Obscenity watchdog can do better, official says, as publisher fumes The media and publishing watchdog admitted yesterday it could have done a better job in handling the case of a book bearing a picture of a famous painting of Cupid. All the copies of the Chinese language book, Lee Eyun Kee's Greek and Roman Myths, 12 Keys to Understand Myths of Love Theme, ended up being given away to the media after an inspector from the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority (Tela) advised the publisher the night before the show opened that it should not be sold. But the following day Tela told the Trade Development Council, which was organising the fair, that the book was cleared. Its cover carries an image of French artist Francois Gerard's 1798 painting Psyche Receiving The First Kiss Of Cupid. Tela commissioner Maisie Cheng Mei-sze explained yesterday that the body had been asked by the council to review the exhibits the evening before the show opened. She said this was to advise the council whether or not any material might be considered obscene or indecent by the public. 'Although Tela has clearly indicated to the TDC on the first day of the Book Fair that we did not think that the book concerned had any problems under the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance, and the TDC conveyed the message to the exhibitor, we think that there is still room for improvement in the handling of this matter,' she said. She said Tela had already improved its procedures and notification mechanism, but would also strengthen the support for frontline staff, making it quicker and easier for them to seek the advice of their supervisors. Alexander Chan Kwok-wah, a spokesman for the publisher of the book, Yuan-Liou (HK) Publishing, suggested Tela staff should strengthen their basic arts knowledge. 'At least they should know what is a piece of art - this is very basic - then clearly indicate that in their regulations,' he said. His company knew clearly what could and could not be sold from the agreement signed with the council but Tela should give clearer indications to the exhibitor about what could be considered marginal. 'If the guidelines are not clear, frontline staff could be affected, they are only following what's in black and white,' he said. 'Frontline staff just act on the regulations, they can't put a judgment there, but the verdict is left to the person who leads the team,' he said. The book was sold at last year's book fair and did not receive any complaints from any visitors nor advice from Tela or the council, Mr Chan said. 'The book has been sold in Korea and Taiwan, nothing has happened. We were very strict in reviewing the books before we buy the copyrights.' he said. 'We are quite a conservative publisher.' Meanwhile in another embarrassment for the watchdog, comics depicting various kinds of sex acts were found to have escaped their inspectors' scrutiny. The comics, since withdrawn, were found on the stall of Man Bu Wu in the fair's Grand Hall. A council spokesman said Tela had already advised the publisher not to display two titles but 'the one found by the media was not screened', he said. Ms Cheng said Tela would look into whether the comics contravened the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance.