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2009: April-June

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29th June   

Update: Cleared of Obscenity...

Girls (Scream) Aloud sorry not obscene in terms of its likely audience
Link Here
Full story: Obscene Text...Writer prosecuted for text fantasy story

A former civil servant who wrote an internet article imagining the kidnap and murder of the pop group Girls Aloud has been cleared of obscenity.

Darryn Walker was charged under the Obscene Publications Act after the blog appeared on a fantasy writing site.

He appeared at Newcastle Crown Court, but was cleared on Monday. His defence argued that the article was not accessible, and could only be found by those looking for specific material.

Walker's 12-page blog - Girls (Scream) Aloud - was brought to the attention of police by the Internet Watch Foundation.

David Perry QC, prosecuting, said: A crucial aspect of the reasoning that led to the instigation of these proceedings was that the article in question, which was posted on the internet, was accessible to people who were particularly vulnerable - young people who were interested in a particular pop music group. It was this that distinguished this case from other material available on the internet. The CPS concluded, with the benefit of counsel's advice, there was a realistic prospect of conviction."

However, a report for the defence by an information technology expert said that it could only be discovered by internet users seeking such specific material.

A report from a consultant psychiatrist also said it was baseless to suggest that reading such material could turn other people into sexual predators.

Tim Owen QC, defending Walker, said : It was never his intention to frighten or intimidate the members of Girls Aloud. He had written what he had described as an adult celebrity parody and was only meant to be for an audience of like-minded people. As soon as he was aware of the upset and fuss that had been created, he took steps himself to take the article off the website. This type of writing is widely available on the internet in an unregulated and uncensored form. In terms of its alleged obscenity, it is frankly no better or worse than other articles.

The court heard that Walker had lost his job since his arrest.

Judge Esmond Faulks formally returned a not guilty verdict to the charge of publishing an obscene article.

Jo Glanville, editor of the freedom of expression group Index on Censorship, said the prosecution should not have been brought in the first place: Since the landmark obscenity cases of the '60s and '70s, writers have been protected from such prosecutions and have remained free to explore the extremes of human behaviour. This case posed a serious threat to that freedom. In future, obscenity cases should be referred directly to the Director of Public Prosecutions before any prosecution is triggered.


26th June   

Update: Pygmies at the BBFC...

Censors should grow up over Brüno and sex
Link Here
Full story: Sacha Baron Cohen Movies...Supporting the hype for Bruno

The censors can't agree on Brüno , Sacha Baron Cohen's latest atrocity, in which he impersonates a gay Austrian fashion pundit.

In the permissive Netherlands, it's been released uncut with a 12 certificate.

Even in Ireland, they've given it a 16. But the BBFC has given Brüno a full 18 certificate, since the producers have declined to cut the rudest scenes.

The distributor, Universal, has described the decision as absurd, no doubt peeved because it means the movie will take much less at the box office.


25th June   

Update: BBC in an Era of Easy Offence...

BBC recommendations in response to Russell Brand Show
Link Here

The BBC Trust ordered a review of acceptable standards following the row over obscene phone messages left for the actor Andrew Sachs by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand.

The report - written by BBC creative director Alan Yentob and director of archive content Roly Keating - calls for clear guidelines on intrusion, intimidation and humiliation to to ensure that everyone involved in programme making understands that such behaviours are unacceptable.

Of 2,206 adults aged over 16 were questioned for an Ipsos Mori survey.

The main findings were:

  1. Where audiences are concerned about the area of taste and morality on television as a whole, this is often connected with broader concerns about falling standards in terms of quality and the over-reliance on reality formats.
  2. Standards of morality, values and behaviour in the media in particular are not a top-of-mind issue for the majority of the public.
  3. The BBC overall performs well in the audience's perceptions of standards of morality, values and behaviour, compared to other channels and broadcasters. The audience also has higher expectations of the BBC.
  4. In general terms, the public do not want increased censorship or regulation. The majority value the creativity of the BBC and accept that it may sometimes lead to offending some people.
  5. When prompted, a significant proportion of the audience have various concerns about standards of morality, values and behaviour in the media as a whole, including newspapers, magazines, broadcasting and online content.
  6. Strong language is an area of concern for some audiences; they recognise when language is used for clear purpose or effect within a programme - including comedy and entertainment - but dislike 'unnecessary' or excessive use.
  7. In certain genres, the offensive potential of strong language can be compounded when it is combined with apparently aggressive or bullying behaviour. This reflects broader public concerns about aggression and bullying within society as a whole.
  8. There is little public consensus or agreement about what constitutes offence: it means very different things to different sections of the audience.
  9. The context in which potentially offensive content is placed is of paramount importance to audiences, as are judgements of quality. Both can make the difference between whether something is acceptable to audiences or not.
  10. Tone and intent can also make strong material acceptable: the 'twinkle in the eye' of a performer and their skill in delivery can make the decisive difference, even with potentially offensive material.
  11. Age and socio-economic group go some way to describing who in the audience is more likely to have concerns, but they do not tell the full story.
  12. Younger audiences (11-15 year-olds) are uniquely self-selecting in their choice of media content, through the web and magazines as well as broadcast material. Though strongly drawn to more sexual content, some express unease about the sexualised nature of the media world in which they live and the pressure to 'grow up fast.'
  13. Sexual content on television and radio was a matter of relatively low concern for audiences. There was an expectation that the television watershed should be respected, and content on radio appropriately scheduled. There is no appetite for a watershed in radio.
  14. Some respondents commented that the transfer of some successful series from BBC Two may bring a somewhat ‘edgier' tone to BBC One.
  15. Respondents expressed few concerns about standards on BBC Radio. However, of all the BBC's services, Radio 1 has the most divided response in terms of morality, values and behaviour.
  16. Audiences are conscious of the challenges presented by the growth of online and on-demand content, but there is little awareness of the BBC's 'G for Guidance' systems, or understanding that iPlayer has a parent password protection scheme which prevents children accessing adult content.


  1. Audiences accept potentially offensive content but believe it should be there for a purpose. They have a sophisticated sense of different programme genres, from serious documentary to reality and entertainment. Producers should ensure that any potentially offensive material has a clear editorial purpose and ask themselves is it necessary? Does it enhance the quality of the experience for audiences?
  2. Viewers understand and value the television watershed. The BBC must respect and maintain its significance as a crucial contribution to audience confidence in television standards. There is no audience demand for a radio watershed.
  3. Of all BBC services, BBC One is the most sensitive, because of its ability to unite generations and families in shared viewing. The bar for the strongest language between 9pm and 10pm must therefore remain significantly higher than on other BBC television channels.
  4. On all channels, producers, presenters, commissioners and controllers have a shared responsibility to ensure that the force and value of the strongest words is not weakened by over-use. The mandatory referral of the most offensive language to Channel Controllers reflects this and must be maintained.
  5. Mischievous banter, practical jokes and formats, which include elements of confrontation and criticism, can all be legitimate, indeed the public tell us that they can add greatly to their enjoyment; but programme makers, on-air artists and presenters must ensure that they never tip over into malice, humiliation or harm.
  6. Audiences admire performers who take risks but have the expertise to know when to draw a line. To support such talent, producers and controllers must always be candid and open with them about judgements of tone and content, and be prepared where appropriate to take and enforce tough decisions.
  7. Risk-taking is as vital a part of the BBC's mission in comedy, drama and entertainment as it is in other genres. As with all programme making, the greater the risk, the greater the thought, care and pre-planning needed to bring something groundbreaking to air.


  1. New series on television and radio For new series where questions of taste and standards are likely to arise, there must be a discussion with the commissioning executive early in the production cycle to agree appropriate parameters of tone and content, to ensure that all involved, including presenters and performers, have given thought to questions of channel, context and slot. Even when a returning series has established expectations of strong language and content, there should be a similar discussion before the start of each run.
  2. Greater care over cross-channel transfers When a TV series moves to a more mainstream channel - especially to BBC One - producers and controllers should be sensitive to its new context, and give careful consideration to adaptations of tone or format if necessary.
  3. Clearer policy on bleeping of strong language A clearer policy should be set for the use of bleeping in TV and radio programmes. In general, where strong language is integral to the meaning or content of a programme, and other questions of slot, context channel etc have been resolved, it should not be disguised. But when in other circumstances a sequence that is editorially necessary happens to contain the strongest language, it may be right to bleep or disguise the words, even after the watershed.
  4. New guidance on malicious intrusion, intimidation and humiliation BBC programmes must never condone malicious intrusion, intimidation and humiliation. While they are all aspects of human behaviour which may need to be depicted, described or discussed across the BBC's factual and non-factual output, they must never be celebrated for the purposes of entertainment. New guidance is needed to ensure that everyone involved in programme making for the BBC understands that malicious intrusion, intimidation and humiliation are unacceptable.
  5. Clearer audience information and warnings The BBC should always recognise that some sections of its audiences are more readily offended than others. We owe the public the information they need to make informed choices about viewing and listening and to avoid material they may regard as unsuitable for themselves or their families. Each channel must make even greater efforts to ensure that appropriate content information (eg. billings and presentation announcements) is provided which enables informed judgements to be made by all audiences, both pre- and post-watershed, about programme content.
  6. Music radio Music radio thrives on strong personalities, and young audiences value BBC Radio 1 highly; but editorial teams must be reminded that particular care needs to be taken at times of day, such as school runs, when different generations may be listening together.
  7. Major awareness campaign about online guidance The BBC has pioneered content guidance and child protection mechanisms provided by the iPlayer. Audiences are concerned about the internet as a space of unregulated content and are insufficiently aware of the protection available for BBC content. A major campaign of public information is needed as soon as possible to raise awareness of the content guidance and offer reassurance to audiences. The BBC should also work to ensure that the next generation of Freeview and FreeSat PVRs have PIN protection functionality.
  8. More regular audience research In-depth audience research, along the lines of the findings in this paper, should be conducted more often to ensure that the BBC maintains a full and detailed understanding of audience attitudes to taste and standards. To keep up with changes in audience taste, research should be commissioned every two to three years. Careful attention should be given to key tracking questions that will enable the BBC to identify changes in audience and societal attitudes.
  9. Revision of Editorial Guidelines and Guidance The BBC's Editorial Policy department should use the research, general principles and recommendations in this report to inform the current general revision of the BBC's Editorial Guidelines and, in particular, to clarify audience expectations of tone and context. In addition, new Guidance will be required to keep programme and content makers up-todate with audience expectations of BBC content.
  10. Increased commitment to training The research findings offer new opportunities to illuminate the understanding of taste and standards for programme makers across the BBC. The findings should be briefed to leadership groups in all content divisions by the Director and Chief Adviser, Editorial Policy. The Colleges of Production and Journalism should develop new training material that explores audience attitudes specific to each of the key genres, which will be rolled out to programme makers both in-house and independent. The audience research and the conclusions of this report should also be made available through normal Editorial Policy channels to all programme makers. The findings of this study and the materials used in it should inform online courses, which will be used to maintain editorial policy standards.


24th June   

Dark Knight Would Now be a 15?...

New classification guidelines published by the BBFC
Link Here

The views of over 8,700 people across the UK from the age of 16 upwards have formed the basis for the latest set of classification Guidelines published today by the BBFC.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:

The BBFC is committed to consulting the public every four years to ensure that the Guidelines we use to classify all works which are submitted to us not only take account of relevant UK legislation, but accurately reflect public attitudes and concerns.

You would not expect there to be a massive shift in attitudes since the 2005 Guidelines, and there is sometimes an assumption that public attitudes are becoming more relaxed as time goes on, but that is not always the case. A number of specific concerns which emerged from the extensive consultation exercise, involving over 8,700 people, as well as the members of our Advisory Panel on Children's Viewing and other experts, have been incorporated in the Guidelines published today. The BBFC is an open and accountable organisation and in order to bring about even greater transparency we have, in this new version of the Guidelines, gone into greater detail on how, why and when we do what we do. has been developed over the last 18 months, in close partnership with the video and new media industries and the British Video Association. There are already some 700 videos with ‘online certificates' and this is likely to rise to about 1000 by the end of the month.

We know from a number of recent surveys that the work of the BBFC is well known and understood by the UK public and this latest research shows that the BBFC's decisions are in line with the vast majority of the public's expectations. This consultation exercise took particular notice of the views of people who had recently watched a range of films or DVDs and when asked, 82 per cent thought that the BBFC was an effective regulator. The same people agreed with the ratings given to the films they had watched in 99 per cent of all cases.

