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Pandora Blake, a leading British producer of ethical fetish content, has won her appeal against a government-backed regulator’s attempts to censor her website Dreams of Spanking.
The all-male quango had decided that under the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 (AVMS), content on Blake’s site broke new rules against video depictions of such activities as spanking, caning and face-sitting.
ATVOD not only had the power to censor UK internet video content and close down UK sites that came within its remit, but also to charge substantial regulatory fees to permit the lawful transmission of such content.
Unfortunately for the quango, however, it was itself closed down, and as of January 1 2016, its functions were fully absorbed into the brief of the UK’s broadcast regulator Ofcom.
Assisted by Myles ‘Obscenity Lawyer’ Jackman, the British kink community’s renowned legal attack dog, Pandora Blake began the process of appealing last year.
And in its long-awaited ruling on her appeal, Ofcom said this week that Pandora’s Dreams of Spanking website was not an On Demand Programme Service (ODPS), therefore ATVOD had not had jurisdiction over the site, and Ms Blake was free to resume operation of her business.
On the face of it, Pandora Blake won on a technicality. But how could such a clear distinction — that websites with video content are not the same as the video-on-demand services ATVOD was specifically set-up to regulate — have led to such confusion at the quango?
It will only serve to strengthen the view of some of ATVOD’s previous ‘victims’ that it was suspiciously keen to close down female-run BDSM and fetish websites that it should have known were not covered by its brief.
After all, it had previous form in this respect.
Myles Jackman had helped to achieved an earlier win against ATVOD in August 2014, after it had tried to bring Urban Chick Supremacy Cell, the website of UK-based Spanish performance artist and web dominatrix Itziar Bilbao, within its control.
With assistance from Jackman, Itziar appealed to Ofcom and duly won, on the very same grounds cited in Pandora’s case this week.
The content on Itzia’s site, said Ofcom, could not be considered an On Demand Programme Service, so was not within ATVOD’s jurisdiction.
It looked like the quango had a specific problem with women running such sites. And it is possible that most of these closures would have been reversed had the women all appealed.
Ms Blake has certainly been left feeling that some sort of sexist agenda was behind the action ATVOD had taken against her.
“There are loads of other spanking sites in the UK run by old white men,” she told Sirin Kale at website broadly.vice.com, “and when the AVMS regulations came in I was the only [spanking] site to be investigated.
“I’d been on TV saying I thought the regulations were sexist, and it was around the time I was doing a lot of press that I first got the tap on the shoulder from ATVOD.
“By sticking my head above the parapet, I’d made myself a target.”
Myles Jackman, who has had notable successes defending individuals whose fetish or BDSM activities have got them caught in the Crown Prosecution Service’s crosshairs, agrees.
“I hope this heralds a new direction in how adult content is viewed by the UK regulatory authorities,” he says. “But it doesn’t change the fact that they unfairly picked on female directors.
“This was a patriarchal regulator trying to control female sexuality.”
Pandora Blake said that as a kinky woman who’d had spanking fantasies since she was tiny, to be criminalised “felt like a personal attack”.
“I was being told by this patriarchal state agency that as a kinky woman I was unacceptable, that my sexuality was disgusting and dangerous to children, even.
“It really made me question whether the UK actually is a progressive country.”
Published June 9, 2016