Friday, November 12, 2004

Does democracy need a burgeoning billion-dollar pornography industry to be truly democratic?

Asks George Pell, presumably rhetorically.

To paraphrase, and invert, the old argument about guns not killing people: Porn doesn’t produce pasty-faced, sexo-socially retarded wankers – fast-forward buttons on remotes do.

In any case, my immediate beef today is not with George’s usual set of hoary old admonitions, nor even with the transformative agency of the technology that he so wilfully overlooks. Rather, if George really wants to “go” Australia’s burgeoning (if you take his word for it) pornography industry, why doesn’t he cut to the chase, and name names? After all, it doesn’t take too much research to divine the identity of Australia’s number one smut king: Kerry Packer, of Bellevue Hill NSW.

Packer’s smut empire, through his ACP publishing arm, includes “The Picture” and “People” magazines, both of which – contrary to Pell’s doxy on the porn industry’s general thriving health – are in a downward circulation spiral: the latter has fall by about 75% since the mid-80s, due to a strong aversion by younger readers to the titles. So is George going easy on Kerry because Kerry’s about to go out of business – well, the smut business, anyway? Hardly: nothing is going to come between the wallets of Australia’s dirty old men and the pockets Kerry Packer, with the latest plan to revive the two magazines’ sagging circulation apparently being to have even more nudity per-page (same URL).

You’ve got to hand it to Kerry, for taking porn through the saturation barrier (by which I mean not so much a hydrophilic wet spot (Ewww!) as the absolute limit of porn efficacy). Australia’s dirty old men, now even dirtier – coming to (and then in?) a newsagent near you.

Another arm of the Packer smut empire – his Nine TV network – mightn’t be so obviously such. Channel-surfing last-night at about 7.50 p.m., I chanced across an unusually steamy image on the “Getaway” program, featuring the sights to be seen on an Ibiza beach. Several topless, nubile young women were shown in full frame, and far from fleetingly.

Now you straight blokes out there may call me a spoilsport poof for making an issue out of this. I admit that "yes", if it so offended me, I could have immediately changed channels, but I’m going to hold my ground on this one – I was waiting for the balancing, close-up abs’n’pecs shots of Ibiza’s beach-boys, but they never hit the screen.

Legally-speaking, the “Getaway” titty-footage (tittage?) would seem to prima facie offend the current Commercial television code of practice (PDF). In its 7.30-8.30 p.m. slot, the program could have carried a “PG” rating at most. The relevant “PG” provisions of the Code read thus:

3.2 Sex and nudity: Visual depiction of and verbal reference to sexual behaviour must be restrained, mild in impact and justified by the story line or program context. Restrained visual depiction of nudity is permitted, but only where justified by the story line or program context.

Dunno about the Code's saying the same thing twice, but it is clear, IMO, that last night’s “Getaway” boob-fest was in no way “restrained”. It was half a minute or so of TV footage that your pervy old “People”-reading uncle would have been all in a lather over. Which is just the way Kerry Packer - and through his tangential canards, George Pell – like things to be, apparently.

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