Now the really alarming thing is that Tony Blair has been using Johnson as an adviser on family values and Christian ethics. We have no chance of civilised regulation if our leaders have been seriously listening to the tripe that the Daily Mail pedals.

It was also interesting to note that that story was unearthed some months ago by Murdoch's New of the World but they decided to sit on it perhaps because they too wanted a good relationship with Blair and didn't want to embarrass him. In fact it was thanks to the Daily Express that the story finally got revealed.

May 4th

 30 Years of Obscene Legislation

Metropolitan Police files kept secret for the mandatory 30 years have just been published. These concern Scotland Yard's failed attempt to have Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer prosecuted. Still smarting from the failure to get DH Lawrence's Lady Chetterley's Lover banned, the police launched an attack both on the publishers of Miller's book and the BBFC for reading extracts from it. The police described the book to the DPP as worse than Lady Chatterley and that it outrages the mind of any normal individual .

On this occasion the DPP sought opinions from a leading barrister who reckoned; It is better than Lady Chatterley's Lover and with considerable humour, so that the question of its literary merits would present difficulties. The DPP responded to this and to an array of literary opponents waiting to defend the book by not initiating a prosecution. The police were left fuming over this precedent that allowed a distinction between art and pornography.

They police shouldn't have worried, they would still be in the business of burning books for at least the next 30 years, as can be demonstrated by readers of Robert Mapplethorpe.

April 28th

  Halloween Treat (or is it a trick?)

Apparently Mark Kemode on Radio 1 announced that the Exorcist will get its UK video debut on 31st October this year. It will be a special edition featuring the much talked about spider walk footage. I have not heard this rumour substantiated from any other source but Mark is undoubtedly an expert on the subject of the Exorcist. Thanks to Dom for pointing it out.

I have since heard that it is a cinema release that is scheduled for Halloween

April 27th

 BBFC Roadshow Continues

Thanks again to Phil Martin who posted the following in various newsgroups

Here is a list of the public consultation meetings to be held by the BBFC over the coming months. "As part of a major review of film and video classification standards in the UK, the BBFC is undertaking a nationwide programme of Public Consultation. From now until June we will be screening an illustration of our current classification standards and policy guidelines, explaining clearly what each category means and what it may contain."

  • 30/04/98 7:00pm Glasgow - Moir Hall, Mitchell Theatre Complex
  • 01/05/98 7:00pm Belfast - Room G9, Lanyon North, Queens Uni.
  • 05/05/98 7:00pm Southampton - North Guild Arts Centre
  • 14/05/98 7:00pm London - Commonwealth Institute
  • 18/05/98 7:00pm Cardiff - Museum of Wales
  • 27/05/98 7:00pm Birmingham - B'ham & Midland Institute Conference Centre
  • 02/06/98 7:00pm London - Commonwealth Institute
  • 08/06/98 7:00pm London - Institute of Child Health

Just turn up at the door, no tickets required.

"The BBFC also hopes to recruit new members to its nationwide Home Viewing Panel, which it plans to use on a regular basis to provide feedback about the videos that family members are viewing in their own homes."

You can be certain that the Alton/Brazier/Daily Mail axis will have a substantial presence at these meetings; now is the time to make your views known. If there are no meetings in your area, please take the time to let the BBFC know your views by writing them a letter, or sending them a fax:

BBFC
3 Soho Square
LONDON
W1V 6HD

Fax: 0171-287-0141
Phone: 0171-287-0141

April 15th  The CPS Deserve a Kick up the Arse

A 50 year old swinger from Yorkshire was threatened with prosecution by the Crown Prosecution Service for having anal sex with a woman at a party whilst in the company of other people on the grounds that anal sex is only legal in private. Apparently this came to attention of the police from a video made at the party but luckily the Observer weighed in and shamed the CPS into dropping this ludicrous case. Perhaps this interpretation of the law is why any references to anal sex is cut from sex vids, the director and crew are in attendance so the entire act is illegal.

