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Religious Watch

29th November

 Updated: Much Loved...by some...

Banned Moroccan film shown at Tunis film festival with tight security over fears of violence
Link Here  full story: Much Love...Movie about sex workers banned in Morocco
much loved Much Loved is a 2015 Morocco drama by Nabil Ayouch.
Starring Loubna Abidar, Danny Boushebel and Abdellah Didane. IMDb

A group of women in Morocco make a living as prostitutes in a culture that is very unforgiving toward women in that profession.

The star of a banned film on sex work in Morocco was savagely beaten in Casablanca last week, sparking an outcry on social media over social taboos that activists say can be enforced by violence.

Loubna Abidar, who portrays a Marrakech sex worker in Much Loved , a film by renowned French-Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch that caused a stir in Morocco when a series of previews were released on YouTube, said police and hospital workers refused to help her. Instead they humiliated her, she said:

No [police officer] and no doctor would take care of me. Everyone mocked me and said, 'Finally, Abidar! You got beaten.

In a self-recorded video shared widely on social media this week, a bruised and bloodied Ms Abidar describes the ordeal, without offering much detail on the assailants.

Update: Banned film screened at Tunis film festival

29th November 2015. See  article from theguardian.com

carthage film festival 2015 logo A controversial film portraying prostitution in Morocco that was shunned in the Arab world has finally been shown, amid tight security, at the Carthage Film Festival in Tunisia. Fears of an attack by militants saw armed police and steel barriers around the cinema and each cinemagoer searched for weapons. 

Director Nabil Ayouch's Much Loved portrays the lives of four upmarket prostitutes working for tourists and wealthy clients in Marrakech was made on a shoestring, using unknown actors and a mostly female crew.

The film,  has provoked a storm of 'outrage' and violence. Ayouch and the cast had death threats, and the Moroccan government formally banned the film, accusing the direc- tor of staining the country's reputation. In June, the film was praised at the Toronto film festival for its unflinching appraisal of the lives of women on the margins of society, but at home a pressure group filed a lawsuit against the director. Actor Yousseff El-Idrissi, who plays a rich client in the film, told of being attacked by knife-wielding thugs.


29th November

 Updated: Thy will won't be done...

Church of England a bit miffed to find that cinemas have banned religious advertising
Link Here
tube just pray The Church of England has said it is disappointed and bewildered by the refusal of leading UK cinemas to show an advert featuring the Lord's Prayer. The Church called the decision plain silly and warned it could have a chilling effect on free speech.

The advert features the Christian prayer being recited or sung by a variety of people. It had hoped the 60-second film would be screened UK-wide before Christmas ahead of the new Star Wars film.

The agency that handles adverts for the cinemas said it could offend those of differing faiths and no faith , presumably a politically correct euphemism for muslims.

The advert was passed uncut by the British Board of Film Classification and given a U certificate, as well as receiving clearance from the Cinema Advertising Authority. The Church of England says it is disappointed and bewildered by the refusal of leading UK cinemas to show an advert featuring the Lord's Prayer.

However, the Digital Cinema Media (DCM) agency, which handles British film advertising for the major cinema chains, Odeon, Cineworld and Vue, refused to show the advert because it believed it would risk upsetting or offending audiences. Presumably the group is understandably fearful of the trouble that religion causes. In a statement, DCM said it had a policy of not accepting political or religious advertising content in its cinemas. It said that:

Some advertisements - unintentionally or otherwise - could cause offence to those of differing political persuasions, as well as to those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith, and that in this regard, DCM treats all political or religious beliefs equally.

The Reverend Arun Arora, director of communications for the Church of England, said: We find that really astonishing, disappointing and rather bewildering.

Update: God moves in mysterious ways

24th November 2015. See  article from telegraph.co.uk

Pressure is mounting on a cinema advertising group to reverse a ban on an advert featuring the Lord's Prayer. Politicians and dignitaries have rallied to the War Cry.

David Cameron described the ban as ridiculous . Stephen Fry, a vocal critic of religion, said it was bizarre, unfair and misguided while Boris Johnson condemned it as outrageous and advised people to expect a u-turn :

 The Equality and Human Rights Commission also signalled its opposition to the ban claiming it undermined essential British values . The commission said in a statement:

ehrc logo Freedom to hold a religion and freedom to express ideas are essential British values. We are concerned by any blanket ban on adverts by all religious groups.

Digital Cinema Media have said an advert could cause offence to those of differing faiths. There is no right not to be offended in the UK; what is offensive is very subjective and lies in the eye of the beholder.

There is nothing in law that prevents Christian organisations promoting their faith through adverts.

Of course nobody has asked the cinema goers whether they would like to be bombarded by religious nonsense. Phantom notes on the melon farmer's forum:

Of course they were absolutely right to turn down this ad. But not because they allegedly bowed to a militant Muslim lobby, fearing the ad would cause offence. They simply knew that accepting this ad would unleash an avalanche of Ian Paisley style religious rants and images of aborted foetuses on an audience which simply just wanted to watch the latest Bond movie.

Update: Religion equals trouble

29th November 2015. See  article from dailymail.co.uk

C of E logo The Church of England has now complained to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), warning that the decision by Odeon, Cineworld and Vue to refuse to show the one-minute film in the run-up to Christmas was discriminatory and an assault on religious freedom.

