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28th June   

Update: Dual Ratings Duel...

Video Universe - Buy New Release DVDs, TV on DVD, Music Videos and Much More

Microsoft really doesn't want to deal with multiple censors
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

XBOX logo Microsoft exec Neil Thompson has warned the introduction of a new dual ratings system could make games more expensive in the UK.

We're in the business of providing great games to a broad audience of gamers, and we need to be able to fulfil that role by getting products to consumers quickly and at a good price, he told GamesIndustry.biz.

We're concerned with any measures that would mean this process is made more unwieldy, or incurs additional costs which have to be shared with the consumer.

We want a steady stream of product to consumers via retail and therefore support PEGI as the single ratings system in the UK. That way, we're able to ensure the right content goes to the right audience, as efficiently as possible.

 

26th June   

Update: Delayed Reaction...

  Video Universe - Buy New Release DVDs, TV on DVD, Music Videos and Much More

US Mainstream DVDs

Video Universe
 

Games trade really doesn't want to deal with multiple censors
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

EA logo Games company Electronic Arts has stepped into the fray over videogame ratings in the U.K., saying that proposed changes to the current system will result in release delays for new titles.

The proposals, initially raised by the Byron Review, recommend the BBFC begin rating games that earn a 12+ rating from PEGI, rather than the 15+ minimum currently used. As a result, according to Eurogamer, the number of games demanding the attention of the BBFC would increase significantly, resulting in delays of ratings across all games.

The government's proposed changes to the existing age rating systems will create further delays in getting hit games to the U.K., said Electronic Arts U.K. Vice President Keith Ramsdale in an interview with GamesIndustry. An extra and unnecessary layer of administration beyond a single system slows the process, and that delay will get passed on to the players themselves.

Every time you add a new standard, game developers have to guess what the censors are looking for. If there's more than one standard in the U.K., and across Europe, that can only equal delays in getting games to market and into the hands of British players."

 

26th June   

Comment: Happening in Germany...

Melon farming Fresh
A website
update service

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The Happening cuts happen to be the same as in Germany
Link Here

The Happening film poster I found that post you had about cuts to the UK version of The Happening very interesting.

First of all, though, I can tell you that the UK version is definitely not the only one that has been cut.

M. Night Shyamalan has stated in an interview with a German news magazine that the German version has been cut losing shots of:

  • the needle piercing the throat during the suicide at the beginning
  • a man having his arm bitten off by lions
  • a man dying under a lawnmower

Some of these shots do turn up in the Red Band trailer and I strongly suspect that these aren't the only shots that were cut, due to the erratic editing other viewers already mentioned.

I wasn't worried about hearing this, though, as I normally watch the original versions of films, which not only gives me the film as it is supposed to be but also bypasses any German censorship-cuts, in cases like Iron Man and The Hulk (both of which were cut for a lower rating).

You can probably imagine that I was a bit pissed off when I realised that the English-language version of The Happening I was watching was missing the same shots that I knew had been edited out of the German version.

This suggests that this may indeed not be a matter of national censorship but that 20th Century Fox might well have created a Euro-cut and is hoping to cash in on an Unrated Director's Cut DVD later on.

I might feel less annoyed if the film had been better.

 

25th June   

Comment: What's Happening?...

Has The Happening been pre-cut?
Link Here

The Happening film poster Whilst there seems to be a split in opinions over M. Night Shyamalan's new film The Happening, I think we can all agree that certain scenes seem rather weirdly edited and somewhat cut short.

The BBFC website states that this work was passed with no cuts made however scenes differ from those shown in the trailer (cutting away earlier from the lady with the knitting needle) and some people on forums (such as IMDB etc) are comparing notes and reporting differences elsewhere - in fact it seems that the UK is the only territory where the film is cut in this way.

Now since there is no mention of cuts on the BBFC database it is therefore assumed that 20th Century Fox submitted a shortened version - was this in fear of the BBFC's stance on 'Imitable Techniques' ("the Board's concerns in this area include combat techniques, hanging, suicide and self-harm")? Was it a simple mistake? Are we merely being pre-sold an 'uncut' DVD version?

Like Mark Wahlberg's character says we will come up with some reason to put in the books, but in the end it'll be just a theory. I mean, we will fail to acknowledge that there are forces at work beyond our understanding

 

24th June   

Update: Censorship Gurus...

Love Guru nutters fail to make much impact at the BBFC
Link Here

The Love Guru US Nutters are fearful that The Love Guru mocks hinduism. They petitioned many companies involved in the distribution of the film including the BBFC. They asked the American film censors to award the adults only NC-17 rating. But it doesn't sound like the religious aspect of the film made much impact at the BBFC.

The BBFC have kindly explained the uncut 12A rating as follows:

THE LOVE GURU is a sex comedy about an American playing an Indian love guru who is employed by an ice hockey team coach to help one of her top players get back with his estranged wife so he can lead his team to victory. It was classified '12A' for frequent moderate sex references and moderate language

There are moderate sex references throughout the film, many of them playing on the 'Carry On' film tradition of innuendo and double entendre. Examples include: a numberplate which reads 'Big Coq', a reference to 'they were into doggy style before the missionary position' when the holy man talks about a couple who became missionaries, a couple of references to a man having 'syphilis' but without any further elaboration at all, an elephant having completed its 'ejaculation' after mating and an acronym of BLOWME' pronounced 'blome'. Most of these references and the context of the film are good natured rather than intentionally crude, and on these grounds the references were felt to be acceptable at '12A' where Guidelines on sex state 'Sexual activity may be implied. Sex references may reflect what is likely to be familiar to most adolescents but should not go beyond what is suitable for them.'

Language includes the use of 'prick' and 'bitch' which would be unacceptable at 'PG' where 'mild bad language only' should be present, but does not present a problem at '12A' where 'infrequent use of strong language' is acceptable.

THE LOVE GURU also contains some scenes of comic violence and slapstick e.g. hockey players fighting on the ice rink with comic sound effects and a holy man hitting himself with chainsticks. There are also a couple of passing drug references, for example when a man is talking rubbish his colleague asks 'you're back on drugs aren't you?', which lacks detail, is ambiguous and possibly refers to medication.