We have always said that film classification is not a science and that it is impossible to satisfy everyone. There will always be people who think that we are either too restrictive or too liberal, but it is clear that as far as the vast majority of the UK public is concerned the BBFC is getting it right. The BBFC classifies thousands of works a year and even slight changes to the Guidelines will have an impact on new and old works coming in for classification. Works which were clearly ‘U', or ‘15', or ‘PG' or ‘12A' under the old Guidelines would still be in the same category under the new Guidelines, but works which fell on the borderline between two categories previously could now find themselves being pushed into a different category. These new Guidelines, reflecting, as they do, current public concerns and sensitivities, will ensure that our classification decisions continue to command public confidence and support for what we do.


  • 82% of recent film and DVD viewers thought the BBFC was an effective regulator
  • The same people agreed with 99% of the classification decisions for the films they had watched
  • Around 80% of people surveyed found the BBFC's Consumer Advice useful, with this figure rising to 85% of parents with primary school aged children
  • 85% of people who responded to the web based questionnaire found the Board's website for parents,, useful
  • 74% or respondents understood that the ‘12A' category means that the film is not generally suitable for under 12s.


  • Clearer and more detailed information about what the Board takes into account when classifying works (pages 4-7) and when interventions will be made and on what grounds (32-33)
  • A clearer definition of ‘harm', which results from the High Court ruling on the video game Manhunt 2 (page 4)
  • The introduction of ‘discrimination' as a key classification issue in each of the categories covering race, gender, religion, disability or sexuality (page 12)
  • Clearer and more detailed information about how the tone and impact of a film is taken into account, as opposed to simply considering what is actually shown on screen (page 11)
  • At ‘U', the relaxation of the Guideline on references to drugs to allow for references which are both infrequent and innocuous (page 21). Under the old Guidelines a documentary which mentioned the Opium Wars between Britain and China had to be passed at ‘PG' for this single reference alone
  • At the ‘12A'/'12' category a tightening of the horror criteria (page 25). This is in line with the introduction of tone and impact and would mean that some films, like The Others, would be likely to be given a higher classification
  • At ‘12A'/'12' there will be a presumption against the passing of frequent crude sexual references (page 25). This is in response to concerns expressed by the public about films such as Date Movie, Meet the Spartans and Norbit.
  • At ‘15', solvent abuse is now specifically mentioned as a classification issue and depictions are unlikely to be passed (page 27). This is in response, not only to public concern, but expert opinion
  • Trailers and advertisements which are on the borderline between two categories be given the more restrictive rating because of the fact that the public has not chosen which trailers and advertisements to watch (pages 16-17) and because the BBFC has no control over which trailers or advertisements are shown before a particular film (eg a horror trailer before a ‘rom-com'). The exception will be public information films and charity advertisements where stronger material is acceptable to the public when there is a ‘public good' justification.At ‘18' the Board will continue to maintain the right of adults to choose their own entertainment unless material is in breach of the criminal law; or the treatment appears to the BBFC to risk harm to individuals or through their behaviour, to society; or where there are more explicit images of sexual activity which cannot be justified by context. As part of the research, respondents were specifically asked about explicit images of real sex in main stream films like 9 Songs and the clear message was that these images were acceptable at ‘18' because of the context in which they appeared.

David Cooke said:

There may be criticism from some quarters that these changes are not more drastic or restrictive, but they are significant and will have an impact on our classification decisions. They also represent the views of the majority of the public. The BBFC is committed to ensuring that works are placed in the most appropriate category for them, in line with public expectations, and we will back up these decisions with the sort of information the public needs to make informed choices about what they and their families watch. Our Consumer Advice, which appears on film advertising and DVD packaging, is well recognised and appreciated and for people who want more detailed information there is the Extended Classification Information for all films, which appears on our main website, and the specifically tailored information for parents which appears on


24th June   

Reporting In...

BBFC Annual Report for 2008 published
Link Here

The Annual Report for 2008 has just been published by the BBFC.

BBFC President, Quentin Thomas, uses his introduction to talk about BBFC Online and the internet in general.

The theme of age verification inevitably crops up as it seems to be on of the general establishment concerns these days.

Quentin Thomas wrote:

To take just one type of potentially harmful content, we know that many children are coming across pornographic or obscene material online. With the recent development of ‘You Tube' style pornographic sites such exposure can only increase. These sites offer instant and free access to a vast catalogue of explicit pornographic videos uploaded by users of the sites. Many of the videos contain violent, abusive or obscene content. Like ‘You Tube', they have no gatekeeping in place. Many lack even a warning page because each additional ‘mouse click' on the way to such content is thought to drive
to rival sites. At time of writing, three such sites are in the top 50 most used sites in the UK, with the highest sitting between and, and ahead of, in terms of traffic.

BBFC Director, David Cooke, uses his report to introduce the new classification guidelines for 2009.


20th June   

Update: Starved of Free Speech...

Famine Song confirmed as racist by Scottish Appeal Court
Link Here
Full story: Football Sectarianism...Sectarian Rangers football song wind up

The lyrics of the Famine Song are racist, a court said yesterday after a football fan challenged his conviction.

The Justiciary Appeal Court in Edinburgh ruled that Rangers supporter William Walls, who sang it, was rightly convicted of a racially-aggravated breach of the peace

Walls had been arrested at a Kilmarnock-Rangers game in November last year. He was shouting Fenian bastards and fuck the Pope , and repeatedly sang a line from the Famine Song, the famine's over, why don't you go home. The song is banned by Rangers.

A sheriff ruled Walls had committed a racially and religiously-aggravated breach of the peace, and put him on probation for 18 months and banned him from football matches for two years.

At the Justiciary Appeal Court, Donald Findlay, QC, for Walls, argued that the Famine Song was not racist, particularly the refrain sung by the accused. He said it was an expression of political opinion, permitted by the right to freedom of speech enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Findlay submitted that the refrain was no more racist than some of the lines of Flower of Scotland , which bid King Edward to return to England to think again, or God Save the Queen , which refer to crushing rebellious Scots.

An exchange of abuse between supporters was part and parcel of going to a football game, he added.

Giving the court's judgment, Lord Carloway said: The court has no doubt that (Walls's] conduct did amount to a breach of the peace, even in the context of a football match. Presence inside a football stadium does not give a spectator a free hand to behave as he pleases. There are limits and the appellant's conduct went well beyond those limits.

On the Famine Song, about the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, he said: The song calls upon persons of Irish descent, who are living in Scotland, to go back to the land of their ancestors, namely Ireland. They (lyrics] are racist in calling upon people native to Scotland to leave the country because of their racial origins. This is a sentiment which many persons will find offensive.


19th June   

Updated: More Explicit TV Censorship...

TV censor Ofcom strengthens the wording of its ban on sex on TV
Link Here

The TV censor Ofcom has launched a review of its Broadcasting Code which sets repressive rules for TV and radio stations.

The main areas under review are:

  • A range of proposed new rules for commercial radio. These aim to create greater commercial opportunities for radio stations. They could help create a wider range of programming while safeguarding consumer protection and editorial independence.
  • Proposals to clarify other parts of the Code to help broadcasters better understand exactly how repressive the rules are, particularly in relation to the broadcast of sexual material.

In summary, the proposed new set of rules in relation to sexual material would make clear that regulation in relation to material of a sexual nature continues to require that:

  • Material equivalent to the BBFC R18-rating is prohibited
  • ‘Adult-sex' material - which is material broadcast for the primary purpose of sexual arousal, must not be broadcast unless there are mandatory access restrictions in place, and then only between 22:00 and 05:30 with mandatory access restrictions in place
  • Strong sexual material, material of a strong sexual nature which is not broadcast for the primary purpose of sexual arousal, and therefore not subject to mandatory access restrictions, may be broadcast after the watershed provided there is a strong contextual justification
  • Pre-watershed sexual material - must be editorially justified and appropriately limited.

In addition:

  • The consultation also asks whether not-for-profit organisations should be permitted to fund programmes about their own activities or interests. These programmes, called Public Information Programming, would cover subjects in the public interest but could not deal with controversial matters. Currently such programming is not permitted.
  • The revised Code will also include mandatory changes as a result of new European legislation (the Audio Visual Media Services Directive).

The review of the Code has taken into account recent compliance failings, discussions with stakeholders and audience research. Ofcom will be undertaking further research on public attitudes on the use of language.

There is no change to the current regulatory practice, only a clarification of the rules to benefit broadcasters and audiences.

There have been a number of 'compliance failures' concerning the broadcast of sexual material on TV. To help stamp out such failures, Ofcom suggests clarifying the rules about sexual material and incorporating some of Ofcom's guidance in this area within the Code.

From time to time not-for-profit organisations wish to fund programmes about their own activities or interests. This is currently prohibited under the Code. The consultation asks whether this prohibition should remain and suggests some possible rules that would ensure audience protection and editorial independence.
These strict safeguards would include:

  • requiring that the programmes are in the public interest
  • prohibiting funders banned from TV or radio advertising from funding such programmes (e.g. political parties)
  • requiring that the programmes do not cover controversial matters
  • ensuring that such funding arrangements are made transparent to the audience.

To inform our proposals on commercial references in radio programming, we commissioned audience research on listeners attitudes in this area. This is also published today.

We also commissioned research into audiences views on sexual content on TV to update our understanding of generally accepted standards in relation to a range of sexual material. This will inform our approach to the application of the rules relating to sexual material and is also published today.

Ofcom has in place a number of rules relating to offensive language and the watershed. Our rules are applied on the basis of Ofcom's understanding of the attitudes of viewers and listeners, and this is underpinned by audience research. We will conduct further research, and look at all available research, to establish public attitudes towards language, which will inform our application of the Code.

The consultation closes on 4 September 2009.

Update: Moving to a 10pm Watershed

For background I just read on a parenting website that 9pm is a typical bedtime for a 12 year old, 10pm for 14/15 year olds and 11pm for 16/17 year olds

19th June 2009. Based on article from

The media regulator Ofcom is proposing to crack down on the amount of sustained sex scenes and sexual language shown on TV immediately after the 9pm watershed, to better protect younger viewers from explicit content broadcast free-to-air by so-called babe channels .

The proposed tightening of guidelines, relating to images and/or language of a strong sexual nature , follows a rise in recent years of the number of babe channels, on which scantily clad women encourage viewers to call premium-rate phone lines.

Ofcom said consumer research had found that between 9pm and 10pm people did not expect to see much more than a brief sex scene or brief nudity.

The regulator, which has launched a consultation into proposed changes to the broadcasting code covering TV and radio, is set to introduce a new rule governing the justification of showing strong sex scenes soon after the 9pm watershed, while many under-18s are still watching.

Ofcom said that section one of the broadcasting code, which covers the protection of under-18s, requires broadcasters to observe the 9pm watershed, before which channels must be more sensitive to taste and decency issues, and ensure that material unsuitable for children under the age of 15 is not shown before that time.

However, Ofcom added that it recognised that under-18s continue to watch TV after 9pm and some of this material may include sexual content.


18th June   

Update: Burning Issue...

Liverpool to consult residents over an 18 rating for movies with smoking
Link Here
Full story: Adult Rating for Smoking...Anti-smoking lobby for 18 for smoking in films

Liverpool residents and local businesses are to be consulted on a proposal which would see new films which show characters smoking given an 18 rating in the city.

The proposed classification would mean that films which depict images of tobacco smoking would only be regarded as suitable for adult viewing. The move is being proposed by Liverpool Primary Care Trust.

This proposal would not apply to films which portray historical figures who actually smoked and those which provide a clear and unambiguous portrayal of the dangers of smoking, other tobacco use, or second-hand smoke.

It would also not change the classification of old films which have scenes of people smoking. These films would still be shown in Liverpool using their original classification.

Under the proposal, cinemas and any other premises showing films would have to notify the council 21 days in advance if they intend to show films containing images of smoking.

The City Council's Licensing and Gambling Committee have agreed to consult interested organisations and the general public about changing its licensing policy. The consultation with the public is likely to start in the middle of August and last until October.

Cllr Malcolm Kelly, Committee Chair, said: I would stress that no decision about this proposal has been made yet.

We were given a presentation earlier this year by the PCT in which they spoke about the high level of young people who smoke in Liverpool and that research showed that young people, are more likely to smoke if they were influenced by seeing their favourite stars smoking in films.

However, we want to get the views of a wide range of organisations and the public in general before we decide whether to go ahead with this idea.

Overruling the BBFC

Based on article from

Government guidance says authorities should only overrule the BBFC if there are "very good local reasons".

In its report to the council, Liverpool PCT said the city's smoking prevalence was excessively high at 29%. The national level is 22%. It added that research from several countries suggested smoking in movies was the most potent of the social influences which lead young people into smoking.

BBFC spokeswoman Sue Clark told the BBC that while the council was obviously entitled to re-classify films, members of the public were unlikely to back the idea: We have done our own consultation with the public and we specifically asked them about whether smoking in films should be a classification issue - we were told it shouldn't. We don't make it a classification issue unless a film is actively promoting smoking to young people - and we've never seen a film which does that.

Excessive smoking in a film may be flagged up in its consumer advice, or the extended classification information on the BBFC website, said Ms Clark.


18th June   

Update: NightStick...

High Court allows Times newspaper to identify policeman blogger
Link Here

Thousands of bloggers could lose their cloak of anonymity after a landmark High Court ruling allowed the identification of a serving police officer who ran a controversial website.

Mr Justice Eady refused to grant an order to protect the anonymity of Richard Horton, the author of a blog called NightJack.

The 45-year-old detective constable with Lancashire Constabulary had sought an injunction to stop his name from being made public.

But the judge ruled that Mr Horton had no reasonable expectation' to anonymity because blogging is essentially a public rather than a private activity.

Horton's award-winning blog gave a behind-the-scenes insight into frontline policing, including strong views on social and political issues, including matters of public controversy.

The officer also criticised and ridiculed a number of senior politicians and advised members of the public under police investigation to complain about every officer... show no respect to the legal system or anybody working in it, the High Court heard.

Horton has now deleted his website and received a written warning from his force. He has received several offers to publish a book after using the success of the blog to attract a literary agent.

But in the wake of the interest in his site, The Times newspaper discovered his identity and sought to publish it.

Horton sought an injunction, but after today's refusal, was immediately identified on the Times' own website.

Horton's counsel, Hugh Tomlinson QC, had argued that internet bloggers' identities should be protected by the law of confidence, and an acknowledgement by the courts that improper disclosure of private information could be cause for action. He also submitted that there was a public interest in preserving the anonymity of bloggers.


17th June   

Update: Hurting Credibility...

I wonder if chiropractors can cure this with a back massage?
Link Here
Full story: Simon Singh vs Chiropractors...Chiropractors take science sceptic to libel court

Re the petition:

We the undersigned believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence.

Thanks to all your efforts, we are sending that statement again to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, but now with 10,000 signatures! And still they are pouring in. We've also had great comments, examples of similar cases, offers of help, and urgently needed donations for the campaign. Please keep them coming. We're working through offers of help and ideas as quickly as we can.

You can now buy Keep the Libel Laws out of Science T-shirts, mugs, bags, badges and caps online from Spreadshirt. The lovely logo is thanks to Hamish Symington, and thanks also to everyone else who offered design ideas. If you send us photos of you wearing them outside the Royal Courts of Justice, or similarly relevant venue, we'll put them up!

On the issue of chiropractic claims, some of you will have seen the cumulative effect of interest in the case on the blogosphere over this past weekend; hundreds of chiropractic websites were taken down following questions by bloggers and urgent instructions from chiropractic organisations to avoid breaking the rules on medical claims for chiropractic. 

A note from Simon Singh: I've met so many passionate, supportive people at talks I've given, most recently Skeptics in the Pub in Oxford and Cheltenham. The responses, with all the blogs and comments too, suggest this is a campaign gathering the momentum necessary to reform the libel laws. Please continue your support in any way you can, and tell others about it.


17th June   

Police Culture of Censorship...

University calls in police for the opinion on matters of art and censorship
Link Here

Helen Gorrill's women are imposing and beautiful. They stand seven feet tall from head to toe, their faces in the shadows, their bodies on display.

As a painter her expression is raw and controversial, enough for the University of Cumbria to censor her FDA Drawing degree show. It's not the women that are the problem, it's the men.

She says: The actual degree project is about the seven deadly sins. I'm the only person out of 25 that has done something that needs censoring. I thought there would be far more controversial work within the remit.

While the women in her paintings are powerful, their husbands are broken and humiliated. She depicts them naked and bound, bent over in poses of sexual submission that leave little to the imagination.

After discussing the work with the University, she decided to call in the police herself for guidance: The police came in and said the females were fine, but we should just be careful with the male figures.

The males were therefore hidden from public view and shown behind a screen which had the appropriate legal signage.

She was disappointed at first, she says, but she understands the art school has to protect its legal rights. If her paintings attracted complaints, it could have been prosecuted for obscenity.

The University of Cumbria degree show is being held until Friday, June 19.


16th June   

Comment: Exempt from a Level Playing Field...

Micro-budget feature filmmakers stiffed by BBFC fee structure
Link Here
Full story: Diary of a Bad Lad...What’s wrong with the British Film Industry

Recently I emailed the BBFC asking them why they were charging filmmakers for classifying purely factual DVD ‘extras' such as interviews with cast and crew, director's commentaries, and so on.

To: the BBFC

I am contacting you on behalf of New Wave North West, which has as its members most of the region's no/micro-budget feature filmmakers, for clarification when it comes to an ‘extras' DVD.

Under your explanation of the ‘E' classification and the 1984 act, a work is exempted if it is designed to inform, educate or instruct provided that there is no significant sexual or violent content.

From this it would appear that ‘extras' content, such as

  1. Interviews with cast and crew informing and educating the audience about the film and its production are exempt.
  2. A director or producer's commentary again informs and educates the viewer as is thus exempt.
  3. Such as deleted scenes when placed in the context of a ‘mini-documentary' in which the filmmakers explain the reasons why certain content ended up on the cutting room floor, is also exempt.

  4. Deleted scenes and other similar material, if presented without a context which informs, educates and instructs, would not be exempt.

Is it correct then that, under the provisions of the act, only material such as that listed under 4 above is to be submitted? As you state:

Under the Video Recordings Act, the onus is on the distributor to decide whether or not a video work is an exempted work, and distributors have tended to put an ‘E' symbol on tapes as guidance to the public.

The Board does not examine exempted works and does not decide whether or not a work is exempt.

BBFC Reply: Up to You

Under the terms of the Video Recordings Act 1984, every video work, supplied on a video recording of any type (tape, disc, hard drive etc.), must be classified by the BBFC before it can be rented or sold legally in the UK, unless the work is exempt under Section 2 of the VRA. You can obtain a copy of the VRA from the Office of Public Sector Information.

The decision as to whether a work is exempt from classification is the responsibility of the video distributor. The BBFC's role is to classify works submitted to it; it cannot offer advice regarding the likelihood of a work being successfully claimed as exempt.

You should read the VRA and decide for yourself. You may find the BBFC's summary of the exemption terms helpful.

Comment: VRA weights classification process in favour of the major distributors

By Jonathan Williams

So there you have it. It's nothing to do with us - you send it, we classify it - and if it actually doesn't need classifying we won't tell you because we don't make the decisions. Like I said, we classify...and we charge money.

If you click their 'exemptions link' it will tell you that the Video Recordings Act (1984) is policed by 'Trading Standards' (who have to find out that a video recording which transgresses the Act is being sold, seize it, track down who's responsible, press charges, etc).

My own suspicions are that the 1984 Act was a crass Mary Whitehouse/Daily Mail inspired response to 'video nasties' (or 'cult classics' as they are now called), is full of holes, completely out of date, and that the whole system remains in place largely on the basis of threats and bullying. It has not been challenged though as they essentially don't censor '18' material, so there is no outraged publisher prepared to mount a case in defence of D.H. Lawrence etc. No, in fact the major players like the system.

Comment: Justifying Censor's Jobs

16th June 2009. By Mark, see also Future Artists

The more I look at where we are at, the more I realise is that everyone is just trying to justify their jobs,

if we didn't have a censorship board then our country would be seen to have no morals and be liberal, so we have to have one so we are seen to be in control, even though the agency pretty much is saying, do what you like, but if we find you and do not like then we will destroy you,

As Richard Branson said, screw it lets do it and as nike said 'just do it

great work Jon!

Follow Up: Video Recordings Act UK (1984), Exempt Material

21st June 2009. by Jon Williams. See article from

I posted the following on today's Shooting bulletin. It questions whether this act, strangely passed in 1984…and amended in 1993&4, and therefore several years before the advent of the DVD, is being applied by the BBFC to DVD extras material which could well be exempt, or presented in a way which would make it so, under the terms of the act. But the draconian penalties, a maximum 2 years in prison and unlimited fines means that none of the small distributors are prepared to challenge the BBFC. But there is something we can all do.

...Read on at article


13th June   

Update: Cut Passed Uncut...

BBFC Passes Lars Von Trier's Antichrist 18 Uncut
Link Here
Full story: Lars Von Trier Films...Censor baiting fiilm director

The BBFC has passed Lars Von Trier's latest film, Antichrist , ‘18' uncut. The film contains images of strong real sex, bloody violence and self mutilation. The BBFC Guidelines for ‘18' rated works state that the more explicit images of sexual activity will not be allowed unless they can be exceptionally justified by context and the work is not a ‘sex work' whose primary purpose is sexual arousal. For these purposes Antichrist is very clearly not a ‘sex work'. 

The film also contains some bloody and violent images, including a scene of genital mutilation. The Board knows of no research evidence which suggests that the viewing of this scene would raise a significant risk of harm to adult viewers or to society, or which would otherwise justify intervention. There is, therefore, no basis for an exception to the principle, repeatedly endorsed in public consultations, that adults should normally be free to choose what films to watch or not watch.

The film was seen by the Director, David Cooke, the President, Sir Quentin Thomas and Vice President, Gerard Lemos. David Cooke said:

"Antichrist deals with what happens to a couple after the death of their child, focussing on the psychological impact on them both. The film does not contain material which breaches the law or poses a significant harm risk to adults. The sexual imagery, while strong, is relatively brief, and the Board has since 1990 passed a number of works containing such images. This reflects the principle, strongly endorsed in a number of public consultations, that adults should be free to decide for themselves what to watch or what not to watch, provided it is neither illegal nor harmful.

"There is no doubt that some viewers will find the images disturbing and offensive, but the BBFC's Consumer Advice provides a clear warning to enable individuals to make an informed viewing choice. And this is now backed up by detailed Extended Consumer Advice on our website".

See also Extended Classification Information from :

Antichrist is an English language drama from director Lars von Trier. It tells the story of a couple trying to come to terms with the death of their young son. After the mother experiences a mental breakdown, they retreat to an isolated cabin in the woods where the child's father, a therapist, hopes to help the mother to confront her fears. The film was classified '18' for strong real sex, bloody violence and self-mutilation.

At '18', the BBFC's Guidelines state that the more explicit images of sexual activity are unlikely to be permitted unless they can be exceptionally justified by context and the work is not a 'sex work'. A 'sex work' is defined as a work whose 'primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation'. It is clear that ANTICHRIST is not a 'sex work' but a serious drama exploring issues such as grief, loss, guilt and fear. The brief images of explicit real sex (sight of a penis penetrating a vagina during a consensual sex scene and sight of the man's penis being masturbated to climax) are exceptionally justified, in this context, by the manner in which they illustrate the film's themes and the nature of the couple's relationship. Their relationship is depicted throughout in a graphic and unflinching fashion, both psychologically and physically. The BBFC has permitted comparable explicit images in a number of previous features at the '18' level (eg L'EMPIRE DES SENS, 9 SONGS, SHORTBUS and Lars von Trier's earlier film, THE IDIOTS) where it has been clear that the purpose of the work - and the individual images in question - is not simply to arouse viewers but to illustrate characters, relationships and themes.

ANTICHRIST also contains two scenes showing violence towards genitals or genital mutilation. In one case, the man's genitals are hit heavily (although this is not shown on screen), resulting in sight of blood in his semen when he ejaculates. In the other case, the distraught woman cuts off her own clitoris using a pair of scissors. This act of self-mutilation is shown in close up, although the image is only on screen for a few seconds. The shot in question exceeds the BBFC's Guidelines at '15', where 'the strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable' and where 'violence may be strong but may not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury'. Even at '18' the BBFC recognises that the scene will be shocking and offensive to some viewers. However, the Board is aware of no evidence to suggest that the viewing of this scene is likely to be harmful to adults. The scene is not presented in an eroticised or attractive manner and is not likely to encourage emulation or arousal. Accordingly, the scene is acceptable at '18' where, in line with the consistent findings of the BBFC's public consultations, the BBFC's Guideline concerns will not normally override the wish that adults should be free to chose their own entertainment, within the law.