In a further escalation of the row, the Church also said it would use its shareholding in Cineworld to ratchet up pressure on the chain. The Church said that its financial arm would be writing to Cineworld.

A Church statement said it was taking its case to the EHRC because it had a duty to protect the free practise of all faiths in this country . It added:

We believe DCM's decision raises issues of freedom of religion that extend far beyond the circumstances of this proposed advertisement. We resist the idea that the refusal of services on the basis of religious belief is in any way acceptable.


27th November

  Tit for Tat...

After British press mockery of Indian film censors cutting Spectre, a local newspaper points out a film that was cut by the BBFC but was uncut in India
Link Here
thoongavanam Thoongaavanam is a 2015 India thriller by Rajesh M Selva.
Starring Kamal Haasan, Prakash Raj and Trisha Krishnan. Youtube link BBFC link IMDb

The British press have been mocking India over the last week with the news that the Indian film censor cut James Bond's kissing scenes in Spectre.

So perhaps as a little bit of a riposte, an Indian newspaper has pointed out an example where BBFC cuts were made for cinema release for a film that the Indian censors passed uncut.

Actually the claims in the Indian newspaper are slightly inaccurate, as the newspaper reports:

The Indian Censor Board has competition from unexpected quarters: their conservative British counterparts.

In the line of fire is Kamal Haasan's new thriller Thoongavanam that has been granted a 15+ certification by the British Censor Board. And that, too, only after the huge action sequence between Kamal Haasan and his leading lady Trisha was toned down. Kamal Haasan said:

It was very surprising. The Indian Censor Board had no objection to my taking on Trisha man-to-man...or man-to-woman in a one-to-one combat.

In fact the UK BBFC category cuts were required for a 12A rated 2015 cinema release. The BBFC would have passed the film 15 uncut but the distributors wanted a 12A, so accepted the cuts. The BBFC commented:

The distributor chose to remove shots of strong violence and bloodshed (in this instance, a scene of suffocation, shootings, sight of blood spurts and sight of bloody injury detail) in order to achieve a 12A rating. A 15 without cuts was available.


27th November

 Update: Dangerous tweets...

1209 people were convicted last year for internet insults
Link Here  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
Ministry of Justice logo Last year, 1,209 people were found guilty of offences of internet insult under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.

It is a crime under the Communications Act to send by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other material that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character .

Statistics released by the Ministry of 'Justice' (MoJ) show that 1,501 defendants were prosecuted under the law last year - including 70 juveniles - while another 685 were cautioned. Of those convicted, 155 were jailed - compared to just seven a decade before. The average custodial sentence was 2.2 months.

The MoJ figures also revealed a rise in the number of convictions under the Malicious Communications Act, which states that it is an offence to send a threatening, offensive or indecent letter, electronic communication or article with the intent to cause distress or anxiety.


27th November

 Update: 267 years on...

Singapore unbans Fanny Hill
Link Here  full story: Book Censorship in Singapore...Singapore takes offence and puts author on trial
Fanny Hill Pleasure Unexpurgated Classics ebook Singapore residents can now read 240 books and publications which were formerly blacklisted by the country's censor for content ranging from adult to communism -- but adult magazines such as Hustler , Penthouse and Playboy are still banned.

The ban was lifted after a routine review by book censors at the country's Media Development Authority (MDA) which told The Straits Times that it routinely reviewed prior classification decisions to ensure they kept pace with societal norms. The ban was lifted because the books were already out of print and were within the MDA's latest censorship rules.

Among the 240 blacklisted titles, one famous book was Fanny Hill, an erotic novel based on the life of a girl who moves to London and falls into prostitution. The novel was written by John Cleland and published in 1748.

The 17 titles still banned include publications of the Jehovah's Witness church, banned in 1972 as its members had declined to undergo military service which was deemed compulsory for men above the age of 18 in Singapore. The rest of the banned titles carry adult content, such as the magazines Penthouse, Playboy, Playgirl, Hustler, Mayfair, Men Only, Knave and Swank .


26th November

  Mature Thinking...

Australia set to change TV watershed rules to allow M rated ('PG-15') material from 7:30pm
Link Here
ACMA logo Australia is updating its rules for its TV watershed.

Australia's TV censors of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) are revising TV watershed rules from 1st December 2015.

A revised Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice will bring forward the watershed for M-Rated programs on free-to-air networks by an hour to 7:30pm. The shift is expected to have a significant knock on effect for the networks enabling them to bring more edgy programming on earlier in the evening.

The Australian M rating is an advisory rating recommending that content is suitable for those 15 years an old.

The code, drafted by Free TV and approved by ACMA, aims to account for the much freer access consumers have to TV content through both platforms and delivery methods that has rendered time restrictions for programming less relevant.

ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said the code had been designed to give consumers a greater role in choosing what they wanted to watch and when. he said:

The digital era has also brought challenges for viewers, and the new code is designed to assist them to better manage their own viewing in an environment in which responsibility will be increasingly shared between government, industry and, importantly, viewers.


26th November

 Update: The limits of free speech...

Comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala jailed in Belgium over racist comments in his show
Link Here  full story: Dieudonne Mbala Mbala...Comedian winds up with near anti-semitic humour

Belgium flag The controversial French comedian, Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, has been sentenced to two months in jail by a Belgian court for incitement to hatred over racist and antisemitic comments he made during a show. Dieudonné, who has faced similar cases in France, was also fined ?9,000 (£6,300) by the court in Liège.  The charges related to a show in Liège in 2012.