 

23rd June   

Comment: What is obscene these days?...

BBC ask the question of the BBFC and Vice Squad
Link Here

Straw Dogs DVD It's 2008 and sex seems to be everywhere. So who holds the line between permissiveness and obscenity? What is obscene these days? And how do those people entrusted to make these calls cope with the harrowing work?

...Read full article

Comment: Doing the Rounds

23rd June 2008. Thanks to Alan

I had a good belly laugh at the remarks by Inspector Shortland about his sensitive subordinates being exposed to that horrid pornography.

Back in my misspent youth I was a member of an organization for young business and professional men, which shall remain nameless, but if you think of a circular item of dining room furniture, you won't be far off the mark. I was a bit miffed when I was unable to attend the meeting one week when the entertainment was some blue movies. How had the organizers acquired them and ensured that the films were especially raunchy? A member who was a copper (sergeant awaiting promotion to inspector) had made arrangements with his pals in the Obscene Publications squad for the loan of some juicy recently confiscated material.

 

19th June   

Update: Cross Border Games...

ELSPA commission survey to back their case to adopt PEGI
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

YouGov logo A YouGov survey reveals strong UK support for pan-European games rating system, PEGI. This was carried out on behalf of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers’ Association (ELSPA).

The survey found that a majority of British adults (67%) believe it is important to have a single age-ratings system which would be consistent across Europe.

ELSPA has been lobbying for a pan-European system, PEGI, as the consistent age-rating system across the continent.

MEP Michael Cashman welcomed the latest YouGov findings. A senior member of the European Parliament’s Justice, Home Affairs and Civil Liberties Committee, he said: I am not surprised that most Brits believe it is vital that we are signed-up to a pan-European rating system. Many buy their games when they are away, and others download content from European games companies. These are trends which will inevitably continue. PEGI and PEGI Online offer security when UK residents buy games from the continent– and when visiting Europeans buy games from us during their visits.

Total sample size of YouGov research was 1990 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th and 9th June. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Update: Euro Pressure

20th June 2008

In a written response regarding a recent meeting of the Education, Youth and Culture Council, The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport - Margaret Hodge - has reported strong backing for the PEGI video game rating system.

Hodge states, The Commission summarised their communication on video games and pushed member states to implement the voluntary Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system for age rating of video games.

 

19th June   

User Created Ratings...

Xbox community don't see a role for BBFC or PEGI in user created games
Link Here

XNA logo The head of Xbox community developer service XNA, Chris Satchell, has said that user generated content can be responsibly rated by an audience of its creators' peers – and doesn’t need any intervention from the BBFC or PEGI.

In his keynote at the GamesHorizon Conference in Newcastle, Satchell introduced the audience to XNA’s service, Creators Club Online, launching later in the year.

The service allows bedroom developers to share their games with one another, and encourages the community to rate them in categories of violence, sexual content and more – as well as giving them a critical score.

A Beta version of the site has been running for the last four weeks, and XNA members have already created 54 titles.

We’re giving tools to the community, but we’re not arbiters of good taste, he said. Our only ground rules for these user-generated games is that they don’t infringe other people’s IP and that there aren’t things we consider obscene.

PEGI and the BBFC simply are not going to be able to rate community content. We have to work out a way to police ourselves to avoid huge regulatory pressure. The core of Creators Club Online take it very seriously. If you give the community tools, they act responsibly.

 

13th June   

ELSPA and PEGI vs BBFC...

Games publishers not keen on the BBFC
Link Here

ELSPA logo Paul Jackson, Director General of ELSPA, representing video games publishers, has issued a statement warning that the decision to use the BBFC to rate games is wrong:

We appreciate comments from Government about its support and the work being done for the UK video games industry. We look forward to working closely with them in the near future to make good this commitment. Of immediate concern is the issue of age ratings where it is crucial that following the public consultation on games age ratings, the UK adopts the Pan European PEGI system for games sold in store and online.

The facts are that any other conclusion from this process, including the proposed expansion of the remit of the film ratings body, the BBFC, will result in a significant and prohibitive logistical and financial burden on the games industry. This will lead to increased costs of bringing games to market and could also significantly de-stabilise the UK's influence and position within the European games industry. More importantly, it will have failed in its main objective - protecting children.

 

31st May   

Update: British Board of Byron Officers...

Up to the BBFC how they organise their staff
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

BBFC logoThe BBFC has responded to ELSPA'
s decision to ‘warn off'
 publishers to its advances – stating that its relationship with UK games firms is a private matter.

ELSPA had requested that leading publishers hold fire on implementing any changes to classification of their games until the Government has officially executed proposals influenced by Dr. Tanya Byron'
s Review of the industry.

The statement was sparked by the BBFC appointing a Byron Implementation Officer to oversee relationships with publishers – something ELSPA sees as a premature move.

However, BBFC director David Cooke told MCV: We have made clear that we welcome Byron'
s findings and it is a matter for us how we organise our resources over the coming period.
Dr Byron made clear that she expects the cooperation between the BBFC and PEGI to continue.

 

24th May   

Update: Byron Implementation Officer...

Games publishers not keen on rushing into bed with the BBFC
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

ELSPA logoThe Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association has instructed its members to ignore any request from the BBFC to change the current age ratings process.

The UK industry representative has requested that leading publishers hold fire on implementing any changes to classification of their games until the Government has officially executed proposals influenced by the Byron Review.

The industry is now in an 18-month period of consultation with Government following Dr Tanya Byron'
s recommendations – which included BBFC ratings on all video games boxes and a statutory ‘12'
 classification.

However, ELSPA believes that rival European ratings body PEGI – which seems to have the support of publishers – may be able to make a strong claim to hold greater power, possibly in contradiction to Dr. Byron'
s proposals.

ELSPA told MCV:

You may have heard that the BBFC has appointed a ‘BBFC Byron Implementation Officer'
. Apparently his brief is to contact PEGI and interested trade bodies as well as the country'
s games companies ‘with a view to implementing the Byron recommendations'
.


