Exam date

When's the 2016 exam? Wednesday 8th June, am.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

DIGITISATION GLOBALISATION AGE Cons pledge online porn age restrictions

Tories promise to enforce age limits on online pornography. (PA/Guardian)
NSPCC chief Peter Wanless said: “The easy availability to children of online pornography, much of it extreme, violent and profoundly degrading, is of deepening concern.“It can leave them feeling frightened, confused, depressed or upset. The number of ChildLine counselling sessions regarding porn more than doubled last year to over 1,100 with some young girls revealing they were being pressured to mimic scenes from adult films.
There's an interesting link to film censorship and the BBFC's rationale here. Whilst more recently publicly acknowledging the lack of clear evidence of harm, they continue to demand cuts or raise ratings if concerned about 'copycat' potential, for example banning the nunchuka scene from Bruce Lee's 1973 Enter the Dragon (18), or a knife scene from 12-rated Larar Croft: Tomb Raider. Media effects are easy to claim but incredibly difficult to prove - with such anecdotal evidence as that cited by the NSPCC perhaps the so-called 'pornification' of culture, especially youth culture, is an area where the case is more convincing?

I intend to pull together a single post on media policies as the election approaches. The impact of the failure of both major parties to enforce the recommendations of three Royal Commissions, multiple backbench Private Members Bills, Calcutt's 1993 review 18 months into the life of the PCC, and of course Leveson (though the Tories and IPSO itself would dispute that reading, and IPSO could yet evolve into a more powerful and more independent regulator, closer to Leveson's vision), can be clearly seen from the manner in which most of the national press conveniently echo the central campaign theme of the Tories by attacking and ridiculing Miliband personally. The 'Torygraph' coverage of the 100 business leaders' letter was symptomatic of the explicitly campaigning, partisan press coverage, with scant regard for Clause One: Accuracy.
On this age rating issue, there is a credibility gap between the media-friendly pronouncements and the technical realities. The capacity for the young to work round online restrictions undermines much media regulation, while the globalised nature of the web makes it very difficult to effectively regulate.
There are other issues with this too, which is not to say that the policy is right or wrong. Why the double standards with the press? The Sun and Star continue to feature topless models with no restrictions.
There is some wider linkage though: the Prime Minister has previously called for music videos to be age rated (this process has actually begun, though its debatable how impactive this can be), and raised concerns about the sexualised nature if content in teen (ie girls) magazines.
What about the risk of any regulation passed for censoring porn being gradually extended to other fields? The extension of anti-terror powers to effectively wipe out the journalist's right to privacy and to protect the identity of sources has led to an interesting debate, with most major parties now pledging some renewed legal protections following on from a series of rulings by the UK's new Supreme Court.
On a simple level, this is a useful demonstration of how free market principles are selectively applied. Lord Peacock may not have had porn specifically in mind when he shocked the Thatcher government by arguing in his 1985 Report on the future of the BBC and PSB that deregulated TV would lead to a 'race to the bottom' and dumbing down, but an unfettered free market will produce and push materials such as L!ve TV's infamous Topless Darts on Ice, or the extraordinary mass of online porn.
There is one further, uncomfortable and generally unacknowledged point which is worth raising. The rise of most, if not all, of the electronic media in their early stages is linked to some degree to the potent public appetite for pornographic material. Uptake of the telephone and VHS, to take two older examples, were very much accelerated by this, and every new media technological advancement is swiftly seized upon by the 'adult entertainment' industry.

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