Earlier this month, the European court of human rights in Strasbourg ruled against Dieudonné in a separate case, deciding that freedom of speech did not protect racist and antisemitic performances.

In March, a French court handed Dieudonné a two-month suspended prison sentence and fined him heavily after he caused uproar by suggesting he sympathised with the attacks against the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and a Jewish supermarket in Paris. I feel like Charlie Coulibaly , he wrote on Facebook, a reference to Amédy Coulibaly, one of the attackers.


26th November

 Offsite Article: The Streisand Effect finds a home in student unions...

Link Here  full story: Student Union Censorship...Students Vs Free Speech
Female Eunuch Harper Perennial Classics Safe spaces don't limit free speech... they give it to the marginalised. By Abi Wilkinson

See article from politics.co.uk


26th November

 Offsite Article: Microsoft is watching...a little too closely...

Link Here  full story: Microsoft Snooping...Microsoft’s Windows 10 is a privacy nightmare
windows 10 logo Sneaky Microsoft renamed its data slurper before sticking it back in Windows 10

See article from theregister.co.uk


25th November

  Not Clowning Around...

Advert censor bans outdoor poster for Halloween event
Link Here

primevil clown poster advert A poster promoting a Halloween event, seen in various locations around Norfolk in September and October 2015, stated, PRIMEVIL. SCREAMING WON'T HELP! ... 5 FRIGHTENING ATTRACTIONS! ... 13 NIGHTS OF TERROR! , and included an image of a clown with a painted white face. The clown's eyes were bright red with dark circles around which contained stitches. Its forehead also contained a number of stitches, and blood dripped from various parts of its face, including its mouth, which was black and appeared to have been cut open. It also wore a blood-stained ruff.

Twenty-three complainants, many of whom considered the image too distressing for children, challenged whether the ad was likely to cause fear or distress, and was therefore inappropriate for outdoor display in an untargeted medium.

ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld

The ASA noted that the ad had appeared on untargeted outdoor poster sites, and that a number of the complainants had reported their children becoming very distressed on seeing the image. We acknowledged that Norfolk Dinosaur Park Ltd had removed a number of the posters following complaints having been received directly by them.

We noted that the clown was leaning towards the camera and grinning with a menacing expression, that its eyes glowed red and blood dripped down its face, and that its eyes and forehead were stitched. We considered that the overall presentation of the image was likely to distress young children, particularly but not only in combination with the text PRIMEVIL. SCREAMING WON'T HELP! -- which was presented as though it was written in blood -- and that it was unsuitable for display in an untargeted medium where it was likely to be seen by them.

We considered the ad was likely to cause fear or distress without justifiable reason when displayed in an untargeted medium, and concluded that it had been irresponsibly targeted.

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Norfolk Dinosaur Park Ltd to ensure that their marketing was responsibly targeted and did not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason.


25th November

  Xtreme Political Correctness...

Console game Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 won't be distributed in Europe and the US
Link Here
dead or alive xtreme 3 Game developer Team Ninja Has announced that the console game Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 won't be released in North America or in Europe. And there are no plans to change that decision.

The developer explains that political correctness does allow for a game with so many sexy bikini scenes: Team Ninja write:

Do you know many issues happening in video game industry with regard to how to treat female in video game industry? We do not want to talk those things here. But certainly we have gone through in last year or two to come to our decision. Thank you.


25th November

 Update: Holding the coats of loudmouths and bullies...

ICO demands that Google censors information from google.com when accessed from the UK
Link Here  full story: The Right to be Forgotten...Bureaucratic censorship in the EU
information commissioners office logo The "right to be forgotten" applies to any search engine accessible in the UK, the Information Commissioner's Office has claimed. In a blog post earlier this month, ICO demanded:

In August we issued our first enforcement notice in this area , ordering Google to remove nine search results brought up by entering an individual's name. Google has so far responded constructively, and the links are no longer visible on the European versions of their search engine. However we consider that they should go a step further, and make the links no longer visible to anyone directly accessing any Google search services from within the UK (this would include someone sat a desk in Newcastle, but using google.com). This is a proper and proportionate reflection of what the EU Court of Justice ruling means in practice, and so we've clarified the original enforcement notice , with the original text remaining the same but with a new section added spelling out exactly what we expect of Google.


25th November

 Update: Uncrackable messaging cracked...

Use of WhatsApp in Xinjiang leads to mobile phones getting shut down by the authorities
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship
China flag The Chinese government is trying a new technique to censor and ban mobile users that evade internet censorship in China, specifically the far west territory of Xinjiang.

Foreign messaging apps' users in China's Xinjiang territory such as WhatsApp have had their phone service shut down entirely, according to the New York Times. A text message was sent preceding the shutdown. It said that the user's cellphone number will be shut down within the next two hours in accordance with the law.

Not only users of the downloaded foreign messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Telegram but also people employing virtual private networks (VPNs) to cloak their locations to get access to banned websites and those who failed to register their account with the proper identification were reported in the police station.

Xinjiang is the region experiencing terrorism related to separatists from the Muslim Uyghur ethnic groups in the region. The region has been subject to extreme censorship before, with the internet totally shut down for 6 months in 2009.


25th November

 Offsite Article: BBFC Podcast Episode 37...

Link Here
Sin City Dame Kill DVD Borderline decisions including A Little Chaos and Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For

See article from bbfc.co.uk


24th November

  Contributing to the end of censorship conflicts...

