Tanya Byron's report entitled Safer Children in a Digital World has been published
Dr Tanya Byron said in the press release that while new technologies bring incredible opportunities to children and young people, parents general lack of confidence and awareness is leaving children vulnerable to risks within their digital worlds.
Many parents seem to believe that when their child is online it is similar to watching television. Dr Byron is keen to emphasise that in fact it is more like opening the front door and letting a child go outside to play, unsupervised. Digital
world risks are similar to real world risks but can be enhanced by the anonymity and ubiquity that the online space brings.
In order to improve children’s online safety, Dr Byron makes a number of groundbreaking recommendations including:
The creation of a new UK Council for Child Internet Safety, established by and reporting to the Prime Minister, and including representation from across Government, industry, children’s charities and other key stakeholders including children,
young people and parent panels.
Challenging industry to take greater responsibility in supporting families through: establishing transparent and independently monitored codes of practice on areas such as user generated content; improving access to parental control software and
safe search features; and better regulation of online advertising.
Kick starting a comprehensive public information and awareness campaign on child internet safety across Government and industry, which includes an authoritative ‘one stop shop’ on child internet safety.
Setting in place sustainable education and initiatives in children’s services and education to improve the skills of children and their parents around e-safety.
On video games, Dr Byron recommends a range of high profile and targeted efforts to help inform parents what games are right for their children, such as:
Reforming the classification system for rating video games with one set of symbols on the front of all boxes which are the same as those for film.
Lowering the statutory requirement to classify video games to 12+, so that it is the same as film classification and easier for parents to understand.
Clear and consistent guidance for industry on how games should be advertised.
Challenging industry to provide sustained and high profile efforts to increase parent’s understanding of age ratings and improved parental controls.
Responding to the Byron Report, David Cooke, Director of the BBFC, said in a press release:
I warmly welcome Dr Byron’s report. She has listened very carefully to all the arguments, and exercised her independent and expert judgement.
It is clear from Dr Byron’s report that games classification is less well understood that that for films and DVDs. We all need to work hard to bring understanding up to the same level, and help parents and children make informed choices. Games
like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas are for adults, and should be treated in the same way as ‘18’ rated films and DVDs.
Dr Byron says that when it comes to content, parents want better information on which to base their decisions. I welcome the film-style classification system and greater role for the BBFC which she recommends in paragraph 7.47 of her report.
At the BBFC we provide symbols which are trusted and understood; thorough, independent examination by skilled games players; individually tailored health warnings, and also the full reasoning for the classification covering all the key issues; a
cutting edge approach to online film and games content, including independent monitoring.
We co-operate closely with the Pan European Games Information Systems (PEGI) and will continue to do so. Unlike PEGI, the BBFC has the power, in exceptional cases, to reject films, DVDs and games which have the potential to pose real harm risk. We
reject an average of two to three works a year (mostly DVDs) and will continue to do so where it is necessary to protect the public. At the adult level, we respect the public expectation that adults should be free to choose except where there are
real harm risks. But we do not think it would be right to remove the reserve rejection power and we are pleased that Dr Byron agrees with this.
The BBFC has been able to handle a major expansion of the DVD market over the last few years, and we are ready and able to take on the extra work envisaged by Dr Byron. We attach great importance to providing a speedy and effective service,
primarily to the public, but also to the creative industries who produce films, DVDs and games. We will be talking to the Government, PEGI and the games industry about how to implement Dr Byron’s recommendations.
We are also studying very carefully Dr Byron’s recommendations on the risks children face from the internet, and believe we have a significant contribution to make in this area too.
Computer games companies have warned the government that the proposed overhaul of the classification system could impose an unfair economic burden on the industry.
The industry is concerned that the BBFC would not be able to cope with rating games fast enough, slowing production and putting the country at a disadvantage.
We are concerned about whether the BBFC could do the job. We hope this wouldn't result in a slow and costly accreditation process, said Richard Wilson, chief executive of Tiga, the body representing independent games developers.
It may increase the layers of bureaucracy and expense for the industry, which has already invested time and effort in creating something they think works, said Robert Bond, games law specialist at Speechly Bircham.
Tiga is concerned that the cost of promoting a new rating system will fall solely on the shoulders of games companies, adding an extra cost they can ill afford.
The government must not burden the games industry alone with the cost of executing an information campaign about the ratings system for games. Games developers already face intense competition from government-subsidised Canadian games
developers. The last thing the games industry needs is for the UK government to impose additional costs on it, Wilson said.
Jason Kingsley, chief executive of Rebellion, a games developer, said: It could be the straw that breaks the camel's back for some of the smaller, more marginal UK developers.
The games industry is calling for the government to retain the existing PEGIi system used across Europe.
The director general of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association, Paul Jackson, said the proposals needed more work: We have a concern about the detail of the classification system she's outlined. Games publishers believe
PEGI is better placed to deliver a "future-proof" system.
The first national strategy for child internet safety, including a streamlined system for classifying computer video games and codes of practice for social networking sites, will be set out today in a ground-breaking report for government.
The six-month study prepared by the child psychologist Dr Tanya Byron, reflects her concern that parents and children are struggling with the impact of the internet and computer games.
Her report will argue that industry and government must do more to provide information to parents on how to set timers on computers, video games and console games. She will propose:
New codes of practice to regulate social networking sites, such as Bebo and Facebook, including clear standards on privacy and harmful content
A gold standard for the use of console games, including clear set-up guidance for parents on issues such as pin codes and locks
Better information for parents on how to block children accessing some websites. Byron has been struck that the technology exists to impose timers and filters, but there has been little take-up, knowledge or development of the technology
A new law based on a 2006 Law Commission recommendation making it unlawful to assist suicide on the internet
A national council to implement her strategy, with a fixed timetable for industry experts; a parents' panel and child development experts to implement her recommendations.
She will also concede that academic research on the impact of the net on children and their lifestyles is inadequate.
The debate about the internet had, however, been hampered by excessive anxiety, she said, and the issue now placed great challenges before government to do more to protect and educate.
Her research has shown that parents are most worried by predators and children are most concerned by cyberbullying.
Another of her proposals is an overhaul of the video game classification system. Classifications are likely to be refined on the basis that what may be deemed appropriate for someone approaching 18 may well not be appropriate for someone of nine
The new classification system will be clearer, with one set of logos and much more explicit descriptions of content and context on the packaging. She is also likely to propose a clearer law stating when games cannot be sold under that age. The
BBFC system gives no indication about contents of games or detail of why an age rating has been given.
Although social network sites have community guidelines or acceptable use policies, these are not always properly enforced. The most popular video on the website Pure Street Fight was called Girl Beat Up In Street and had been viewed
Byron said she wanted these self-generated and hugely profitable sites to be asked to agree codes of practice on harmful content, and for an independent body to evaluate whether the site is meeting the standards it has set for itself.
A plausible way to protect children from extreme film and gaming violence in the home?
Apart from arcades being expensive, inconvenient, lacking privacy and populated by youngsters!
Thanks to Conor
full article from
See also Facebook group: The fallibility of Film/Gaming Censorship in both the U.K. and Ireland
Current head of the Irish Film Censor's Office (IFCO) John Kelleher recently replaced the decision to ‘censor’ movies and video games with age-related classification. But what exactly does this mean for parents, their children and a wider
audience? There needs to be logical transparency on the issue, which is presently lacking in the public arena.
There is a perfectly safe and suitable solution for protecting children against violent images in relation to violent video gaming and film; that is simple classification and certification. Cinematic exhibition is heavily regulated; Miscreants
cannot rewind violent images over and over again in this environment. The same is applicable for children. If that hypothesis is deemed correct, it must also be applicable to other areas such as video gaming. All this was suggested by British film
critic Dr. Mark Kermode in 1995, which he followed by stating that ‘existing obscenity laws should be repealed with new legislation which makes it an offence, punishable by heavy fine, or a prison sentence to distribute, or show obscene material,
In relation to cinema, the position proposed almost fifteen years ago by Dr. Kermode has not changed. The failure of various democratic governments though-out the world to move on this position is a complete logical fallacy. In the case of video
gaming, it is also possible for regulation to be imposed in an environment away from children. Arcades could be set up which regulate certificates (or zones) to play adult video games.
This is a feasible solution to take violent video gaming out of the home and placed in highly regulated areas away from children. It also generates a vast infrastructure which creates further jobs for the workforce, which is vital for both the
video gaming industry and government. In the case of Arcades , the time is immediate to move on such an issue, as these particular institutions are almost extinct. This might ultimately make adults who do not have children of their own unhappy
because it takes extremely violent video games out of their homes.
The Byron report, to be unveiled on Thursday, will call for action to close the "digital divide" that is exposing children to the dangers of explicit content, internet grooming by paedophiles and "cyber-bullying", without the
protection of their parents. Dr Byron said: "Kids know more about the technologies than adults. They are using them more and they understand how to use them."
She will recommend that both parents and children should receive lessons in internet safety, including the use of security software, and advice on limiting the amount of personal information released. Her first simple suggestion will be that
computers are positioned in shared areas of homes, such as living rooms, so that parents can keep an eye on what their children are viewing.
The classification of video games quickly emerged as a central concern among parents. The majority of new games are given a rating under a voluntary system maintained by Pan-European Game Information (PEGI). Manufacturers have to apply for a
statutory BBFC rating only if their product depicts sex, gross violence, criminal activity or drug use.
Dr Byron told representatives of the gaming industry that restructuring the classification system was a fundamental "housekeeping issue".
The review is expected to recommend that all computer games are given the BBFC movie-style classification, with the possibility that the task of rating and regulating the products should be handed to a new organisation with tougher powers to
Dr Tanya Byron, who leads the review process, will be speaking about it at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) headquarters in London's Piccadilly on April 3rd.
According to BAFTA: Dr Byron will be coming to BAFTA to present the thinking behind her report and take questions.
The evening is co-presented by BAFTA and Showcomotion Children’s Media Conference, reflecting the conference's role in exploring the creative, business and regulatory issues facing the entire children’s media and entertainment industry. The
moderator for the evening will be Marc Goodchild, Head of Children’s Interactive and On-Demand at BBC Children's.
Rockstar’s lawyer Lawrence Abramson not only feels that the BBFC's approach to video game classification is flawed, but that the appeals system is a major problem as well.
The Video Appeals Committee overturned the BBFC’s ban of Rockstart title Manhunt 2 , but Abramson still thinks the lack of game players in the process is troublesome.
He continued on the theme but later came up with an interesting snippet: I understand that Tanya Byron is expected to recommend that the regulation of games is taken outside of the BBFC/VAC procedure altogether and that instead the role of PEGI
should be enhanced.
