The video game producers' trade body as been lobbying the labour party supporting pan-European PEGI ratings over the BBFC.
ELSPA's Paul Jackson has told the Labour Party that the BBFC is not fit for purpose as a ratings system for videogames in the UK.
The latest in ELSPA's efforts to rubbish the BBFC as a credible ratings board came at a Labour Party Conference fringe event, where Jackson once again claimed the Pan-European Game Information system is better suited to rating games.
Jackson claimed the BBFC is too lenient when it comes to rating games, and that PEGI better understands the growing games business as it incorporates online play and downloadable content: The film ratings board continually downgrades games
classified 18 by PEGI. They go to BBFC 15 or even BBFC 12. History shows us that BBFC ratings – and the UK – would regularly be out of step with our European neighbours .
[What bollox, there is no merit in over rating games 'just to be sure', it would lead to parents concluding that ratings are over cautious and hence ignorable]
Update for R18s butchered by the censors in July 2008
July: 20 R18s cut out of 72 (28%)
The R18 cuts stats 2008:
January: 23 R18s cut out of 71 (32%)
February: 28 R18s cut out of 90 (31%)
March: 29 R18s cut out of 97 (30%)
April: 30 R18s cut out of 98 (30%)
May: 22 R18s cut out of 72 (30%)
June: 17 R18s cut out of 92 (18%)
July: 20 R18s cut out of 72 (28%)
Monthly award for the most nonsensical censorship:
BAD LADS GO BAREBACK
The BBFC notes say: Cut required to dialogue for which translation was not available and which might contain references to under-age sex, under the Video Recordings Act 1984
Comment: BBFC Clangers
18th September 2008, thanks to Alan
I've read this with incredulity. What language was the dialogue in? Why were the jobsworths at the BBFC unable to find a translator?
This really does seem utterly bonkers. Demanding cuts because the dialogue "might" contain references to something is utterly grotesque and unwarranted censorship. Maybe anyone who wants to watch a foreign film and can understand the
original language without subtitles should obtain it in or from the country where it's made.
It starts off looking like a period piece aimed at a back-to-school audience seeking escapism. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (12A), a Disney/Miramax collaboration, features steam trains crossing moonlit countryside and little boys in
short trousers playing aeroplanes.
The lead character, Bruno, is an eight-year-old German, and though his dad is a Nazi, even that, somehow, doesn't break the spell.
When the family move to the country, Bruno makes friends with one of the boys who lives on the nearby "farm", Schmuel. They play draughts through the fence. But then come references to smoking chimneys, a strange smell, missing
relatives. What is going on over there, Bruno wants to know? Why do they wear pyjamas all day?
By the time the film reaches its tragic conclusion, cosy assumptions about what constitutes a Disney children's drama are in shreds.
Adapted from John Boyne's 2006 bestseller, the film, which goes on general release next Friday, has once more raised the issue of what is appropriate viewing for children, a debate that has hardly died down since the hoo-ha over Batman, The
Dark Knight , earlier this summer.
The focus of concern in that case was the film's scenes of violence. With The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas , the questions have been wider ranging: can a children's film ever satisfactorily reflect the horror that was the Holocaust? And can
children have the emotional maturity to handle so difficult a subject?
The BBFC kindly explain their 12A decision as follows:
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a British film from the writer of Brassed Off and Little Voice . Set during the Second World War, it tells the story of an eight year old German boy called Bruno who
moves to a house next to a concentration camp when his father is made Commandant there. It was passed ‘12A' for scenes of holocaust threat and horror.
The BBFC guidelines at ‘PG' state that ‘frightening sequences should not be prolonged or intense' and although The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is quite a gentle film for the most part, the climatic sequence was considered too threatening
and horrific to be suitable for children of around eight. In it, the young Bruno gets into the concentration camp thinking he can help out a little Jewish companion with whom he has made friends though the wire. This clearly puts him in a
position of extreme vulnerability and without a reassuring outcome, it was considered more appropriately placed at ‘12A' where moments of horror can be more sustained and the exploration of mature themes is acceptable.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas also includes images of concentration camp victims being corralled into a gas chamber that some may find upsetting.
Comment: Never Forget
6th September 2008 from Andrew
Has it ever occurred to anyone that the reason most of today's kids are so off key is because they CLEARLY don't know the sheer magnitude of what the holocaust was? or what it meant to the people that were their?
I like to think that the reason this film is aimed at the teenage mind is solely because children listen to movies and magazines more than they do their parents/teachers etc.
What surprises me most is the fact that films such as the Great Escape (which has the same rating as just about every Disney film ever made in the UK), can be praised and celebrated more making light of a tragic situation, yet serious
films like the one here is persecuted just because children might actually (A) learn something, and (B) get an insight into just what happened in those awful years.
