Archive for November, 2005

Ladies making a splash

John Beyer of Mediawatch UK was quoted on at least two occasions yesterday. The first concerned a “lesbian kiss” on Eastenders, a popular BBC soap opera.

The kiss prompted 22 complaints from furious viewers, according to Life Style Extra. Beyer commented:

It’s par for the course now for television soaps. The whole shockability has gone out of that thing these days.

As it was before the watershed we urge people who found it offensive to contact the BBC. We are aiming to make producers and broadcasters more accountable for what they screen.

Unfortunately, he never explained why a kiss involving two women should be considered more offensive than one between a man and a woman, so we’re not sure what his point is. The BBC phone number to ring if you want to express your bafflement that anyone should be offended by such a thing is 08700 100 222. They are always very appreciative of messages of support.

The Sun reports on I’m A Celebrity – Get me Out of Here! contestant Kimberley Davies, who is threatening to sue the producers after she cracked a rib jumping from a helicopter. When The Sun phoned Beyer for his opinion, he said “I’m sorry, but this is not an issue of taste or decency and therefore beyond the stated remit of my organisation. I have nothing relevant or interesting to say on the matter. No comment.”

Oh no, hang on. That must have been from a dream we had about a utopian future where celebrities have infrangible ribs and rent-a-quote media watchdogs have a modicum of integrity. What the Sage of Ashford actually said was:

It is irresponsible of ITV to expect celebs to jump out of helicopters — it is really going too far. The whole thing is calculated to win ratings, but ITV should be banned from pulling stunts like this.

That’s better.

The Times gets it wrong

Dalya Alberge, arts correspondent for The Times, filed a story on Thursday in which it was claimed that a recently-closed production of Marlowe‘s Tamburlaine the Great was censored to avoid upsetting Muslims. It wasn’t true.

Although Alberge had contacted the director, David Farr, to confirm the story – and he had denied it – they still published it. Farr subsequently wrote a robust defence of his production in The Guardian the following day, in which he said it was “complete nonsense” to suggest that he was trying to appease Islamic opinion.

This non-story is at least the second of its kind to appear in the national press in a month. The Express piggy bank scandal was the other.

There is no shortage of genuine self-censorship stories in the news – the Bedfordshire police cartoon and the Tate gallery, for example. Nor is there a shortage of over-sensitive Muslims looking for things to be offended by.

The Times should have known better.

Fight the BK ice cream ban

From Al-Hack at Pickled Politics a suggestion that you write to Burger King urging them to retain their wee-bit-like-Allah ice cream cone cover design.

PP carries a copy of the Eastern Eye article which supports the ridiculous Rashad “I made an impact” Akhtar’s campaign to get the design changed. They are supported by the Muslim Association of Britain, whose Anas Al-Tikriti says:

One of the problems we regularly face is that when a consumer complains to a large company, which is able to make rapid changes, they make a cheesy statement but fail to act with speed. They will be seen to be an insincere company.

A 17-year-old student from London is also quoted to add gravitas to the cause:

They should have sorted this out when they found out. It feels like they do not care that they have offended us.

Which really means: “they do not care that we have decided to be offended by this”.

That BK complaint address again.

Back Boris…

… as an editor, even if not as a politician. This is important.

Daily Mail, Beyer on Ofcom swearing survey

Ofcom’s September survey, Language and Sexual Imagery in Broadcasting: A Contextual Investigation, has been quoted by the Daily Mail, and John Beyer of Mediawatch-UK, as vindication of their claim that TV is leading towards the breakdown of society by broadcasting swearwords.

The survey was carried out in several cities throughout the country from a sample of 170 people. There was a general feeling that there had been an increase in swearing on TV both before and after the watershed, although there was a great variation among those surveyed about what exactly was considered offensive.


The crucial question is what regulatory action Ofcom will now take to set higher standards that are in line with the public attitudes they have identified. One of Ofcom’s tasks is to ensure that programmes comply with “generally accepted standards” and with regard to the content described in the study they are clearly failing at the present time. There is clearly a need for the Secretary of State to remind Ofcom that their primary duty is to represent the viewing and listening public rather than give in to the demands of the broadcasting industry.

The conclusion that Ofcom should flex its regulatory muscles goes contrary to the findings of the survey, however. From the section entitles “Individual Choices”:

As part of the focus group discussion, respondents discussed viewing decision-making and responsibilities. There was a broad consensus among these participants that responsibility for viewing choices is – and should be – largely an individual one.