A BBFC spokesperson told TechRadar: The BBFC spent many hours examining Manhunt 2 . This involved experienced game players playing the game at every level. Both VAC decisions were by the narrow margin of 4:3. PEGI has no power to reject
a game. The BBFC and PEGI co-operate closely.
The VAC decision was a close call. Of the seven members sitting on the Video Appeals, four members of Committee voted in favour of classifying the game against three that voted against Rockstar.
But who were these seven members of the Video Appeals Committee? We asked the BBFC, who informed us that the VAC in the Manhunt 2 case was made up of the following seven people:
John Wood, VAC president – former director of serious fraud office
Biddy Baxter, TV producer
Barry Davies, former deputy director of social services and chair of area child protection committee
Pauline Grey – district chairman of the tribunal service and member of the gender recognition panel
Prof John Last – former lay member of the press council, lay member of bar standards board, visiting professor at City University
Dr. Neville March-Hunnings, lawyer, author of ‘Film Censors and the Law’
The cut M rated version has been passed uncut after a successful appeal to the reconvened Video Appeals Committee:
The BBFC issued the following press release:
The Video Appeals Committee announced that the result of their reconsideration of the Manhunt 2 appeal remains that the appeal against the rejection of the work by the BBFC is upheld.
The Board’s decision to refuse a certificate to Manhunt 2 was successfully challenged on appeal to the Video Appeals Committee. The Board challenged the VAC’s decision by way of Judicial Review before the High Court, which quashed the decision on
grounds of errors of law. The VAC has now reconsidered the appeal in the light of the High Court’s directions on the law but has decided, again by a majority of four to three, to allow the appeal on the basis that Manhunt 2 should be given an ‘18’
In the light of legal advice the Board does not believe the VAC’s judgement provides a realistic basis for a further challenge to its decision and has accordingly issued an ‘18’ certificate.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said: As I have said previously, we never take rejection decisions lightly, and they always involve a complex balance of considerations. We twice rejected Manhunt 2, and then pursued a judicial review
challenge, because we considered, after exceptionally thorough examination, that it posed a real potential harm risk. However, the Video Appeals Committee has again exercised its independent scrutiny. It is now clear, in the light of this
decision, and our legal advice, that we have no alternative but to issue an ‘18’ certificate to the game.
The BBFC also provided a statement about the 18 certificate:
MANHUNT 2 is a violent action game based on a psychological-horror theme. The player takes on the role of Daniel Lamb, a seemingly disturbed patient in a mental facility, who escapes from the institution in an effort to
discover who he really is. As he progresses through various environments collecting clues and information about his identity, he is confronted by numerous thugs employed by "The Project"; a secretive experimental organisation, whom he
must either evade or kill in order to ensure his own survival.
MANHUNT 2 has been classified '18' for very strong bloody and sadistic violence, which takes the form of stealth executions. In order to successfully despatch a target, the player-character must creep up behind the victim quietly and kill before
he is discovered. The killings are achieved through a number of common items such as syringes, glass shards, pens, crowbars, spades, power-saws, clubs, baseball bats, axes, pliers and, later on in the game, firearms. Each killing is graphically
portrayed as a brief video scene where weapons are seen to impact on various parts of the victim's body coupled to realistic sound effects and blood spurts. The cumulative effect of these killings creates a very strong impression of almost
continuous violence and horror which is too strong to be contained at any category below '18'. The game is entirely unsuitable for anyone below this age.
Rockstar is now working towards a new release date for the title in the UK.
We are pleased that the VAC has reaffirmed its decision recognizing that Manhunt 2 is well within the bounds established by other 18-plus rated entertainment, a company statement read.
The version of the game to be released in the UK has been confirmed as the cut version currently available in the US under a Mature rating - the version which was rejected by the BBFC the second time around.
A Rockstar spokesperson told GamesIndustry.biz that due to the news of the VAC's decision only breaking earlier today, no official decision had yet been made on a release date, but discussions were expected to take place shortly.
The UK government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport has told GamesIndustry.biz that it has no plans at the moment to intervene in the planned release of Manhunt 2 in the UK.
"The classification of Manhunt 2 is a matter for the BBFC and the Video Appeals Committee," said a spokesperson, after today's news that the VAC had reaffirmed its decision to back Rockstar in an appeal over the BBFC's refusal to certify
"It is important to note that there is no conclusive evidence of any link between playing computer games and violent behaviour in real life," the spokesperson continued. "Our concern is to make sure that inappropriate material is
kept away from children.
A Bully computer game sends out the wrong signals and should be withdrawn from sale, say UK teachers.
They are part of a global coalition concerned about the impact of the game, which has been released in new formats.
Bully: Scholarship Edition trivialises and glorifies bullying in school , say opponents from eight international teacher groups.
UK retailers say they will not act as censors and will continue to sell the game to children over the age of 15.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SCTA) are part of an international group which thinks the game could encourage bullying.
Although it carries a BBFC 15 rating, campaigners fear Bully could get into the hands of much younger children. The idea of a game that rewards bullies and those who engage in brutal and savage attacks is irresponsible in the extreme
Steve Sinnott, general secretary, NUT
The game, designed by US-based Rockstar Games was originally launched in 2006 but has been updated for the new generation of games' consoles - Xbox and Wii.
NUT general secretary Steve Sinnott said: At a time when there is a growing concern about bullying in schools and the increasing violence shown towards teachers, the idea of a game that rewards bullies and those who engage in brutal and savage
attacks is irresponsible in the extreme. I call upon Amazon, Game, Play and HMV to withdraw this product from sale immediately.
The Australian Education Union's federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said: We were disappointed when the game was first released in 2006 and we are appalled this new version is said to be more realistic, featuring new methods to torment and
bully. The coalition of countries calling for the game to be withdrawn from shelves includes Canada, South Korea and the Caribbean.
HMV told the BBC News website they would not actively promote the game by placing adverts in national newspapers and that their approach would be more discreet, but they would not remove it from sale.
The BBFC explain their uncut 15 rating as follows:
BULLY: SCHOLARSHIP EDITION is a third person 'beat em up' game for the Xbox 360 console. The player character is Jimmy, a new pupil at a tough boarding school. He has to complete various missions, attend lessons and fight his
way to the top of the pecking order in order to progress through the game.
This game received a '15' classification because it contains strong violence. Jimmy has a range of weapons available to him, including a catapult, fire crackers, aerosol sprays and a firework gun. Fighting does not result in blood or visible
injuries, but it is a frequent part of the game play. While the frequency of the violence places it at the '15' category, the lack of detail and the way the game makes it very difficult for Jimmy to attack vulnerable characters (girls, younger
pupils, etc) by sending prefects to apprehend and punish him with boring tasks helped to keep it out of the '18' category. The '15' classification was also felt to be the most appropriate category for the imitable behaviour in the game, such as
using the items listed above as weapons. While the dangers may be expected to be obvious to players aged 15 and above, it was felt that this may not be so clear to younger gamers.
BULLY also contains some moderate bad language including 'bitch' and 'slut', and some mild sexual innuendo
Will 12 rated Young Indiana Jones signal an uncut Temple of Doom
Thanks to David
Nine disks of the Young Indiana Jones sets have been classified as 12, which raises the possibility that Lucasfilms won't be insisting on always having a PG rating for Indy ... So there is hope for an uncut Temple Of Doom when the new re-releases come through...
UK Xbox boss Neil Thompson has said he reckons PEGI would do a better job of rating videogames than the British Board of Film Classification.
There's been much talk about whether the UK should have a single ratings system lately. (Sometimes we talk about it in the office. "Do you think the UK should have a single ratings system?" "I don't care. It's your turn to make the
tea.") It's thought that Tanya Byron could make such a recommendation in her forthcoming Government review on violence in games, though nothing has been decided. Two sugars.
"We made it very clear to the Byron Report team, both as an industry and as Microsoft, strongly believe that PEGI has a lot more benefits for customers, parents and for everyone involved in the industry really," Thompson said.
"PEGI has been established for quite a few years now as the industry standard, so the industry has got behind it and invested a lot of time and effort in it, and it offers a level of in-depth information as well as a level of expertise to be
honest, that the BBFC doesn't."
According to Thompson, PEGI rated nearly 2000 games last year - while the BBFC managed just 100. That's not including Manhunt 2, which was refused a rating by the BBFC for being likely to turn us all into homicidal maniacs.
"There's just a scale difference in terms of industry knowledge and industry insight that goes into these things," Thomspon observed.
The BBFC has claimed the symbols used by PEGI aren't meaningful enough, but Thompson reckons they help consumers to quickly ascertain which age groups games are suitable for. The key, he argues, is for the industry and Government to educate
parents about ratings.
To read the full interview with Thompson, visit GamesIndustry.biz - where freshly squeezed information and organically grown fact are whisked up in the blender of truth to produce piping hot news soup.
Julian Brazier has failed in his bid to increase censorship of video games and films containing extreme violence.
Julian Brazier's plan would have allowed more appeals against BBFC rulings. He argued standards had been "watered down" and explicit films and games were fuelling a "tide of violence".
He was supported by several Tory and Labour MPs, but both front benches opposed it. The Lib Dems said it gave MPs undue influence over censorship.
Brazier's private member's bill failed when the debate ran out of time. Private member's bills allow individual MPs to introduce legislation on a subject of their choice.
Brazier's plan would have allowed an independent jury to reverse a ruling, if 50 MPs signed a Commons motion - even after the film or game was released. During a Commons debate, he cited the example of a previously banned video, SS Experiment
Camp , which was re-examined by the BBFC and released in 2005. Another film, Irreversible , featured a nine-minute rape scene he said, adding: If this is not glamorising rape then it is difficult to imagine what would be.
His bill was supported by Labour MP Keith Vaz, who represents a seat in Leicester where the mother of murdered 14-year-old Stefan Pakeerah blamed his killer's obsession with the Manhunt video game - a view not supported by the trial judge.
Vaz said video games were different from films because they were "interactive": When they play with these things they are able to interact, they can shoot people, they can kill people, they can rape women and that's what is so wrong
about the situation we have at the moment.
Another Labour MP, Stephen Pound, said there was a danger that in extremely violent films the sanctity of life becomes diluted , particularly when dealing with the young and impressionable.
Conservative MP John Whittingdale dismissed SS Experiment Camp as pretty tasteless and offensive but said scenes of sex and violence were mild compared to many mainstream films.
He said Mr Brazier's bill could do damage to the film industry and that the BBFC largely did a reasonably good job.
Lib Dem spokesman Don Foster suggested if MPs were to start signing a motion to get a title banned sales would absolutely rocket. I believe the proposals contained within this Bill would give politicians an undue and dangerous influence
over these sorts of issues.
Culture Minister Margaret Hodge said the BBFC, while not getting it right every time did an extremely good job in incredibly difficult circumstances. She said the government had responded to concerns by asking Dr Tanya Byron to review
whether more regulation to protect children was needed - due to report back next month. Urging MPs to await that report next month, she said legislation would not be effective on its own. Parents, internet service providers and others would also
have to take responsibility.
She was still speaking as time ran out at 1430 GMT and the bill now stands no chance of becoming law.
I'm wondering why this private member's bill on the single issue gets debated for five hours, but the entire CJIB has slightly less for its second reading, and there wasn't enough time for people to debate the extreme porn clauses at all in the
Comment: Foolish Brazier
Thanks to Wynter
Mark Kermode successfully made Brazier look like a fool when he was interviewed on R5 Live on Friday afternoon.
Skip forward to the 2 hr mark, its only about 10 mins long, Brazier rehashes his tired old arguments that had only been debunked that morning, ie Manhunt being responsible for the death of a young lad, Mark Kermode rubbished his argument
about films like Irreversible and pointed out to him that nobody knows more about classifying films than the BBFC who are already transparent and by allowing MP's or whoever to interfere wouldn't prevent these films from being released, it
would just muddle up the classification process.
One thing Kermode should have rebuked was Braziers claims that rape and violence is going up as a direct result of the media. Which of course is nonsense!
Mediawatch-UK have commissioned a poll to show support for Julian Braziers BBFC Accountability Bill to be debated in Parliament today. They asked:
Melon Farmers Comment
The amount of violence permitted in films, games and on television should be more tightly regulated?
Nonsense question. DVDs are completely regulated with practically all of them requiring state approval before release. Can't get much tighter than that. No doubt Beyer wants to twist this answer to mean that people want more content cut or
There is an established link between the level of violence shown in films, games and on television, and the rate of violent crime in society?
Hard to disagree with the statement at first glance but note that it does not ask about a causal link.
The system of classification for films and games should reflect broad public opinion?
And the BBFC agree. They at least did an extensive survey and the results are far more believable than anything Mediawatch claim about public opinion
The BBFC process for approving films and games with a violent or sexual content should be fully transparent and accountable to parliament?
And indeed they are accountable. They can be sacked from their DVD and games roles. (No accountability for cinema censorship though). And in terms of transparency, they clearly explain all of their decisions.
The question does not ask whether people want MPs to be censors though which is what Brazier wants in his bill
Anyway the press release reads:
British Public Demands Accountability for Film Censors.
Mediawatch UK, the UK broadcasting watchdog, today publishes an important survey showing that 80% of the British public wants the BBFC to be fully transparent and accountable to Parliament.
The results of the survey, carried out by ComRes, coincide with a Private Members Bill introduced by Julian Brazier MP (Canterbury), which is receiving a second reading in the House of Commons today. The Bill attracted publicity earlier this month
when the Board classified a number of video works, banned by the Director of Public Prosecutions, such as ‘SS Experiment Camp'.
John Beyer, director of Mediawatch-uk, comments: “The results confirm what we have always believed. The British public continues to retain a high degree of common sense and is not impressed by the self interested demands of the film industry. We
again call upon the BBFC to review its guidelines on violence, call upon the games industry to act more responsibly on violence and call upon the Office of Communications to enforce the terms of the Broadcasting Code much more vigorously,
particularly with regard television programmes that condone and glamorise seriously antisocial behaviour and violence.”
With 76% of respondents wanting the amount of violence permitted in films, games and on television to be more tightly regulated, and 68% believing there are links between violent crime and the level of violence in films and on television, there is
great public concern that the BBFC's classification decisions should reflect broad public opinion and suggests that the general public is dissatisfied with the current system.
Beyer continues: We believe that the Prime Minister, who has expressed personal concern about all the violence and pornography that children can so easily see, was wrong to exclude film and television from the remit given to psychologist Dr
Tanya Byron whose report is due next month. Film is a very powerful global influence and it is astonishing that the Board has escaped proper scrutiny for almost 100 years. It is right that Parliament should represent public concerns and we hope
very much that Mr Brazier's Bill will go through unopposed.
Press release from the BBFC
The region 0 Director's Cut DVD is available via US Amazon
Murder Set Pieces is a 2004 US horror film by Nick Palumbo (TLA Releasing)
The BBFC has rejected the DVD Murder Set Pieces . This means that it cannot be legally supplied anywhere in the UK. The decision was taken by the Director, David Cooke and the Presidential Team of Sir Quentin Thomas,
Lord Taylor of Warwick and Janet Lewis-Jones.
Murder Set Pieces is a feature with a single-minded focus on the activities of a psychopathic sexual serial killer, who, throughout the film, is seen raping, torturing and murdering his victims. Young children are among those terrorised and
killed, and their inclusion in this abusive context is an added concern. In relation to the adult victims, there is a clear focus on sex or sexual behaviour accompanied by non-consensual pain, injury and humiliation.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said: It is the Board's carefully considered view that to issue a certificate to Murder Set Pieces, even if statutorily confined to adults, would involve risk of harm within the terms of the Video Recordings Act, would be inconsistent with the
Board's Guidelines, and would be unacceptable to the public.
Rejecting a work outright is a serious matter and the Board considered whether the issue could be dealt with through cuts. However, given the unacceptable content featured throughout, and that what remains is essentially preparatory and set-up
material for the unacceptable scenes, cutting the work is not a viable option in this case and the work is therefore refused a classification.
Under the terms of the Video Recordings Act distributors have the right to appeal the Board's decision. Murder Set Pieces also raises potential legal questions, for instance in relation to the Protection of Children Act 1978, as well as possible
breaches of other legislation such as that on obscenity. Having concluded that the work would in any case have to be rejected on grounds of harm and unacceptability to the public, the Board did not think it necessary at this stage to reach a final
view on these legal issues, but they would have to be considered in the event of any appeal.
Richard Ross, TLA's executive director sales for North America and the UK, said the company was "shocked" by the ban, and was considering whether to appeal: We wanted to retain the director's original version. When we bought it, we
hoped to release it unedited and thought we'd be able to do that in the UK We don't want to release the same version that Lionsgate released (in the US).
The film was released in North America in January 2007 by Lionsgate with an "R" rating. It was, however, an extremely truncated version, Palumbo said on his MySpace page : They cut 23 minutes from the film, rendering it
Palumbo said the uncut version has been released in Scandinavia, Spain and the Netherlands.
His film revolves around a Las Vegas serial killer who dispatches 30 or so victims in a variety of sadistic ways. According to the publicity materials, it was banned from every film festival in North America.
Thanks to Alan, March 1st 2008
Reading about Beyer's dodgy poll and the ban on Murder Set Pieces , I wonder whether there is any mileage in simply campaigning on the basis that censorship is wrong and that the state should not abrogate to itself to control what we watch
in our own homes.
I am sure that Nick Palumbo knows rather more about film-making than BBFC jobsworths like Sir Quentin Posh, Lord Muck and Janet Double-Barrel.
I don't even LIKE bloody horror films, but the arrogance of these pillocks leaves me gobstruck.
The BBFC has hit back at suggestions that it doesn't provide a more effective ratings system than the PEGI version,
as suggested by Microsoft's UK head of corporate affairs Matt Lambert, at a CMS Select Committee hearing yesterday.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz the BBFC has rejected those claims, and stated that while the body uses the same symbols as for films in order to enable a greater understand of the level of content to be expected in games, it doesn't classify
games in the same way that we classify films, because we physically play the game.
The fact is, we provide consumer advice about the content - and extended information - on our Parents website about exactly the sort of things you can expect to encounter in the game, in all of the games we classify - and we do it in words,
which people understand, they don't understand the pictograms.
We know this - in January we did research and the public really couldn't get their heads around what a spider meant. That is not sufficient information for them to make a decision.
What people think about the PEGI system is that it's a difficulty rating, said the spokesperson. One of the parents in our research groups was complaining that she had bought a game with a 3+ on thinking it was suitable for her child,
and it turned out to be a complicated sports game - whereas if they see a PG12, they know it's going to have the sort of content (and here you can argue that the system is similar) as they would expect from a 12-rated film.
Just like when they get a film that's an 18, and says 'Strong bloody violence' they have an idea of what that is, because they've seen it in 18-rated films…The fact is, sticking a spider on the back of a box is not going to help a person make
the kind of decision that they ought to be making about games.
The BBFC also underlined that during its review process it employs people that actually plays through the games, and noted the contrast with the PEGI methodology.
Unlike the PEGI system, which is purely a tick-box system filled in by the distributor themselves, the BBFC has very well-qualified games examiners - who are games fans themselves - to play the games right through all the levels, with the cheat
codes, and spend a lot of time playing them so that they know what the content is.
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee held its first oral evidence session as part of its inquiry into harmful
content on 26th February 2008.
Videogame developers should dis-incentivise gamers from long periods of play by allowing players to achieve the highest scoring aspects of a title early on in the game's life cycle. That's according to John Carr, executive secretary at the
Children's Charities Coalition for Internet Safety.
He raised the argument that there were a number of concerns over videogames, other than the issue of violence – including reports of children "dying at their consoles" – that need to be addressed.
While fellow panellist at the hearing Professor Sonia Livingstone, from the London School of Economics, pointed out that there is no clear evidence that videogames provide benefits to children, she also pointed out that there is no clear evidence
that they harm children either - but there was evidence suggesting repetition of actions could be a problem.
Professor Livingstone also raised the subject of age ratings in games, and highlighted reports that large numbers of children played games at home that according to the ratings were not appropriate.
Carr then added his belief that some parents misunderstood the nature of age ratings, believing them to relate more to a general skill level suggestion, instead of advice on potentially damaging content.
The consensus among the panel was that parents needed more help and better tools to educate themselves and their children about the potential dangers online.
Matt Lambert, Microsoft's head of corporate affairs in the UK, stated his belief that the PEGI ratings system was better than the BBFC version.
When committee chairman John Whittingdale asked Lambert about the apparent confusion for parents over age ratings for videogames – particularly the belief that they represented skill levels instead - Lambert replied that he hadn't seen any
evidence of such confusion, and that internal research indicated that 96% of parents were in fact aware of the presence of age ratings.
Instead he pointed to anecdotal evidence which led him to believe parents instead weren't concerned about applying those ratings. And on the question of which of the two ratings systems that exist in the UK was preferable, Lambert indicated that
he believed PEGI was more effective.
If there's going to be one ratings system, it should be PEGI. With PEGI, they think very carefully about age appropriacy…but the BBFC is set up to rate films, and it takes that approach for games when a different approach is required.
PEGI breaks it down to a different level. If there's bad language it will give you a specific symbol, if there's gambling there's another symbol, and some games will have a whole raft of symbols on the back. It's a different depth, it's more
sensible, and it also has a European aspect to it.
The chairman then responded to the answer by pointing out that the BBFC itself would contradict such a view – that it believes the PEGI methodology to be inferior, and employs specialists who look at hours of gameplay when coming to a decision:
I'm not saying that's wrong, and I apologise if I gave the impression that that's not what they do - though they would say that they are the best. But I do believe that the BBFC's thinking clearly comes from the world of film [and not games],
that's definitely true.
The Politics Show for the South East on Sunday 24 February at 12:00 on BBC One.
Film censorship is hitting the big screen again, as Canterbury MP, Julian Brazier, believes violent films and video games could be responsible for acts of violence.
The Bogey Man, Death Trap, The Evil Dead and Zombie Flesh Eaters . Just a few films that over the years have been called 'video nasties'.
The Canterbury MP Julian Brazier believes films like these, and also violent video games could be responsible for people committing acts of violence.
He quotes the case of Warren Leblanc who admitted murdering his 14-year-old friend Stephan Pakeerah with repeated blows from a claw hammer and knife.
Stephan's mother has publicly attributed the murder to Leblanc's obsession with playing the video game Manhunt, although the trial judge did not confirm her view.
Brazier also talks about the film Eastern Promises . This, he says, includes graphic scenes of throat slitting, child prostitution and a man having an eye gouged out.
So next week Julian Brazier's Private Member's Bill to make the BBFC accountable to Parliament will get its second reading. He claims that in the last few years the BBFC has followed a policy of allowing increasingly violent and sexual material
onto the market.
There are several points to Brazier' s Bill:
He wants Parliament to choose the four main officers of the BBFC. At present the BBFC makes all it appointments internally.
He believes Parliament should have powers to force the BBFC to tighten its guidelines
He wants MPs to have the right to appeal against a classification. At present only the industry can appeal a decision - either to restore cut material or to lower a classification, but not to raise it or to have it banned.
So on Sunday we hear from Julian Brazier himself, and we get the views of a leading academic on whether there is any link between violence and the movies.
Update: No Accountability for BBFC Accountability Bill
John Beyer was on there spouting the usual bollox. For those who haven't seen it I uploaded it to YouTube. I also tacked on the email replies at the end of the programme which, if they are anything to go buy, shows who is in touch with public
opinion (and it ain't Brazier or Beyer).
Regarding public accountability, if I write to Brazier in opposition of his bill he would simply reply that I am not one of his constituents and I should write to my own MP about it.
So I write to my own MP and he tells me that he's not even going to be in Parliament on the day its being discussed.
So how exactly are MPs accountable to their public who's freedoms they are trying to restrict?
The VAC is due to begin reconsidering its Manhunt 2 decision on March 11
Censors are trying to ban a violent video game, but flouting the law is easy.
A few clicks of a mouse was all it took to buy one of the most unpleasant, gruesome video games that has ever been released.
It is so grim that the title has been banned by the BBFC, despite which it's readily available to purchase on the internet. I found it on eBay for £32 including delivery.
For what it's worth, the game is dreadful, with bad graphics, jittery camera work and simplistic gameplay. However, the unrelenting, sadistic violence and the fact that it is so easy to buy (despite it currently being illegal to sell the game in
the UK), raises disturbing questions about the process by which video games are classified.
Last month a High Court judge ordered the VAC to rethink its verdict on the premise that the committee had misinterpreted the law. The VAC is due to begin reconsidering on March 11, but there's no guarantee it will change its mind. If it sticks by
its decision, you can expect to see Manhunt 2 on sale legally shortly afterwards.
Julian Brazier returned to the stage in Prime Minister's Question Time and asked about reform of the BBFC and
implicitly for support of his BBFC Accountability bill.
Julian Brazier (Canterbury, Conservative):
Following the Prime Minister's reply to the right hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) a few weeks ago, does he now accept that there is an urgent need for reform of the British Board of Film Classification? What
possible justification can there be for the board's decision to release into British high street outlets videos and DVDs such as SS Experiment Camp , which shows in voyeuristic detail women being tortured to death by SS camp guards?
Gordon Brown (Prime Minister):
I share the hon. Gentleman's concerns. I think it is true to say, as I have looked at it, that the British Board of Film Classification has put a higher category on many films in a different way from that recommended by the
distributor, but it is also true to say that he expresses the concerns of many people among the general public. That is why I have agreed to meet him and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) to talk about the issues, and
why we set up the review headed by Dr. Tanya Byron. It will report very soon, and on the basis of that we can make recommendations for the future. As for the Conservatives who say it is wrong to review the issues, I say that the right thing to do
is to review them and then make a decision.
I interpret Gordon Brown's reply as telling Brazier that he is jumping the gun and should wait on the Government commissioned Byron report.
But the Daily Mail interpreted this somewhat differently and present Brown's support for the Byron Review as if it were support for Braziers effort
The mainstream media has been pretty rife over the past week with speculation that an upcoming study into violent video games will
lead to all games requiring classification from the BBFC
Last weekend, The Guardian newspaper reported the government is likely to subsequently rule all games are rated using the uniform 'cinema style' method as opposed to the current BBFC/PEGI shared system.
A PEGI spokesperson from the Interactive Software Federation of Europe has spoken out about the possible ruling, telling industry website MCV that any move to back the dropping of the PEGI ratings would be a 'mistake' and a 'backwards step' for
Director general Patrice Chazerand said the body's research shows that the current PEGI/BBFC shared system is trusted and understood by parents and also voiced concerns the UK would regret the decision if games distribution evolves online. He
added: I would resent that idea of equating games to movies – it's not the same experience.
Naturally, the BBFC sees things differently. It says it would back any move that makes it responsible for rating every game and that it recognises flaws in the PEGI system. Its own research shows parents can be confused by some of PEGI's ratings.
BBFC is a rating people understand from film and DVD, so it might give parents a bit more piece of mind, said spokesperson Sue Clark.
Manhunt 2 is the most controversial video game in history. Banned last June by the British Board of Film Classification, it is at the centre of a legal row that is defining what is and what is not acceptable in video games. But
what makes this game so objectionable?
Copies of the game can be bought on eBay from US sellers. But in order to play it I had to visit the developer's London offices in person and be shown the US copy of the title.
Before playing the game I sat through two of the most violent films of recent years - Saw and its sequel.
After about two hours playing Manhunt 2 , it is impossible to argue with the BBFC's assessment that the game is unremittingly bleak and callous.
But the violence is stylised - and not particularly real. The deaths play out as mini-scenes reminiscent of action in the current crop of horror movies that are doing so well at the box office, such as Hostel , Cabin Fever and the
two titles I had watched.
And the amount of killing in the game is no greater than in any number of titles that have been released in the last 12 months - from Call of Duty 4 to Bioshock .
There is currently a voluntary system, called PEGI, which sits alongside BBFC ratings in the UK. Dr Tanya Byron, who is conducting a review of video games and their impact on children, is believed to favour PEGI replacing the BBFC.
One game developer told BBC News that he believed the Manhunt 2 controversy was "the BBFC trying to prove it has teeth in an attempt to avoid being pushed out of the way in favour of PEGI".
Thanks to Dan who wrote to Julian Brazier about his BBFC Accountability Bill
Dear Mr Brazier,
I understand that you and several other MPs are seeking tougher legislation against violent video games. As a video games enthusiast I would like to ask you a few questions on your stance on this matter if I may and also offer you my views on the
Do you support the government being given the power to BAN violent video games?
Do you not believe adult video game players should have some choice over what games they play?
Much of the hysteria over violent video games is based on knee jerk tabloid scaremongering which is eagerly exploited by certain pressure groups and politicians for their own ends. Is it really fair for legislation to be brought in restricting
adults freedom of choice based not on facts but on hysteria, scaremongering and half truths?
One newspaper reported that the government could get the power to ban violent games that it thinks is to blame for certain violent murders. I question whether this is either fair or democratic. Effectively this is saying whether or not there is
evidence of a link between a real life murder and a violent video game the mere fact that politicians have blamed that particular game is enough to get it banned.
I would make the point to you that in the Manhunt /Warren Le Blanc/Stefan Pakeerah case there was no actual evidence that game was in anyway to blame for the murder. The game was in the possession of the victim and not the killer. Both
Stefan's parents blamed the game for their son's murder but this was merely their opinion and not evidence.
I back legislation to stop children playing games and also viewing films which is not suitable for them. But I question whether ultra tough knee jerk measures are really fair.
Reply: Out of step with the realities of modern life
From Julian Brazier MP
Thank you for your e-mail regarding my Private Member's Bill and its effect on the supply of computer games.
I understand your concerns on this matter - I am as concerned as you are about the creation of a "nanny-knows-best" state and have devoted the last four years (and my last Private Member's Bill) to fighting the health-and-safety culture
in adventure and risk-based activities.
To answer your first question directly, no I don't think the Government should have the power to ban video games (or films), but I am in favour of the BBFC continuing to have the discretion to do so.
For it would be foolish to ignore the impact of violent and sexually violent media on people's behaviour. Violent crime - particularly violence against women - is increasing steadily in the UK. A recent study [pdf] by the universities of Glasgow
and North London showed that half of young British males thought it acceptable, in one circumstance or another, to force a woman to have sex.
The links to the media are also becoming increasingly apparent. In September, for example, the Ministry of Justice published a research paper
(research series 11/07) which concludes that there is clear and consistent [evidence that] exposure to pornography puts one at increased risk for ... committing sex offences... and accepting rape myths. In December the University of
Columbia brought out a fascinating study into the effect of violent films on the brain, which showed that watching such films reduced the activity of the brain network responsible for suppressing aggression.
The BBFC, and its appeals committee, are getting increasingly out of step with the realities of modern life. The Bill seeks to bring Parliamentary scrutiny both to the process of selecting the principal officers of the Board and of determining
changes to the guidelines used by BBFC examiners. The bill would also abolish the current appeals committee, which has consistently taken a much laxer line than even the BBFC, and replace it with a jury, drawn at random from a list of volunteers.
Appeals, which currently can only be launched by the industry, could also be triggered by 50 MPs who feel a classification is too low. (In Australia anyone can appeal.)
In short the Bill will make the BBFC more accountable for the decisions they make. It does not seek to lay down the guidelines which the BBFC would make, nor does it prescribe which films should or shouldn't be shown. All it does is ensure that
the Board has to defend its decisions and general direction, and opens up the ultimate appeal to a broader ranger of people.
Thank you for writing to me and allowing me the opportunity to explain my objectives.
The UK release of the video game, Condemned 2 , has lost the tagline Bloodshot . It was speculated that this may have been self censorship but Sega claimed it simply sounds better without. (But the Sega in America disagree and are
going with the Bloodshot tagline).
The BBFC have now passed the game uncut with an 18 certificate and have kindly provided an extended classification explanation. It looks like the Bloodshot tagline has just been removed from the box cover and still exists within.
CONDEMNED 2 is a gritty, urban horror game in which the action takes place in first person, as if from the player's point of view. Playing as a washed- up alcoholic cop named Ethan Thomas, the object of the game is to unravel
a sinister conspiracy whilst at the same time defending oneself from repeated attack by a whole host of psychotic killers. It was passed ‘18' for strong bloody violence.
The BBFC Guidelines at ‘15' state that ‘violence may be strong but may not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury'. In CONDEMNED 2 – BLOODSHOT however, players are encouraged to string together brutal combinations of
attacking moves in order to kill enemies, with these moves seen to inflict realistic bloody injury on the enemies' faces. Players are also given the ability to inflict violent repeated injury on their victims once they have already killed them,
with blood splashing up onto the camera lens as they do so. This focus on violent bloody injury was therefore considered too strong for ‘15' and better placed at the adult ‘18' category. Additionally, BBFC Guidelines at ‘15' state that ‘the
strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable' and with the game also providing players with the ability to shoot enemies' heads off, resulting in large explosive blood splats, this emphasis on strong gore was also considered better placed
at ‘18'. Fantastical elements in the game's narrative and the actual physical complexity of the game- playing experience did mean however that the game was suitably placed at the adult ‘18' category.
CONDEMNED 2 also contains frequent use of strong language and a drug theme, with many of the game's enemies depicted as crazed addicts.
A legally enforceable cinema-style classification system is to be introduced for video games in an effort to keep children from
playing damaging games unsuitable for their age, the Guardian has learned. Under the proposals, it would be illegal for shops to sell classified games to a child below the recommended age.
Ministers are also expected to advise parents to keep computers and games consoles away from children's bedrooms as much as possible, and ask them to play games in living rooms or kitchens facing outward so carers can see what is being played.
Ministers are also expected to recommend blocking mechanisms to protect children from seeing unsuitable games, emails or internet sites. Discussions have already been held with internet service providers to see if an agreement on a standardised
filter can be reached.
Tanya Byron is officially due to report next month, but education and culture ministers have a sense of the report's direction. The report's contents, which include a lengthy review of the literature on the impact of video games on children,
has been discussed between the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Ministers are anxious to strike a balance between the entertainment, knowledge and pleasure children gain from highly
profitable internet and computer games, as well as the dangers inherent in the unregulated world of the net and its overuse by children.
A new British Standards Institution specification proposed by Ofcom, the communications regulator, and the industry is expected to allow the developers of filtering products to test them against the standard designed to protect children and other
users from illegal or unsuitable content. Companies that pass the test will be able to display a child safety online kitemark.
Ministers hope the Byron review will act as a way of calming the debate about video games which has become increasingly polarised and based on prejudice. They say they are also willing to examine proposals made by a Tory MP earlier this week for
an internet standards authority to be set up to ensure that service providers offer a two-tier system with users able to pick content suitable for adults or children. Hugo Swire, a former shadow culture secretary, has suggested that the default
setting for internet content would be for children, with a password or pin needed for unfiltered material.
From issue 1203 (8 Feb - 21 Feb, 2008) of Private Eye (page 8)...
Shocked that once-banned video nasties are available on the high street (as, indeed, they have been for some years now), the Sunday Express launched a front-page attack on the increasingly lax standards of Britain's film
Censors admit these grotesque movies are 'tasteless' but they say they do not deserve to be banned because they are neither illegal or harmful, the paper thundered. The Sunday Express today demands action to sweep this filth off our
And, the highlights from the Sunday Express's sister TV channel, Television X, this week? Fetish Whores, Big Tit Vixens, Anal Teens, Hosiery Heels and Holes and the unforgettable Ick y Sticky Mucky Mingers...
I wonder if the proprietor of the Sunday Express (Richard Desmond) will be so supportive of Mr Brazier and company when they turn their attention to the output of Television X's big name stars such as Ben Dover?
Thanks to DarkAngel who wrote to his MP Mark Simmonds
Dear Mr Simmonds
I understand that fellow conservative MP, Julian Brazier of Canterbury, has put forward a “BBFC accountability bill” which I believe is up for debate on the 29th of February. If passed, this would allow the government to dictate BBFC
classification guidelines, over rule their decisions and even ban already classified works.
As a movie buff and a lifelong fan of the horror movie genre, I am very strongly opposed to this bill, as Mr Brazier is clearly trying to impose his moral ideals onto everyone else. It should be stressed first and foremost that current BBFC
classification guidelines were drawn up after an extensive public consultation back in 2000, where the overwhelming majority said they wanted less censorship at the 18 category. Hence why classification guidelines where relaxed. So who is he to
say what is acceptable for our viewing?
I am particularly concerned about this bill, as I see it has the support of numerous MP's, including neighbouring conservative MP for South Holland, John Hayes (lucky for him I don't live in his constituency or I would be having a few choice
words) and Mr Brazier has also apparently been contacting the likes of Mediawatch UK (Mary Whitehouse's former group) and the Catholic Herald asking members to lobby their MP's to support him.
I find it absolutely appalling that Mr Brazier thinks a minority of narrow minded prudes and bigots should be allowed to dictate what the vast majority of the liberal minded public should be allowed to watch, considering the BBFC actually went to
great lengths to gauge public opinion on the matter before revising their guidelines in 2000.
I feel I should also point out that many European countries have far more liberal censorship laws than the UK, in fact Holland doesn't have any censorship at all, distributors simply classify and describe their own products. So if the media was
responsible for all of societies ills, as Mr Brazier clearly believes, surely these countries would have greater problems with violent crime and disorder, yet there is no proof of this.
I should also point out that the BBFC are already accountable to parliament in any case under the Video Recordings Act and local councils have the power to prevent films from being shown at the cinemas they licence, so his bill is unnecessary. But
trying to make things any more restrictive by adding further levels of bureaucracy, as he feels this don't go far enough, will simply damage the film and video game industry.
All other arguments aside, as a grown adult in a supposed free country I should be able to make my own mind up as to what is suitable for my viewing without state interference.
I therefore hope you will strongly oppose Mr Braziers bill for the above reasons.
Reply: Welcome Addition to Censorship Process
From Mark Simmonds MP
Mark Simmonds MP and Big Ears
Thanks you for your letter on Julian Braziers Private Members Bill on the future of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).
Julian Brazier has a long history of campaigning on these issues and his proposals represent an important contribution to the debate. He is right to highlight the concerns many parents feel about their children being able to view violent or
sexually explicit material.
At the moment, the BBFC classifies films shown in cinemas and then determines what films and games can be made available to the market. The Bill Proposed by Julian Brazier makes it harder for children to view unsuitable material. The Bill has four
main parts - allowing the Home Affairs Committee to scrutinise candidates for senior roles in the BBFC, allowing the same committee to veto aspects of the BBFC guidelines, a mechanism for MP's to trigger an appeal of a classification and allowing
classifications to be challenged retrospectively.
A balance has to be struck when classifying films and video games that both allows adults to enjoy violent and explicit material (if they so choose) and protects children. The Conservative Party is currently conducting a review of policy in this
area and will be holding a series of seminars on media social responsibility to discuss these issues. This Bill is a welcome addition to that process and we will consider its merits carefully as part of this process.
As this is a private members Bill it is unlikely but not impossible it will become law.
Review: Novel by Paul Hoffman, previously a BBFC film censor
Thanks to blackjaques
Novel set in the world of film censorship by Paul Hoffman who was previously a senior examiner at the BBFC.
Available from UK Amazon
who also have the following details:
Synopsis: Monuments of Censorship
Do you remember the video nasty? It is 1984 and video has just arrived in Britain's homes. With it comes a widespread distrust and fear. The public dread a deluge of porn, ultraviolence, cannibalism and dismemberment. Eager to reflect the public
mood, Parliament decides to panic too, and gifts sweeping powers to the chief film censor, Nick Berg. Every film ever made has to be reclassified for home viewing. But rather than become a tool of moral hysteria, Berg has a grand plan. He will
create an entirely new kind of censorship - benign, thoughtful, intelligent. First he must create a team to implement his wishes. This 'Magnificent Seven' will have the power to decide what others can and cannot see.
They will encounter the great monuments of censorship - The Exorcist , Cannibal Holocaust and Reservoir Dogs - as well as the obscure and unexpected: Rupert Bear and Little Yum and the almost unwatchable Nappy
Love . But off-screen, all is soon not well in the inner sanctum. What Berg doesn't realize is that his prized rationale is flawed. Fault lines appear within his team of seven. And a struggle for power is set in motion.
Review: Four Stars
This book is gripping, thought provoking, and very enjoyable. The problem is that it's enjoyable because of what it has to say about censorship rather than because it's a great novel. The narrator is hard to sympathise with, many of the other
characters are not drawn that fully, there are a few unresolved and rather irrelevant themes, and the plot revolves, in the end, around some petty squabbling. An interesting examination of ethics, and a great book, but not really much of a
storyline. Still gets four stars from me, though!
"It beggars belief that the BBFC continues to defend the indefensible. We are supporting Mr Brazier's timely attempts to make the Board more accountable to Parliament. This is a long overdue reform and the Board's latest
decisions prove the need for his initiative."
Comment: In Other Words
We are supporting Mr Brazier's timely attempts to make the Board more accountable to Parliament. Then it will have to finally answer to us and the legions of other blue rinsed moral guardians who like us vote Tory, read the Daily Mail and are
disgusted at all the morally corrupting society destroying filth that the wet liberal lefty morons at the BBFC allow people to watch at the cinemas.
This is a long overdue reform. It`s high time the BBFC stopped giving people the choice over what they watch and only allowed them to watch what we the silent moral minority think is good for them to watch.
