Archive for September, 2005

Priest opens mouth, removes all doubt

Jerry Springer: The Opera continues to bring out the best in our religious authority figures. This time it’s the Rev Dr Bruce K Gardner who steps up to the mic, delivering (by email) his verdict on the decision by Aberdeen Performing Arts to stage JS:TO in March next year.

It is disgraceful that a demonstration of contempt for things regarded as holy by many is being defended on the grounds that ‘free speech’ will be denied unless one section of the population is allowed to be attacked.

While not wishing to exaggerate unduly…

Good idea, Rev, best not exaggerate unduly…

…this is how…

Uh oh, you’re going to, aren’t you? You’re going to mention..

…the Jews were singled out in Nazi Germany…


…first for ridicule, then contempt, then persecution.

Careless signals sent out by leaders can lead to less sophisticated manifestations of disrespect towards ethnic and faith groups in the community.


Duncan Hendry, chief executive of His Majesty’s Theatre, was calm in his response:

This is an extreme over-reaction by Rev Gardner. I don’t think Jerry Springer – The Opera is a comment on Christianity any more than Roy of the Rovers is a comment on football. His comments about the Jews in Nazi Germany are particularly inappropriate.

You could say that.

(From The Scotsman)

The Vacuum hearing postponed

The potentially landmark human rights case brought against Belfast City Council by The Vacuum has been delayed until next month because no judge could be found.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that lawyers for The Vacuum are citing Articles 9 (Freedom of thought, conscience and religion) and 10 (Freedom of expression) of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Speaking outside the court yesterday, editor Richard West said,

We have had a lot of people come down today. There is a growing interest in the case, and there will be even more so next month because of the delayed expectation.

No comment from the Council.

(Thanks to Joe and Richard)

Invisible sodomy

Ofcom’s monthly Broadcast Bulletins are usually good for a giggle, and this month is no exception. The big news is that Make Poverty History are no longer allowed to advertise on TV or radio because of the political nature of their cause. However, here at MWW we are more concerned about the single viewer who complained about Channel 5’s showing of the Al Pacino film Cruising back in June.

This viewer was offended by two scenes of anal penetration, even though, as Ofcom states,

The scenes were so brief that they were imperceptible without freeze-framing and they had not been picked up when the film was received from the distributor.

Channel 5 hadn’t noticed that they’d been sent the “uncensored” version.

Given the extreme brevity of the pictures, very few viewers would have been aware of these scenes if they had not watched the film using a frame-advance mechanism.

We wonder how long it took the complainer to freeze-frame his way through the entire film to see if he could find any sodomy to get offended by?

And then only to get a “complaint resolved” verdict from Ofcom. What a bummer!

Mediawatch-UK changes mind on porn laws

The Church of England Newspaper reports a strange turnaround in Mediawatch-UK’s attitude to the proposed new violent porn laws.

John Beyer had initially welcomed the proposal, but his ambitious deputy David Turtle broke ranks to tell the Church newspaper “a law which is badly put together is worse than no law at all”. Apparently, he thinks the government missed a “marvellous opportunity” to crack down on smut in all its forms, and that these new laws represent a “fudged approach”.

Why decompartmentalise some hardcore porn websites from others? It is an illogical approach to the problem.

With such an elegant way with words (decompartmentalise?) and firm grasp of logic, Turtle is well qualified to take over at the helm of Mediawatch-UK when the “Massah” retires. And it looks like he is even more censorious than his mentor. He certainly won’t tolerate any fudging.

Meanwhile, Christian social care charity CARE have welcomed the law. Pornography has been one of their bugbears for a while. Last December they organised a conference on the subject, entitled “Searching for Intimacy”. A Christian singer wrote songs specially for the event on the theme “the divine plea for purity”.

The law is under consultation until December. Consultation response forms are available from the Home Office website.

Poll shows public overwhelmingly anti-censorship

The UK Polling Report blog analyses a YouGov poll commissioned for the Edinburgh Television Festival. YouGov were one of the sponsors of the festival, and carried out several TV-related polls, the most interesting of which concerned “Taste and Decency” – specifically in regard to Jerry Springer: The Opera.

From the Polling Report:

Only 17% thought that programmes with potentially offensive religious content like JStO should not be shown at all. 67% thought they were acceptable after the watershed, 14% thought they were acceptable at any time. Asked about where they should be shown, 59% thought they were acceptable on any channel, 22% said they were acceptable on satellite subscription channels, only 13% of people said they should never be shown.

The sample size was 2,237. So that works out to 1,812 “sinners” and 290 “irrelevant runts”.