People came out very much in favour of the watershed, pre-broadcast warnings, and TV guides in order to help them make informed choices. John Beyer does not mention this, as he is against the idea of adults making informed choices if those choices are not similar to his own.

Those involved in the survey also had another useful piece of advice for the likes of Beyer and the Daily Mail:

The participants’ personal response to viewing offensive or inappropriate material is simply to switch off or turn over.

Also, religion-based swearing and blasphemy were not generally considered offensive. One example shown to the participants was a scene from Footballers’ Wives in which a character looked at herself in the mirror and exclaimed “Jesus shitting Christ”. This was considered offensive by one in five.

Space Cadets ethical concerns

Endemol, the producers of Big Brother, have come up with another reality TV concept in which nine people will be told they are to take a trip into space courtesy of the Russian tourist industry. The Space Cadets however, will be flying in a Hollywood-created space shuttle, with a custom-built screen outside the windows which will give the appearance of being in orbit around the earth.

Sounds like a bit of harmless fun? Not to the Sage of Ashford, John Beyer, for whom the Channel 4 production raises deep moral concerns. From the Austin American Statesan:

I think ethical questions need to be raised about the idea of duping a group of people into believing they are going into space. Broadcasters are supposed to be focusing on better programming that elevates our society, and not on tricking people.

Strangely, a site-specific Google search of reveals no comments from Massah Beyer on previous shows which relied on “tricking people”, such as Candid Camera or Beadle’s About.

Hirsi Ali to make gay Islam film

The BBC reports that Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali is to release a sequel to Submission I which examines the issue of homosexuality within Islam. The film, entitled Submission II, was co-written with her late collaborator Theo Van Gogh.

It will feature anonymous actors and carry no credits in an effort to protect those involved from any primitivist backlash. Since Submission was shown on Dutch TV Hirsi Ali has received several death threats and is accompanied everywhere by security guards.

(Hat tip to Sunny at Pickled Politics)

Channel 4 Xmas specials

Channel 4 looks set to cause a bit of religious offence with its Xmas day programming this year. First we have The Magic of Jesus, in which magicians Barry and Stuart of the Friday night show Dirty Tricks recreate biblical “miracles” such as turning water into wine and feeding 5,000.

This is followed by a documentary called Tsunami: Where was God?, which features former monk Mark Dowd travelling round Asia asking followers of the three main religions, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, how they view the tragedy through the lens of their god-belief.

Finally, Channel 4’s alternative yuletide address will be delivered by Jamie “it don’t get much holier than that” Oliver.

All in all, quite a lot for the professional offendees to get themselves worked up into a self-righteous lather about. Should be fun.

(Source: BroadcastNow (sub only))

Piggy bank pork pies

express front page
Remember the political-correctness-gone-mad story about the Halifax and Nat West banning piggy banks so as not to offend Muslims? The Daily Express led with it, as did several internet news sources and a few of the more intemperate blogs.

Well, Australian Mediawatch reveals that it wasn’t true.

The Halifax press office said in an email to Mediawatch:

Halifax has not withdrawn any piggy banks from branches. As a matter of fact we have not used piggy banks in our branches for a number of years.

And the media relations office of the Nat West wrote:

There is absolutely no fact in the story. We simply had a UK wide savings marketing campaign, which included pictures of piggy banks, running until the end of September.

Piggy banks have been and will continue to be used as a promotional item by NatWest

Which just goes to show you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the Daily Express, and that blogs can sometimes contain factual inaccuracies. Who’d have thought it?

(Via Al-Hack at Pickled Politics)

UPDATE: Peter has a suggestion: “Anyone want to join in a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission? Clause 12 (Discrimination) and Clause 1 (Accuracy) should cover it.”

Melon Farmers spoof

The Melon Farmers have set up an amusing spoof news page describing a dystopian future which could come about should anyone ever take John Beyer seriously.

The recently adopted amendment to the Pornography of Act of 2006, dubbed as ‘Beyer’s Law’, has resulted in unprecedented levels of imprisonment.

Local authorities have opened 578 regional soup kitchens to alleviate family destitution resulting from the new regulations. The Treasury states that the drain on resources is unsustainable and they are seeking a more cost effective and permanent sentencing solution.

You can view the proposal to outlaw the viewing of violent pornography, and have your say at this Home Office consultation site.