David Austin announced as the new director of the BBFC from March 2016
Link Here

david austin The BBFC has announced the appointment of David Austin OBE, as the new Director of the BBFC.

Mr Austin is currently Assistant Director at the BBFC, coordinating the BBFC's policy work and leading on its public affairs outreach. He is also responsible for managing the BBFC's research, communications and education programmes.

He will be taking up the post on 12 March 2016, when the current Director, David Cooke, retires.

David Austin said:

I am delighted to bring my expertise as both a Film Examiner and Assistant Director to the role of BBFC Director. It is vital for the BBFC to continue to consult the public regularly and to meet their expectations of both classification and the ease with which they expect to be able to access to classification information, enabling them to make informed decisions about what they and their family watch at the cinema, on DVD or Blu-ray and online.

Under David Cooke and in partnership with the home entertainment industry in particular, the BBFC has transformed its remit to reflect the needs of a digital society, bringing its expertise in child protection and information provision online. I am greatly looking forward to continuing to work with my colleagues at the BBFC, the Presidential Team, the Council of Management and the Board's advisory bodies and stakeholders to ensure the BBFC continues to act as an expert and trusted guide to film, DVD/Blu-ray and digital platforms.

David Cooke said:

I am delighted that the Appointments Panel, consisting of Graham Lee and Maggie Carver from the Council of Management and Patrick Swaffer and Alison Hastings from the Presidential Team, have appointed David. David has been a close colleague for over eleven years, and has pioneered many key initiatives such as our contract with the Mobile Network Operators, our partnership with international colleagues for classifying User Generated Content, and our partnership with the music industry and platforms for classifying physical and online music videos. I am sure that David will take the BBFC from strength to strength in serving the public, and the cause of child protection, in the internet age.

David Austin received an OBE in 1999 for his contribution to helping end conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. David joined the BBFC in 2003 as an Examiner following a career in the Diplomatic Service, serving in South Asia, Central Africa and the former Yugoslavia. He moved to the role of Assistant Director, Policy & Public Affairs in 2011, overseeing the most recent public consultation of the BBFC Classification Guidelines in 2013; the introduction of the BBFC Mobile Classification Framework used by UK Mobile Network Operators in 2013; and the BBFC's partnership with the UK music industry and Vevo and YouTube to bring age ratings to online music videos in 2015.

Graham Lee, Chair of the appointments panel and Chairman of the BBFC Council of Management said:

We are very pleased, that after a rigorous, open and transparent selection process, we have been able to appoint a candidate who has done so much in recent years to build and develop the important services carried out by the BBFC.

The post of Director was filled through open competition.


24th November

  Small minded whingers...

The Daily Mail bigs up a few whinges about a Jimmy Carr gag on the One Show
Link Here
the one show logo The BBC1 programme, The One Show , is being investigated by TV censor Ofcom over an politically incorrect gag about dwarves.

Jimmy Carr, who was on the show to promote his Greatest Hits tour, told viewers that he had once come up with a two-word gag. He said:

I tried to write the shortest joke possible. So, I wrote a two-word joke which was: 'Dwarf shortage. It's just so I could pack more jokes into the show.

He then looked directly at the camera and added:

If you're a dwarf and you're offended by that, grow up.

Two viewers complained to Ofcom, who uncharacteristically have decided to investigate the complaints. A spokescensor said:

We're investigating whether potentially discriminatory comments in this programme met generally accepted standards


24th November

 Updated: Too Much Bonding...

India's film censor makes several cuts to Spectre
Link Here  full story: Indian Film Censor Pahlaj Nihalani...Loony film censor wants to ban everything
Spectre DVD Daniel Craig Its not only British audiences that are viewing a censored version of the new James Bond film Spectre, but Indian audiences will also suffer an incomplete version.

Censors at the Central Board of Film Classification have given the film a UA (children allowed if accompanied by adults) rating after 4 cuts for language and kissing:

  • Two cuts were made to shorten James Bond's kissing
  • Two cuts were made to remove the words 'fuck' and 'arsehole'. (This seems to be a false accusation as the word 'fuck' doesn't actually get used in the film).

A source said:

Both of Daniel Craig's kisses with his co-stars have been reduced by 50 per cent. The censor board had nothing against James Bond kissing ...BUT... the length of the kisses were found to be unnecessarily excessive. We heard that Ranbir Kapoor's kissing scenes in Tamasha has also been reduced by half. We wonder how the Censor Board decides how much kissing is enough.

Update: Chief censor seems to act like a megalomaniac Bond villain

20th November 2015. See  article from timesofindia.indiatimes.com

pahlaj nihalani bond villain Dissent against Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani appears to be gathering strength with some members planning to make a formal representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and I&B minister Arun Jaitley. Members of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) have expressed concern at Nihalani's unilateral decision making style and cavalier attitude.

Board members said that cuss words were still being arbitrarily snipped from films (despite the Board's opposition) and decisions being made on films without taking the Board in to confidence. One member explained:

There are a few of us who feel that the chairperson has been working on his own accord without listening to anyone on the Board. This is unfair. We are planning to approach the PM and the I&B minister on the issue.

Nihalani has faced social media derision after the Board ruled kissing scenes of Daniel Craig with Monica Bellucci and Lea Seydoux in the new James Bond release Spectre as too extensive and had them trimmed by half.