April 14th

 Uncensored Teenage Sex

Today's Guardian carried a review of the effectiveness of Peter Luff's Periodical (Protection of Children) Bill that became law in 1996. This bill enjoyed all party support and led to the setting up of The Teenage Magazine Arbitration Panel which draws up guidelines for the coverage of sexual subjects for any magazine that has more than 25% of its readers under the age of 15.Two articles have offended the panel "I Slept with 40 boys in three months" and "My teacher is my lover". Two complaints have been rejected; firstly about an article giving advice to a young woman who thought she might be gay and secondly about an article which pictured various teenage celebrities with their genital areas covered by tomato ketchup bottles.

The review continues to say that that official censors have had little effect on the output of these magazines beyond that of a brake on the temptation to dream up another spicy story when inspiration for anything else fails. The magazines are generally seen as a useful alternative source of information on the subject of sex and this seems to be backed up by the quantity of letters received by the magazines each week.

April 13th

 Customs Warning

I have received a report of another house raiding party this time instigated by customs. This resulted from the unfortunate seizure of a mail order horror video from Europe. The video is not particularly extreme and is available in a cut version in the UK. The only explanation for inflicting the outrageous trauma of a house raid arises from the theory that customs operate a totting up scheme based on a past record of confiscation orders.8 hits and your stuffed. I would be interested to hear if anyone else can confirm or disprove this theory.

Good News on this story, after a few days Customs returned the tapes and wrote informing that any more seizures would lead to prosecution.

April 9th

 The Home Office Look to Extend IWF Censorship of the Net

Taken from Home Office Parliamentary Questions from a question about a forthcoming review of the IWF. The review will be undertaken by outside consultants. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has the lead in taking forward the review in view of that Department's responsibility for regulation of the industry, and has the full support of the Home Office. DTI officials will be meeting representatives from the Home Office. Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and National Children's Homes (Action for Children) after Easter to discuss the finer details of the review. However, it is envisaged that the review will focus on:

  • Progress on the removal of illegal material, including the number of reports received, time taken to turn them around, compliance of Internet Service Providers with IWF advice and the possibility of establishing a system to provide more reliable feedback on results;
  • Structure of the IWF and representation of interested parties.
  • Next priorities for IWF--a broader focus than child pornography. New priorities might include adult pornography, racism, breaches of copyright and protection from legal but potentially harmful material;
  • Awareness of the Internet industry and consumers of the IWF and or rating and filtering tools for self protection and how far this awareness translates into usage.
April 8th

 Satanic Verses in Paperback

Not all censorship is instigated by the state using the law of the land. Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses is a rare example of censorship enforced by bomb attacks and murder threats. Nine years have passed since the initial controversy and only now are British publishers feeling brave enough to consider a paperback release of the book.

April 6th

 Police Raids from the Dark Side

More tales of police hunting and fishing raids are detailed in this months Dark Side. Both occurred towards the end of 1997 and seem to be as a result of police fishing amongst the mailing lists of previously raided dealers. There is no law against purchasing uncertificated videos but I guess that it is of little comfort when receiving an early morning wake up call from those on a mission from plod.

In the words of one victim: I had some visitors in the shape of 4 unsavoury characters from the CID who banged on my door at 8.30m demanding to look at my collection of videos. What with them outside and the wife inside saying "I knew them bloody videos would be trouble", it took me a few seconds to get my head straight. Anyway to cut a long story short, they had got my name off a mailing list of a video dealer who had been raided, and they wanted to know if I was a dealer also. After about an hour they decided I wasn't and that my films wouldn't be taken away.

It appears that the police had inflicted the trauma of house raid on an innocent party clearly without any real evidence of a crime.The other victim has a similar tale to tell but did not get off so lightly: On 30th October, our wonderful boys in blue took away my beloved collection of horror movies. Yes I was raided. They would not tell me how they got my address, but I discovered a clue...they had said it had something to do with London.. The only things I could think of that could relate me to London were the smashing Eurofest festivals and a couple of movie fairs.I was wondering if they could have got my name off the Eurofest mailing list or if someone at the festival was a spy.