Our view is that this appointment at the BBFC – along with the brief itself – is somewhat hasty since we still await actual details of the full consultation promised in the Byron Review.

 

21st May   

BBFC.Online...

BBFC Launches Download Classification Scheme in Partnership with the Home Entertainment Industry
Link Here

BBFC Online logoThe BBFC'
s widely recognised and trusted classification system is moving to the world of downloadable films, programmes and video games. The BBFC has worked closely with the home entertainment industry to develop this voluntary regulatory scheme that will bring the benefits of the DVD classification system to the world of downloads and the internet. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Europe, Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox have signed up and other key industry players, who have been involved in the development of BBFC.online, are poised to join the scheme.

Launched today, BBFC.online – as the new service is called – has been designed to give consumers the assurance they seek when choosing new media content. The scheme will see the BBFC'
s famous ‘black card'
, category symbols and Consumer Advice appearing on a wide range of ‘new media'
 content, including video-on-demand and streamed video which is offered to the public through websites, set-top boxes and portable media devices.

There is currently little independent classification of downloadable or streaming video content, either on the internet or delivered by video-on-demand services and via set-top-boxes. This is in spite of independent research that indicates that 63% of adults (74% of parents) are concerned about downloading video material which does not come with independent content advice and labelling. In addition, 84% of adults (91% of parents) want to see BBFC film and DVD classification on downloadable/streaming films and other digital audiovisual content.

BBFC.online has been developed over the last 18 months, in close partnership with the video and new media industries and the British Video Association. There are already some 700 videos with ‘online certificates'
 and this is likely to rise to about 1000 by the end of the month.

The major studios as well as e-tailers and VoD suppliers, are keen to ensure that online content is accompanied by clear and independent content information and age-restrictions using a system trusted by consumers.

The scheme will also require e-tailers and VoD services to have age verification or gate-keeping systems in place for parents to monitor and control underage viewing, and the effectiveness of these protocols will be monitored by the BBFC. Major e-tailers and VoD services are poised to join as soon as their services have been updated in accordance with the requirements of the scheme.

Speaking at the launch, David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:

We are extremely pleased to have been able to work with the video industry to develop a scheme that will give online consumers the same assurance that our symbols and content information provide for cinema films, DVDs and video games. I am particularly pleased by the support and commitment from the industry for this voluntary scheme. Consumers considering buying into the world of downloads will be able to rely on our familiar symbols and advice, to decide which films or video games are suitable for them and their children. They will also be assured that the film makers and download services in the scheme are keen to ensure their customers get genuine independent information about the digital films or games on offer.

Culture Minister Margaret Hodge said:

The introduction of the BBFC system for online film downloads will provide some welcome clarity for consumers, to help them gain greater confidence that their purchases are appropriate before they commit themselves. I hope to see more studios sign up to the scheme.

Lavinia Carey, Director General of the British Video Association said:

“The online world is still an ‘open frontier'
 and the industry is determined to get its own house in order with this new type of business. Our involvement and input into the development of BBFC.online has shown how seriously we take this. We chose to work with the BBFC because of the universal recognition of their system across the UK, and their commitment to supporting both consumers and the industry in making the most of the online world in a safe and recognisable environment.”


The BBFC also note:

  1. The BBFC.online scheme includes console-style games which are supplied to the customer via download.
  2. The research referred to is available on www.bbfc.co.uk entitled Downloading Classification Study February 2007 and was carried out by TNS.
  3. The BBFC'
    s legal advice is that works supplied by ‘non-physical'
     means (eg by streaming or download) are not covered by the Video Recordings Act 1984.
  4. Membership of the Scheme is voluntary and by subscription and there is no cost to consumers.
  5. BBFC.online is ‘Platform Neutral'
     – it is designed to cover all forms of digital content delivery (eg web, set top boxes, hand-held devices and mobile phones).
  6. BBFC.online complies with the self regulatory model advocated by ATVOD.

 

21st May   

BBFC.Online.R18...

BBFC Download Classification Scheme to Include the Adult Industry
Link Here

The BBFC'
s widely recognised and understood classification system is moving to the world of downloadable films and will include the ‘R18'
 category which covers explicit sex works. The first adult entertainment company to join the scheme is Strictly Broadband.

Launched today, BBFC.online – as the new service is called – covers the full range of BBFC classifications from ‘U'
 through to ‘R18'
. The scheme is designed to give consumers the assurance they seek when choosing new media content. This is particularly relevant in the area of sexually explicit adult content as the scheme will provide potential customers with guarantees that the content is legal, consensual and non-violent.

Membership of the scheme will also require e-tailers and VoD services to have age verification or gate-keeping systems in place to control underage viewing, and the effectiveness of these will be monitored by the BBFC.

Strictly Broadband has been an active partner during the development and testing of the scheme and is the first adult industry company to join.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:

The Video Recordings Act does not cover the world of downloads so adult content that is not on video or DVD is subject to very little regulation. There are all sorts of potential problems associated with the downloading of sexually explicit material including the possible criminalisation of internet users who download extreme violent pornography, which the BBFC refuses to classify. Online material rated ‘R18'
 by the BBFC will comply with the same guidelines and laws as apply to R'
18'
 videos and DVDs sold in licensed sex shops. Companies like Strictly Broadband that sign up to the BBFC.online scheme are sending a clear message to their potential customers that they are acting responsibly to ensure that their product is properly labelled and subject to effective gate-keeping measures.

Jerry Barnett, Managing Director of Strictly Broadband said:

As the UK market leader in internet-streamed adult entertainment, we're pleased to be founder members of the BBFC Online scheme. It has been difficult in the past for legitimate companies to sell adult video on the internet, as the law is far from clear in this area. We welcome the clarification that the new scheme will bring to the business, which will allow the further development of a strong and legal British adult entertainment industry, and give British consumers the ability to decide whether they are buying legal material or not."
Notes for Editors


The BBFC also note:

  1. The BBFC'
    s legal advice is that works supplied by ‘non-physical'
     means (eg by streaming or download) are not covered by the Video Recordings Act 1984.
  2. Membership of the Scheme is voluntary and by subscription (£900 per annum) and there is no cost to consumers.
  3. BBFC.online is ‘Platform Neutral'
     – it is designed to cover all forms of digital content delivery (eg web, set top boxes, hand-helds mobile phones).
  4. The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act has created a new offence of the possession of ‘extreme violent pornography'
     – BBFC classified material is specifically excluded under this definition.

