The BBFC issued a press statement with the headline Video Appeals Committee In Surprise Obscenity Decision. This revealed the news that an R18 video certificate has been issued for a video containing snippets of hardcore. Of course
this decision is little do with BBFC who were by now bound by Jack Straw's repressive reading of the Obscene Publications Act. Instead the Video Appeals Committee were to thank for a more enlightened view of the law.
The story started last September when the distributors, Sheptonhurst (associated with the Private Shop chain), submitted their video Makin' Whoopee for an R18 certificate. This 1997 video was made in the US by Jace Rocker. It has
a vague storyline about advertising executives pursuing a movie star for a product endorsement. The video submitted video was not the original version and had presumably been pre-cut to R18 standards.
At the time of submission, the BBFC were issuing R18 certificates to videos with explicit but brief hardcore. The BBFC indicated that the video would be passed uncut via an 'interim clearance form'. Sheptonhurst went away to produce
their release publicity and packaging etc based upon this information (eg to add 100% hardcore on the cover). To make matters worse, the distributor had also purchased similar titles on the strength of this interim information. By the time final
certification was due, Jack Straw had stepped in with his own repressive view of the Obscene Publications Act, This left the BBFC with little option but to suggest the usual extreme and commercially damming cuts. Feeling justifiably peeved
Sheptonhurst went to appeal with a persuasive set of arguments.
Sheptonhurst argued that:
The video contains only heterosexual and lesbian sex. It is completely consensual and non-violent. There is no hint of stronger sexual material.
The BBFC had originally accepted the legality of the video by the issuance of the interim R18 certificate and Sheptonhurst had purchased additional titles on the strength of this information.
The BBFC had issued certificates to similar material which have never been prosecuted by the authorities.
Just because the BBFC had received new instructions from the Home Office it does not mean that these necessarily reflect a correct interpretation of the law.
The BBFC argued that:
Potential viewers may include children who may be harmed
The video contravenes the Obscene Publications Act (because Jack Straw says so, the BBFC didn't think so last year)
There exists small print to say that an interim certificate is not binding
The Video Appeals Committee unanimously decided that the video work is not obscene within the terms of the Obscene Publications Acts and that it should be granted an R18 certificate.
The distributors finally had to start pursuing their elusive certificate via the legal process. They called upon the high court to issue a Writ of Mandamus which would compel the BBFC to issue the certificate. This is an order (I think) used to deal
with people or organisations that refuse to comply with legal processes.
The distributors obtained a date to visit the High Court which was to have been on the morning of Monday 14th September The BBFC finally capitulated with a few minutes to spare at the close of play on Friday 11th September. They
finally faxed through the signed certificate.
The distributors of Makin' Whoopee are rightfully trying to capitalise on their successful appeal for an R18 certificate. On the day after the appeal they submitted four further titles to the BBFC containing similar
strength material including some hardcore footage. And guess what, these were issued with the usual stupid cuts list and so started another story.