We recently launched a TV channel in the UK. You might have noticed this already, because we've been shouting about it a lot and did a huge census of VICE readers to celebrate the launch, in which we discovered that you all absolutely despise littering, are terrified of dying alone, prefer house parties over clubs and a bunch of other stuff that you can read about here. Anyway, it's called VICELAND and it's on Sky channel 153 and Now TV.
To promote the channel, we got a load of posters made up and stuck them on walls all around the country. That was going fine – they're posters; posters usually aren't much of an issue – until yesterday, when someone sent us the above photo of three people in Hackney council jackets painting over some of the ads we put up in Shoreditch. Ads that originally looked like this:
And now look like this:
Granted, the photo of VICELAND host Thomas Morton castrating a sheep with his bare teeth is maybe quite intense. But hey, also, castration is normal! It happens all the time! Like rain, or train delays, or really boring small talk! And what of the word "HARDCORE"? Or the photo of a man in a pig mask? Or the number "153"? What's offensive about those?
To find out, we gave Hackney council a ring.
VICE: We've had a couple of our VICELAND posters blacked out – can you tell us why?
Hackney Council: Do they show anything obscene, or swear words, or... ?
The posters feature a man in a pig mask, and they also feature a man castrating a sheep with his mouth.
Well, that's why they're blacked out then.
Would they not have got through some sort of screening stage initially?
Hold on... Hold the line.
Hackney Council: Right, so, how do you know the council has done this?
We saw two guys in hi-vis Hackney council jackets doing it.
It's most likely [the] enforcement [department]. Someone's probably called up to complain about obscene or offensive content and it's been blacked out because of that. I don't know whether you can discuss the matter with them. Clearly some images are not suitable for children to walk past, so anyone with children would probably call up to complain. Do you want to speak to enforcement?
* We're given the number for enforcement and punch it in *
Hello! I'm calling from VICE UK. We've had a couple of posters for our TV channel VICELAND (SKY channel 153) blacked out. Just wondering why that is?
Hackney Council Enforcement: What kind of poster was it?
It was a white poster. One had a photo of a man in a pig mask. Another said, "Sheep are being castrated" above a photo of a man castrating a sheep with his mouth and–
Oh! Okay, something to do with the sheep – I see. I do know that someone did complain about that. Obviously it had nothing to do with me, but someone did call. So that's probably why. But has it been blacked out completely?
Not completely; most of it's blacked out on the bottom half, but it looks like they couldn't reach the top half properly and just sort of stopped.
Hmm. I don't think Hackney Council would have done that. Let me just find out.
Hello again – I spoke to a member of the enforcement team and she said that she's not sure who did it, but it wasn't one of them. An officer is actually due to go out and look at the posters because they only just got the complaints today. What she said is that if it was the council they wouldn't have blacked it out, they'd have removed it completely.
Okay. So who was it?
I don't know, to be quite honest.
Okay then. We'll continue our investigation. Thanks!
Our initial plan was to ask Hackney council to explain what exactly was wrong with each one of these things:
- A photo of a pig mask
- The word "HARDCORE"
- The word "CASTRATION"
- The words "VICELAND", "Sky Channel 153" and "Now TV"
- A photo of a man castrating a sheep with his mouth
But as you can probably surmise from the transcripts of our conversations, that wasn't going to happen, because nobody really seemed 100 percent sure why the posters had been blacked out, or even if Hackney council staff were responsible.
So what had happened? Were these rogue council officials taking matters into their own hands, deciding what the people of Shoreditch can and cannot see, like propaganda agents from the DPRK? Were they incredibly unimaginative street artists who'd somehow got hold of Hackney council hi-vis jackets?
We just don't know, so here are a couple of absolute guesses as to who the culprits might be:
Even though Shoreditch is as much of a disgusting, putrescent den of iniquity as you imagine it to be, there are still little puritanical pockets dotted around the place. There are a couple of churches around here; maybe a vicar got so mad at the sight of a man biting a sheep in the ball tubes that he sent the church's painter-decorator hit squad out to get us? Big Religion, man – it's everywhere and it hates photos of castration.
A RIVAL TV CHANNEL
Because why would anyone in their right mind paint over "SKY 153"? How, in any conceivable way, is that offensive to anyone? The only logical answer: it's Dave or Good Food +1 starting a really passive aggressive war.
- - -
Although both of those are pretty solid culprits, we're still not really any closer to working out whodunnit, and we need your help. Who was it? Have you seen the perp? Do you have any information? If so, please email email@example.com. Your anonymity is safe with us.
viceland.com / #vicelanduncut
VICELAND / SKY CHANNEL 153 / VICELAND / SKY CHANNEL 153 / VICELAND / SKY CHANNEL 153 / VICELAND / SKY CHANNEL 153 / VICELAND