 

21st May   

Censor's Annual Report 2007...

BBFC Tougher on Violence than US Counterpart
Link Here

BBFC Report 2007 The BBFC is taking a tougher stance on violence in films aimed at young teenagers than the US film regulator, the MPAA (the Motion Picture Association of America). The differences are highlighted in the BBFC'
s 2007 Annual Report, published today.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:

In 2007 a number of blockbuster Hollywood cinema films, in particular Cloverfield , Disturbia and I Am Legend came in to the BBFC for classification having received a ‘PG13'
 classification (cautioning parents but allowing unrestricted access for children of any age) in the USA. In each case, the distributor request for a ‘12A'
 classification was refused and the films were all classified ‘15'
. The studios were very keen to obtain a ‘12A'
 classification for them from the BBFC, but all featured extended periods of intense violent threat and moments of horror. The Board'
s view was that, based on the extensive public consultation exercises, the films went beyond what most members of the UK public would consider appropriate for children younger than fifteen. In each case, the Board'
s own judgement was that the films were likely to be disturbing to many younger children. These were not the only cases. Around 10% of films each year which come in with a particular category request end up with a higher one than asked for.

These decisions mark an increasing divergence between the US approach to classification for adolescents and young teenagers, and the position taken by the BBFC in the UK. While the US body, the industry led MPAA, takes a strict line on issues relating to nudity and sex, the BBFC is significantly more restrictive on violence and horror. Different, but equally significant, points of divergence can also be identified between the standards applied by the various European classification bodies: for example, French and British attitudes to children being exposed to graphic sexual representations are poles apart. Notions of harm and appropriateness remain culturally dependent: that is why all past attempts to develop a pan-European film classification system have fallen at the first hurdle. This is also why the BBFC puts so much emphasis on consultation with the UK public – BBFC decisions reflect UK public attitudes. All classification decisions are based on criteria set out in published Guidelines which are updated every few years.

The current Guidelines, published in 2005, were drafted following consultation with over 11,000 people in the UK. During 2008 the BBFC will embark on a new programme of consultation which will lead to the publication of new Guidelines in 2009. The consultation will cover the full range of categories and issues but initial qualitative research has suggested that the public would like particular attention paid to the criteria for works at ‘12'
/‘12A'
 (as this is the age at which children begin to have greater control over their own viewing) and to consider a number of issues in particular. These include: the importance of ‘psychological impact'
 as well as visual detail, the treatment of issues such as racism and homophobia, and the usual concerns surrounding violence, horror and bad language.

The consultation will take place in stages. In the first stage, focus groups will discuss the issues in detail and identify any criteria which need to be added or amended. The Board will then produce a set of draft Guidelines which will be examined by reconvened groups from the first stage. After any necessary further revisions, support for the draft will then be assessed using large scale quantitative research methods.

The Annual Report also focuses on the new online classification scheme for downloadable films and games, which was launched today.

 

9th May   

Update: A Comment on No Commentary...

Consequences of BBFC decision to charge to censor commentary soundtracks
Link Here  full story: DVD Commentary at the BBFC...Charging to censor DVD commentary soundtracks

BBFC logoBack in October 2007 the BBFC issued the following press release:

The BBFC has recently received legal advice on the issue of audio commentaries. Our advice is that audio commentaries will almost always constitute new video works and consequently require classification.

The only exceptions are audio descriptive tracks which involve very simple and short descriptions of the action on screen (eg for the visually impaired).

Letter writingJames explains some of the commercial effects that this BBFC decision has on the availability of commentary soundtracks.

I conjured up the idea of producing cost effective audio commentaries for classic British feature films for DVD companies around the world with original cast and crew members. Technology has had a hand at least in making this possible. Getting my foot in the door in the DVD industry took some time but I eventually succeeded in persuading Network DVD to allow me to produce commentaries for some of their releases prior to them going in house. I offer to produce commentaries for feature films between a cost of £1,000 and £1,500. This covers everything including payments made to participants. I even offer to make to produce commentaries which I would then license out for as little as £500. I can offer to produce an audio commentary for a 114 minute video for £1,250 but if the company had to pay for a BBFC certificate to use it, it would cost them another £759 + VAT to use it. A 95 minute film would only cost £645 + VAT to certify and I used to promote my commentary proposals as costing less than the price of the certificate when a license payment is suggested. This ruling would, on occasion, double the cost of the use of an audio commentary and would clearly prohibit the use of them.

It is significant that Paul Sutton posted on the Criterion forum, in that thread you quoted from, that The audio commentary can make or break a release (to say nothing of its educational richness) with emphasis on 'its educational richness'. I do not debate the initial part of the statement that audio commentaries will almost always constitute new video works. It is the following part of the statement that I have issue with that, as new video works, they would consequently require classification . This part of the statement is entirely false. New video works being offered commercially in the United Kingdom do not automatically require classification. They only require classification under the Video Recordings Act if they do not fall into one of the exempted categories (providing they do not fall foul of the exceptions to the exceptions). One of the key exemptions, which was put in place to ensure that people could use the video format to distribute information freely, applies to work that if taken as a whole, ... is designed to inform, instruct or educate. The forum post made by Paul Sutton evidences my perception of the function of an audio commentary that, even when considered as a video work, it is purely 'designed to inform and educate' and often instructs.

I first heard about the statement in November 2007 when trying to persuade Odeon Entertainment to commission some audio commentaries for their forthcoming releases. They wrote back to me an informed me of this recent statement. I subsequently emailed the BBFC and pointed out that the claim that new video works will require classification as a consequence of being 'new video works' is false and even offered an alternative and accurate suggestion of stating that audio commentaries will almost always constitute new video works and consequently require consideration for classification but this step was not taken. I also explained that, in addition to this error, it is most likely that most audio commentary video works would not require classification. Not wanting to show a lack of understanding that there may be some issues related to unclassified audio commentaries, I pointed out that an audio commentary performed in character can not be taken as whole intended for informative purposes and therefore would require classification and that this point may be worth raising with the video industry and the public. Having not heard back after a couple of days, I contacted the BBFC by telephone and explained the predicament the statement had presented me and pointed out again that I was not disputing the notion that an audio commentary playing back over images of a filmed drama constituted a video work of its own but that I was disputing that it can be said that it consequently requires classification when it should be stated that it consequently may require classification. Informally (and verbally) it was agreed that the statement needed revision and that the BBFC would wait for further feedback from others in case further revision was needed. I was told that they were unable to reply to my email due to 'technical difficulties'. At the time I felt that they might have been unwilling to admit in writing a mistake. As the change never occurred (the statement reads exactly how it read back in October) my suspicion was only raised.

I did not waste time in contacting various DVD companies who I sought work from of the issues related to this statement and presented the arguments set out here as to why the statement does not hold water and strongly suggested it could be ignored. I suspect some of the companies have quietly ignored my advice and have declined to take up my suggestions largely due to concerns of having to certify the audio commentaries I suggest producing. This week I finally received confirmation that one company at least are holding back from production of audio commentaries as a result of the issue of this. After making several offers to produce audio commentaries for Optimum Releasing, I received a reply stating we couldn'
t afford to buy them from you, especially as despite your previous email on the subject, we would have to pay for them to be certificated by the BBFC.


The concerns the BBFC have in terms of audio commentaries comes from such as the adult nature of the discussion that takes place on the audio commentaries for archive children's programmes which have been released with U certificates. The prime example of this would be the DVD releases of The Tomorrow People which, ironically, Paul Sutton praises in the aforementioned post on the Criterion forum. Language may dictate which category a video work may be given but it does not dictate whether a video work requires classification. The issue the public may have is that they might not reasonably expect such content on a video which has been certified as a 'U'. The remedy, in my opinion, is not to illegally claim that the commentaries must also be classified but that the packaging of such materials should (or perhaps must) supply a warning that some (and perhaps which) content has been included that has not been classified and may contain material that would not meet the requirements of the certificate issued if classified. That would seem the common sense to approach.

 

2nd May   

Pegging Away at PEGI...

BBFC to unveil online game censorship scheme
Link Here

BBFC logoBBFC Online is due to be launched at the end of the month or in June, and will apply to both downloadable games and movies.

The online portion of the scheme has interested the gaming industry particularly in comparing the BBFC scheme with the PEGI Online equivalent.

BBFC director David Cooke claimed that, although the body wants to gain the full support of the industry, it would rather work with PEGI than against it. He told MCV: Tanya Byron has said that we need to look at and improve the PEGI Online Safety code and we'
re happy to help be part of that process. We have two options, to work with PEGI, or to compete with them. We'
d much prefer the first option, but if PEGI Online collapsed, we'
d have to step up.


I believe in practice it goes a bit further than PEGI Online. We'
d like to see it beefed up. Material on PEGI Online at the moment is largely self-monitored and there is no dedicated resource for doing any more than that.

Part of this is a question of resource – have you got the bodies that can run independent spot checking – and we could certainly produce them. We'
re large enough that we can adjust or even recruit if we need to.

See full article from the Escapist

Culture Media Sport committeeThe BBFC said it was "bemused" by industry arguments that the agency can't effectively rate game due to volume.

I am completely bemused by the fact that these people claim to know how the BBFC works, said spokesman Sue Clark.

The statement came in response to gaming industry figures' assertions at a recent select committee on "harmful" content on the internet and in video games that the BBFC is overwhelmed. The witnesses claimed self-regulation was the right answer.

The BBFC is entirely funded by the fees that we charge by classifying work, therefore if we get more work in we get more money, so if we need more staff we take on more staff, she explained.

 

1st May   

Upping the Ante...

Ninja Gaiden series of games goes 18 rated
Link Here

Ninja Gaiden 2 game Ninja Gaiden II has been passed uncut by BBFC rated 18 for strong, bloody violence

Having played several chapters of the gory slice 'n' dice, I can confirm that the violence therein is strong, and it is also bloody. Stick the word "excellent" on the end of that sentence and you've got a fairly accurate description of the game, too.

The 18 certificate marks a first for the series - previous BBFC-rated entries Black was awarded a 15 certificate, while the original fell under PEGI, who rated it 16+.

The BBFC explain their rating as follows:

NINJA GAIDEN II is an action-adventure game for the Xbox 360 console. The player assumes the role of Ryu, a ninja who must try to save his girlfriend from his mortal enemy.

The game was classified '18' for strong, bloody violence. This includes sight of Ryu's weapons sending body parts flying through the air and onto the walls and the ground, with blood splattering beside them. Ryu gathers various weapons as the game progresses, including a sword, nunchucks, bow & arrow, twin swords, a scythe, metal claws and so on. Each of these produces slightly different gore effects against the enemies - for example a staff weapon reduces bodies to sticky lumps of flesh. The player can also use special powers, including the ability to set enemies on fire - this results in sight of the immolated victims screaming and twitching after falling to the ground.

While many of the enemies at the start of the game are human, as you progress they become more fantastical (some with green blood), and the boss opponents consist of magical witches, giant monsters etc.

At '15', the BBFC's Guidelines state that 'violence may be strong but may not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury', and that 'the strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable'. Despite a fantastical theme, NINJA GAIDEN II contains very graphic violence and bloody gore, thus necessitating the '18' category.

The game also contains a 'cutscene' in which a female character bathes in blood and talks to Ryu with her breasts and buttocks visible.

 

1st May   

Comment: TV Uncut Goodies...

