A dominatrix and performance artist dealt a blow to the Authority for Television on Demand (ATVOD) this week when Ofcom ruled that her website was not subject to their regulation. Itziar Bilbao Urrutia is a producer of The Urban Chick Supremacy Cell (UC-SC), a website that publishes video performances mixing erotic scenarios with social commentary. Scenarios include contrived scenes of kidnapping corrupt bankers and other high-powered businessman.
In June 2013 she was threatened with legal action and fines if she did not pay a fee to ATVOD, a private company with delegated authority from Ofcom to regulate online videos. Ms Urrutia was advised by sexual liberties campaign Backlash and their legal adviser, obscenity law expert, Myles Jackman.
ATVOD persisted, so Backlash via Hodge Jones Allen partner Daniel Godden instructed Ligia Osepciu of Monckton’s to prepare a formal appeal to Ofcom. The appeal was successful. In a decision released this week Ofcom sided with Ms Urrutia, slapping down their own subordinate and limiting ATVOD’s jurisdiction to websites that provide more obviously ‘TV-like’ content.
ATVOD’s legitimate area of regulation remains a value judgement, continuing a worrying level of uncertainty for Britain’s media producers.
Ligia Osepciu, the barrister who drafted the appeal, commented: ‘Ofcom’s carefully reasoned decision gives proper effect to the AVMS Directive as an instrument of economic and competition regulation rather than a vehicle for moral legislation’.
UCSC producer Itziar Bilbao Urrutia said: ‘I’m so glad we won after such a stressful year. In Britain authority is usually so uptight about sex, especially these days, with the shock of the new that still surrounds technologies such as the internet’
‘We’re also delighted to have had Atvod’s endorsement as being a site of significance. We are militant female supremacists, but I must concede that the patriarchy has its uses’.
Notes for Editors:
1. Backlash is an umbrella campaign providing academic campaigning and legal resources in the defence of freedom of sexual expression.
2. Myles Jackman specialises in sexual obscenity cases and is the legal adviser to Backlash. He was the Law Society’s Junior Lawyer of the Year in 2012. He blogs as Obscenity Lawyer.
3. Myles Jackman’s commentary on the case has been published here.
4. Ofcom’s judgement is available in full here.
5. ATVOD is the independent co-regulator for UK video on demand services. Its powers derive from the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive via the Communications Act 2003, as amended by the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2009 and the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2010.
6. The Urban Chick Supremacy Cell is an art project designed, produced and created by real life dominant women where all violence and speech are part of a fictionalized dystopian Femdom fantasy. It is an adults-only website that is accessible here. A non-explicit splash image for viewing and re-use is here.
7. Ligia Osepciu specialises in competition law, public procurement, telecommunications and utilities regulation. In the telecommunications field, she has advised and represented a number of private parties in relation to challenges against the regulatory decisions of PhonepayPlus and ATVOD. She also recently acted for the successful appellant in the BT plc v Telefonica et al (2014) UKSC 42, a case concerning the scope of Ofcom’s powers under section 185 of the Communications Act 2003.