Is television porn too hard to swallow?

Television porn is forcing the UK Government to demand the that the European Commission tighten up rules on pornography and violence, to prevent exploitation by Europe’s satellite and cable TV channels. It is a strategy thrown into relief by news last week that Daily Sport owner David Sullivan plans to launch a satellite sports and porn channel in the UK this spring.

Babylon Blue, described as a “soft-core” station, has been awarded a licence by the Independent Television Commission to provide an “adult entertainment, sport and feature film” service. Sullivan has not yet released further details, although he has told the ITC he intends to launch the channel as an encrypted service in the spring, broadcasting via the Eutelsat satellite. The channel will be operated by Rolldale Ltd, a company in which Sullivan holds a 50 per cent stake.

Labour and Conservative MPs have expressed concern at the move, urging the ITC to “monitor carefully” the situation. However, the ITC says it had no grounds on which to refuse Sullivan the licence because he has promised the channel will comply with the ITC codes. Any failure to do so can result in fines or, at worst, the withdrawal of the licence to broadcast.

Sullivan’s UK TV launch comes as two new hard-core porn channels gear up for launch on the continent. Eurotica, backed by the company behind the UK’s Adult Channel, and TV Erotica begin broadcasts next month from Denmark. Neither plans to market itself in the UK. But brisk trade in pirate cards can be expected with some dealers already offering the cards in UK high streets, according to one report.

Already operating in the UK is The Adult Channel, which has 160,000 subscribers.

The UK believes responsibility for porn channels must fall on the country where the licence to broadcast was issued. Other European countries and the EC argue it should be the country where the company has its headquarters. At the heart of this difference lies the case of Red Hot Dutch – a porn channel which the UK Government pulled off air during 1992 and 1993. The EC claims this action breached the directive.

Red Hot Dutch began broadcasting using an uplink from the Netherlands, although its headquarters was in Manchester. The UK felt it could not ban it under the present directive, so it banned the sale of decoders necessary to receive the channel. Red Hot TV subsequently lost an appeal at judicial review. However, under its interpretation of the directive, the Dutch government refused to act because the company was based in the UK.

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