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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 14:56 GMT
City seeks 'anti-gay' album ban
By Tom Bishop
BBC News entertainment reporter

Elephant Man
Councillors want stores to boycott artists including Elephant Man
The first city-wide boycott of reggae and rap albums with "anti-gay" lyrics is being considered in Brighton.

Councillors want music retailers HMV, Virgin Megastore and MVC to stop selling albums with homophobic lyrics in its Brighton and Hove branches.

While the council does not have the power to ban their sale, it can urge retailers to act on their objections.

"We do not condone such lyrics, but customers should be able to make their own choices," an HMV spokesman said.

'Take stand'

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell backs the plan, to come before Brighton and Hove City Council on Thursday.

The Green Party plan aims to target "lyrics that incite the murder of lesbians and gay men and other groups including women".

It urges retailers to stop stocking albums by artists including reggae stars Buju Banton, Beenie Man, Elephant Man, TOK, Vybz Kartel and Bounty Killer.

"Brighton and Hove is regarded as the gay capital of England. We decided we should take a stand against the record stores," said councillor Simon Williams.

We hope to put pressure on the music industry to clean up its act
Simon Williams, councillor
"Whilst freedom of expression is valid in most cases, it ceases to be valid when you are talking about incitement to murder people."

The fact that albums containing such lyrics are readily available "contributes to a climate where homophobia and other forms of prejudice are seen as acceptable", Williams said.

"By targeting large, specialist music stores, we hope to put pressure on the music industry to clean up its act."

The Green Party also wants the government to extend laws which ban the incitement of racist violence to also apply to homophobic violence.

On Thursday the council will also consider a similar proposal by Conservative members, which will urge music venues and libraries to also boycott "anti-gay" music and performers.

If we did not stock anything that might offend somebody somewhere, our shelves would be pretty empty
Virgin Megastore spokesman
A spokesman for Virgin Megastore said that if the proposals won council backing, it would "seriously consider" the request to stop selling certain albums.

"Of course we do not agree with what is said in some of those lyrics," he said, "but we agree with the freedom of choice, tolerance and the right to choose what music you want to buy."

He added: "Retailers are caught right in the middle of this. We sell music, we are not there to defend Jamaican society and what's right or wrong with it."

"If we did not stock anything that might offend somebody somewhere, our shelves would be pretty empty."

Sizzla
Reggae Sizzla's UK tour was cancelled following protests

Daniel Shaw, manager of MVC's Brighton branch, said staff had removed the highlighted "anti-gay" albums from display. They are still available if specifically requested by customers, however.

A spokesman for HMV said the specified albums were not available from its Brighton branch because there was no demand for them.

He added that the move to boycott specific albums could be counter-productive.

"If you try to ban something it can enable the artists to promote themselves as being cool victims. It could really boost sales."

Retailers would welcome tighter laws stating what they can and cannot sell, he said.

"By giving retailers responsibility for that choice, you are encouraging them to make subjective decisions and encouraging censorship. This could set a dangerous precedent."

OutRage! head Peter Tatchell
If the stores refuse to remove these CDs we will be pressing the police to prosecute them
Peter Tatchell, OutRage!
Earlier this month the Metropolitan Police's Racial and Violent Crime task force announced it was investigating lyrics by eight reggae artists.

A UK tour by reggae star Sizzla was subsequently cancelled after protests by gay rights group OutRage!

The group's head Peter Tatchell joined supporters of the new proposals in Brighton on Tuesday.

"Records that incite murder are criminal offences, and it is illegal for record stores to promote this music," he said.

"If the stores refuse to remove these CDs we will be pressing the police to prosecute them.

"We hope that other cities around the country will follow Brighton's lead by pressing local stores to take these CDs out of their stores."


SEE ALSO:
HIV warning over reggae lyrics
22 Nov 04 |  Politics
Ban threat aborts Sizzla UK tour
04 Nov 04 |  Entertainment
'Anti-gay' lyrics inquiry starts
03 Nov 04 |  Entertainment
Mobo drops 'homophobic' artists
08 Sep 04 |  Entertainment
Singer sorry for 'anti-gay songs'
03 Aug 04 |  Entertainment


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