He goes on to ask if anyone else has suffered the same fate and who may have advice to offer on how to get his tapes back. His contact address is the April/May edition of Dark Side

April 5th  Nightmare Scenario: Jack Straw as State Censor

The Sunday Times reports on one of the biggest shake-ups of Britain's film censorship rules in 20 years. A panel of experts in child welfare will study films and videos before they are released. The experts are likely to include psychologists and charity representatives. They will rule on whether intense or violent scenes would upset children or risk encouraging copycat behaviour.

This move has the support of Jack Straw who wants tighter controls on films and videos which children are allowed to see. Whittam Smith said that the arrangement would balance the interests of children with those of film and video distributors.

Most disturbing news of all is that Jack Straw may ask for a more hands-on role in the issuing of video classification certificates.

April 4th

 Politically Incorrect TV

BBC2 are preparing us a Politically Incorrect evening on Easter Monday. It will feature Miss World, The Black & White Minstrels, The Benny Hill Show and Pan's People from Top of the Pops.

Is it censorship or not that most of these programmes could no longer get made?

April 1st

 David Alton's Amendments to the Crime and Disorder Bill Fail

David Alton tried to add an additional video classification criteria to the Video Recordings Act 1984 during the Crime and Disorder Bill's 3rd reading in the House of Lords ie having special regard to the likelihood of video works, in respect of which such certificates have been issued, inciting their viewers to anti-social behaviour, crime or disorder.

In addition, he wanted a right of 'public' appeal against BBFC decisions. The rub was that only a group of organisations decided by the Home Office would be able to exercise this right. The Secretary of State shall not make any designation under this section unless he is satisfied that adequate arrangements will be made for an appeal in prescribed circumstances against a determination on the grounds that a video work submitted for the issue of a classification is likely to incite its viewers to anti-social behaviour, crime or disorder.

Although Alton had rustled up an awful lot of speakers supporting the amendment, the Government didn't take the bait primarily due to overlap with existing classification criteria, vagueness of the term anti-social behaviour and the impracticality of trying to allow a public appeal prior to a video's release to the public.

The amendment was defeated by 81 votes to 122.

Further Details at News & Politics: Parliament Watch

March 31st

  Scotland to Retain Film Censorship by the English

Politicians have been debating in Parliament what powers should be devolved to the future Scottish parliament. The subject of film and video censorship came up recently and the Government have made it clear that they intend that censorship powers applying to Scotland should stay in the hands of the BBFC. The classification of films for public exhibition has been carried out by the British Board of Film Classification since 1912. The board operates on a voluntary basis and has always operated on a UK basis without any difficulty, because audiences on both sides of the border have a shared appreciation of what is or is not acceptable for different age groups. There is also essentially a single market in films, which it is important to sustain for the health of the industry. Similarly, we remain persuaded that the provisions on the control of exhibitions of films by local authorities under the Cinemas Act 1985 should remain a reserved matter. The local authorities' licensing powers form an essential part of the overall system of control of film exhibitions. The system works well: recommendations of the BBFC are generally accepted by local authorities. The classification of video recordings is dealt with separately, under the Video Recordings Act 1984. However, similar arguments apply to videos as apply to the classification of films, only more strongly. There are additional important differences in that videos are easily transported and that the purpose of classification is to regulate their sale--they are mostly viewed in the home--rather that to regulate public exhibition. Any divergence in regulation of videos on one side of the border would risk undermining, or being undermined by, the system on the other side.

March 30th

 The Melon Farmers' Cultural Friends Support Peter Knight

The following letter appeared in Saturday's Times supporting the University at the centre of the book burning fiasco .

Sir, As individuals involved in the cultural life of the West Midlands, we wish to state our unqualified support for the University of Central England and its Vice-Chancellor, Dr Peter Knight, who faces possible prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act.

The threat follows his principled and courageous refusal to agree to the destruction of a book of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, which the police seized from the university's library. This book, published by a well-known mainstream publisher in association with the Mapplethorpe estate, is not a work of pornography. It has been freely available in British bookshops since 1992, and there are copies in a number of other libraries, including the British Library.

Mapplethorpe was a controversial but serious artist whose work has been extensively exhibited, published and debated around the world over the last 20 years. However, debate cannot coexist with crude police censorship.

