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 Hiding Behind Children

 The R18 Story: Chapter 7



Hiding Behind Children

The R18 Story, the legalisation of hardcore: Chapter 7: July 1999

An article in the Independent of July 1999 reveals that the BBFC have decided to modify their defence used in the previous R18 appeal. Previously they have tried to suggest that hardcore should be banned on the grounds of obscenity but this approach is rapidly becoming completely discredited. Instead, they have decided to hide behind the age old excuse of harm to children.

This conjures up memories of the David Cronenberg film, Dead Zone, where Jackboots Straw plays the politician who has been found to be abusing his power. His first line of defense is to surround himself with weak & servile sidekicks, the BBFC, and thuggish security agents, HM Customs. When these fail him and he is left staring into the barrel of the heroic freedom fighter's gun, his last desperate defense is to snatch a nearby child and hold it aloft in the line of fire.


Censors Tighten Rules On Sex Videos

R18 StoryBritain's film censors are toughening their code against hardcore pornography to stop explicit sex videos gaining classification for sale to the public. The BBFC is worried that unless rules are hardened it could lose a forthcoming appeal by the pornography industry, opening the way for a flood of explicit videos.

Makin' Whoopee DVD coverThe Video Appeal Committee, set up by the Home Office to address public concern over "video nasties" in the Eighties, will rule whether videos containing highly graphic scenes should be granted "R18" certificates later this month. The committee overturned the board's ban on a video called Makin' Whoopee! last year and now the pornography industry has submitted seven more sample videos to end the confusion over the law.

To prevent the lifting of the ban, the board, headed by its new director, Robin Duval, has decided to toughen its legal case by arguing that under the Video Recording Act, the videos are "harmful". Previously the board has tried to defend the ban by claiming under obscenity laws that videos containing explicit scenes were "obscene". The board hopes its chances of winning the appeal will be greatly improved because of the difficulty of denying "harm" could be caused, particularly if children obtained copies of an "R18" classified video. 

Jack StrawThe BBFC's stance is backed by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, who has made clear he is opposed to any liberalisation of the law.

When publishing its ruling on Makin' Whoopee! last year, the Video Appeal Committee said: It may offend or disgust but it is unlikely to deprave or corrupt that proportion of the public that is likely to view it.

The committee also cast doubt on the independence of the board from the Home Office. A confidential document, seen by The Independent, said: The grounds for the appeal were that in the past, the BBFC had granted `R18' to similar works and had changed its standards following the intervention and instruction from the Home Office rather than making its own decisions.

Despite such accusations, a board insider said its president, Andreas Whittam Smith, and Mr Duval were "completely determined" to win the appeal. In February, within three weeks of being in the post, Mr Duval made a presentation to the Home Office on the implications for the board of the Makin' Whoopee! ruling.

According to another document seen by The Independent, Home Office officials made it clear at the meeting they did not regard Makin' Whoopee! as an acceptable benchmark.

Robin DuvalMr Duval is known to oppose assessments by the board's previous director, James Ferman, that some hardcore pornography should be permitted, to create a legitimate alternative to black-market videos from the Continent and the US.

Another source said: There has been a clear change of culture within the BBFC. But there is still a general feeling among others that none of these films are showing anything which would be harmful. It is pretty basic stuff.

A Home Office spokesman said the Video Appeal Committee was an independent body. It would be inappropriate for Jack Straw to interfere in the committee's decision. (Then why do the BBFC have to abide by Home Office guidelines?)



Legalisation of R18 Hardcore  Chapter 1: Jacking Off the Censor Hardcore snippets temporarily got BBFC approval in 1997
 Chapter 2: Makin' Whoopee in Summer 1998
 Chapter 3: Rumours of a Return to Porn in November/December 1998
 Chapter 4: Porn is In & Out & In & Out Again the state of play in January 1999
 Chapter 5: The Video Appeals Committee Forcing the BBFC to respect the law, May 1999
 Chapter 6: Censoring Safer Sex Discrimination at the BBFC. May 1999
 Chapter 7: Hiding Behind Children Giving up on obscenity and using concern for children, July 1999
 Chapter 8: The VAC R18 Appeal Report from the VAC Appeal, July 1999
 Chapter 9: An Appealing Victory Video Appeals Committee judgment allows hardcore, August 1999
 Chapter 10: The Censor and the State BBFC seek Judicial review, winter 1999/2000
 Chapter 11: Judicial Review Confirms Legality of Hardcore: Spring & Summer 2000
 Chapter 12: More Sex Shops Required according to Andreas Whittam Smith, November 2000
 Chapter 13: The Legalisation of Hardcore: A recap 1997-2000