Can you honestly see 7 year old children nagging their parents to take them to see this? I can't. Which is a shame, because I think children should see it. For everyone in the free world, this film shows your heritage, this is why you never met
your Grandfather, because he died fighting to stop this from happening.
The world has forgotten what happened in those 6 years. To a certain degree that's a good thing, but for today's generation (especially those living in Britain), you should never forget.
Comment: Storm in a teacup
29th June 2009. From Gary
With regard to the "controversy" regarding the film of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - I haven't yet read John Boyne's novel nor seen the film. However, I have visited Auschwitz, which you have to be thirteen to be allowed into.
(And I have no problem with that.) If a book aimed at a teenaged audience can deal with the subject, and teenagers are considered mature enough to visit the real thing, then I don't see why a film on the subject cannot be suitable for
twelve-year-olds and upwards.
Part of this is due to the fact that teenage (or "young adult" if you prefer) fiction can and does deal with all manner of difficult issues, and has done for years. However, many adults don't read it and seem to assume that YA fiction
can only be sanitised and unchallenging, when in many cases it is more challenging and sophisticated than many so-called adult novels.
Storm in a teacup, I think. And if you are the parent of a child under twelve, make note of the BBFC's content advice before taking him or her to the cinema.
Apple's UK branch of its iTunes Movie Store has so far opted out of giving ratings to some of the movies for sale or rent on its website
cimota.com/blog lists 36 films, which have been given either a 15 or 18 rating by the BBFC, but no actual rating by Apple itself.
While this does not break any laws – online rating is not a legal requirement – it does bring up a moral and a social issue for the company.
The films found to have a lack of rating include: The Terminator, Child's Play, Robocop and Reservoir Dogs . All of these films are rated 18 by the BBFC.
Techradar contacted the BBFC about this, and a spokesperson said that Apple wasn't actually doing anything wrong: The BBFC Online is talking to Apple about using its classification system, but so far it has not signed up. The online rating
system, however, is not a legal requirement.
The Apple Movie Store is an aggregator site, and these are a lot more complex to sort out classification for. What Apple seems to be doing is adding ratings to films that it knows the [BBFC] rating for, and not the rest.
An Apple spokesperson said: Apple uses its own rating system for all movies so if there are any missing, they will be rated as soon as possible. The understanding is that the BBFC doesn't yet have all the studios on board and we only want to
use one ratings system.
SEGA has revealed that it is working closely with the BBFC and PEGI to make sure their up and coming Madworld game is actually acceptable for release.
Speaking about MadWorld and their relationship with the the UK’s BBFC and the EU PEGI, SEGA marketing guru David Corless said: Yes, it’s violent. We don’t try to hide that, but as publishers, we see it as a fantasy game -
it’s fantasy violence. It’s over the top. It’s cartoony. We also take the violence very seriously. We are working with the age rating boards, with PEGI and with BBFC. We’re not at the end of the game’s development,
but we’re working with them now to make sure that we don’t go over the top. The game has been banned in Germany; there’s no getting around that unfortunately. But we are taking it seriously and we’re going to make sure
that this game is rated for the appropriate audience.
The BBFC said: "Given that Caligula is a film of historical interest, we felt we could pass it uncut."
But what exactly does that mean? If adults should be free to choose their own entertainment within the law, then what does it matter if the film is of historical interest or not? And what does historical interest mean in terms of films? A
discredited flop whose cast and scriptwriter were appalled by the final product? What film renowned for excessive sex, violence and bestiality is not of "historical interest"?
Adults should indeed be free to choose their own entertainment within the law. And the BBFC would do best to leave it at that, and not dream up spurious rationales.
Perhaps the question would be better asked about the disparity between 18 and R18 certificates.
One would be tempted to think that Caligula could be passed R18 due its hardcore content. But it couldn't because the BBFC refuse to allow any violence in R18 certificated material. The only category that allows both sex and violence is 18
but then the sex has to be justified under another pretext, ie not just to arouse the viewer.
The justification of "historical interest" sounds useful though. Surely Deep Throat, The Devil in Miss Jones and Debbie Does Dallas are equally deserving.
The press have got wind that the notable Tinto Brass film, Caligula , is set for an uncut UK release. It contains hardcore sex scenes that were added later for effect but they do not feature any of the well known actors.
29 years on, the uncut DVD of Caligula is to go on sale in high street stores.
Censors decided it is not porn but a movie of "historical interest". The decision is said to have shocked the movie world - and even stunned Arrow Films, the firm distributing the new DVD.
Caligula, about the demented and perverted Roman Emperor, features hardcore, graphic sex scenes.
When the film - which also stars Malcolm McDowell, Peter O'Toole and John Gielgud - was first released in 1979, full-on sex scenes were removed.