The prospect of police destroying books they have removed from the shelves of university libraries should not go unchallenged in a free society.

On behalf of many artists, writers and musicians living and working in this area, we call upon West Midlands Police to drop proceedings against Dr Knight and return the book to the library where it belongs.

Yours etc,

  • BILL ALEXANDER (Artistic Director, Birmingham Repertory Theatre)
  • JIM CRACE (Novelist)
  • ANTONY GORMLEY (Sculptor)
  • PETER JENKINSON (Director, The New Art Gallery, Walsall)
  • DAVID LODGE (Novelist)
  • ADRIAN NOBLE (Artistic Director, Royal Shakespeare Company)
  • SIMON RATTLE (Music Director, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra)
  • GRAHAM VICK (Artistic Director, City of Birmingham Touring Opera),
March 29th

 Press Response to the Resignation of Ferman

The press consensus appears to be that James Ferman was given the push by Jack Straw primarily due to the unilateral relaxing of the R18 guidelines for sex videos. David Alton chipped in with the statement; I feel the hand of Jack Straw at work. He believes sex and violence in films should be reduced. Ferman would never go along with that. I suspect the only people who will regret Mr Ferman's decision to retire will be the makers of violent films.

There were several allusions to the rather patriarchal organisation that Ferman had set up in the BBFC. Perhaps put most tactfully by Whittam-Smith; In my three months as president, I have quickly recognised the thoughtful and moral contribution which James Ferman makes to the work of the board. The board as we know it today is essentially James' creation. He can be very proud of what he has achieved in often very difficult circumstances.

Major challenges facing the successor were noted such as; video down loaded from the internet without traditional national controls and the advent of DVD which will use multiple sound tracks to enable multi national releases. DVD also allows for multiple versions of the film to implement censorship variants.

The Guardian provided the most interesting comment which was totally news to me. His resignation follows the appointment of Andreas Whittam-Smith and the imminent introduction of new classification guidelines. I wonder where this phrase came from. Is there some evil plan being hatched at the Home Office to ensure that Teletubbies is the limit of tolerated home viewing.

March 27th

 James Ferman Resigns

James Ferman today announced his intention to resign at the end of this year from his post as Director of the BBFC. Let us all hope that he will go out in a blaze of glory and licence a few going away presents such as The Exorcist, Straw Dogs, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Debbie Does Dallas. That would be one in the eye for Jack Straw. For once I am already looking forward to the memoirs.

The timing of Ferman's decision seems to suggest that he has either been forced out or is hacked off with the Straw/Whittam-Smith duo. If he has been able to freely select when to announce the decision, it surely wouldn't be now. Otherwise he looks to have been ticked off over the R18 affair or else harried out by the Daily Mail campaign after the Lolita decision.

The pro-censorship lobby certainly seem to have won a battle or two. Every time this news story has been reported on TV this evening, the reporters have refereed to the 'controversial' James Ferman as if he has been outrageously liberal with his decisions. Of course the truth is that the UK is the most censorial country in Europe (except Ireland of course)

The BBFC are now embarking on a search for a replacement. (I am toying with the idea of applying on the grounds of expertise in BBFC history and procedure. Even just an interview would be well worth the hassle). Does anyone know who actually appoints the director? It has been 23 years since such an appointment occurred.