The film contains other examples of strong violence, including a scene in which the woman drills a hole through the man's leg with a bit and brace before bolting a large grindstone to the injured limb. Once again, although the scene exceeds the rubric of the '15' Guidelines, it was not felt to be harmful to adult viewers. The film also contains scenes of strong simulated sex, including female masturbation. These scenes exceed the '15' Guideline test that 'Sexual activity may be portrayed but without strong detail' but are acceptable at the '18' level.

Antichrist also includes a single use of strong language.


13th June   

Carted Off...

Another government internet censor to quit
Link Here

Gordon Brown's Communications Minister, who was made a peer after a brief period in Number 10, is to leave the Government, The Times has learnt. His departure will surprise Westminster, where Brown's enemies will see it as more evidence of an administration low on energy and ideas.

Lord Carter of Barnes, previously Stephen Carter, hired by  Brown to mastermind an earlier government relaunch, is now set for a highly lucrative return to the private sector.

In October last year he moved from being Brown's chief of strategy to become a communications minister. He was given a powerful role in shaping internet and media regulation.

Lord Carter was listed as one of ten ministers below Lord Mandelson in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills after the reshuffle on Tuesday. He is believed to have told Brown that he was willing to serve only until July and hoped to return to business after a low-key exit over the summer recess.

Lord Carter declined to deny that he was planning to leave the Government after the publication of Digital Britain, a report intended to shape the future of creative industries. I'm beavering away feverishly on my report, that's my only preoccupation, he told The Times. He dismissed suggestions that he had already lined up another job but failed to say whether he would still be a minister by the autumn.

The sensitive nature of his current role means political and industry opponents will be watching closely to see what he does next. His report, to be published next Tuesday, will propose measures to extend access to broadband internet services and changes to how public service broadcasting is funded. Most controversially, it will tackle the rapid growth of illegal downloads, which are hitting the revenues of the film and music industries. The Government is thought to have backed away from proposals to require internet service providers to bar customers caught repeatedly accessing pirated material.

Instead, insiders expect Lord Carter to recommend the introduction of premium-rate internet services that will allow users to access what they wish. Providers would then be expected to compensate music and film producers from a share of the additional revenue.


12th June   

Update: Rated S for Suspense...

Government to announce computer game censorship scheme in Digital Britain report
Link Here
Full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

Labour will announce the new industry standard age classification system on Tuesday next week (June 16th) as part of its Digital Britain report, MCV reveals.

The news comes 12 months after the publication of the Government's Byron Review, which recommended the introduction of one clear age ratings system, falling on the side of ‘cinema-style' classification.

However, a year of consultation with industry followed, in which publishers and ELSPA made their support for a PEGI-led system very clear, rather than the DVD-style BBFC ratings.


12th June   

Comment: Cover Charge...

The BBFC, even more money for nothing!
Link Here
Full story: Diary of a Bad Lad...What’s wrong with the British Film Industry

From What's wrong with the British Film Industry, a series of articles and polemics by Jonathan Williams, one-time media academic and the writer/producer of Diary of a Bad Lad :

Interesting what you find you, isn't it. Having had to fork out more than £700 to the BBFC, and having signed and returned the form saying that I accepted the ‘18' rating and the ‘consumer advice' saying: contains strong sex, sexual violence and very strong language, they seemed to be taking a very long time in issuing the final certificate; so I contacted them to find out what was going on.

Back came the reply that I had to submit the packaging, to send them three copies of the DVD cover artwork which they would have to pass, and they sent me a link so that I could download the submission form.

Hang on, I thought: What's all this, you don't have to submit covers of books to anyone? Ah, yes, but as they explained, this was completely voluntary. I didn't actually have to submit anything, I just had to tell them I wasn't and they'd issue the certificate.
But they also informed me that:

You should be aware, however, that by opting out of this scheme, which is registered as a Restrictive Trade Practice acceptable to the Office of Fair Trading, the product of your company may be refused handling by wholesalers and/or retailers who are members of the Video Standards Council (VSC).

So there you have it. You send them the artwork, they look at it, they say: That's OK, here's your certificate, and you can now go ahead and add a VSC logo to the cover as well.

And then they ring you up and say: That'll be £41.28. Do you want to pay by credit card?

What?! More than £700 so that someone can take your film home and spend 90 minutes watching it is bad enough. But over £40 to look at your cover as part of what they call a voluntary scheme, but one which, if you don't comply with it, means that the main retailers and renters won't handle your film! This isn't a voluntary scheme, it's a government sanctioned protection racket!


6th June   

Update: New Government Censors...

Reshuffling Ministers for Censorship
Link Here
Full story: Minister of Nasty Cultures...Andy Burnham as UK government internet censor

Health minister Ben Bradshaw has been appointed as the new culture secretary, replacing Andy Burnham, in a move that comes at a crucial time for the media industry as the government weighs up crucial decisions about the final Digital Britain report.

Bradshaw, a former BBC journalist and the MP for Exeter, is to take over as secretary for culture, media and sport. Burnham is heading the other way, to become health secretary.

The culture department faces some crucial decision over the next few weeks, with the Digital Report set to be published on 16 June.

Lets hope that Burnham's departures means an end to his madcap idea to classify the internet.

Meanwhile the government censor, Jack Straw stays as Minister of Injustice and Jacqui Smith's replacement Home Secretary has been named as Trade Unionist and party leadership contender, Alan Johnson.

Johnson's political leanings are hinted at on his profile from :

  • Voted a mixture of for and against a transparent Parliament.
  • Voted moderately against introducing a smoking ban.
  • Voted strongly for introducing ID cards.
  • Voted very strongly for introducing foundation hospitals.
  • Voted strongly for introducing student top-up fees.
  • Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws.
  • Voted very strongly for the Iraq war.
  • Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war.
  • Voted very strongly for replacing Trident.
  • Voted moderately for the hunting ban.
  • Voted very strongly for equal gay rights.
  • Voted for laws to stop climate change.

Sounds like Henry Porter is being a bit hopeful in his Memo to Alan Johnson from :

On Monday he should announce a review of the government's ID cards policy, an increasingly unpopular measure which is going to cost the taxpayer a minimum of £4.5bn and probably cause every adult in the country irritation and substantial expense, and yet will produce none of the significant gains in security the government has claimed for the scheme.

Stepping back from ID cards will check the advances the opposition have made in this area, as well as signal a change of tone in Labour thinking; moving away from New Labour's emphasis on increasing the authority of the state, against the power and self determination of the individual.


6th June   

Petition: Chiropractors' Libel Claim...

The law has no place in scientific disputes
Link Here
Full story: Simon Singh vs Chiropractors...Chiropractors take science sceptic to libel court

We the undersigned believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence.

The British Chiropractic Association has sued Simon Singh for libel. The scientific community would have preferred that it had defended its position about chiropractic for various children's ailments through an open discussion of the peer reviewed medical literature or through debate in the mainstream media.

Singh holds that chiropractic treatments for asthma, ear infections and other infant conditions are not evidence-based. Where medical claims to cure or treat do not appear to be supported by evidence, we should be able to criticise assertions robustly and the public should have access to these views.

English libel law, though, can serve to punish this kind of scrutiny and can severely curtail the right to free speech on a matter of public interest. It is already widely recognised that the law is weighted heavily against writers: among other things, the costs are so high that few defendants can afford to make their case. The ease and success of bringing cases under the English law, including against overseas writers, has led to London being viewed as the "libel capital" of the world.

Freedom to criticise and question in strong terms and without malice is the cornerstone of scientific argument and debate, whether in peer-reviewed journals, on websites or in newspapers, which have a right of reply for complainants. However, the libel laws and cases such as BCA v Singh have a chilling effect, which deters scientists, journalists and science writers from engaging in important disputes about the evidential base supporting products and practices. The libel laws discourage argument and debate and merely encourage the use of the courts to silence critics.

The English law of libel has no place in scientific disputes about evidence; the BCA should discuss the evidence outside of a courtroom. Moreover, the BCA v Singh case shows a wider problem: we urgently need a full review of the way that English libel law affects discussions about scientific and medical evidence.


4th June   

Updated: Back Problems...

When chiropractors drag a top science writer into the libel courts, the country has lost its backbone
Link Here
Full story: Simon Singh vs Chiropractors...Chiropractors take science sceptic to libel court

This week, Simon Singh, one of Britain's best science writers, will decide whether to carry on playing a devilish version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? He has already lost £100,000 defending his right to speak frankly.

Last year, Singh published Trick or Treatment? with Professor Edzard Ernst on the reliability of alternative medicine , and devoted a chapter to the strange history of chiropractic treatments.

In 2008, the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) announced that its members could help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying. Writing in the Guardian, Singh said the claim was bogus. Chiropractic treatments may help relieve back pain, but Professor Ernst had examined 70 trials and found no evidence that they could relieve other conditions.

Singh is hardly a lone sceptic. A few weeks ago, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint against a chiropractor who claimed he could treat children with colic and learning difficulties. Nevertheless, the BCA took Singh on and told me it had numerous documents which demonstrate the efficacy of chiropractic treatments.

Fair enough, you might think. Reputable medical authorities could test the evidence and decide whether the treatments work or not. Instead of arguing before the court of informed opinion, however, the BCA went to the libel courts.

If he goes ahead with an appeal this week, bloggers, academics and the massed ranks of the scientific great and good are ready to join him. They have grasped what too many still fail to realise: the greatest threat to freedom of speech in Britain is not the state or the security services or the press barons, but a fusty and illiberal legal system, which has become a public menace.

...Read full article

Update: Luminaries support Simon Singh in his appeal

4th June 2009. Based on article from

A galaxy of luminaries from the disparate worlds of science, comedy, the arts and humanities, from Ricky Gervais to the president of the Royal Society, have come out in support of a science writer who is being sued by chiropractors for saying they practise bogus treatments.

Dr Simon Singh announced yesterday that he intends to appeal against the ruling, which has already cost him about £100,000 in legal fees but won him the backing of more than 100 prominent figures, including a Nobel laureate.

The signatories to the statement in support of Dr Singh include Gervais, the actor Stephen Fry, the scientist Richard Dawkins, Lord Rees of Ludlow, president of the Royal Society, former government chief scientist Sir David King, the novelist Martin Amis and the comedian and doctor Harry Hill. We, the undersigned, believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence, the statement reads.

Dr Singh's supporters spoke out against the BCA's decision to launch legal action against an individual with no financial support. When a powerful organisation tries to silence a man of Simon Singh's reputation [he was made an MBE in 2003 for services to science] then anyone who believes in science, fairness and truth should rise in indignation, Fry said.

Professor Dawkins added: The English libel laws are ridiculed as an international charter for litigious mountebanks, and the effects are especially pernicious where science is concerned. While Sir David said: It is ridiculous that a legal and outmoded definition of a word has been used to hinder and discourage scientific debate. We must be able to fairly and reasonably challenge ideas without fear of legal intimidation. This sort of thing only brings the law into disrepute.


4th June   

Snitch Happy Britain...

Brits the mostly likely to flag up YouTube videos
Link Here

British YouTube users are amongst the most sensitive in the world, executives at the site have claimed.

The company has reacted by introducing special Britain-only policies following a raft of complaints from users over gang-related videos.

Victoria Grand, head of policy at YouTube, told The Times: The UK is a big flagging country. We get a lot of videos flagged up in the UK because of issues that British people are concerned about which maybe aren't an issue in the US, such as the brandishing of guns.

Scott Rubin, YouTube's head of communication, said: In terms of outside regulation verses internal regulation, this is a very new world, so the people who are closest to that world are the ones who understand best. We have a vested interest in making this site a place that's safe for advertisers and good for the community. Regulators coming from the outside would not have this deep understanding.

Calls have also been made by internet safety groups across Europe for websites such as YouTube to be subject to the same degree of regulation as television channels, but Rubin rejected the demands: We are not a broadcaster.

YouTube representatives have been in Britain in the past week to meet MPs and officials from the British broadcasting regulator Ofcom to demonstrate new internal safety measures introduced to bolster the self-regulation.

