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Porn in the USA tickles Teutons

Sexual acts, nudity not a problem if presented properly

BERLIN — When is erotic programming not porn and acceptable on TV? When it has a story, dialogue and characters, according to Germany’s bizarre media laws.

Yet this kind of softcore erotica is so hard to find in Europe that Teutonic paybox Beate-Uhse TV has to work hand in hand with U.S. producers to develop tailor-made shows.

“There’s no lack of hardcore content in Germany and Europe, but we are trying to reach a different audience,” Beate-Uhse TV CEO Heidi Niedzwetzki says.

Some 80% of the provocative pics aired on the channel, carried on Germany’s sole pay TV platform, Premiere, come from California’s San Fernando Valley-based producers. Regulars include Ultimate Pictures/Adam and Eve Prods. and Vivid Entertainment.

Indeed, it’s not easy for U.S. producers to understand Germany’s censorship regulations. Its self-regulating body (FSF) allows more sex and nudity on terrestrial and pay TV than in the States. But the catch lies not in the graphic sex, but in the politically correct context in which it’s depicted.

“In order not to be classified as pornographic and banned in Germany, a film needs to fulfill certain requirements with regards to content and visual style,” says Niedzwetzki.

That means characters have to be introduced with a background and a profile. Sexual acts and nudity are not a problem if presented in context — a character’s multiple sexual romps would be more acceptable to media watchdogs if he or she were on a voyage of spiritual and sexual discovery, for example.

A movie within a movie about an actress rehearsing to play a porno star would also get the greenlight because thesp is researching a role.

Solid storytelling does have its limits, however.

While distinguishing between erotica and porn remains a blurry science, watchdogs draw the line at scenes focusing on genitalia, acts of oral sex, the use of toys and group sex. But they may approve threesomes with two females and one male if the plot calls for it and if the characters have already been introduced.

Two of Beate-Uhse TV’s 11 Berlin-based staffers review treatments and scripts and help U.S. producers with exactly what is and what is not “verboten.”

However, “we are not producing or co-producing,” says Niedzwetzki; “we are advising.”

Bill Asher, Vivid Entertainment CEO and partner, says: “We work very closely with our licensees in Germany to supply them with product that they feel is appropriate for their audiences.

“We understand that there are nuances specific to Germany and every other region, and it is our job to work with the distributors to make sure the viewers’ desires are met in each country.”

Beate-Uhse TV targets young adults, couples and gay viewers with movies, lifestyle programs, educational formats and reality shows like “Erotik Star: Beate-Uhse TV Search for Popppcq-Stars 2003,” which despite the title, isn’t a music format.

German viewers, Niedzwetzki says, prefer the young, attractive and wholesome couples of America’s blue movies over the often more particular, and peculiar, characterizations found in, say, French fare, which often depicts erotic dalliances between young women and older, less attractive male partners.

Despite the close co-operation, Beate-Uhse TV does not buy directly from U.S. distribs, but from Swiss-based Erotik Medien, one of Europe’s biggest erotic distribs, which is partially owned by the Beate-Uhse parent group, itself an erotic media, retail and mail-order empire.

Although porn on TV is illegal, a recent change in media law regulating the protection of minors paved the way for hardcore telemedium services, which are not officially channels but auxiliary services.

Experts say the legislative revamp recognizes technological advancements in TV and digital media as well as being an effort to bring German regulations into line with other European nations.

Premiere is mulling providing such a service, which would have very restrictive access and require a personal identification PIN number to tune in.

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