Former I&B secretary and Board member Raghu Menon in a recent letter to fellow members said that he was disturbed at being treated in a cavalier and offhand fashion by Nihalani  and the utter insensitivity and disregard of the I&B ministry. He said:

I have closely observed and have been involved in the working of the CBFC for the last 20 years in various capacities when it was headed by luminaries like Shakti Samanta, Vijay Anand, Asha Parekh, Sharmila Tagore, Leela Samson etc, but never have I seen it sink to such levels of total disregard for the Board Members. It would be better to disband the Board if it is found to be so irrelevant.

Update: Skyfall too

22nd November 2015. See article from dnaindia.com

Skyfall DVD Daniel Craig Chief Pahlaj Nihalani has been justifying his disgraceful Spectre cuts to Indian tabloids. He said that steamy scenes were also cut from the previous Bond movie Skyfall , but people made no fuss about it. So why is it an issue if the Board cut down the duration of kissing scenes in Spectre by 20 seconds, he asks.

Update: A better informed source

24th November 2015. See  article from movie-censorship.com

A better informed source reveals that the Indian film censor's dialogue cuts to Spectre were:

  • 'idiot' instead of 'asshole'
  • 'bighead and cats' instead of 'bastard and balls'.


24th November

 Updated: Firing off angry tweets at Doctor Who...

Ludicrous 'outrage' over a fictional plane crash
Link Here
who bazooka plane A few viewers have vented their 'fury' at the BBC after this week's episode of Doctor Who showed a plane being shot out of the sky by a missile.

The super sensitive tweeters claimed the timing of the episode was insensitive given the terror attack on the Russian plane flying out of Egypt.

In the episode a shapeshifting alien takes the form of Clara Oswald and shoots at the plane with the with the intention of killing the doctor and all of the others on board The missile is seen hitting the plane before it explodes and is brought to the ground where viewers were shown the burning wreckage.

The Daily Mail dredged up a few trivial tweets:

  • Surprised the BBC would show a plane being shot down given recent events #doctorwho
  • Given the situation in Egypt, perhaps blowing up a plane on this week's episode of Doctor Who was not wise.
  • Can't believe #doctorwho showed a plane being shot out of the sky given the current news #insensitive.

A BBC spokesman responded:

The episode was clearly signposted as science fiction set in a fantasy world and no one died in the scene.

Update: Official BBC response: Gotcha, it was a military aircraft, not a commercial airliner

10th November 2015. See  article from bbc.co.uk

BBC logo Doctor Who
BBC One, 7 November 2015


We received complaints from viewers who felt that scenes showing the destruction of an aeroplane were inappropriate in light of recent events.


We're aware that elements of drama programmes can sometimes bring to mind real events, and we always think very carefully about this.

In this case, though, the story was presented as a science fiction fantasy, far removed from the real world. The episode didn't depict a passenger-carrying commercial airliner - it was a military aircraft on official business - and both the Doctor and his companion survived.

With this in mind we didn't feel the scenes would be outside of most viewers' expectations for the programme, but we appreciate the differing feedback we've received.

Update: Complaints to Ofcom will surely be made into paper planes for crashing into the waste bin

13th November 2015. See  article from independent.co.uk

TV censor Ofcom said it has received 30 complaints about the Doctor Who plane crash. No doubt these will soon be consigned to the waste paper bin.

Update: Ofcom reject complaints without investigation

24th November 2015. See  article from theguardian.com

Ofcom logo Ofcom has decided against launching an investigation into the plane crash episode of Doctor Who. A spokesman said:

We received a number of complaints that it was insensitive to broadcast this episode, which featured a plane being shot down, so close to events in the Sinai peninsula. In our view, the science fiction nature of Doctor Who and the storyline created a sufficient distinction from recent events. We therefore will not be taking the matter forward for investigation.


24th November

  Well worth reading...

US businesses can actually sue you for posting negative reviews, and now Congress is fighting back
Link Here

the conversation logo In late September, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint against two marketers of weight-loss supplements -- Roca Labs, Inc and Roca Labs Nutraceutical USA, Inc.

According to the FTC , Roca Labs, Inc "allegedly made baseless claims for their products, and then threatened to enforce 'gag clause' provisions against consumers to stop them from posting negative reviews and testimonials online."

The gag clause that the FTC refers to -- in which customers unwittingly sign away their rights to post online reviews after making a purchase -- is becoming increasingly common. And it's only one of several strategies that companies have used to suppress negative reviews of their products.

A bill that's picking up steam in the US Senate -- the Consumer Review Freedom Act -- directly addresses these gag clauses. But while it represents a step in the right direction, the bill fails to address other shady practices of the online review industry.

The messy world of online reviews

Who knows what to believe these days about the authenticity and veracity of online -- typically anonymous -- reviews, which assess everything from restaurants to physicians .

Some reviews are fake (known as " astroturfed " reviews) and some are real. Some might contain truthful and honest views, while some might be bought and paid for , which includes fake positive reviews posted by the companies themselves.

But either way, let's face it: most businesses, large and small, don't want you to post negative comments about their products or services on internet sites such as Yelp , TripAdvisor , Angie's List and the aptly named PissedConsumer.com . Even a short and damning tweet on your own Twitter account might tick off a business.

There's a reason businesses care. One study in 2014 found that 39% of consumers read online reviews on a regular basis, up from 32% in 2013. Another survey found that 61% of shoppers will read product reviews before making a purchase.