The site has partnered with the British organisations Childnet and Beatbullying to introduce a Safety Centre where users, especially children, are offered advice on how to report and deal with people who are harassing or threatening them on YouTube.

YouTube has also signed up to the code of practice set out by the EU Safer Social Networking Initiative and is in consultation with the new UK Council for Child Internet Safety on how to protect and inform children of the dangers of viewing inappropriate content.

This still leaves user-led regulation as the main form of policing available on YouTube. Users can flag videos they believe to be in breach of YouTube's guidelines on violent, offensive, obscene or inappropriate material. These videos are then checked out by a team of reviewers who have received training, including from the FBI, on how to spot dangerous material on their site.

These measures have been introduced after YouTube conceded they could not hope to police the 20 hours of video being uploaded onto the site every minute. The site has, instead, introduced optional swear-word filters for user-generated text on the site and has updated its technology to allow its reviewers to police flagged videos more quickly.

John Whittingdale MP, chairman of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said he was encouraged by the changes to the policing of the site, but vowed to remain watchful of the situation: It's something we will continue to monitor and if any further areas for concern arise, we will raise that with them.


3rd June   

Update: Clear Link...

Nutter MP spouts vague bollox about links between violent media and knife crime
Link Here

A clear link exists between bloodthirsty films and video games and teenage knife crime, claimed Plymouth MP Gary Streeter.

He argued for an urgent review examining how to censor what youngsters watched at the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee. He highlighted fears of a knife arms race amid concerns that carrying the deadly weapons was becoming normal.

The committee says evidence to its inquiry also supported its view that violent DVDs and video games have a negative influence on those who watch and play them, contributing around 10% of any person's predisposition to be violent.

Streeter said: That's something we have to have a long look at. Are we allowing our young people to be brutalised by some of this dreadful violence we are allowing them to watch?

As part of the select committee inquiry, he was shown a number of video games, but he said he had to stop watching them as they were so sickening.

On the connection with knife crime, he said: There's a clear link for some young people. There's no doubt that for certain young people violent video games and films is a very serious negative influence.


3rd June

 Offsite: Good Riddance to a Bad Home Secretary...

Link Here
Full story: UK Parliament Integrity...Claiming Television X on expenses
Britain is a worse place thanks to Jacqui Smith

See article from


31st May   

Pig Business...

Legal threats to documentary criticising Smithfield Foods
Link Here

A documentary about intensive pig farming due to be screened at the Guardian Hay festival is facing a legal threat from one of the companies it investigates.

Pig Business criticises the practices of the world's largest pork processor, Smithfield Foods, claiming it is responsible for environmental pollution and health problems among residents near its factories.

The film was due to be broadcast on Channel 4 in February but was cancelled because of legal fears. A planned screening at the Frontline Club in London earlier this year was also called off.

On Wednesday London's Barbican centre was forced to delay a screening of the film after Smithfield's lawyers wrote a letter saying that the film was defamatory and included untrue claims. The show went ahead when the filmmaker, Tracy Worcester, signed an indemnity taking personal responsibility for its content.

A spokesman for Smithfield said that the company had never threatened to sue the filmmaker or tried to prevent the film being screened, but had requested that inaccuracies or false allegations be removed.

Pig Business shows the cramped conditions in which pigs are reared, similar to those of battery hens, and claims that waste is inadequately disposed off, leaking into the surrounding environment.

Worcester interviewed people who live near Smithfield farms in the US, where the company started out, who complain of health problems including asthma and digestive illnesses, and fishermen who report that stocks have been destroyed. The film documents the company's move to Poland, where locals claim to experience similar health problems.

Worcester, who spent four years making the film, said: It's crucial that consumers are able to watch this so they know what is being done to their food.


30th May   

More Cocks...

Edinburgh film festival screening to be uncut despite cock fighting scene
Link Here

Edinburgh audiences will see the blood sport of cock-fighting in its full savagery after city councillors ruled there should be no censorship at the Film Festival.

The scene is part of the Mexican film Rudo y Cursi , or Rough and Vulgar , which is to receive a Gala screening at this year's festival with director Carlos Cuaron and stars Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal set to attend.

The film follows its two stars as they aim to become football stars, and features a 20-second long cock-fighting scene, a sport illegal in the UK but popular in Mexico.

While the scene in the film does not include any animals being killed, it was of sufficient concern that EIFF organisers decided to flag it up to the city council, who must approve all festival screenings.

It is understood film promoters will cut the scene when it goes on general release in the UK to get a 15 certificate.

The city's licensing committee decided the scene should be allowed to stay for the festival however, as they felt the film should be shown in its uncut form. But they have ruled it should treated as an 18 certificate film rather than a 15.

Tory city centre councillor Joanna Mowatt, who was on the licensing committee that voted to keep the scene in, said: We decided to keep it in. After all, this is an international film festival and there shouldn't be any censorship. People should be able to enjoy the films in their entirety and if that involves scenes that are culturally challenging, so be it.

This year the council have also asked the festival to put signs outside every screening to inform people the films have not been certified by the BBFC, and giving an indication of the suggested rating agreed by the council.

Diane Henderson, deputy artistic director of the EIFF, said: We are very happy the festival is able to screen the full director's cut.


27th May

 Offsite: Telegraph Torture...

Link Here
Libel threats against Nadine Dorries underline the need for legal reform

See article from


25th May   

Update: Cuts Uncut?...

UK distributors will submit Antichrist uncut to the BBFC
Link Here
Full story: Lars Von Trier Films...Censor baiting fiilm director

The 'most shocking' film in the history of the Cannes Film Festival is heading for cinema release in Britain, where distributors will attempt to convince the censors that its scenes of torture and pornography should be shown in their entirety.

Lars Von Trier's new film Antichrist has stunned the Cannes Film Festival, eliciting jeers and cries of disbelief from critics who dubbed it art-house torture porn.

The psychological horror film opens with a young child falling to his death through an open window whilst his oblivious parents, played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, have sex nearby in graphically-shot scenes.

The grieving couple retreat to Eden, their cabin in the woods, where the woman becomes increasingly unhinged. In the final quarter of the film, she takes revenge of the most gruesome kind against her husband. The most offensive sequence, which had critics gasping in disbelief, sees Gainsbourg's character performing an act of genital self-multilation with a pair of scissors.

When distributors expressed fears that the film would not be granted a release in their home countries, the producers said offered an alternative cut - which they described as a good Catholic version - with four extreme sequences excised.

However, the UK distributor which snapped up the rights, Artificial Eye, is determined that Von Trier's original cut be shown.

We will be submitting the film for classification in its current form, a spokesman for the company said. We can't comment on how the British Board of Film Classification will respond, but we are keen for Antichrist to be seen as the director intends.

"We absolutely think the film has good commercial prospects here in the UK. It has polarised the opinions of the critics in Cannes and this has ensured a 'must see' buzz that we can capitalise on for our release.

The BBFC has a history of allowing controversial arthouse films to be shown in their entirety. In 2002, the organisation granted an 18 certificate to another Cannes offering, Gaspar Noé's Irreversible . It featured a nine-minute rape scene 'so graphic' that dozens of female critics walked out of its debut screening.


19th May   

Update: Police Music Censors...

Concerts cancelled after discussions with police alerted by Form 696
Link Here
Full story: Licensed Music Censors...Licensing sets up authorities as music censors

Police have defended their use of a controversial form that requires live music venues to hand over details of performers, promoters and fans.

The Met introduced the risk assessment form 696  identify gigs where they claim trouble might flare up, partly in response to black-on-black violence.

But it has been criticised for being heavy-handed and racially motivated.

The Met claimed the form had played its part in an 11% drop in serious violence in licensed premises in 2008.

Thomas Bowen, head of the Met team that deals with Form 696, said: A co-ordinated effort, and 696 assisting the process of identifying potential gang conflict, is undoubtedly contributing towards that reduction of shooting incidents in licensed premises.

Around 70 London pubs and clubs are currently required to complete the form. It asks for the names, dates of birth, addresses and phone numbers of promoters and artists, for details of the target audience and for the style of music, eg bashment, R'n'B, garage.

It recently came in for criticism from the House of Commons Culture select committee, which recommended that the form be scrapped, saying it imposed unreasonable conditions on events and goes beyond the Licensing Act.

It has also come under fire from Feargal Sharkey, former Undertones singer and now head of UK Music, an umbrella body that represents the British music industry: It needs to be abolished. It is now quite clearly beginning to have an impact in certain musical types and genres within the London area.

Last autumn, a concert to raise money for a teenage cancer charity was cancelled on police advice because the performers refused to give their personal details on the form, Sharkey said.

Earlier this month, a gig called Project Urban at the O2's Indigo venue was to have hosted some of the biggest names in UK hip-hop, including Tinchy Stryder, Wiley and DJ Ironik, but was called off.

There is no suggestion that those acts had been associated with any trouble. The promoters said police deemed it higher risk because they had not included the dates of birth of a couple of artists.

Jon McClure, singer with indie group Reverend and the Makers, has claimed the form is racist because it targets black audiences, and has started a petition against its use.


19th May   

Comment: BBC Won't be Bullied...

BBC survey finds that the public is relaxed about strong language on TV
Link Here

One of the most exhaustive pieces of research conducted by the BBC into viewers' attitudes to taste and decency is said to show that most are relaxed about the use of bad language on air.

The corporation will submit the results of the survey, which involved around 7,000 members of the public, to the BBC Trust this week. The trust had asked the management to review its editorial guidelines on taste and standards in the wake of the resignation of Russell Brand and the suspension of Jonathan Ross.

The review is also likely to show that a substantial minority of viewers and listeners are in favour of less censorship. Viewers apparently objected to the behaviour of Ross and Brand because of the bullying tone of the broadcast rather than the fact that swearing was used.

Mark Thompson, the BBC's director general, told the Observer: If we set up a programme strategy based on never offending anyone - which is sometimes a world that some of our critics would like - you wouldn't broadcast any news programmes, for example.

Update: Business as Usual

19th May 2009. Based on an article from the Express. Thanks to Dan

A BBC report will show that the public is more relaxed than ever about swearing on TV ­ sparking nutter fears that it will give the corporation a licence to air even more bad language.

The survey of 7000 viewers' attitudes on taste and decency was ordered by the BBC Trust after the furore over Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand leaving lewd messages on veteran actor Andrew Sachs's answer phone.

The report is said to show that viewers are relaxed about the use of bad language, especially after the 9pm watershed.

Nutters fear the latest report will stop the BBC cleaning up its act.

John Beyer, of Mediawatch, said:

There is already far too much swearing on TV that is entirely unnecessary. My fear is that Mark Thompson, the BBC's director general, will tell everybody that it is business as usual.

But swearing alienates television viewers. If they are going to carry on broadcasting swearing, the BBC will alienate swathes more viewers.

Comment: Allowing viewers to make up their own minds

19th May 2009. From Dan

"My fear is that Mark Thompson, the BBC's director general, will tell everybody that it is business as usual."

Business as usual? What, allowing viewers to make up their own minds what they want and do not want to watch and not having the viewing tastes of John Beyer and the rest of Daily Mail Tory voting middle England forced upon them? Sounds good to us Johnny Boy!

"But swearing alienates television viewers. If they are going to carry on broadcasting swearing, the BBC will alienate swathes more viewers."

And those viewers will pick up their remote controls and switch over and watch something else. The kind of action you don't seem to be able to grasp Johnny Boy!

The truth is the BBC have never said they are going to be broadcasting more swearing because of this survey. This is just the fear held by their critics. Heck their critics probably hope they will broadcast more swearing just so they can have another go at them.


17th May   

Collateral Damage...

Ministry of Defence block troops from accessing
Link Here

Page 3 girls have launched a full frontal attack on Ministry of Defence killjoys — after they banned troops from looking at the beauties online.

The girls staged a protest at the MoD’s HQ in Whitehall after bureaucrats ruled that admiring their bazookas on was inappropriate for military personnel

The bombshell means 10,000 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus 25,000 sailors and airmen, are barred from seeing the site even on their own private laptops.

The Sun is urging Defence Secretary John Hutton to intervene.

We have been bombarded with complaints from soldiers and sailors since MoD internet servers began blocking A Royal Navy chief petty officer said: The fun police have struck again — it’s maddening.


15th May   

Saville Row...