March 26th

 British Film Institute Support My Theory

The editorial in April's edition of Sight & Sound has some good words to say on the theory at the top of the page: While the BBFC is readjusting its stance, (caused by the appointment of Andreas Whittam Smith) the police and customs have themselves taken on the mantle of enforced regulation. It was the seizure by customs last year of certain porn videos that were then discovered to have been passed by the BBFC at R18 in an effort to defeat the boom in black-market porn that led to Jack Straw calling the BBFC into question in the first place. Now, in the space of a few days in March, police operating under the Obscene Publications Act have seized photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe (in a copy of a book that has been in print since 1992) from the University of Central England, and in a separate operation Manchester police have raided the Stockport home of David Flint, an author researching a history of porn films, and taken away 535 video tapes Police and customs actions may reassure the tabloid editors that the Government does indeed take the 'tough line' on censorship so often called for, but they expose a contradiction when its the same government that has also campaigned for a statutory freedom of information and for joining Britain up to the European Convention of Human Rights. It is assumed by the hopeful few that the convention will legally grant UK citizens the same access to visual material of all kinds as is enjoyed by other members of the European Community. Jack Straw's BBFC intervention, the police raids and government efforts to regulate the internet against all odds tell a different story. An article in the next issue will point out 'derogations' in the convention that might allow UK authorities just as much leeway as they currently enjoy, ensuring that Britain remains the most heavily regulated nation in the European Union. We have a Government that wants to be seen to take a strong moral line in trying to fend off one set of implications of the new technologies, while championing others. The BBFC , rather than the police or customs, should remain the gatekeeper of this matter.

March 24th

 Daily Mail Outraged by the BBFC

The Daily Mail responded in predictable fashion to the granting of an uncut cinema certificate to Lolita and uncut video certificates to Crash and Kissed. The paper will certainly be calling for local councils to user their powers to ban it (but perhaps they have already overplayed this card when campaigning for the innocuous Crash to be banned).Statements of outrage were illicited from the rather obvious organisations Family and Youth Concern, The National Viewers and Listeners Association and of course the perennial campaigner David Alton . (The lack of centre ground opinion suggests that any further campaigning will prove fruitless)

It is interesting that Andreas Whittam-Smith was wheeled out to present the BBFC justifications rather than James Ferman who has been very quiet of late ever since the R18 affair.For the record, the justifications were as follows: Sex scenes in Lolita avoid breaking the law by using a 19 year old body double for Swain who was only 15 when the film was made. Everybody at the Board is very concerned about paedophilia, especially in today's climate. the two psychiatrists did not believe that it could exacerbate paedophile behaviour. the film is really a study of a destructive obsession which destroys everybody involved in the story.I do not see that Crash is a film that can generate anti-social behaviour, the subject matter is too obscure. Kissed is a gentle film.

The leader voiced disappointment in Whittam Smith. What is especially depressing about this decision by Britain's film censors is that it was taken with the avowed approval of the BBFC's new President. He was hand-picked by the Home Secretary Jack Straw, to make this body more responsive to public opinion. His appointment was interpreted as signalling the beginning of the end of the long and permissive dominance over the BBFC by its Director, James Ferman. Some Hopes . (The Daily Mail are never satisfied, Britain has the most repressive censorship in Europe after Ireland where on earth do they get the idea that Ferman is permissive?)

An interesting snippet from the article states that next Tuesday or Wednesday will see an amendment to the Crime and Disorder Bill in the Lords to allow children's organisations to appeal against classifications granted to films.

Meanwhile in the US, Pathe the producers of Lolita are having a hard time trying to sell the distribution rights. The latest to turn them down are DirectTV due to fear of a moral backlash. Various pressure groups are currently giving the booksellers Barnes & Noble a hard time for stocking photography books featuring pictures of young girls (presumanbly David Hamilton)

March

 European Human Rights Leads to Even More BBFC Bans

The BBFC have issued a press release detailing the three video bans that they have inflicted so far this year:

  • Maniac, a 1980 stalk 'n' slash film featuring a scalping
  • Frisk, a gay serial killer film with elements of S&M
  • Changing Room Exposed, a gay video containing candid camera shots of guys in changing rooms and showers.

Interestingly this third video is banned with justification: A real-life "peeping Tom" movie likely to contravene Article 8 of European Human Rights. The BBFC will no longer certificate voyeuristic material where no permission has been sought and there exists no public interest justification.Some clever politicians seem to have hijacked discussions on European Human Rights by only ever considering their implications on privacy. Do we not get any additional rights to be able to watch such videos as Maniac or Frisk? The Government should only be able to ban such films if they positively prove that they are harmful.