So, what's a company to do when faced with negative reviews, real or otherwise?

A typical strategy is to try to silence online critics by suing them for defamation and claiming the reviews contain false allegations .

In fact, some businesses may go even further and file meritless defamation cases against reviewers, hoping the high costs of litigation will squelch the critics and cause them to retract their comments. These baseless libel suits are known as SLAPPs -- strategic lawsuits against public participation.

A 2010 New York Times article first called public attention to the issue. It told the story of a young man who posted a negative review about a towing company and soon found himself facing a defamation suit, with the company seeking US$750,000 in damages.

Today, many states now have anti-SLAPP statutes that allow victims to quickly dismiss these frivolous cases, thus taking some sting out of defamation as a remedy for negative reviews.

Read the fine print

Now, there's a new technique that some thin-skinned businesses are adopting to prevent peeved customers for speaking out: the use of gag clauses , in which customers sign away their rights to criticize a company when they enter into a contract with it.

These gag clauses are usually buried in the fine print and often go unread. According to Chris Morran of The Consumerist , they're appearing in contracts for "everything from cheapo cellphone accessories, to wedding contractors, to hotels, to dentists, to weight-loss products, to apartment complexes."

A major problem, attorney Jonathan Tung observes, is that "there is no national consensus on whether such gags are legal or not," as "some courts have deemed such clauses unconscionable while other courts have been very reluctant to interfere, citing freedom to contract."

In other words, some courts consider gag clauses invalid and unenforceable, while others uphold them. A customer who violates a gag clause by posting a negative review of a company thus risks paying the company whatever amount was specified in the contract for breaking the gag clause.

Congress steps in

The US Congress has entered the fray with the Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2015 . Sponsored by Senator John Thune (R -- South Dakota), the bill renders contractual gag clauses void if they prohibit consumers from reviewing products or assessing performance, and if the clauses constitute "form contracts." (Many lawyers would term these adhesion contracts because the consumer has almost no power or leverage to negotiate a better deal.) The Consumer Review Freedom Act also gives the Federal Trade Commission the power to enforce the law on behalf of gagged consumers.

Here, Congress is following the lead of California, which in 2014 became the first state to adopt a statute forbidding businesses from gagging their customers. The measure is also supported by Yelp , where more than 90 million reviews have been posted.

A matter of contract, not the First Amendment

Surprisingly, perhaps, this is not a First Amendment free speech issue. The First Amendment certainly protects our ability to express our opinions, and opinions -- as opposed to false allegations -- are also typically shielded from defamation liability.

For example, posting online that a restaurant has "horrible service" or that it is "too loud" are matters of protected opinion. Conversely, claiming that the restaurant has "rats in the kitchen" or that it uses "stale products" in its recipes are factual allegations that, if false, are not protected.

But the First Amendment only protects speech from government censorship. The companies including gag provisions in their contracts are not government entities. Gag clauses thus are a matter of contract -- not constitutional -- law.

Although it has some quibbles with the language used in the Consumer Review Freedom Act, the Electronic Frontier Foundation says "it's great to see lawmakers addressing some of the most overtly unfair contract clauses."

There are, of course, many more problems with online reviews not addressed by the new bill, such as how to deal with completely fake and paid-for reviews. But some companies are taking action on their own.

In April, the Seattle Times reported that Amazon "sued three websites it accuses of purveying fake reviews, demanding that they stop the practice." It was only the first legal punch thrown by the giant Internet-based retailer. Last month, Amazon sued "more than 1,000 unidentified people selling fake reviews on its Web store."

Make no mistake: the Consumer Review Freedom Act is a great step forward for consumers who want to speak out, and it is wonderful to see Yelp supporting it . But by failing to address fake posts and preventing companies from filing SLAPPs, it only nibbles at the edges of the larger problems in the Wild West of online reviews.


24th November

 Offsite Article: Asking 'Where are you from?' is now deemed to be 'microaggression'...

Link Here
Spiked logo Aggressive PC extremists launch an assault on everyday life. By Frank Furedi

See article from spiked-online.com


23rd November

  Someone sticks their thumb up Ofcom's dirt box...

Ofcom squeals about a trailer for Inside Amy Schumer
Link Here

Inside Amy Schumer Seasons Region Inside Amy Schumer (trailer)
Comedy Central, 5 September 2015, 22:00

A complainant alerted Ofcom to a trailer broadcast at 22:00 on Comedy Central for the new season of Inside Amy Schumer, which they considered to be too graphic in its language and description of sexual acts.

The trailer featured a group of men sitting around a table playing poker. A female character played by the comedian Amy Schumer entered the room with a plate of chicken wings, which she placed in the middle of the poker table. Before leaving the room she turned to one of the players, her husband, played by the actor Zach Braff, and put her arms around his neck before saying:

If nobody needs anything else, honey, I'm going to head upstairs, start lubing up, so you can blast my dirt-box with your thumb while you lobster hand me in the twat, okay? Seriously, I want you to thumb-dash that mudpit 'til I make a pig noise. Then you can shit on my tits while I call my mom.

Amy Schumer then addressed the other poker players ( You guys are always welcome here! ) before leaving the room. Zach Braff then paused for a moment, while all the other poker players looked down in an uncomfortable silence, and then reached for a chicken wing and said: Guess I should eat up... I gotta shit on those tits!