Manic Street Preachers album to be sold under wraps
Link Here

The new Manic Street Preachers album is being shipped to supermarkets in a plain slipcase because its artwork has been deemed inappropriate.

Concerns have been raised that the cover for Journal For Plague Lovers , a portrait by artist Jenny Saville, looks like it is splattered with blood.

Singer James Dean Bradfield called the situation utterly bizarre. We just thought it was a beautiful painting. We were all in total agreement.

The frontman disagreed that Saatchi favourite Saville had intended to depict a bloody face: If you're familiar with her work, there's a lot of ochres and browns and reds and browns and perhaps people are looking for us to be more provocative than we are being. We just saw a much more modern version of Lucian Freud-esque brushstrokes. That's all we saw.

Four of the main supermarket chains - Sainsburys, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons - are among the shops using the slip cover.

Asda told 6 Music they wanted to be extra cautious in case the artwork upset some of its customers.

Meanwhile Nicola Williamson, Sainsbury's music buyer, said: We felt that some customers might consider this particular album cover to be inappropriate if it were prominently displayed on the shelf. As such, the album will be sold in a sleeve provided by the publisher.


14th May   

Update: Fucking Censors...

UK TV censor whinges at Gordon Ramsay's strong language
Link Here
Full story: Gordon Ramsay...Strong language winds up the nutters

Ramsays Great British Nightmare
Channel 4, 30 January 2009, 21:00 - 23:00

Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare follows the chef, Gordon Ramsay, as he takes on failing restaurants and attempts to turn them around. He tackles amongst other things, poor management, inferior cooking and unacceptable levels of hygiene.

Ofcom received 51 complaints from viewers about the programme broadcast on 30 January 2009 from 21:00. They objected to the frequency and sustained nature of the use of the most offensive language (i.e . “fuck”, “fucking” and “fucked”).

Ofcom noted that the first two parts of the programme, broadcast between 21:00 and 21:40, contained 115 instances of the most offensive language.

Ofcom considered Rule 2.3 of the Code (offensive content must be justified by context).

Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 2.3

In assessing the wider context of this programme, Ofcom noted that:

  • the channel provided pre-transmission information about the level of language in the programme: “strong language from the start and throughout”
  • this was a two hour programme compared to the usual one hour
  • the contributors as well as Gordon Ramsay used the most offensive language;
  • offensive language was often used at times of emotion and stress which typifies the series as a whole.
  • The likely audience expectation for this programme

Ofcom recognised that Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare differed slightly from the usual Kitchen Nightmares strand in as much as it was a two hour special featuring not one but two failing restaurants. The result was that parts one and two of the programme where Gordon Ramsay traditionally gives his unvarnished opinion - and which often results in confrontation - was twice as long. As a consequence this amplified significantly the effect of the language on the viewer.

Given the programme’s well-established reputation for using the most offensive language, Ofcom accepts that the vast majority of the audience comes to the programme with certain expectations. However, on this occasion there were 115 examples of the most offensive language i.e. “fuck” and its derivatives, in the first 40 minutes of the programme. In the first 15 minutes there were a total of 37 examples. The second part of the programme, between 21:20 and 21:40, contained a further 78 examples. Ofcom also noted that much of the offensive language was delivered in an extremely intense and at times aggressive manner. The most aggressive scene, which Channel 4 admits contributed to the overall tally of strong language in the programme, occurred in part two of the programme where, at approximately 21:30, a restaurant chef angrily berated his boss shouting the word “fucking” at him 30 times in less than two minutes.

The broadcaster and the audience has a right to freedom of expression. Importantly, the programme purports to show real life situations and record them as they unfold. (However, we note that in the acquired American version of this programme Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares USA, the level of strong language is considerably less, but in very similar intense circumstances). As Channel 4 points out the audience expects to see the drama and conflict played out before some form of resolution is reached. Therefore, to limit completely the transmission of a programme such as this would be a disproportionate restriction and could result in a chilling effect on broadcasters’ output. Nevertheless, freedom of expression may be limited and should at all times be balanced by the requirement on the part of the broadcaster to apply generally accepted standards to ensure adequate protection for members of the public from offensive material. In Ofcom’s view, by broadcasting this particular programme at this time after the watershed, Channel 4 did not apply generally accepted standards. This is due to the unexpected and sheer intensity and level of swearing in the first two parts of the programme. The strong language had not been used as a comedic device or as part of a characterisation but was at times extremely aggressive and, as described by complainants, “gratuitous” and “unreal”. Ofcom therefore concluded that it was not warranted since there was not sufficient editorial justification or context in this programme for the level and intensity of swearing in the first two parts of the programme, transmitted between 21:00 and 21:40.

The audience has a good understanding that as the evening progresses the context changes and material is likely to become more challenging and may contain frequent and strong language. However, where viewers have established expectations for a particular programme, at a particular time, broadcasters should carefully consider the impact of any significant editorial changes which may subsequently challenge those expectations. It was clear to Ofcom that the frequency and nature of the most offensive language in the earlier parts of this programme and at the time it was broadcast deviated seriously and significantly from previous editions, because this was the first time Channel 4 had broadcast a two hour edition of Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare , starting at 21:00. As a direct consequence the scale, frequency and way in which the most offensive language was delivered in the first two parts of this programme, went significantly beyond what could be reasonably anticipated by regular viewers - at this time of the evening – and resulted in a breach of the Code.


8th May   

Reading Too Much into the Leaves...

Reading Chronicle censured for excessive suicide details
Link Here

Mr and Mrs Marsh of Caversham complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article published in the Reading Chronicle on 15th January 2009, headlined Lucy was a ‘soul in torment’ , contained excessive detail about a method of suicide in breach of Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the editors’ Code of Practice.

The article reported the suicide of the complainants’ daughter, who had taken her own life by consuming poisonous leaves. It set out the following details: the precise type of leaf that had been used; the fact that the leaves had been ingested; the specific type of toxin found in the leaves; and the fact that death would have been quick as there was no antidote.

The newspaper said it had taken care to remove a reference to how the leaves were prepared which, in its view, was the sole detail that could have led to copy-cat suicides. It considered that it was important to report the fundamental cause of death and said this particular method of suicide was not that rare. The complainants disputed both these points.

PCC Adjudication: Upheld

The purpose of Clause 5 (ii) is to minimise the risk of copycat suicides by requiring that care is taken not to publish excessive detail of the method used in suicide cases. This requirement extends to the reporting of inquests.

On this occasion, the Commission considered that the level of detail was excessive. The information in the piece included the type of leaf used; how the deceased found out about it; the fact there was no antidote; and a reference to the speed of the process. Taken together, the Commission was concerned that this information may have been sufficient to spell out to others how to carry out such a suicide. There was therefore a breach of the Code and the complaint was upheld.


8th May

 Offsite: Hands Off Our Data!...

Link Here
Flash game to shoot government vermin stealing data

See article from


6th May   

Update: Rotten Apple Spoils a Lovely Bunch...

Apple censors The Sun for its page 3 fun
Link Here
Full story: iPhone iCensor...Apple is censorial about apps for iPhone

Apple may put News International's nose out of joint with its definition of 'obscene', after rejecting a newspaper-reading iPhone app for reasons of rudeness.

Newspaper(s), an application that renders content from the world's newspapers, was rejected by iTunes because it included the UK's Sun newspaper - complete with topless Page Three girl - on the grounds that it violates the iTunes policy on obscene content.

But the Sun reckons it's a family paper, and takes accusations of pornography-pushing very seriously indeed.

According to a report on iLounge the publisher of Newspaper(s) was recommended to resubmit the application once OS 3.0 is released, after which a suitable category will be available, but instead decided to remove the offending newspaper from the app.


6th May   

UK's Hate List...

UK Secretary names those excluded from the UK
Link Here

Individuals banned from the UK have been named for for the first time, the Home Secretary announced. The list covers people excluded from the United Kingdom for fostering extremism or hatred between October 2008 and March 2009.

It follows the Home Secretary’s introduction of new measures against such individuals last year, including creating a presumption in favour of exclusion in respect of all those who have engaged in spreading hate.

The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith also announced today that the government is now able to ban European nationals and their family members if they constitute a threat to public policy or public security.

In the period from 28 October 2008 to 31 March 2009 the Home Secretary excluded a total of 22 individuals from coming to the United Kingdom. It is not considered to be in the public interest to disclose the names of six of these individuals. The remaining 16 individuals are:

Considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour by seeking to foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence:

  • Abdullah Qadri Al Ahdal. Preacher
  • Yunis Al Astal. Preacher
  • Wadgy Abd El Hamied Mohamed Ghoneim. A prolific speaker and writer.
  • Safwat Hijazi. Television preacher.
  • Nasr Javed
  • Abdul Ali Musa
  • Samir Al Quntar
  • Amir Siddique. Preacher.


  • Stephen Donald Black Set up Stormfront, a racist website. Considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour by promoting serious criminal activity and fostering hatred, which might lead to inter-community violence in the United Kingdom.
  • Eric Gliebe. Has made web-radio broadcasts in which he vilifies certain ethnic groups and encourages the download and distribution of provocative racist leaflets and posters. Considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour by justifying terrorist violence, provoking others to commit serious crime and fostering racial hatred.
  • Mike Guzovsky. Leader of a violent group and actively involved with military training camps. Considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour by seeking to foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs and to provoke others to terrorist acts.
  • Fred Waldron Phelps Snr and Shirley Phelps-Roper. Pastor and leading spokesperson of Westboro Baptist Church. Considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour by fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the United Kingdom.
  • Artur Ryno and Pavel Skachevsky. Leaders of a violent gang that beat migrants and posted films of their attacks on the internet. Considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour by fomenting serious criminal activity and seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts.
  • Michael Alan Weiner (also known as Michael Savage). Controversial daily radio host. Considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour by seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts and fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence.

Under the unacceptable behaviour policy, the Home Secretary may exclude from the UK any non-British citizen, whether in the UK or abroad, who uses any means or medium including:

  • writing, producing, publishing or distributing material
  • public speaking including preaching
  • running a website
  • using a position of responsibility such as teacher, community or youth leader

To express views which:

  • foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs
  • seek to provoke others to terrorist acts
  • foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts or
  • foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.

Update: Savage Defamation

7th May 2009, thanks to Alan

A US radio talk show host say he will sue the British government for defamation after being placed on a list of people banned from entering the UK. Conservative political commentator Michael Savage, real name Michael Alan Weiner, is one of 22 people barred for fostering extremism or hate.


4th May

 Offsite: Authoritarian Government and Legal Actions...

Link Here
The many-headed serpent that threatens freedom of the press

See article from


1st May   

Five Soldiers Singing...

Israel 61 Family Show cancelled by Bloomsbury Theatre
Link Here

A group of singers from the Israeli army have become embroiled in a censorship row after their performance in London was cancelled over fears the content was political.

The five soldiers from the Israeli Defence Force, had been due to perform a medley of national songs at the Bloomsbury Theatre as part of a celebration for their country's 61st anniversary.

But the venue, owned by University College London, claimed the content was against the spirit of the agreement.

The Zionist Federation, the organisers of the event, claim the songs do not have any military content and have accused UCL of censorship. A spokesman said: The Bloomsbury Theatre has decided they should impose censorship on what people should be allowed to see. We agreed to remove the soldiers' act from the bill but even then the theatre was against the whole thing.

The event, the Israel 61 Family Show was rescheduled at another venue,

Peter Cadley, director of the Bloomsbury Theatre, said: We took the booking on the understanding it was going to be an entertainment event. We received assurances to that effect and then we spotted on the website about the IDF. This was against the spirit of the agreement so we decided to cancel.


29th April

 Offsite: 30 Years On...

Link Here
The Williams Report still offers a better framework for film classification than the OPA

See article from


26th April   

For a Freer World...

The 2009 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award winners
Link Here

The ceremony, hosted by Index on Censorship Chair Jonathan Dimbleby, with a keynote speech by Sir David Hare, honoured those who had made a contribution to free expression in five categories: books, films, journalism, new media and law and campaigning.

Speaking at the event, Jonathan Dimbleby said: Freedom of expression helps to define our essence as human beings and citizens. Everywhere this right is under growing threat. The Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards are a chance to celebrate those who against all odds have made distinguished contributions to this vital cause - to protect and enhance liberty in Britain and around the world.