March

 University to Fight Obscenity Charge



The University of Central England have decided to refuse to destroy their copy of Robert Mapplethorpe's book from which photos were seized in the house raid of a student. The West Midlands Police ludicrously declared that the art book was obscene even though the Obscene Publications Act establishes a defence for works of art. (Haven't the West Midlands Police got any Serious Crimes to look into?). The decision to prosecute will now rest with the CPS who have not got a particularly honourable recent record after deciding to prosecute the Bolton Seven.
March

 BBFC Pass Lolita, Crash & Kissed



The BBFC have issued a press release to announce their decision to pass Lolita uncut for cinema release with an 18 certificate. In addition both Crash and Kissed have been passed 18 on video without cuts.(A rare piece of good news, in fact the only good news so far on this page)
March

  Prosecutions under the Obscene Publications Act

The following table gives the amount of recent prosecutions and convictions under the Obscene Publications Act. I wonder if this grossly obscene legislation could be tried under its own terms? Figures in brackets are those from the Metropolitan Police and City of London

  1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996
Prosecutions 363(227) 213(105) 293(206) 309(215) 357(219) 335(214)
Convictions 218(102) 172(89) 209(140) 209(140) 259(154) 262(172)
March

  ITC Complain about Eros TV

The ever-whinging ITC report the hardcore satellite channel Eros TV to Chris Smith at the Department for Culture, Media & Sport.The Commission concluded that the channel, uplinked from Russia, is unacceptable on the grounds that it repeatedly contains material which offends against good taste and decency. The output of the channel consists almost entirely of unacceptable pornography.

To recommend a proscription order, the ITC has to satisfy itself that such an order would be effective, i.e. that trade for the service exists within the UK and that an order would prevent such trade. Commission Members are satisfied that the service has been actively marketed in the UK, with advertisements appearing in British satellite listings magazines and with dealers offering decoders and smartcards.

Section 177 of the Broadcasting Act 1990 allows for the Secretary of State to make a proscription order for a foreign satellite service, the effect of which is to make it a criminal offence to supply any equipment for use in connection with the operation of the service; to supply programme material or arrange for its supply; to place advertisements in the service; to publish any programme details of the service; and to supply or offer to supply any decoding equipment enabling the programmes to be received.

March

 Robert Mapplethorpe Photos Seized

A student researching for an academic project (entitled Fine Art Versus Pornography) takes snapshots from a Robert Mapplethorpe book from a university library down to the local chemist for developing. The chemists report the pictures to the police who immediately over react and go on a house raid to confiscate the book.Trauma all round considering the book is openly on sale.

The lesson learnt is surely that one must never give ones real name and address to the snitches at the local chemist.

March

  Manchester Police Go On Raiding Party

Manchester's obscene publications police squad have raided the home of the author David Flint and seized 500 videos, his video recorders and computer.Flint is a private collector of pornography working on several books and magazines on the subject of the pornography business working with the British Film Institute amongst others. He had been called several times by undercover police trying to stitch him up by trying to get him to sell them some tapes. No luck of course as he is strictly a private collector with no involvement in the supply of porn or illegal material such as child porn.

The police have returned approximately 10% of the videos to David Flint and will let him know about any follow up action against him in July

 

UK Censorship
Archive
 UK Censorship News Archive: 1998 1999
 UK Parliament Watch Archive: 1996 1997 1998 1999
 Opinion: 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
 Legal Debate Mail order R18s, satellite proscription etc
 Proscription of Adult Satellite Channels Department for Culture, Media, Sport & Proscription
 Human Rights Abuse - Where Do You Draw The Line? by IanG
 Films On TV Red Triangle films on Channel 4 and the cutting of Thelma and Louise on the BBC
 BSC Guidelines Worthless guidelines on taste and decency from the defunct Broadcasting Standards Commission
 Obscene Interpretation of the Law A police raid on porn historian David Flint
 Obscenity Trials The only obscenity is British Justice
 The Black Market for Sex Videos The Pornographer's Best Friend
 Customs Guidelines & Seizures Up until 2000
 The People vs HM Customs Heroic battles against HM Customs
 Escalating Costs HMRC uses as much money as it takes to ensure decisions cannot be challenged in court (Oct 2000)
 Customs Poking Around in your Lap-top