Ofcom considered Rule 2.3:

In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context...Such material may include, but is not limited to, offensive language,...sex,...discriminatory treatment or language (for example on the grounds of...gender.... Appropriate information should also be broadcast where it would assist in avoiding or minimising offence.

Ofcom Decision: Breach of rule 2.2

Although the Code requires that potentially offensive material is justified by its context, there is significant room for innovation, creativity and challenging material within comedy programming. However, broadcasters do not have unlimited licence in terms of offensive material. There may be circumstances in which relevant contextual factors (such as whether the editorial content is programming or a trailer, audience expectations, or warnings given to the audience) are not sufficient to justify the broadcast of offensive material.

Ofcom first considered whether the material in this programme had the potential to cause offence. We noted that in this trailer Amy Schumer used a number of highly graphic terms to describe various sexual acts such as: lubing up ; blast my dirt-box with your thumb ; lobster hand me in the twat ; thumb-dash that mudpit ; and shit on my tits . We considered that these various graphic, sexual references were clearly capable of causing offence.

We went on to consider whether the broadcast of these potentially offensive statements were justified by the context.

We assessed first the editorial context in which the trailer was broadcast. We noted this trailer was broadcast at 22:002, one hour after the watershed. We recognised that viewers of specialist comedy channels, such as Comedy Central, would have been likely to expect stronger and more challenging material to be broadcast at this time well after the watershed.

However, the content in this case was included within a trailer. Ofcom's research on offensive language notes that audiences consider offensive language less acceptable if it is included in trailers. This is because audiences do not choose to watch promotions for programmes. They come across them unawares. Viewers cannot therefore make informed choices to avoid offensive material in trailers compared to pre-scheduled programmes, and consequently audiences consider that the offensive language is imposed upon them.

Ofcom noted that this material was highly graphic in its use of sexual language, and that in our opinion the latitude given to licensees to broadcast highly offensive language in trailers (which are promotional and which viewers come across unawares) should be less than in programmes. We concluded that the content was so offensive that in our view it would have exceeded viewers' expectations even when broadcast at 22:00 (and afterwards) on a specialist comedy channel.

Breach of Rule 2.3

Update: South Park Trailer Too

27th November 2015. See  complaints bulletin [pdf] from stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk

Ofcom similarly whinged about the same channel's trailer for South Park shown at 10pm.

The trailer had a total duration of about 30 seconds. It featured a song celebrating South Park's new season, citing various situations that the characters had found themselves in previous episodes. The lyrics were as follows:

Do you recall when Cartman found out his mom was his Dad?
Or Kyle being turned into a human centi-pad?
Or how Butters became a pimp and took care of his hos?
Well, I got some good news for you; we're making brand new shows!
South Park's back for series 19, I can't fucking wait.
They've been on for nearly 20 years and they're still fucking great.
'I think I prefer Family Guy', some fucking asshole moans.
Well, why don't you go fuck yourself 'cos South Park's coming home!

Ofcom concluded:

Our view was that the offensive content within this trailer was not justified by the context and exceeded generally accepted standards. Consequently, the trailer breached Rule 2.3 of the Code.

Breach of Rule 2.3


23rd November

  Monitoring Unsocial Networks...

EFF launch website to track content taken down and censored by major social media companies
Link Here

online censorship org logo The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Visualizing Impact have launched Onlinecensorship.org, a new platform to document the who, what, and why of content takedowns on social media sites. The project, made possible by a 2014 Knight News Challenge award, will address how social media sites moderate user-generated content and how free expression is affected across the globe.

Controversies over content takedowns seem to bubble up every few weeks, with users complaining about censorship of political speech, nudity, LGBT content, and many other subjects. The passionate debate about these takedowns reveals a larger issue: social media sites have an enormous impact on the public sphere, but are ultimately privately owned companies. Each corporation has their own rules and systems of governance that control users' content, while providing little transparency about how these decisions are made.

At Onlinecensorship.org, users themselves can report on content takedowns from Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and YouTube. By cataloging and analyzing aggregated cases of social media censorship, Onlinecensorship.org seeks to unveil trends in content removals, provide insight into the types of content being taken down, and learn how these takedowns impact different communities of users. EFF Director for International Freedom of Expression and co-founder of Onlinecensorship.org Jillian C. York said:

We want to know how social media companies enforce their terms of service. The data we collect will allow us to raise public awareness about the ways these companies are regulating speech. We hope that companies will respond to the data by improving their regulations and reporting mechanisms and processes--we need to hold Internet companies accountable for the ways in which they exercise power over people's digital lives.

York and Onlinecensorship.org co-founder Ramzi Jaber were inspired to action after a Facebook post in support of OneWorld's Freedom for Palestine project disappeared from the band Coldplay's page even though it had received nearly 7,000 largely supportive comments. It later became clear that Facebook took down the post after it was reported as abusive by several users. Jaber said:

By collecting these reports, we're not just looking for trends. We're also looking for context, and to build an understanding of how the removal of content affects users' lives. It's important companies understand that, more often than not, the individuals and communities most impacted by online censorship are also the most vulnerabl. Both a company's terms of service and their enforcement mechanisms should take into account power imbalances that place already-marginalized communities at greater risk online.

Onlinecensorship.org has other tools for social media users, including a guide to the often-complex appeals process to fight a content takedown. It will also host a collection of news reports on content moderation practices.


23rd November

 Update: Fun filled sponsors vs miserable gits...