The recipients of the awards for 2009 are:

The Guardian Journalism Award: The Sunday Leader – Sri Lanka

The Sunday Leader and its journalists have been subject to continual threats and brutal harassment since it was launched 15 years ago. The assassination of the Sunday Leader’s editor and co-founder Lasantha Wickrematunge in January provoked protests and vigils around the world. His brother Lal has since bravely taken on the position of editor, continuing the important work of the newspaper.

The Economist New Media Award: Psiphon

Psiphon is a revolutionary software programme that allows Internet access in countries where censorship is imposed. The programme turns a regular home computer into a personal, encrypted server, capable of retrieving and displaying web pages anywhere. Psiphon was developed as a human rights software project by the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. One of its aims is to design software that is easy to use, so that those with limited technical abilities can take advantage of the technology.

The TR Fyvel Book Award: Beijing Coma – Ma Jian

Spiked with dark wit, poetic beauty and deep rage, Beijing Coma takes the life (and near death) of one young student to create a dazzling novel about contemporary China. In May 1989, tens of thousands of students are camped out in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. But what started as a united protest at the slow pace of their government’s political reform has begun to lose direction. People from all over China are coming to join the demonstration, but the students at its heart are confused by the influence they suddenly wield, and riven by petty in-fighting. One of them, Dai Wei, argues about everything from democracy to the distribution of food to protesters, little knowing that, on 4 June, a soldier will shoot a bullet into his head, sending him into a deep coma.

The Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award: Malik Imtiaz Sarwar – Malaysia

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar is a leading human rights lawyer and activist and the current president of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM). Imtiaz has been a central figure in fighting lawsuits brought against journalists and bloggers, and was the lead counsel for Raja Petra Kamaruddin, popular blogger and editor of Malaysia Today, whose release he secured last year. In August 2006, a poster declaring him to be a traitor to Islam and calling for his death was circulated in Malaysia. He has proposed setting up an inter-faith council, and spoken in a series of public forums on the need for religious freedom.

The Index on Censorship Film Award: The Devil Came on Horseback

Using the exclusive photographs and first-hand testimony of former US Marine Captain Brian Steidle, Directed by Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern The Devil Came on Horseback takes the viewer on an emotionally-charged journey into the heart of Darfur. Steidle had access to parts of the country that no journalist could penetrate; he was unprepared for what he would witness and experience, including being fired at, taken hostage, and being unable to intervene to save the lives of young children. Ultimately frustrated by the inaction of the international community, Steidle resigned and returned to the US to expose the images and stories of lives he believed were being systematically destroyed.


21st April   

Gnomic Mentality...

Whinging at naughty garden gnomes
Link Here

It was meant to be a cheeky joke - three saucy garden gnomes that had a lot more on show than the usual fishing rod and wheelbarrow.

But after a neighbour complained to a council the nude figures were upsetting her children, their owner has been ordered to cover up their modesty.

The gnomes, one male and two female, have taken pride of place in Sandra Smith’s brightly decorated front garden - which boasts more than 200 novelty statues and figures - for around 15 years.

One neighbour complained to Bromsgrove District Council, and last week Mrs Smith was told to clothe the three 2ft clay creations by an officer who telephoned her.

Mrs Smith said: They have been here for around 15 years and everyone who visits me finds them funny and a bit harmless fun. They’re proper cheeky chappies with their little smiley faces looking up at you. Whenever people come up to the door delivering parcels they ask if they can have a little look under their T-shirt.

The offended neighbour confirmed she had made the complaint. The woman, who did not wish to be named, said she thought the gnomes were pathetic. I don’t think they should be in a garden with my young kids running around nearby. They are childish and I think it pathetic that they are in a front garden in full view of everyone.


17th April   

Fret Saw...

Save me from torture porn: the theme-park rollercoaster
Link Here

The place my 17-year-old brother and his friends really wanted to go this Easter was Thorpe Park, for it was there, in the bucolic Surrey countryside, that they could be dropped from 100 feet into what the amusement park calls the head chopper . The head chopper is a series of rotating blades that you may well have seen on television, in adverts for Saw: The Ride, the world's first horror-movie-themed rollercoaster.

The term "horror" doesn't quite cover it though: really, it is torture porn, a phrase that first entered our vernacular a couple of years ago, only to become almost as successful a genre as the romantic comedy. In Hostel, a group of tourists are sold to wealthy businessmen who get off on tormenting them. In Captivity, a model is made to drink liquified body parts. Wolf Creek, Vacancy, Turistas, Wrong Turn, Saws I through V… all feature gratuitous, prolonged violence that invites the audience to glory in the demise of the victim, who is usually female and semi-naked. Thirty years ago they would have been banned along with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre; today they are freely available to watch at cinemas or to rent from your friendly DVD store. And now we have torture porn: the theme-park ride.

Comment: Total utter bollox!

From Dan

"Thirty years ago they would have been banned along with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre; today they are freely available to watch at cinemas or to rent from your friendly DVD store. And now we have torture porn: the theme-park ride."

Obviously the writer wants to go back to the days when such evil corrupting violent filth was banned and nobody was allowed to see it for "their own good".

"A few weeks ago, a Telegraph reader, Andrew Schofield, wrote in to criticise the British Board of Film Classification for allowing films such as Saw into the mainstream ( I do not comprehend the mentality of otherwise intelligent and responsible adults who cannot see the effect of screen sadism on young, developing minds, he said). A few days later, some young boys were found in Doncaster beaten to within an inch of their lives by their peers."

And what evidence do you have to show that such a violent attack was caused by violent torture porn movies?

None eh? Just your own personal opinions and prejudices based not on fact but hysterical scaremongering eh?

Thought so!

It just I think violent films turn youngsters into violent brutal monsters so I just know every incident where youngsters behave like violent brutal monsters is caused by violent films, total utter bollox!


15th April   

Open Secrets...

UK intelligence services fail to get book banned
Link Here

MI5 and MI6 have conceded they cannot stop the publication of a book on Britain's security and intelligence agencies even though it is said to contain the names of officers who have not previously been identified.

The courts would not grant an injunction, officials said, because the book, Secret Wars - One Hundred Years of British Intelligence Inside MI5 and MI6 , by Gordon Thomas, has already been published, and is widely available, in the US.

Journalists and editors were asked yesterday to consult Andrew Vallance, a retired air vice-marshal, secretary of the D notice advisory committee, before publishing the names of what he referred to as alleged MI5 or MI6 officers. The committee runs a system of voluntary self-censorship on defence, security and intelligence matters, in co-operation with the media.

Thomas's book was published in the US two months ago and is due to be published in the UK on 4 May.

Whitehall officials made clear yesterday that while they could do little about the book, its publication was unwelcome. They have little control now over what can be published about the activities of Britain's security and intelligence agencies and would like the public to rely on officially approved accounts of their work.


14th April   

Wishing for an 18 Certificate...

Supporting the hype for Wishbaby
Link Here

The BBFC initially gave a 15 rating to Wishbaby, which is billed as a savage fairytale.

But director Stephen Parsons demanded an increase in the rating to 18, insisting the film was meant for adults only.

In one sequence a teenager is shown having his eyeball gouged out with a hat pin while other teens record his misery on mobile phones. Another shows a mother being suffocated and beaten to death with a hammer. [Beware of Daily Mail exaggeration]

Parsons said he was concerned that children as young as 12 and 13 would be able to see the film if they looked old for their age or had slightly older friends. He said: I deliberately set out to make a horror film for an adult audience. If my daughter had been allowed to see a movie like this when she was 15 I would have been extremely concerned.

I assumed my film would have an automatic 18 rating. It includes scenes of kids doing horrific things to each other. When I was told it had been given a 15 certificate I was disturbed, not least because one of the scenes, which involved a character being filmed as he was tortured and the footage being sent around via mobile phones, could have incited copycats.

Parsons made a formal complaint to the BBFC, which reviewed the film and agreed it needed an 18 certificate. In a letter to Parsons the BBFC said: We ultimately agreed that the cumulative effect of the sex, violence and drug use just tips the film into the lower end of 18.

A spokesman for the classification body said: On some occasions, particularly in the horror genre, film companies and producers prefer a higher rating because it makes the film appear to be more graphic or frightening than it is. They feel that a 12A or 15 rating makes the film less appealing to those who enjoy horror films.

This was the case with the recent Nicholas Cage film The Wicker Man when we gave it a 12A rating, but producers wanted a 15 rating. We assessed the film under our guidelines and stuck with the original decision.

Parsons is now calling for the BBFC to review the standards it uses to classify films. He said: It is widely accepted in the film business that the standards used by the BBFC are all over the place. In fact there are no standards any more.


11th April

 Offsite: Standard Deviation...

Link Here
How the government uses dirty data to legislate morality

See article from


10th April   

I Am Not a Number...

BBFC bans BDSM video NF713
Link Here

NF713 is a BDSM video by China Hamilton (Mista Solutions)

Rejected in 2009 with the BBFC justification:

NF713 takes the form of an extended sequence in which a man tortures a woman psychologically, physically and sexually. The woman is bound and restrained throughout and the man in question is in a position of absolute power and control over her. The man tortures the woman in order to make her confess her crimes against an unnamed 'State' but his ultimate aim is to break her down and make her fully compliant, eradicating her individuality and making her a mere number, 'NF713'. The man employs a variety of techniques ranging from invasive questioning about her body and her sexual life to genital torture with forceps and electricity, makeshift waterboarding, beatings and forced urination. The torture is unremitting and takes up the majority of the work's 73 minute running time. Throughout large sections the woman is naked or semi-naked and her nudity is focussed upon, particularly in the later portions of the work. The work concludes with a series of black and white stills of the woman, bound and restrained.

In the BBFC's view, the primary purpose of NF713 is to sexually arouse the viewer at the sight of a woman being sexually humiliated, tortured and abused. As such it constitutes a 'sex work', which is defined by the BBFC's Guidelines as a work whose 'primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation'. The focus on the woman's naked, humiliated body together with the conventional BDSM aspects of the later part of the work lend credence to the view that sexual arousal is its primary intent, as do the closing series of black and white stills which strongly resemble conventional erotic fetish photography. The BBFC operates a strict policy on sex works and does not issue classification to such works if they depict non consensual sexual activity (whether real or simulated), the infliction of pain or physical harm (whether real or simulated) or sexual threats, humiliation or abuse that do not form part of a clearly consenting role-playing game. NF713focuses exclusively on these elements of non-consensual activity, pain, humiliation and abuse and takes the form of a dramatic scenario in which the viewer is invited to believe that what is being shown is 'real'. Unlike many BDSM works it is not apparent that what is occurring is part of a consensual role play where the roles are clearly set out and, in any case, the Guidelines preclude the kind of strong abuse on offer here, even if consent is established.

Even if one were to take the view that the primary purpose of NF713 is to explore the nature of torture in dramatic form, the work would still be in clear breach of the BBFC's Guidelines and policies on sexual violence. The unbroken sequence of sexual torture and humiliation means that the work runs the risk (whether intentionally or unintentionally) of eroticising sexual violence and thereby causing harm to viewers. The work invites the audience to relish sight of – and be sexually aroused by - a restrained and helpless woman being sexually molested, humiliated and tortured. Such a complete focus on sexual violence, together with the elements of eroticism provided by the nudity and semi-nudity of the female victim, runs a real risk of eroticising sexual violence in a potentially harmful and dangerous manner.

The BBFC considered the possibility of cuts. However, given the extent of unacceptable material and the pervasive theme of sexual violence and sexual threat, cuts were not considered a viable option on this occasion.

See article from : I am Not a Number

I’ve just spent the last few days being tortured and interrogated for Control & Reform Productions. The film is called Enemy of the State [Since renamed to NF713] and it’s the dark brainchild of China Hamilton and me.

It’s somewhere between Closet Land and 1984 - but with no faking of the torture scenes. It’s set in a non-specific police state and I’ve been arrested for distributing anti-State pamphlets. As such, I no longer warrant a name; I’m simply NF-713. My soft-spoken interrogator gradually convinces me to cooperate through various kind and caring methods, as he only wants to help me. Help comes in various forms, as does corrective treatment:

Bastinado, back whipping, breast whipping, electric shocks, hydrotherapy , medical torture, brainwashing, force-feeding… Except for the use of a small whip in one scene, my bottom was actually spared. (How’s that for a first?) I was wrecked by the end of the shoot, still crying after the cameras stopped rolling.

