Bottomley bans hard-core porn TV channel

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The Independent Online
The Secretary of State for National Heritage, Virginia Bottomley, yesterday signed an order banning the French pornographic satellite television channel, Rendez-Vous.

Announcing the ban to applause at the Tory party conference, Mrs Bottomley said that hard-core pornography was unacceptable and that new channels in Britain must not mean lower standards.

But, in the light of recent European Court of Justice rulings, legal sources last night were questioning whether Mrs Bottomley could ban the station from Britain. "Last month two European Court decisions said that a member state can only legislate in respect of a broadcaster established in its own country," a source said. "This would mean that in law Mrs Bottomley cannot impose a ban on a French television station."

The Paris-based Rendez-Vous channel began broadcasting in September last year. With Britain as one of its main targets, it has included in its schedules English and French porn stars advertising mail-order sex aids.

But in her crackdown on porn channels Mrs Bottomley said yesterday that she was banning the sale of "smart cards" which would give viewers access to Rendez-Vous and similar channels, because as a "politician and a parent" she would not tolerate "gratuitous violence and filth" on television.

"Television is a powerful medium," she said. "It is overwhelmingly a force for good ...I do not want television to deliver a squalid diet of filth and degradation ... the British public can be assured that we will use all available powers to ensure standards are maintained."

However, Roger Kingsbourg, the manager of the Rendez-Vous Channel, stressed that the move would not affect the station's broadcasts which British viewers already in possession of smart cards would receive.

Speaking from the channel's Paris headquarters, he told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme: "It will not stop us at all. How can you ban a smart card? That is technically impossible. It is the possession of a private person, which they are entitled to use."

Rendez-Vous could be the third hard-core pornography channel to be banned in Britain in the past three years. In 1993, the channel Red Hot Dutch was outlawed and two years later Britain was the first European country to issue a proscription order on TV Erotica.

There are other, similar channels available in Britain that broadcast hard-core pornography from abroad without having received a licence from the Independent Television Commission. Such stations do not sell subscriptions in Britain; there is a black market in decoders but they disable pirate viewers by changing encryption codes.

The ITC has issued licences to a number of soft-porn channels which are supposed to pass an "18" film certificate to qualify. Among these is the Adult Channel, which received a warning from the ITC in 1994 for transmitting illegally in uncrypted form.

Others with licences are the Adam and Eve channel, Playboy TV, TVX Fantasy Channel, and Babylon Blue, which is backed by Sunday Sport owner David Sullivan.

Tory conference, pages 6 and 7

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