Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Call for sex ads to be banned by regional press

Steve Dyson, the former editor of the Birmingham Mail, is today calling for all sex ads to be banned from regional newspapers.
On his blog reviewing the regionals, hosted by HoldtheFrontPage, Steve highlights some of the sex ads carried in the Chester Leader and asks: "But why, oh why, is the most family-orientated media in Britain sullying itself by accepting classified adverts for massage parlours that it at least suspects are in certain cases informal brothels?"
He adds: "When editor of the Birmingham Mail I clearly remember the case of Cuddles massage parlour, which you can read about here. The link leads you to the story about a man jailed for two years when police raiders found scantily-clad women, a couple having sex and posters on the walls detailing charges for sexual services.
"As many as 19 women – six illegal immigrants – from ten countries, including Albania, Kosovo and Latvia, were found to be working as prostitutes and, in a linked case, police prosecuted a Hungarian couple suspected of human trafficking. What the story doesn't say is that in the days before the raid, the Mail regularly carried adverts for Cuddles similar to those quoted above, obviously without knowing what the establishment was actually up to.
"The ad was removed, of course, but I couldn't help feeling uncomfortable when, five years on, I spotted this under the 'ADULT MASSAGE' section in the Mail on 29 July: 'BUNNY'S SAUNA open 7 days till late, Formally Cuddles'."
Steve concludes: "Today I call for the newspaper industry itself to completely ban all blatant sex ads. Even if the majority describe legal services, they simply do not suit what should be the style of regional and local papers. Taste issues aside, deep down we also know that such adverts can support trades that we would not like to put our names to."
  • Newsquest has banned sex advertising from all its regional newspapers. A House of Commons committee looking at sex trafficking was told that a vountary ban on sex ads imposed by Newsquest on its local papers in July 2008 had cost it over £200,000 in one region alone. The Home Affairs Committe report on Human Trafficking in the UK revealed: "A few weeks before it was scheduled to appear before us, Newsquest decided to stop taking classified advertisements for 'adult' services, which, we were told, had resulted in a substantial loss of income -between £200,000 and £250,000 for the Hampshire region alone." The committee said: "We welcome Newquest's decision; and urge other local newspapers to follow that lead."
  • An ex-regional editor told me the fact that newspaper receptions taking classifieds know when hookers are placing quasi-sex ads makes it wrong. He said: "They spot 'em a mile off, appearance being one hint and the grubby tenners paying for £70 classifieds in cash the other."


David said...

Steve's managed to do something rather beautiful - by highlighting the good of something he's arguing against.

I once challenged a manager about these ads at a paper I worked for in a non-journalistic capacity.

The ads, they said at the time, acted as tip-offs for the local police to where these brothels are... As well as bringing them money.

There's a possibility, if that's actually the case, that the raid he uses as an example would never have happened if they didn't publish the ad.

It makes sense on the face of it, and if they're offering 'massage' services in the ads on face value, children are generally too naive to think any further into it.

Steve Dyson said...

I see what David is saying but, as I'm sure he'd agree if he read some of the ads I've seen, they imply far more than simple massages... esp. the 'display-style' classifieds. They regularly state things like 'Quickie relief...lie back and relax' with a leering buxom blonde pictured. That, and the massage ads next to them stating 'Milky massage with special Xtras from gorgeous shapely Sadie, home and hotel visits only, £40 for an all-in service!' will, belive me, be understood by kids, who are not as naive as you think. There's now some quite disturbing concerns aired by various posters on the original htfp blog.

David said...

Having now seen some of the more 'pushing the boundaries' examples, I do get your point Steve - and I'd agree that the less subtle ones will be understood.

The debate on the original article is fascinating.