The best and worst TV advertisers for 2015 based upon recommendations by Parents TV Council
Link Here  full story: Parents TV Council...US moralists whinge at TV sex and violence
victorias secret perfect body advert The Parents Television Council announced the companies that it chose for its annual Best/Worst Advertisers List. The Best companies on this list have demonstrated willingness to support positive TV programming including TV shows that routinely feature sex, violence, and profanity, and have not responded to moralist calls to reevaluate their sponsorship behavior.

Some of those shows include: Family Guy , which over the past year has featured 'jokes' about sexually assaulting children; Wicked City , a serial killer-focused drama that routinely shows graphic violence and sex; Scream Queens , which shows graphic gore akin to R-rated horror movies.

PTC asks Americans to use this list as they begin their holiday shopping, to reward the good ones and avoid the bad ones.


Worst miserable gits  

Best fun filled sponsors  


Google Microsoft

Nestle; Mondelez International (Trident, Dentyne, Bubblicious, Toblerone) Mars; Wrigley

Sanofi; Johnson & Johnson Bayer; Merck
Consumer Brands  

P&G (Cover Girl, Luvs, Swiffer, Bounty, Tide, Crest, Pampers, Olay, Duracell, Gillette, Always, NyQuil) Unilever (Dove, Axe, Lipton, Suave, Vaseline, Hellmann's)

Coca Cola Red Bull
Fast Food  

Wendy's; Dunkin' Brands McDonald's; Burger King; Yum!

Prudential Nationwide
Office Supply  

Office Depot Staples

Helzberg Diamonds Kay Jewelers

TJX (Marshalls, Home Goods, TJ Maxx) L Brands (Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works, La Senza)
General Retail  

Sears; Walmart Target; Best Buy


23rd November

  My Boomerang Won't Come Back Comes Back...

Charlie Drake scores a double hit with politically correct broadcast bans in 1961 and 2015
Link Here
boomerang wont come back single My Boomerang Won't Come Back is a comedy song from Charlie Drake dating back to 1961. It was controversial at the time but has just hit the news again after just being banned in Australia on grounds of political correctness.

The song is about an Aboriginal boy banished from his tribe because he can't use a boomerang and includes the lyrics:

In the bad backlands of Australia
Many years ago,
The aborigine tribes were meeting,
Having a big pow-wow.

My boomerang won't come back,
My boomerang won't come back,
I've waved the thing all over the place,
Practised till I was black in the face,
I'm a big disgrace to the Aborigine race,
My boomerang won't come back.

When the song  was played on ABC's radio station in Hobart, Tasmania, in September one listener complained that it was racist. Now the broadcaster's Audience and Consumer Affairs Department has upheld that complaint, saying:

The track as not in keeping with the ABC's editorial standards for harm and offence; there was no editorial justification for playing it.

The song was not on a regular ABC playlist but was aired because it was requested by a listener. This error was due to staff not being familiar with the track's lyrics.

The ABC apologised to the complainant, removed the track completely from the system and took steps to ensure that this would not happen again.

At the time of its 1961 release. The BBC refused to play the original version which contained the line: I've waved the thing all over the place/practiced till I was black in the face , so it was re-recorded as blue in the face .

Its lack of political correctness also means an Aboriginal meeting is described as a pow-wow , a term usually associated with Native Americans, while the chanting on the track sounds more African than Aboriginal.


23rd November

  Black and White TV Kiss...

BFI researches a TV taboo that crumbled in the 60s
Link Here
first kiss video The first interracial kiss broadcast on British television has been uncovered by the British Film Institute.

It featured on You in Your Small Corner , a Granada Play of the Week , broadcast in June 1962.

The drama was an adaptation of a play by Jamaican-born Barry Reckord that had been performed at the Royal Court and explored issues of mixed race and class.

Marcus Prince, the BFI's TV programmer who discovered the historic kiss while researching an event, said: I was astounded ... it was so explicit really. I looked at the date and realised its significance.

The accolade of the first interracial kiss had previously been attributed to an episode of Emergency Ward 10 broadcast in 1964, between characters Joan Hooley and John White.

A kiss between Lieutenant Uhura and Captain James T Kirk in a 1968 episode of Star Trek was the first shown in the US and is also often cited as the first shown British television .

The kiss will be shown to a Race and Romance on TV panel at the BFI on 24 November.


22nd November

  Blocked Entry...

Polish police arrest religious extremists trying to picket play
Link Here
death  and  the  maiden Polish police have arrested 12 people who tried to block the entrance to a theater performance they claimed to be pornographic.

Scuffles broke out late Saturday in Wroclaw when members of a Catholic organization tried to stop theater-goers from seeing Death and the Maiden , based on the work of Nobel Prize-winning writer Elfriede Jelinek.

The protesters objected to the presence on the stage of porn stars.

The government's new culture minister, Piotr Glinski, had previously called for the show to be canceled, noting the theater is sponsored by the state budget.


22nd November

  Cowtowing to Extremism...

Indian art exhibit vandalised by religious extremists
Link Here
suspended cow Organizers of an art fair in India say right-wing Hindu extremists have vandalised an exhibit of a Styrofoam cow that was suspended in midair using a balloon. The activists claimed that the installation was offensive.

R.B. Gauttam, an organizer of the Jaipur Art Summit, said that the exhibit was meant to highlight how cows suffer after ingesting plastic waste at India's many garbage dumps.