Please feel free to send all or part of this to your MP too
Dear Mr Murphy,
I am writing to you to express my most grave concerns over some recent activities in Parliament which I fear may have some very grave implications for everyone in this country who values basic Human Rights and individual freedoms.
As I'm sure you are aware, Conservative MP Julian Brazier has announced his plans to bring the British Board Of Film Classification under direct government control. He has cited the reasons that has led him to think that this is necessary,
claiming that the BBFC are becoming too lax in their attitudes to depictions of violence in films and videogames, and are, in some way, letting the public down by being more lenient in passing such depictions. Whether you share his opinion or not,
I feel there are some very important points which I should bring to your attention.
Firstly, Mr. Brazier's proposals are, despite what he might have everyone believe, very far indeed from being in the interests of the general public. The BBFC have been in existence since 1912, and have always been an organisation independent of
government and free from direct political interference. In a free country, one would expect that the government do not control any aspect of the media. Naturally, the BBFC have bowed to political pressure on occasion, but they have always been
allowed to continue doing their work without government intervention.
It is a fact that the BBFC have become more lenient in their attitudes towards violence in film and videogames, but their age ratings system remains clear, concise and as strictly enforced as ever. They have not become a law unto themselves, nor
are they flying in the face of public opinion. Quite the opposite, in fact. Their rather more liberal current policy has been the result of several years of public consultation, questionnaires, roadshows and far more attention being paid to the
attitudes of the general public to censorship. In general, people actually do want adults to have more freedom to choose their own entertainment, but for greater attention to be paid to the age ratings system and children to be protected more from
violent or sexually explicit material. It is a testament to the experience and wisdom of the BBFC that they have been able to deliver this.
I should point out here that Britain still has some of the tightest censorship of film and videogames in Europe. At the same time, generally speaking, the BBFC are more publically aware and accountable now than they have ever been. Far more, it
would seem, than a certain Mr. Brazier, who is also supposed to be acting in the public interests.
I'd understand completely if the BBFC's decisions were resulting in widespread social problems and copycat violence, but this is not the case, despite the odd unsubstantiated and hysterical tabloid headline, and Mr. Brazier's sabre-ratttling
rhetoric, full of inappropriately applied words such as 'incitement', 'glorification' and 'condonement' in relation to the film and videogame industry regarding their depictions of violence. As an aside, if you were to accuse a filmmaker of
'inciting people to violence' you would have to be able to prove that he or she set out to make their work with the deliberate intention of causing people to physically attack someone else. I'm sure most filmmakers who have filmed violent scenes
for their works would fully willing and able to successfully counter such farcical claims in a court of law.
How such claims and accusations can be taken seriously on the floor of the House of Commons is absolutely beyond me. I can see absolutely no reason or justification for the kind of Draconian measures Brazier is calling for. Despite his insistence,
there is no 'growing public concern' over the BBFC's policies either. Just a lot of incoherent, unsubstantiated noise (of the kind we've heard so many times before) from a tiny minority of perpetually-offended, morally superior busybodies with far
too much time on their hands.
I make no apologies for being blunt, but I know exactly what Julian Brazier is trying to do, and his reasons for doing it. For at least 10 years, Mr. Brazier has been extremely, openly and consistently critical of the BBFC, irrespective of any
changing attitudes or management they have had. Clearly in the light of the current political climate (which seems to have a distinctly puritanical, pro-censorship air about it), he has viewed an opportunity to strike. He has proposed that the
government are given the power to select BBFC board members, and to alter or influence their decisions wherever they choose.
Quite how Mr. Brazier feels qualified to act in this capacity, I am unsure, but you can guarantee that he isn't going to this much trouble to pass these brand new proposed powers to someone else, HE will be wanting to run this new show personally.
Personal ambition is undoubtedly the reasoning behind his actions. Worse still, Mr. Brazier's background of religious fundamentalism (he is a prominent member of the Conservative Christian Fellowship), put a rather more sinister twist on things.
Now a person's religious beliefs are their own business, but when heavily biased opinions and outdated prudish attitudes arise from such beliefs, they should never be allowed to influence matters of law and politics. Which is precisely what seems
to be happening here.
My research into Mr. Brazier's proposals also shed light on some disturbing links between his ideas and those of self-appointed media watchdogs MediaWatchUK, a small but frequently vociferous group of right-wing Christians who are the latest
incarnation of Mary Whitehouse's National Viewers and Listeners Association. For example, barely 2 months before Mr. Brazier's proposals were announced, John Beyer, the director of MediaWatchUK, was calling for a shake-up at the BBFC or even a
replacement organisation. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I have already written to you in the past expressing my concerns about the persistent attempts at meddling in matters of government policy, law and order, and even the sentencing of criminals, by
MediaWatch, who are supposed to be a non-political organisation. To allow an unelected group, with opinions as extreme as they have, an influence in areas as far reaching as this, is to open up a very dangerous situation indeed. John Beyer's views
are so extreme that he believes that anyone viewing adult material, of any kind, should be imprisoned for 3 years. Is this the kind of dangerous, religious extremist nonsense we should be allowing to have any influence at all in government?
Quite frankly, the implications of state censorship of the media (which is exactly what Mr. Braziers ideas amount to, however you care to dress them up) in a free and democratic society are absolutely horrifying and utterly unacceptable. I was
staggered and dismayed to discover that a small number of Labour MPs are actually in favour of this lunacy. Government interference, censorship, or control over the media, except in matters of national security, has absolutely NO PLACE in a free
country. With this move, Brazier will be moving us well away from the liberal attitudes of most of our European counterparts and taking us a significant step closer to the repressive regimes of China and North Korea, where government censorship of
the media is an inescapable reality. The mere thought of where this could lead is chills me to the bone. Will the government next be having a say in what literature we are allowed to read? What music we can listen to? Or, most worrying of all,
what the press are allowed to publish?
This could even have some very severe implications for New Labour. Consider, if you will, the fact that Brazier is a Conservative MP. This legislation is undoubtedly going to be hugely unpopular, not just with the press, but also with a few
million videogame enthusiasts and film buffs across the country, who are really going to resent being dictated to directly by this government, to say nothing of having their individual freedoms compromised in such a brazen, unapologetic way. Yes,
I did say THIS government. Because if this does become law, it is THIS government, YOUR government, Mr. Murphy, who will be seen as responsible for passing it. Perhaps, from this perspective, Brazier fully understands this, and as an opposition
MP, is hoping that it will be damaging to New Labour's popularity. Not only will he realise his personal ambition of undermining the BBFC, but he may well boost his party's own popularity by sitting back and allowing New Labour to carry out the
thankless task of passing it. Of late, New Labour seem to be developing quite a reputation as instigators of repression and eroders of the public's civil liberties (but don't just take my word for it, there has even been a recent documentary film
made called 'Taking Liberties', to say nothing of numerous very scathing articles in virtually every newspaper going). Do you really think it's a wise political move to introduce measures which will significantly compound this potentially damaging
opinion of your party at the behest of a Conservative MP?
Personally, this is an issue very close to my heart and I am already taking steps to fight Mr. Brazier's proposals. I am currently drafting a letter which will be circulated to all major film and videogame publications which are sold in high
street shops; my aim is to make all those connected with, or even just remotely interested in, film and videogaming fully aware of what Brazier's intentions are and why they need to be extremely concerned. There is an online Downing Street
petition currently ongoing in opposition to Brazier's proposals, and I aim to make as many people as I can aware of its existence. Hopefully, the word will reach several million people, making any chance of this being a low-profile piece of
legislation, which is rushed through without much attention being drawn to it, impossible. I will also be writing to the Liberal Democratic Party, asking for their support, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (as I feel this is will be a direct
infringement of the rights of anyone living in a free, democratic society) and the House of Lords.
There is a sensible, less extreme, less controversial alternative to Brazier's proposals which should hopefully allay some of the fears of those who are concerned about children being exposed to violence within the media. A public awareness
exercise in BBFC age ratings, enforcing the message that it is unacceptable to grant children access to unsuitable material, backed up by fines for those who caught in violation of the ratings (including parents), would make it absolutely clear
that age ratings on films and videogames are there for a reason and they should be given the same degree of attention and taken just as seriously as age restrictions on buying and consuming alcohol.
After all, you never hear of people clamouring for alcohol to be banned outright every time a group of kids have been caught drinking and have assaulted someone, do you? This must happen almost every day in this country. The alternatives I have
suggested will demonstrate that New Labour are concerned about children's exposure to violent material (covering the moral 'high ground, if you will), but also that they value the rights adults currently have to choose their own entertainment
without it having to be approved by the government before they can be trusted to view it (a highly patronising and insulting notion to any adult). This way, the moral minority will be appeased and the vast majority will not have to endure
unnecessary state censorship or feel that their rights are being abused. I would be interested to hear your feelings on this idea.
I realise this has been a very long letter, Mr. Murphy, and I thank you for taking the trouble to read it. I'm sure you value the basic freedoms we all enjoy in Britain as highly as I do. They have been fought for very hard over the years, and are
far too valuable to be frittered away simply because of one individual's personal prejudices and ambitions. I am counting on your help and support, Mr. Murphy; you are in a position to help stop this before we start down a very dangerous political
path from which there may be no easy return. Please help defend our freedoms whilst we still have them.
'A very important Private Members' Bill has been introduced in Parliament by Julian Brazier MP (Canterbury), which aims to make the BBFC more accountable to Parliament. For some time the BBFC has been classifying films with unacceptable levels of
brutal violence, obscene language and some very explicit sexual conduct and nobody can do anything about it.
mediawatch-uk believes that Mr Brazier's proposals are long overdue and we are supporting his efforts. Mr Brazier has specifically asked mediawatch-uk members to help him by writing letters to their Members of Parliament, or contacting
www.writetothom.com, urging them to support his BBFC (Accountability to Parliament and Appeals) Bill which will be given a Second Reading on Friday 29 February 2008
Needless to say if we do not do all we can to support Mr Brazier we will only have ourselves to blame if the Board continues to classify ever-worsening material.
We have said for a very long time that the Board is a law unto itself and should be accountable to Parliament. Mr Brazier's Bill will go some way to achieving this and we hope his Bill will lead to a regime of classification that is more
responsible, promoting greater respect and civility in our society. Keith Vaz MP, Anne Widdecombe MP, Jim Dobbin MP and John Gummer MP among others are supporting the Bill.
More information can be found at: http://services.parliament.uk/bills However, it should be understood that Private Members' Bills are vulnerable and do not always become law unless they are very well supported by other MPs. We would be very
grateful indeed for donations towards this campaign, costing around £2,000. .
Julian Brazier (Con) is a senior backbencher and a Catholic.
The BBFC has defended its decision to approve for general release films claimed to glamorise Nazism.
SS Experiment Camp is one of a selection of films banned 20 years ago but now approved by the BBFC and being sold online and in high-street shops.
MPs and Jewish groups are concerned that it trivialises the suffering of Holocaust victims.
It supposedly shows women being raped, electrocuted, hung upside down, and burnt alive in incineration chambers by guards dressed in Nazi uniforms. The film's cover features the Nazi SS emblem and the words Previously banned! Legally available
for the first time .
Community Security Trust communications director Mark Gardner said: Although we need to see the full content of the videos, they seem totally unacceptable. It seems these videos have been previously banned and I don't see why they should
be any more acceptable today than 20 years ago.
Gardner added that the trust was very concerned that over the last couple of years on the internet in particular content that was previously unacceptable has become increasingly mainstream.
We are trying to deal with it through international internet watchdog organisations, as well as directly with retailers. I don't see why they need to be catering for Nazis and sadism.
After viewing the films, the CST would raise its concerns with the BBFC. This is certainly a matter we don't intend to let drop
A BBFC spokesperson acknowledged that the film was not to the taste of most but insisted it was not antisemitic: If something was antisemitic we would cut it, but in the case of this work, we looked at it in 2005 and decided that it definitely
is not. It is tasteless and offensive, but not antisemitic. It doesn't contain anything illegal or potentially harmful, which is the test we have to use. The worst thing about it is probably its title.
Board of Deputies chief executive Jon Benjamin said: We have not seen these videos but by all accounts they are extremely unpleasant. Depicting violence and deprivation in this way should be of concern to everyone, although the subject matter
of some of these films makes them particularly distasteful to the Jewish community. We certainly support any moves to review the rules whereby this material is made freely available.
In the wake of Holocaust memorial day, the newly declassified film that has raised the most hackles is the 1970s' SS Experiment Love Camp , a low-budget excuse to parade a dozen naked women before the camera. At a camp for Mengele-style
medical experimentation, lithe young ladies are scalded, frozen, electrocuted and incinerated. They're made to have sex with the male officers (and, of course, the head nurse is a lesbian), and naturally come to like it. The Good Nazi falls in
love with one of the prisoners, but it's just his luck that his commandant, maimed by another prisoner who bit his testicles off, has the Good Nazi's transplanted to himself. The transplant surgery scene is disagreeable, but no more so than an
episode of ER.
Granted, a T&A flick set in a Nazi concentration camp is conceptually tasteless, and offensive - to Gypsies and homosexuals and to Jews most of all. But Love Camp isn't pornographic - and sexually pornographic films with a Holocaust
backdrop do exist. It even crams in the odd line of moralising: All these people being sacrificed! cries the Good Nazi. It seems so inhuman!
Interestingly, the film is expressly set in a camp for political prisoners. Aside from Dr Abraham, the surgeon forced to collaborate, none of the inmates is portrayed as Jewish. Invective from guards runs to "Filthy pig whore!";
Jewishness is never alluded to. Taking a film such as this seriously is a mistake. If this cheesy offering trivialises the Holocaust, one could make the case that ultimately any mere film is trivial in comparison to the real thing. Should the test
be truly doing justice to the magnitude of this historical atrocity, then we would have to ban not only SS Experiment Love Camp but also Schindler's List.
The BBFC unsurprisingly passed it 12A uncut with the following comment:
Lady Godiva is a modern day romantic drama based around the legend of the Anglo Saxon noble woman who rode naked through the streets of Coventry in order to lift an oppressive toll placed on the poor by her husband. It
was passed ‘12A’ for mildly sexualised nudity and one use of moderate language.
The BBFC Guidelines at ‘PG’ state that only ‘natural nudity, with no sexual content’ is permitted. In Lady Godiva however, when she rides naked through the streets, onlookers gaze up at her appreciatively, indicating that her nudity has
some sexual appeal. The scene therefore is best placed at ‘12A’ where brief and discreet nudity in a sexual context is allowed. The BBFC Guidelines also state that ‘mild bad language only’ is permitted at ‘PG’, which means the one use of moderate
language in the film, in this case ‘wanker’, also places the film at ‘12A’.
LADY GODIVA also contains some mild violence.
However one has to wonder why public 'nudity in a sexual context' wasn't cut under the usual BBFC bollox along the lines of: cuts required to remove sight of nudity and sexual activity in a public location in the UK.
Particularly when the film publicity stories ran with the illegal public nudity theme:
Vicky Jewson achieved her dream of making Lady Godiva by ripping up the traditional model and doing it her way. She then persuaded a popular TV actress to strip naked and ride a horse through Oxford at the crack of dawn, against the wishes of the
The naked part caused us the most problems, Vicky admits: The council said we would be arrested if we filmed where we wanted to. So, on the day, we got up at 4am and had lots of secret locations and only told people where we were
shooting at the last minute. We only had about an hour so we didn't concentrate much on the fact that anyone was stark naked.
There have been many changes in our censorship laws over the years that are to be welcomed. Allowing directors’ greater freedom, whether with sexual imagery and language, has hardly been shown to have damaged society, despite some of the fierce
battles fought at the time and which rumble on today. Out of this liberalism has emerged a more creative environment and a more realistic depiction of modern life. What is challenging the boundaries now is the scale and reach of pornography on the
internet. Just by the sheer ease with which it can be accessed, it is beginning to enter the cultural mainstream and impinge on the lives of children. This is clearly a development that should be abhorred and stopped as far as possible, but in the
end it may simply come down to parents being evermore vigilant.
Whether this has influenced the attitudes of censors remains unclear. Asked about the film SS Experiment Camp , which is on sale in the high street alongside U classified movies, the BBFC said there is nothing in this film that anybody
should have any concerns about. The film depicts women being raped, electrocuted, hung upside down, having their ovaries cut out and burnt alive in incineration chambers by guards dressed in Nazi uniforms. That does sound “concerning”.
While censorship should have to make its case, there must be a sensitivity towards survivors of the death camps and their relatives. Depicting the Holocaust as a Jewish invention rightly causes vilification. Why should depicting concentration
camps as movie backdrops for sexual violence suddenly be acceptable? This film was banned 20 years ago and there seems no strong argument to have it lifted. Gordon Brown will meet a delegation of MPs to discuss toughening the laws on video nasties
amid worries about the influence they have on young people. These arguments may be inconclusive but Mr Brown would be wise to restrict the market in violent pornography.
Comment: We've Heard it All Before...25 Years Ago
Thanks to Julian
Time is running backwards. This is all part of Nutter Brazier's campaign, and we can expect more of this nonsense in the press in the run-up to his Bill.
And, of course, it was the Sunday Times which sparked off the video nasty furore in the first place with articles about ... SS Experiment Camp.
Films with graphic violence, including one [unrealistically] simulating the rape, torture and incineration of concentration camp victims, are being freely sold on the high street, prompting demands
by [nutter] MPs for a reform of the censorship laws.
SS Experiment Camp is one of a clutch of violent films banned 20 years ago by the director of public prosecutions that have been approved for general release by Britain’s film censors and are on sale in shops.
The BBFC said there was no evidence that the film causes harm to viewers, adding that there is nothing in this film that anybody should have any concerns about. The board states that sensibilities toward on-screen violence have changed
since the film was banned.
However, [Julian Brazier and several nutter] MPs have questioned the censors’ judgment and their greater tolerance of films and video games containing graphic violence. They want Gordon Brown to
give the public more power to appeal against the board’s decisions. The prime minister is set to meet a cross-party coalition of MPs to discuss toughening the laws on “video nasties”.
[The nutter] MPs are concerned that films previously considered so shocking that they were banned have been approved for general sale and are desensitising the public to extreme violence. They are
particularly worried by the decision of censors to grant a general release certificate to SS Experiment Camp , a 1970s low-budget movie that is sold alongside family films at high-street shops and online.
Jewish groups fear such films trivialise the suffering of Holocaust victims, who in the film are forced to have sex with Nazi commandants and are boiled alive if they refuse to “collaborate”. The blonde camp commandant forces a Jewish doctor to
perform sadistic experiments on women prisoners, including live ovary transplants.
Women dressed in striped prison uniforms are forced to become prostitutes, tortured, hung upside down and electrocuted. They are injected and incinerated after refusing to declare allegiance “to the supreme Fhrer”.
The film’s cover prominently displays the Nazi SS emblem and the words “Previously banned! Legally available for the first time”. Because it has an 18 certificate, it can be sold on the same shelves as U and PG certificate films.
SS Experiment Camp was approved for release by David Cooke, director of the BBFC, Sir Quentin Thomas, the president, and two vice-presidents, Janet Lewis-Jones and Lord Taylor of Warwick. Thomas is a former senior civil servant; Lewis-Jones and
Taylor are lawyers. Though it went on sale in October 2006, it has only just come to the attention of MPs, who are shocked by its contents.
A spokeswoman for the BBFC said SS Experiment Camp had been given a certificate with no cuts because we have no concerns about it. Although she accepted it contained sexual violence, she said the board did not believe it was harmful
to viewers. It is tasteless – but then I find most Mel Gibson films tasteless, she said. We do not believe that anyone watching this title is going to become antisemitic as a result. It is not going to create an attitude towards Jewish
women that is harmful.
A private member’s bill to be introduced by Julian Brazier, the Conservative MP for Canterbury, with support from senior MPs of all parties, would make it easier to challenge the release of “video nasties”.
Brazier strongly disputed the board’s claims and said the release of SS Experiment Camp was a clear case of the BBFC failing to protect the public.
We live in a country where half of all males think forced sex is justified under some circumstances and it’s this kind of film that glamorises the torture of women, Brazier said. This film may have an 18 certificate but in practice,
whatever its classification, it will rapidly find its way into the hands of under18s.
A motion by 50 MPs asking for a film’s release to be reconsidered would trigger an instant appeal, under the plans to be debated by parliament next month.
The move is backed by [nutter] Keith Vaz, the former Labour minister, who heads the powerful Commons home affairs committee.
The Holocaust Educational Trust called on the film censors to think again about their decision to release SS Experiment Camp , which was made in Italy by Sergio Garrone in 1976.
And to put the nonsense spouted by these ridiculous MPS here is a review from IMDb
The story involves a group of women who are delivered to the aforementioned SS Experiment Camp. While there they are subjected to some inexplicable experiments, which often seem to involve forced copulation with a group of
Nazi studs (who it has to be said all look strangely Italian). The purpose of the experiments is to find the best stud from this Aryan select and transfer his balls onto the camp commandant who, as we discover, lost his when a Russian woman he was
raping bit his off.
Now, the above synopsis may well make the film sound deeply depraved and offensive. Well, it is sleazy and in highly dubious taste but the execution of the film is so amateurish and unrealistic that it really sounds a lot worse than it actually
is. The depiction of the camp is more Butlins than Belsen at times. The inmates seem relatively unconcerned for the most part and the Nazi baddies are often hilariously unconvincing. That said, there are some nasty moments, particularly the
treatment meted out to the young girl at the orgy; she ends up hanging naked upside down in a shot that recalls the aforementioned distasteful cover shot. But, generally speaking, sequences that achieve such offense are uncommon here. The scenes
showing the experiments, while certainly tasteless, are often more strange than anything else. The copulation in a tank of water idea being an example where it is too bizarre to take altogether seriously.
A likely outcome of the Government commissioned Byron Report is that video games will get BBFC-style age ratings. And these will be
Ministers want to make it easier for parents to protect their children from violent games by introducing a new, simpler classification system based on age ratings used by the BBFC. Under the new scheme, it would become illegal for retailers to
sell any video game to a child who was younger than the age rating on the box. At present, only games with near video content are regulated.
The moves come after more than 400 children and 350 adults responded to an inquiry headed by television psychologist Dr Tanya Byron into the potential dangers to young people of the internet and video games. Her review, due to be published in
March, has found that people want clearer information about the content of video games.
Under the current rules, about 10% of the 2,000 or more video games produced each year are given an age rating from the BBFC. Only games that show sex, gross violence, criminal activity or drug use have to be referred to the BBFC. Shop staff can
be fined or even sent to prison if they sell a game to a child below the age rating.
The majority of games receive an age rating based on a voluntary system run by Pan-European Game Information (PEGI). PEGI ratings are not legally enforceable, however.
Eileen McCloy, who runs family rights group Not With My Child, said: Voluntary regulation rarely works, shopkeepers don't care so long as the child looks about the right age. It needs to be legally enforceable.
Gordon Brown has indicated that he is prepared to back Byron's recommendation for a single, legally backed classification system.
The Byron review has worked closely with the video games industry, which is worth more than £800m to the UK economy.
David Braben, the founder of Frontier Games, said there was already a strict regime in place which the industry went to great lengths to adhere to. He said parents and retailers must take some responsibility: The real question is how seriously
do people take the existing regime. I have been in a shop when a woman was buying an '18' game for what looked like a 10-year-old and you'll find that games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas , which has an 18 rating, are being played by
Sue Clark, the BBFC's head of communications, said: Our research shows that the public knows and understands the BBFC system and that the age limits relate to content not to their level of difficulty.
Rockstar is not wholly impressed by the High Court judgement, and expressed their feelings on the matter in a statement issued to the press:
"We believe the VAC decision was correct and do not understand the court's decision to expend further public resources to censor a game that contains content well within the bounds established by the BBFC's 18-plus
In an all-day hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the Honourable Mr Justice Mitting sided with the BBFC's argument that the Video Appeals committee (VAC) had erred when considering whether Manhunt 2 could be
considered harmful to minors who viewed it.
Whereas the VAC interpreted this as "actual harm," the BBFC and Mitting believed it should be taken in a broader scope of "potential harm and risk of harm." The BBFC also argued that the VAC based its decision on whether or not
the game would have a "devastating effect on society," and argued that this "harm threshold" was too high.
Rockstar argued that due to the human right to expression, the game should never have been banned in the first place, and that even if Mitting found that the law had been misinterpreted, he should let the VAC's decision stand. Mitting responded by
saying he did not feel qualified to make such a decision on the case, having not been involved in it since the beginning, but told the VAC that it should bear this criteria in mind when making their new decision.
During the proceedings, it also emerged that there are several stages to the decision made by the VAC in cases such as this. The first is whether the material is question is criminal (for example, containing child pornography), and Manhunt 2
was ruled to not contain anything of this nature.
The second decision is whether it will cause harm to adults, and once more, it was found that the game was not likely to do this. The third point was whether or not it was likely to be viewed by minors, and in response to that criteria, Rockstar
argued that the BBFC's certification worked and that children were unlikely to have access to the game. However, the VAC ruled this was not the case because children were likely to have access.
The fourth decision was whether or not harm would be caused to minors if they viewed or played the game, and the vote was 4-3 in deciding that it would not. All members of the VAC admitted that it had been a very difficult case.
After quashing the VAC's decision, Mitting explained, In the circumstances, it seems to me the only just method of ending this. He stipulated that the same seven members of the VAC must now reconvene and make a new decision based on the
guidelines he laid down in the courtroom today. It is understood that this is likely to happen within the next two weeks, which would in theory put an end to the protracted legal drama.
The BBFC have kindly provided an extended explanation of their uncut 18 certificate for the Tarantino and Rodriguez double bill:
GRINDHOUSE is a co-production from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez which emulates a B-movie double-bill. It includes two films, Death Proof and Planet Terror , plus spoof trailers for non-existent films.
The work as a whole was passed '18' because of some strong bloody violence and gore in both the films and the spoof trailers.
Planet Terror includes 'the strongest gory images' of the sort specified in the BBFC Guidelines as 'unlikely to be acceptable' at '15'. However, these images largely consist of unrealistic and comically excessive gore involving zombies and
are not problematic at '18'. Death Proof shows occasional strong violence including two car crash scenes which go beyond the BBFC Guidelines for '15' works which state that 'violence may be strong but may not dwell on the infliction
of...injury'. The spoof trailers in GRINDHOUSE also involve some brief strong sexual images in the context of spoof horror films. These images are in deliberately bad taste but are unrealistic and fleeting images shown for comic effect, and were
thought to be acceptable at '18' where the BBFC Guidelines state that 'concerns will not normally override the wish that adults should be free to choose their own entertainment, within the law'.
GRINDHOUSE also contains strong language, some strong sex references and a moderate sex scene.
Nutter MP Keith Vaz, a frequent critic of violent video games, quizzed Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the issue during Prime
Minister's Question Time. He was pushing for Brown's support for his censorial mate, Julian Brazier
MP Keith Vaz:
On Monday, the Prime Minister said that he was very worried about the content of video and computer games. Some of those games, such as Manhunt 2, depict scenes of torture and murder using hammers, knives and guns. They seem
to make a virtue of gratuitous and graphic violence.
Will he meet a delegation of Members, including the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier), who has a private Member’s Bill on the subject, to see what further steps the industry can take to show better responsibility? Does my right hon. Friend,
as a parent, agree that—
Prime Minister Gordon Brown:
My right hon. Friend is right, and this is an issue that concerns all parties in the House and every parent. It is right that we look again at the classification system for those games and at what is happening on the Internet
in influencing young children.
That is why the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families has set up the Byron review, in which Dr. Tanya Byron is looking at these very issues. We want children to be able to enjoy the benefits of the internet and video games, without
being influenced by the pornography or violence of them.
Dr. Byron will report in March 2008 and while it would be premature for me to say what she is likely to recommend, the classification system is one of the things that she is looking at. I hope that when we get the report we can have a debate in
this House. I would be happy to meet my right hon. Friend’s delegation and move forward whatever changes in the law are necessary.
Paul Thomas Anderson's new film, There Will Be Blood , is a 70s-style art Western about the birth of the oil industry in California.
It's an R-rating in America and I'd heard that some American cinemagoers thought that rating was too high, so I wasn't surprised when the BBFC gave it a 12A.
Here's the really weird thing: according to the BBFC site the certificate was raised to 15 after the distributors contacted them and put forward arguments for a higher rating!
The BBFC commented:
This work was originally classified 12A without cuts on 12 November 2007. This determination was formally reconsidered by the BBFC at the request of the submitting company. The BBFC carefully considered the arguments put
forward by the submitting company, looked again at the relevant submitted material, and concluded that a revision to the original determination was appropriate.
Paul Jackson, director general of the games classifiers, ELSPA, recently met with Julian Braizer MP to discuss his Private Members
The Bill looks to enable senior appointments to the BBFC, and the classification of films and games, to come under the scrutiny of Parliament.
I was most grateful for the opportunity to meet with Mr. Brazier to explain how the classification system for games currently works and the challenges we face in this area, Jackson said.
Mr Brazier took the opportunity to express his concerns on the impact of violence in films and games on society which led to the introduction of his Bill.
Following on from this we agreed to stay in close contact and give advice and clarification to ensure the views of the industry are taken into account while the Bill is being developed and its merits debated by the House."
Sega's release schedule highlights an interesting amendment to the title of SEGA’s forthcoming Condemned sequel, with the ‘Bloodshot’ suffix removed from Condemned 2 .
We thought that with the ongoing saga with Manhunt 2 versus the BBFC, SEGA realised now was not the time for censor baiting, but we spoke to Sega who reassured us that the motives behind the change were nothing so sinister. Apparently it
just sounds better without.
The number of R18 submissions in 2006 was slightly down on previous years at 1217. R18 submissions formed 8% of total submissions in 2006
compared with 12.5% in 2004 and 9% in 2005.
Despite this slight reduction in works, this material continued to attract a high level of cuts. Almost half of all works cut by the BBFC in 2006 were cut in order to receive an R18, with around 25% requiring cuts during this period compared with
just over 20% in 2004.
The level of cuts for this category reflects BBFC policy not to pass any material which: is in breach of the criminal law; is likely to encourage an interest in sexually abusive activity; exhibits lack of consent; inflicts injury; or is likely to
be harmful. Because of the high intervention rate, the BBFC liaises with the Crown Prosecution Service and the relevant police unit on current prosecution practice regarding the Obscene Publications Act 1959.
Almost half the cuts to R18 material were for acts considered abusive, or harmful under the terms of the VRA, for example aggressive erotic asphyxia or gagging during deep throat fellatio. Thirty per cent of the cuts were for OPA breaches, mainly
urolagnia, which is the combination of urination and sexual activity. Such material still attracts prosecution under the OPA. References to childhood or incest accounted for 12 per cent of cuts. The remaining cuts removed the use of implements
which, if used without particular care, could lead to lasting injury or death.
Even when the controversy of video game violence reared its head surrounding the BBFC's banning of Manhunt 2 this summer, it only served to reinforce how mature game content has become.
In this instance, it also showed how out of the touch with the consumer market the authorities actually are.
In light of the fact that a re-cut version of the game has been released in the United States, the steadfast refusal of the BBFC to grant Manhunt 2 a UK release seems more like sabre rattling than anything else.
Having played the game, I personally find their decision to be preposterous.