Belfast Council abhors Vacuum

Slugger O’Toole blogs a story which has, up to now, passed under MWW’s radar. The Vacuum, a monthly free paper distributed in the cafes, libraries, cinemas and galleries of Belfast, has turned the tables on the would-be censors in Belfast City Council by taking them to the High Court.
the vacuum
The culture magazine published God and Satan themed issues in June 2004, prompting Christians on the Council to accuse it of “encouraging Devil worshipping”. They demanded that the magazine “provide an apology for any offence which may have been caused to Members of the Council and the citizens of the City by previous publications and provides an assurance that future publications will meet such criteria as may be established by the Council”. If the apology was not forthcoming, then funding would be withdrawn.

In December The Vacuum organised a “Sorry Day“, which featured a Sorry double decker bus distributing Sorry Vacuums and playing Sorry music.

Not content with merely ridiculing the authorities, one of the magazines editors, Richard West, has taken the further step of legal action, charging that the Council violated the magazine’s Freedom of Expression as guaranteed by the European Convention of Human Rights. The potentially landmark legal case will take place at Belfast High Court next Tuesday 13th Sept.

MWW will be keeping a close eye on the case. We hope The Vacuum cleans up.

Digital TV survey – watershed becoming obsolete

The Guardian reports on a survey commissioned by digital TV service, Homechoice. 43% of the parents surveyed believed that they, rather than the watershed, should determine what their children watch.

The chairman of Homechoice:

Before digital television, we relied on and trusted the watershed, but now we have to look at other ways to help keep the entertainment experience relevant and appropriate for the audience.

Special child’s remote controls and PIN codes were two solutions cited.

No inanities from John Beyer as yet. But we will, as ever, keep you informed.

(Thanks to Andrew)

MCB Ofcom complaint – a lawyer writes

Michael, a barrister in London, has written to point out an interesting fault with the MCB’s complaint to Ofcom. The code paragraphs they cite in their complaint are 5.7 and 5.11 (“Due impartiality“), and 7.1, 7.9 and 7.13 (“Fairness“).

Amusingly, all the MCB’s complaints under section 5 of the Broadcasting Code should fail in any event, because that section of the Code does not apply to BBC services funded by the licence fee.


In addition, Michael points out that their argument that the jilbab is “required dress” is the opposite of the position they took in the actual Begum case, in which the MCB representative made the following points (from Para 9 of the judgement):

(i) there is no recommended style
(ii) modesty needs to be observed at all times
(iii) trousers with long tops/shirts for school wear are absolutely fine
(iv) a Muslim school girl’s uniform does not have to be flowing or of such length that there will be a risk of tripping over and causing an accident.

Add to this the demolition of their Mawdudi complaint – where they misleadingly quote the scholar out of context to backup their claim that he was misleadingly quoted out of context – and any prospect of a sympathetic decision from Ofcom seems increasingly remote.

MWW is not a lawyer, but a closer look at the rest of the MCB’s letter reveals that most of the issues they raise are laughable. On occasion they sound like petulant children. The only valid points concern factual inaccuracies in the programme regarding Sufism, and the spurious claim that Britain is a secular society (try telling that to the NSS). It is also true that the Israel/Palestine conflict was superficially covered – but that was not what the documentary was about.

If the MCB are upset at being portrayed as clowns, their official complaint to Ofcom does nothing to correct that image. Quite the opposite, in fact.

I predict a riot

News is filtering through from the Edinburgh Television Festival regarding the blasphemy v free speech debate which featured, among others, Stewart Lee, Rod Liddle, Jana Bennett, Claire Fox, and Stephen Green.

According to Broadcast, Stewart Lee kicked off proceedings by calling Green a “twat”; then Claire Fox from the Institute of Ideas, and presenter of R4’s The Moral Maze, branded him an “irrelevant runt”. Green, on the other hand, said he saw before him “a room full of sinners”, and admitted that the audience thought he was a “hick”.

Sounds like a hoot.

MCB complains to Ofcom

Inayat Bunglawala, Secretary of the media committee of the Self-important clowns of Britain (MCB), has written a letter of complaint to Ofcom about the BBC Panorama documentary “A Question of Leadership”. In the documentary, John Ware gave the MCB’s Iqbal Sacranie a rough ride – something that the Muslim “leader” is clearly not used to.

The letter of complaint claims the programme breached the Broadcasting Code in several areas, and included “Dishonest Omissions”, “Dishonest Presentation”, “Dishonest Description”, and – most tellingly – “Biased Account of Israel/Palestine Conflict” (the MCB’s first reaction (PDF file) to the programme was to complain darkly about “highly placed supporters of Israel in the British media”, and they made a point of not endorsing the Holocaust Memorial Day).

The letter to Ofcom is available from the MCB website as a PDF. An HTML version is available here.

MWW predicts the majority of the complaints will not be upheld, and this will be presented by the MCB as further evidence of a Zionist media conspiracy.

UPDATE: A thorough demolition of one of MCB’s complaints – that the BBC dishonestly misquoted Maulana Mawdudi, founder of one of their affiliate organisations – is available at mcbwatch. And plenty of other stuff, too. (Thanks to Andy A in the comments)