Niki Flynn also speaks at length about the BBFC rejection notice: R is for “rejected”

The British Board of Film Censors has just examined my naked, humiliated body in exhaustive detail and declared it potentially harmful and dangerous.

While I’m not too surprised the film didn’t get an 18 certificate, I’m actually fairly disturbed by some of the alarmist language in the rejection note.

The note describes the unremitting torture inflicted throughout the film, making it sound far worse and more graphic than it actually is. Frankly, in the cut submitted to the BBFC there is very little actual abuse shown and the focus is mostly on the psychological aspects of interrogation and the resulting Stockholm Syndrome. But they felt its primary intent was to sexually arouse the viewer and as such it’s a sex work and the non-consensuality makes it unsuitable for the British public, who are apparently likely to become rapists and torturers after viewing such a dangerous film.

...Read the full article

Update: Is Obscenity Law undermined by extreme porn?

10th April 2009. Thanks to Alan who commented:

Slight oddity - they don't seem to realise that it has always been legal (except kiddy porn and now "extreme" porn) to own films that aren't classified and thus can't be legally distributed.

See article from by John Ozimek

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) have issued a rare rejection notice for a disturbing and realistic DVD called NF713.

A spokeswoman for the BBFC denied that the decision was in any way influenced by the new extreme porn law, adding that they did not feel it breached that legislation in any way. Opponents of that law immediately questioned whether the government had not now created an impossible legal position, according to which certain material that was not illegal to possess was nonetheless illegal to publish.

...Read full article


7th April   

Updated: Pimp Centre Plus...

Scottish TUC whinge about job centre ads for the adult trade
Link Here

Scotland's Trade Union Congress has called for the abolition of outrageous advertisement of sex industry vacancies by Jobcentre Plus, amid fears that rising unemployment could see vulnerable women lured by the promise of lucrative earnings.

A co-ordinated campaign by the nutters of Object, the Feminist Coalition against Prostitution, and women's group Eaves, has branded UK job centres as Pimp Centre Plus in protest against the growing numbers of "exploitative" posts on offer.

Latest statistics show the service advertised 351 roles within the adult entertainment industry, ranging from party planners selling sex toys and sex shop workers to strippers, topless models and even a semi-nude butler.

The legitimate advertising of jobs in the adult entertainment industry has been a major issue for feminist and nutter groups since a legal ruling in 2003 ordered that the sex shop Ann Summers could advertise its vacancies in Jobcentre Plus. Under the ruling, centres must carry any job vacancy as long as it is complies with the law.

Mary Senior, the assistant secretary of the STUC said: "We're deeply concerned about attempts to normalise this because I think it's just perpetuating the objectification of women and certain attitudes - violent attitudes, abusive attitudes.

Many people who become involved in this sort of work are vulnerable, whether it's because of poverty, drug abuse or other sorts of substance abuse or other traumatic events which have happened in their lives. This so-called industry' preys on these types of women, and I think it's very disturbing.


6th April

 Offsite: Brand Premium...

Link Here
Call for Ross and Brand to top up expense account funds rather than TV license payers

See article from


5th April   

Updated: Shock Horror!...

Just what's so terrible about a man looking at pictures of naked women? We all do it
Link Here
Full story: UK Parliament Integrity...Claiming Television X on expenses

S hock, horror! Home Secretary's Husband Watches Porn Movies! Government On Brink.

I'm sorry, but I can't get too worked up about this story. So what if Richard Timney watched a couple of blue movies at his home in Redditch last year? Is it really the end of civilisation as we know it?

Yes, it was wrong of Jacqui Smith to claim these films on expenses, but that is not really the issue here. Would people be equally outraged if the films in question had been The Sound Of Music and Ring Of Bright Water ? I doubt it. It is the fact that these were adult films that has caused all the fuss.

But what is so terrible about looking at pictures of naked women? The truth is that most men will have taken a peek at pornography at some point in their lives and, contrary to popular opinion, it hasn't instantly transformed us into dirty raincoat wearing perverts.

For the vast majority of us, it is just a bit of fun, an escapist fantasy that is no more harmful than watching a James Bond movie.

Don't misunderstand me. Where women have been coerced into taking their clothes off or appearing in pornographic films, that is clearly wrong and we should do everything in our power to stop it.

But anyone who thinks that such practices are common in the adult entertainment industry simply doesn't know what they're talking about. Believe it or not, 99.9% of women who have sex in front of a camera do so of their own free will. They are not being rounded up by gangs of white slavers and forced to perform degrading acts. On the contrary, it is a choice on their part, not least because they can earn good money.

...Read full article

Offsite: Look away now Jacqui Smith!

Thanks to David who points out that the above pro-porn article does have a link to this more typical porn objectifies women and men who like it will be de-evolved into rapists rant in the same issue

5th April 2009. See article from by Olivia Lichtenstein

I decided to subscribe to a similar 3-in-1 package to the Home Secretary's husband: Playboy TV, the Adult Channel and Spice Extreme. (Playboy TV's website, quick to capitalise on the recent unexpected attention, has this to say yesterday: 'We'd like to offer all MPs and their husbands a special VIP subscription to Playboy.')

When I called to subscribe, an automated service asked me to hold, stating that all operators were busy. No shortage of new subscribers then.

The phone line operator, when she answered, sounded as bored and weary as a hooker on her final trick of the night. Since my husband's name is on our Sky package, I had to hand him the phone for him to authorise my usage. (I wonder whose name is on the Timney-Smith household's TV package?).
Playboy film

The cost is £15.99 a month, with an additional £15 joining fee and a guarantee that there will be no mention of what you have purchased on your bank or credit card statement - though that will come as cold comfort to Mr Timney after his viewing of two blue films was exposed.

After two hours of watching these channels, my conclusion was that these 'films' are degrading, exploitative, overlaid with terrible music and, once the shock has worn off, unutterably dull.

While you become an expert in female anatomy, you learn almost nothing about the male nude. The men, in any case make relatively rare appearances - 'girl-on-girl action' is the order of the day, however heterosexual the women may be. Clever camera angles stop short of actual penetration, but it's abundantly clear what is going on at all times.

In short, what I saw were unlovely people doing unlovely things.

...Read full article

Offsite: Porn isn't harmless fun - it ruins lives

6th April 2009. See article from by Bel Mooney, thanks to Dan

It was interesting to read the comments online after Olivia Lichtenstein's article in the Mail about the sleazy TV channels watched by Jacqui Smith's husband and Toby Young's riposte. They were surprisingly liberal: men (overwhelmingly men) attacked Olivia for being uptight and said that nobody forced anybody to watch porn.

No space here to go back over all the arguments civilised people make to show that pornography is demeaning and exploitative, but to say it's always been a part of life is no defence. Cockroaches are a part of life, too, and we generally regard them as ugly

...Read full article

Offsite: What porn is really for

5th April 2009. See article from by Clive James

After years of watching late-night porn in anonymous hotel rooms - for research purposes - its purpose is clear, says Clive James. To keep one's mind off sex while one's partner is absent.

Tough on pole dancing, tough on the causes of pole dancing - it's a New Labour policy in the grand modern tradition, which takes a moral view that includes the economics, or, if you like, an economic view that includes the morality.

Either way, when you hold the position of Home Secretary and have been so outspoken on the topic of adult entertainment on expenses, it isn't the best moment for headlines to be telling the world that your husband has not only been watching porno movies, he has been off-loading the cost of doing so on to the tax-paying public

...Read full article


5th April   

Marvellous Irony...

Jacqui gets a taste of her ugly snooper state
Link Here
Full story: UK Parliament Integrity...Claiming Television X on expenses

  The old one's are the best!
"You've got nothing to fear...
...if you've got nothing to hide"

There is a marvellous irony about the fact that, last week, MPs discovered just how embarrassing it can be when private information reaches the public domain. First up was the home secretary, pale-faced and tight-lipped after the revelation that her husband had been renting pornographic films at our expense. Overnight, Jacqui Smith had lost dignity and everyone felt free to comment and jeer about the couple’s attractiveness, sex lives and the state of their marriage. The rest of her expense claims provided more material for outrage or mockery; whether she was claiming for an extremely expensive sink (£550) or an extremely cheap bath plug (88p), it was hard to avoid the impression of a senior politician milking the taxpayer in an unseemly and avaricious fashion and looking considerably diminished as a result.

Some MPs privately found her discomfort funny, but the next day the rest of the Commons was faced with the possibility that embarrassing claims of their own were about to surface. It turned out that the details of every MP’s expenses had been copied and leaked and were on sale to the media for an asking price of £300,000. The claims had been due to be published officially in the summer, but only after every member had had the chance to delete any details they wished to keep private. The bad news was that both the original and edited versions were now on sale, potentially allowing the rest of us to discover just what nervous MPs didn’t want us to know.

Parliament’s indignation at this breach of security would have been funny if it weren’t for the fact that these are the very people who have voted for massive state intrusion on, and information gathering about, the rest of us.

All along we have been assured that we needn’t worry about leaks and that the security of our information won’t be compromised. Last week we saw that the state can’t even guarantee the privacy of a few hundred lawmakers, let alone their 60m constituents.

...Read full article


4th April   

Update: Ofcom Fucks Sachs' Auntie...

Ofcom fines BBC £150,000 over Russell Brand Show
Link Here

Ofcom have fined the BBC £150,000 over the Sachsgate row, describing the Radio 2 broadcast of messages left by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand on actor Andrew Sachs's voicemail as gratuitously offensive, humiliating and demeaning.

The TV censor said the scale of the fine reflected the extraordinary nature and seriousness of the BBC's failures and the resulting breaches of the broadcasting code.

Ofcom said the corporation had broadcast explicit, intimate and confidential information about Sachs's granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, without her consent in Brand's Radio 2 programmes that aired on 18 October and 25 October last year.

This not only unwarrantably and seriously infringed their privacy but was also gratuitously offensive, humiliating and demeaning, Ofcom said.

The media regulator said it had imposed a fine of £70,000 for breaches of the broadcasting code on standards and over the Radio 2 broadcast of offensive material, and a further £80,000 for the unwarranted infringement of Sachs's and Baillie's privacy.

Ofcom said that despite the BBC considering Brand's show to be high risk , it had ceded responsibility for some of management of the programme to people working for the comedian. The presenter's interests had been given greater priority than the BBC's responsibility to avoid unwarranted infringements of privacy and minimise the risk of harm and offence and to maintain generally accepted standards, the Ofcom report said.


3rd April   

Updated: Law for Bloggers...

Court reporting restrictions only apply to those that know about them
Link Here

Bloggers might be able to escape court reporting restrictions because they have not been informed of the restrictions. An ongoing case about a boy said to have fathered a child at 12 years of age has highlighted the issue.

Reporting on that case has been restricted but foreign news outlets have carried stories about it, with versions of those stories appearing on websites accessible from the UK.

Some bloggers have picked up the stories and may be within their rights to publish while national newspapers cannot. The court order imposing the reporting restrictions says that it only applies to people who know about the restriction.

There is no central database of reporting restrictions, so while newspapers are informed of restrictions, bloggers generally are not, opening a legal loophole for their possible publishing of restricted information.

The order does, in principle, apply to 'bloggers' because it applies to all persons who know that the order has been made, said James McBurney of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. Bloggers, along with any other person or corporation are therefore prohibited from publishing any of the restricted material, but only if they know that it is in place to start with, which is where the difficulty arises: how are they supposed to know about it?

McBurney said that publishers and bloggers should take down material from a case once they find out that it is the subject of a reporting restriction.


1st April   

Under Pain of Repression...

Dominant Kenny MacAskill inflicts pain on submissive Scots
Link Here

MSPs have heard an appeal that adults who indulge in consensual bondage, sado-masochism and similar practices should be exonerated from the threat of prosecution.

Patrick Harvie, the Green MSP, told a Holyrood committee the present law was an anomaly.

But he dropped a bid to change the law after Kenny MacAskill, the justice minister, and other MSPs said lifting the threat of prosecution could provide a 'loophole' for those charged with domestic abuse and sex crimes.

Harvie made his plea when the justice committee scrutinised the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill. If passed, the bill will radically overhaul existing law on rape and other sex crimes, and will redefine consent as free agreement.

Under Harvie's amendment, consensual BDSM acts between those over 16 carried out for sexual gratification would not be considered as assault if both participants agreed.

Harvies tabled the amendment to trigger debate and enable MacAskill to explain why a change recommended by the Scottish Law Commission was not included.

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