The debate on freedom of expression: Rees-Mogg in call for closure of porn channel: Ban urged on satellite channel

Click to follow
The Independent Online
RED HOT DUTCH, the satellite channel which broadcasts hard- core pornography to Britain and other countries, is showing 'horrible, really repulsive material' and should be shut down, Lord Rees-Mogg, chairman of the Broadcasting Standards Council, said yesterday.

He said he had written to Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for National Heritage, stating that the council regarded it as an illegal, unlicensed service, operating in contravention of the European directive on transfrontier broadcasting.

However, senior civil servants advising ministers said yesterday that they did not believe the channel contravened article 22 of the directive, devised to protect children from exposure to corrupting material, and was not illegal.

This was because it was encrypted and broadcast late at night. It also depicted straight, though explicit sex, with close-up shots, of the kind available in some pornographic magazines.

Despite its title, Red Hot Dutch is sent up for satellite transmission from Denmark, and the Government has made representations to the Danish government expressing concern.

Complaints to the previous host nation, the Netherlands, succeeded in severing the satellite link, forcing the channel to relocate.

Clause 22 of the directive, dealing with the protection of minors, says: 'Member states should take appropriate measures to ensure that television broadcasts by broadcasters under their jurisdiction do not include programmes which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors, in particular those which involve pornography or gratuitous violence.

'These provisions shall extend to other programmes that are likely to impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors, except where it is ensured by selecting the time of the broadcast or by any technical measures that minors in the area of transmission will not normally hear or see such broadcasts.'

Lord Rees-Mogg said the Broadcasting Standards Council's reading was that Red Hot Dutch was outlawed by the first portion of this clause, which overrides the qualifications in the second portion about timing and technical scrambling.

He is also pressing for the European directive governing minimum programme standards to be redrafted, to prevent foreign material subverting national standards. In Britain, broadcasting falls within the scope of the Obscene Publications Act.

He said he had sampled Red Hot Dutch. 'It is something you have to make yourself watch. It is wholly without merit, story, or charm. It is as unpleasant as being taken into an abattoir to view a series of butcheries.'

He criticised civil servants for making what he described as a serious error in 1989 by allowing the directive to stipulate that a channel's content had to comply with the standards acceptable to the country broadcasting (or 'uplinking') the channel, rather than the country receiving it. 'It means the lowest common denominator rules', Lord Rees-Mogg said.

He said that neither the Broadcasting Standards Council, charged with reporting to the Government about taste, decency, screen sex and violence, nor the Independent Television Commission had been consulted about the provision.

Red Hot Dutch is marketed in Britain through a Manchester- based company, Continental Television, run by Mark Garner. Some 20,000 households subscribe by paying pounds 47.25 a quarter to rent a decoder for unscrambling the transmissions, which are beamed from the Eutelsat satellite between midnight and 3am, three nights a week.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments