Tuesday, 2 June 2009

ITV4 = URLs>Violence Against Women

A few updates ago, we mentioned a phenomena we’re now going to dub “Why URLs Are Seemingly Worse Than Swearing According To Digital Channels” (clunky, but roll with it) after catching a More4 broadcast of The Daily Show which had a reference to The Daily Show’s website cackhandedly edited out of the UK broadcast. We also referred to the clumsy removal of the URL “Amazon.com” when Jon Stewart interviewed the boss of Amazon.com during an earlier edition of The Daily Show. We pretended to get all angry about it, and then complained that Someone Ought To Do Something, without planning to Do Something ourselves (other than whine about it). Such is our wont.

Anyway, during our latest meander through the BrokenTV PVR (258 unviewed programmes, 30.17% available space) we stumbled over an old episode of Tarrant On TV, dating from 2005 and repeated a couple of months ago from ITV4. As generally happens during many episodes of the long-running series, in a link nearing the end of part one, Chris Tarrant’s face switches from “cuh! those zany foreign comedy shows, eh? mode” to “full newsflash-level gravitas mode” within the space of a comma. Time for some serious, issue-based clips.

Now, it’d be easy to embark on a Generic Blog Hack Rant about jarring gear changes when it comes to Tarrant (nee Clive James) on TV, but the fact of the matter is that they do serve a purpose. The viewer is feeling quite jolly after seeing the latest adverts for Thai bidet wholesalers (or in this specific example, a spoof advert from Saturday Night Live for a luxury car with a functioning vagina called The Mistress, aimed at the duplicitous husband market, followed by a hidden camera “lady doctor is actually dominatrix” bit), so that when a harrowing drunk driving advert from New Zealand is shown, the message has that much more of an impact. Much in the same way as “serious message” adverts tend to hit home when preceded by an ad for Moonpig.

The “serious bit” of the edition of Tarrant on TV that we’ve just watched followed immediately on from the aforementioned SNL shagmobile skit and Dr Whiplash stunt. The intro ran thus:

Jollyface Tarrant: “Those thrashings were almost slapstick”

Serious comma time.

Serious Tarrant: “but this next hard-hitting commercial from New York delivers a much more sombre message to expose violence that is not just unacceptable, but totally inexcusable.”


There then followed an advert for a New York woman’s refuge called “My Sister’s Place”, showing a scene where a boss punched a nervous female latecomer to his meeting, simply for arriving a few minutes late. Cue a caption pointing out that such actions are similarly unacceptable in the home, but that there is someone who can help. A powerful message, followed up with Chris Tarrant making the following introduction to the next clip.

“Now, here in Britain, Womankind Worldwide is another charity that strives to stamp out the many forms of abuse suffered by many women around the globe. Their funds and human resources are used to empower women and to take control of their lives,  But, in order to raise those funds, they sometimes have to resort to shocking imagery in order to bring home the plight of their sisters.”


Opening scene. A poor African village. A screaming woman is being held down while a doctor gets ready to perform an act of genital mutilation on her, the tradition being that should the woman be unable to enjoy sex, she will be compelled to remain faithful to her husband. But as the doctor unsheathes a knife and nears the terrified woman, an invisible force grabs the knife from his hand, then throws him backwards, away from the operating chair.


Scene two. Bombed out remains at the heart of a war-torn city. A young man has grabbed a woman from the street, and is now dragging her into the deserted shell of what was once a home. He throws the frightened refugee to the ground, and menacingly unfastens his trousers. As he begins to near the woman,  he is suddenly held back by the same invisible entity. Despite his struggles, he is dragged away from the sobbing woman.


Scene three. A suburban English kitchen. An angry husband – and it’s worth pointing out here that we’re not talking about an archetypical sitcom ‘angry husband’ character, this guy is genuinely menacing – walks in and confronts a dishevelled and clearly distressed wife, visibly quivering with apprehension at what is about to happen. The husband yells at his wife over the state of the kitchen, leading to a meek verbal retaliation from the wife. Enraged, the husband pulls his fist back to strike, but his arm is pulled back by the invisible force. This time, the weight of the force holding back the aggressor can be seen more clearly in a close-up, with Raimi-grade pressure marks now visible on the bare arm of the husband, his arm straining with all his might to strike forward. The invisible force however, manages to keep him at a safe distance from his victim.


The scene shifts to a boiling pot on the cooker, in the background of the kitchen. A series of captions appear. “We can be there.” “But only with your help. Womankind Worldwide”, followed by the URL of the non-profit organisation’s website.

And what is that URL? The website address any women in a similar situation might want to visit? Well:


ITV4 have helpfully blurred it out, lest a website address be broadcast on screen. That’ll teach those, erm, fatcat women’s refuge centres based in the UK. Nice one, ITV.

That unseen website address in full: http://www.womankind.org.uk/


4 .:

Ian Symes said...

I agree that this is bloody stupid, but isn't it the fault of regulators rather than broadcasters? I think I'm right in saying that broadcasting URLs constitutes advertising within programming, according to twatty rules. Nothing the broadcaster can do, unfortunately, other than just risk it and hope nobody's stupid enough to complain.

James said...

Could it be that a programme cannot give out a direct URL without fully vetting it for compliance, hence most UK programmes using their own sites as launchpads when passing on information?

Mark X said...

Stop ruining my argument with your 'facts' and 'logic', you scoundrels.

Of course, the whole thing is clearly down to the regulators, as (sort of) mentioned in the similarly themed Daily Show update a week or two ago. That doesn't really stop the whole thing being rather stupid, not to mention inconsistent. After all, while no-one could reasonably expect action to be taken during live sports broadcasts, but by the same logic, when a clip of a football match is shown as part of Champions League Weekly on ITV4, why aren't URLs on the perimeter advertising blurred out? Or, on the Bravo repeats of the final series of the mighty Arrested Development, the lines about "I'm Oscar! Dot com!" weren't removed (the latter considering that was a real website promoting the show - http://is.gd/MDTp, subsequently domainjacked. Ooh, also check out imnoscar.com's wayback page for an additionally nice Arrested Development gag: http://is.gd/MEdC )

In the case of the Tarrant on TV clip, the URL censorship just seemed more jarring than usual, what with the commercial being praised as a an effective message from a worthwhile organisation. Presumably the claim would be that "well, if we let that one through the net, and then blocked an advert for an anti-abortion group, we'd be leaving ourselves open to criticism?".

In summary: erm.

James said...

The point is, there should be some room for common sense in the regulations, but ever since the phone-in debacle, everybody's paranoid. I'd also like to put forward the conspiracy theory that ITV in particular are tiptoeing round very carefully, because they know that they aren't quite fulfilling their duties as a Public Service Broadcaster right now, and any unwanted attention could see it stripped off them, along with all the perks it entails.


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