TV shames scissor happy DVD distributors
Link Here

Die Hard with a Vengeance DVD cover A new trend seems to be upon us. Showing BBFC "UNFRIENDLY" versions on TV. In the past few weeks, several of my favourite films have been shown on TV in their COMPLETE uncut glory. One of them ( Die hard with a vengeance ), at a ridiculously early time (9pm on a saturday!) this film is rated 15 in the UK and is appallingly dubbed, cut, and generally fucked with. However UK gold seemed to think that everyone under 15 was safely tucked up in bed at 9pm. Buena vista on the other hand denied us the full version because they are money grabbing whores (don't think its fair to blame the BBFC, as they would have probably given the film an uncut 18 willingly).

The Tox Box DVD cover So my ass was chapped on that. Then, Zone horror screens one of the most notorious films of its day, The Toxic avenger , COMPLETELY uncut! I grant you, it was at 3am, but surely children can get hold of a DVD / video 24/7? So why does Zone horror have the right to this, yet I've got to pay EXTORTIONATE postage rates to import my favourite films? Then buy a special DVD / video player to watch them?

Hot Shots double bill DVD Then last night ITV 2 screens the COMPLETE uncut Hot shots part deux ! ANOTHER film (ps, the first ones heavily cut too) I've had to import because of shitty narrow minded cynics, and money grabbing whores.

I don't however blame the BBFC. I know that sounds strange, but its true. All of these films (and countless others), could quite easily be released uncut in this country if the distributors would just listen to what the public want. Eraser would have done so much better on video if it was an 18 (as it was at the cinema). That film was famously boycotted by video renters because word got out VERY FAST about the appalling butcher style editing. Die hard with a vengeance would've sat quite happily as an 18, the first one was, and the widescreen video version of the second one was too. As for The Toxic Avenger that's never been submitted uncut, SO HOW THE FUCK DO THEY KNOW IT WONT BE PASSED UNCUT!

Starting to wonder if the censorship problem of old in the UK was not so much the BBFC (not denying they played their part), but the distributors and their whole MORE UNITS WILL SHIFT IF YOUNGER PEOPLE CAN RENT THEM philosophy. Distributors trust me, you can slap barb wire around the case, and coat it in strontium 90. Kids will still see it.

In short GIVE US OUR FILMS YOU MONEY GRABBING BASTARDS!

 

30th April   

Update: Online Rating Games...

ELSPA boss reckons BBFC will be overwhelmed by online games
Link Here  full story: Harmful Content...Parliament Inquiry: Internet And In Video Games:

Culture Media Sport committee Plans to widen the use of cinema-style rating for computer games are at risk of failing, amid predictions that soon there will be too many for the censors to regulate.

Games industry bosses told MPs on the Culture Select Committee, who are examining harmful content on the internet and in video games, that an explosion in online gaming would mean up to 100,000 games appear a year – far more than the 1,750 titles produced today.

Paul Jackson, director-general of Elspa, the games industry trade body, said it would need to fill a tower block with censors to make the system work. He was responding to questions from John Whittingdale, the Conservative chairman of the committee.

Jackson's comments mean that government plans, announced this month, to introduce compulsory rating for all games that would attract a 12 certificate and above would collapse because the BBFC could not cope: We are concerned about plans to introduce a hybrid system. On the face of it, it means classifying another 500 games a year. But will they be able to rate 100,000 games and game elements in five years' time?

Comment: Future Proofing Games Ratings

Paul Jackson's comments are better explained in an interview with TechRadar

See interview from TechRadar

ELSPA logo Paul Jackson: Our concern is this – the games industry needs to be reassured that the British Board of Film Classification would be capable of delivering against a new remit. There are two broad areas of concern.

Firstly, it looks as though the PEGI system currently delivers a harsher rating on games than (historically) the BBFC has – and we want to understand why that is happening and, if it's not right, how we can fix it.

The second area of concern is about 'future-proofing'. We know that our industry is going online and we know that the methodologies used with PEGI allow complete flexibility, because it is generated from within the industry. Every product has got a product manager, so every product can be self-assessed. And then the checks and balances that are so important come into play after that.

With the BBFC system that has been developed since the 1930s it is based around individual censors reviewing each and every product. Now what does that mean in a world where there are perhaps a million online elements a year which need to be classified? I don't know? That is where we need to make sure that we understand how the BBFC would be capable of delivering against that remit.

TechRadar: The BBFC told TechRadar recently that they were more than happy and confident to take on what they estimate to be an extra three to five hundred games a year.

Paul Jackson: Yes, and at the level of three-to-five hundred, who would question that? The question really is – 'what happens in that online space?'

As the industry goes online over the next three to ten years what we don't want to do, including the BBFC, I'm sure – and this is why we keep talking about 'future proofing' – is we don't want to invest in a system that effectively becomes redundant over the few years' time.

TechRadar: Why would it become redundant?

Paul Jackson: Well if – and there are many 'ifs' in this which is why we want to work with government and with the BBFC over the next 18 months – if, for instance, one scenario is that the games industry moves almost exclusively online and then the products that we are selling, many of those products fragment… So, The Sims would be a good example here. If you look at The Sims as a product, it's a £30 purchase at the point of display and then just look at the number of items that are already available to purchase online for The Sims. Every one of those in future will need to be referenced and classified. How will that be done?

Those are the areas of concern we have got, because we are certainly not talking five to six hundred 'elements' per year over the next ten years. We're talking about hundreds of thousands, millions, who knows?

We've tried to word our concern very clearly. We are concerned because we don't understand how that is going to work. And if it doesn't work, if we've not 'future proofed' then we just have a system that's going to last us the next three years. Which is not what any of us want.

 

18th April   

30 Days of Night...

Suitable for people aged 15+ but rated 18 to be on the safe side
Link Here

30 Days of NIght DVD 30 Days of Night is a 2007 US horror film by David Slade (Icon Home Entertainment)

It was passed 15 uncut for cinema in 2007 with the following explanation:

30 DAYS OF NIGHTS is a horror thriller set in a remote town in Alaska. As the long Arctic winter is about to begin the town receives some unwelcome visitors. The film was passed '15' for strong, bloody, horror violence and language.

The BBFC's Guidelines at '15' state that violence may be strong, but may not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury. Strong threat and menace are permitted, but the strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable. The violence in this film is certainly strong and gory, but the sequences are invariably brief and the fantasy nature of the work is a moderating factor. The BBFC's Guidelines at '15' also allow for the frequent use of strong language and this film includes the use of a moderate number of strong expletives.

30 DAYS OF NIGHT also contains a couple of innocuous drug references and very mild verbal sex references.

But by 2008, after a couple of complaints, the BBFC decided that the DVD release should be 18 uncut.

Perhaps the BBFC should should create a new certificate explanation: Suitable for people aged 15+ but rated 18 to be on the safe side.

Review from Amazon UK

'30 Days of Night' is the movie based on the best selling graphic novel by Steve Niles. The story begins when a group of vampires flock to Barrow, Alaska where the sun sets for 30 days, allowing them to feed without the burden of sleep to avoid lethal sunlight. Because of the cold, the vampires' senses are weakened and a few of the town's residents are able to hide. One resident is Sheriff Eben Olemaun (Josh Hartnett), who attempts to save the town and the lives of the few remaining townspeople, including his wife Stella (Melissa George).

This was probably the film that I was most looking forward to in 2007 and when I finally got to see it, I wasn't disappointed at all. At the time when I first watched this film I hadn't read any of the comics, so the story was new to me, but I enjoyed it all the same. I've read the comic since seeing this and the film version has a lot more added to it, which I feel was definitely necessary as only the beginning and the end are featured in the original. There's plenty of gore, a great storyline, good characters, lots of scares and some excellent camerawork. The setting of Barrow feels very isolated and creepy and very, very atmospheric. The vampires have twisted, ugly faces and make eerie, high pitched wails to each other and speak in their own language, taking the sexy, seductive image away from the over-used and tired character.

Overall this is without a doubt one the best films of 2007 and is definitely the best vampire film I have ever seen.

 

16th April   

Offsite: BBFC Less Harmless...

BBFC feel justified in censoring at lesser levels of harm
Link Here

Manhunt 2 game cover MCV have interviewed David Cooke, Director of the BBFC about the Manhunt 2 appeal.

Most of the interview is about the trials and tribulations of rating Manhunt 2 and then being challenged via the Video Appeals Committee.

But one rather worrying statement stands out. The BBFC now feel that the test of 'harm' is not set so high as the BBFC once thought.

David Cooke said:

"We actually got a fairly substantial benefit from the Manhunt episode. We went to the High Court, and it clarified the harm test – actually a benefit that flies across a whole range of games and film. It all gets quite technical, but for instance, it said it was not necessary for us to show devastating effect, which was what the arguments had said previously. So we've ended up with a clearer legal definition of that test than we had before the case started".

Sounds as if the BBFC will now think they can be justified in censoring at lesser levels of harm.

...Read the full interview

 

16th April   

Babylon AD Hype...

Rumours of long version of Babylon AD quashed
Link Here

Babylon AD poster Babylon AD is a new movie that has generated itself a bit of always appreciated publicity. Rumours of a long version running an hour extra to the version to be released at the cinema have now been quashed.

There are however suggestions that there are differences between the US PG-13 version and the European version recently passed 12A by the BBFC.

The BBFC passed a cinema version running for 90:08s uncut at 12A with the following comments:

BABYLON A.D. is an adaptation of Maurice G. Dantec's science fiction novel Babylon Babies . It is set in a post apocalyptic society and tells the story of Toorop; a veteran soldier turned mercenary who is hired to transport a young girl from Russia to Canada.

The BBFC passed the film 12A for infrequent strong language and moderate violence. The film contains one clear use of strong language that is directed from lead character Toorop to the female character of Rebecca; however, its use has no sexual connotations and forms the role of establishing the two opposing characters. This is in keeping with the BBFC's current 12A Guidelines which state that the use of strong language must be infrequent . The film also contains frequent use of moderate language – including 'bitch', 'shit' and 'arse'.

The moderate violence featured is of the standard action movie fare and includes explosions, impressionistic fight scenes and gun battles. There are occasional bloody moments including a brutal cage fight between Toorop and a viscious gladiator and another scene which features a slow-motion bullet entering the body of Rebecca. These moments in the film are infrequent and do not linger on bloody injuries. Their inclusion is largely mitigated by the fantastical science-fiction context and well contained within the current 12A Guidelines which allow for occasional gory moments only.

 

14th April   

Sounds like Pedantry...

BBFC charge double for to censor DVDs with commentary
Link Here  full story: DVD Commentary at the BBFC...Charging to censor DVD commentary soundtracks

BBFC logo Back in October 2007 the BBFC issued the following press release:

The BBFC has recently received legal advice on the issue of audio commentaries. Our advice is that audio commentaries will almost always constitute new video works and consequently require classification.

The only exceptions are audio descriptive tracks which involve very simple and short descriptions of the action on screen (eg for the visually impaired).

Criterion Forum logo A distributor on the Criterion forum noted:

The BBFC are more and more redundant and reviled in this modern age. Far from thinking that they do a "great and necessary" job, I believe that the job they do is completely without purpose (thanks to the internet) and that the restrictive and costly BBFC practices to which all UK distributors are forced to comply can now be challenged in the European courts. At the very least, by government decree their work should be carried out for free.

I'm not a fan, and even less so since they decided that all commentary tracks had to be certificated due to being "further video content". This is at a cost of around £1,000 GBP for a 95 minute film, and again, another £1,000 GBP for a commentary track -- and the delays involved in the production process while they certificate prevent us from getting things out more quickly.

Audio books, radio shows, and other audio content released on CD in the UK is not certificated by the BBFC, and a DVD audio commentary does not constitute "further video content" in our book because it is audio content, so I am strongly against this inane ruling.

It's fair to say we could release films more quickly for less money if the BBFC was "opt-in" like in other progressive countries.

So how many films remain unavailable to Brits because the censorship fee makes it commercially unviable? And how many small distribution films are bought from abroad to get the best value on extras?

 

6th April   

Visions of a Visions of Ecstasy Release...

Repeal of blasphemy laws signals end to long standing film ban
Link Here

Sacred Flesh DVD A landmark decision to ban a film showing Christ being caressed on the cross on the grounds that it was blasphemous could be reversed after almost 20 years.

The 1989 ruling by the BBFC to refuse a certificate for Visions of Ecstasy , a low- budget film depicting the 16th-century Spanish mystic St Teresa of Avila caressing the body of Jesus on the cross provoked a nutter furore.

While the film's director, Nigel Wingrove, believed he was making art, the board, under its heavily censorious director James Ferman, took a different view and said its mix of pornography and religion risked upsetting the Anglican Church.

Now, however, in a sign that Britain's social mores have moved on, Craig Lapper, of the board's examining body, has invited Wingrove to resubmit the film for classification.

The invitation comes ahead of the repeal in June of the blasphemy law, which has long been a source of anger for those working in the creative industries who complain it is an archaic piece of legislation that stifles art.

A decision to allow the film's release would bring to an end one of the most controversial chapters in British cinematic history. The board's decision was seen as an attack on freedom of speech by organised religion. The debate raged all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which upheld the decision to ban the love scene, thereby killing the film's release.

Wingrove, now a distributor of horror movies, said the suggestion he should resubmit his most notorious work had come completely out of the blue and that he was in two minds about whether to agree: If I made the film now I would make it very differently. I was exploring areas of dark eroticism, but I had worked chiefly in prints, not films. People say I should put it out, but on a personal level I have reservations. If I did release it, I would need to put it into context and perhaps release a documentary to accompany it.

Visions of Ecstasy was Wingrove's most famous battle with the board and one he did not see coming. I can be incredibly naive, he said. I was gobsmacked by the reaction. I can see why some people might have been offended, but it was pretty mild stuff really.

Nevertheless, the obscure film became a focal point of political protest as the barrister Geoffrey Robertson took up Wingrove's case and a campaign was launched to secure the film's release. A lot of people had their own agenda, Wingrove said: They wanted the law of blasphemy repealed. He likened the courtroom battle in Strasbourg to a scene from the Nuremberg trials with all those people pontificating on my little 19-minute film; it was absurd.

Now, however, Wingrove may find himself an unwitting cause célèbre again as secular groups encourage him to seek a release licence as a way of signalling the death knell of the blasphemy law.

The restraining effect of the blasphemy law on artists and writers has long been a blot on Britain's tradition of free speech, said Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society. It has put into the hands of bigots a weapon to punish those who want to criticise or satirise religion. We hope that the BBFC will now give a certificate to Visions of Ecstasy as a signal to film makers that they need no longer censor themselves when exploring religious themes.

A board spokeswoman stressed the invitation to Wingrove to resubmit his film for classification was Lapper's personal decision. Craig was being helpful, the spokeswoman said, pointing out that the repeal of the blasphemy law in June probably convinced Lapper that the time was right to review the film's ban.

 

2nd April   

Explanation Theft...

BBFC pass Grand Theft Auto IV 18 uncut and then withdraw explanation
Link Here  full story: Grand Theft Worldwide...International certificates for GTA IV game

Grand Theft Auto IV game The temporary BBFC ban on Manhunt 2 seems to have generated a bit of extra publicity for every violent game that is presented to the BBFC. It is now a news story when such a game isn't banned.

The BBFC seem to have added to this particular press interest by first of all providing their extended explanation of their 18 rating and then promptly withdrawing the explanation. Apparently the extended advice should only be made available 10 days before release.

Furthermore the withdrawal of the extended classification explanation also seems to be blamed for a rumour of a ban on the game that circulated yesterday.

Anyway the BBFC have awarded Grand Theft Auto IV and uncut 18 certificate with the following withdrawn comment:

GRAND THEFT AUTO IV is an open world action adventure game in which the player character is an Eastern European immigrant working for organised crime gangs in a fictitious city in the USA. The game has been rated '18' for strong violence, very strong language, very strong sex references and drugs use.

Violence is a central theme of the game, with the character able to engage on missions which invariably involving killing in return for money and other in-game rewards. The character can gain use of a variety of weapons including machine guns, Molotov cocktails, a serrated knife and a rocket propelled grenade launcher.

Injuries and death are shown with blood including blood projected onto nearby walls, windscreens and the camera lens. The character is able to attack and kill any other character in the game, including 'innocent' non player characters, although this carries a strong risk of being pursued by the police providing a negative consequence for such action.

The game includes several uses of very strong language and frequent use of strong language. The very strong language occurs within 'cut scenes' in which the story and character development take place, in spoof television episodes and during a stand up comedy routine.

Sex references also occur during cut scenes, including references to strong sexual behaviour. During gameplay the character can pick up prostitutes and pay for three different levels of service. What follows is an un-detailed portrayal of masturbation, fellatio and intercourse. The character can also visit lap dancing clubs and request a private dance. While the game contains sexualised dancing and the portrayal of sex, there is no sexualised nudity.

Reference is made to drugs trafficking and several cut scenes portray cocaine snorting. There is also a satirical reference to the domestic production of a hard drug, but it does not contain the detail necessary to reproduce this in the real world.

GRAND THEFT AUTO IV has been classified at '18' and is appropriate for adults aged 18 and above only.

 

2nd April   

Moving with the Times...

Old films allowed to have new certificates
Link Here

BBFC logo The BBFC have issued the following press release

Following fresh legal advice and consultation with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the BBFC is happy to be able to introduce new flexibility with regard to previously classified video works.

In the past, any new video submission which was identical to a previously classified video work could only be classified at the existing category. This led to works being classified at categories which were no longer appropriate under current guidelines. It also meant that distributors had to artificially add or subtract material in order to 'work around' the restriction. This was not in the interests of the industry, the public or the BBFC.

Distributors wishing to rely on an existing classification will still be able to choose to make use of our 'Distributor Change' or 'Technical Comparison' services but from 14th April 2008 all other new video submissions will be viewed and classified according to current guidelines and policy.

 

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