Until now, the DVD available in this country was a sanitised version, an hour shorter than the uncut edition. But now the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) have allowed the release of the Imperial Edition of Caligula , with the
Alex Agran, of distributors Arrow Films, said: Looking at what else is getting through these days, we thought let's try for the ultimate bete noire, the big daddy of obscene films. Never in our hearts did we think Caligula would get through
intact but we figured a longer version would be possible. When it came back uncut, we were stunned.
It was scripted by acclaimed historian Gore Vidal. But producer Bob Guccione, then publisher of Penthouse magazine, thought it was too tame. Guccione hired Penthouse models and secretly filmed the sex scenes that were incorporated into the movie.
Star McDowell said: He shot this hardcore footage two years after the film had been completed and spliced it in. It was absurd. There would be a shot of me smiling, looking at what was supposed to be my horse or something, then suddenly they'd
cut to two lesbians making out. It was awful. We were all appalled by the final product.
The BBFC move could pave the way for the release of other controversial films. Agran said: Censorship in the UK has taken a radical step into uncharted waters. Caligula has broken every last sexual taboo the 18 certificate once held back from
Sue Clark, of the BBFC, said: We looked at the work in light of our '18' guidelines, which say that adults should be free to choose their own entertainment within the law. Given that Caligula is a film of historical interest, we felt we could
pass it uncut.
The BBFC have explained their decision on their website:
In 2008, the full uncut version of Caligula was resubmitted to the BBFC for DVD release. The passage of nearly 30 years had significantly diminished the film's impact and after careful consideration it was decided that it
could now be classified '18' uncut.
This decision accords with the BBFC Guidelines, which state that At '18', the BBFC's guideline concerns will not normally override the wish that adults should be free to chose their own entertainment, within the law.
Although there are scenes in Caligula that some people will find shocking, offensive or disgusting, the film does not contain any material that is illegal in terms of current UK law and nor does it contain any material that
is likely to give rise to harm for adults audiences, most of whom will be well aware of its controversial reputation.
The DVD version was classified '18' uncut with the consumer advice Contains strong violence, sexual violence and strong real sex.
The BBFC has rejected the DVD The Texas Vibrator Massacre which means that it cannot be legally supplied anywhere in the UK.
From Alan: Texas Vibrator Massacre Nonsense
This idiocy defies belief. I just visited the BBFC website. The first clause of the first sentence [" the independent regulator of the film and video industry in the UK ". ] is a piece of smug, sanctimonious self-congratulation
on their own "independence". So "independent" that they work within the crippling framework of the Obscene Publications Acts and the Video Recordings Act. So "independent" that I understand that their leading lights
include Lord Taylor of Warwick, Sir Somethingor other and Mrs Janet Double-Barrel. This shower are fully integrated within the establishment, intent upon doing its dirty work, and couldn't demonstrate real independence if their lives depended on
I can't be more precise about names because the BBFC website appears not to identify any of the jobsworths. Remember the lamented www.bbfc.org.uk? These unsavoury jobsworths got the "Ban the Board of Film Censors" site shut down. It
identified some of these scumbags impertinently telling other people what they can and can't watch and tried to encourage whistleblowing among the body's employees. Something similar is urgently needed.
From the Melon Farmers: Establishment or What?
Thinking of being part of the establishment, you can't get much more establishment than the BBFC appointee vice president, Gerard Lemos, he is a director of the Crown Prosecution Service!
Gerard Lemos is a Partner in Lemos and Crane Social Research and Visiting Professor in International Social Policy at Chongqing Business and Technology University, China. He is also a non-executive Director, Crown
Prosecution Service; Chairman of the Banking Code Standards Board and Deputy Chair of the British Council.
From Dan: Beyer Happy
As usual Beyer's only happy with the BBFC when it's banning things.
Speaking today John Beyer, director of mediawatch-uk, praised the BBFC's decision to reject this film. He said: We are delighted by this decision and we hope it will go some way to restoring confidence in the Board and it's Classification
Guidelines. It shows that some extreme material is still outside the very broad scope of what the Board finds acceptable for public exhibition."
2008 US sex/horror hardcore video by Rob Rotten
With Roxi Devill, Seth Dickens, Jamie Elle, Ruby Knox, Rob Rotten, Eric Swiss, Daisy Tanks, Jack Vegas
Banned by the BBFC in 2008 with the following statement:
The BBFC has rejected the DVD The Texas Vibrator Massacre which means that it cannot be legally supplied anywhere in the UK.
The Texas Vibrator Massacre takes the form of a sex work (that is to say a work whose primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation) based loosely upon the notorious 1974 horror film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. In the majority of its scenes
the work eroticises sexual and sexualised violence to a highly significant degree and, although self-consciously excessive in nature, the conflation throughout of sexually arousing material with credible violence, forced sex and sadistic sexual
threat gives rise to a serious and sustained breach of the Board's sexual violence policy. In addition, the scenes of simulated incest between brother and sister are in clear breach of the Board's Guidelines for sex works, which prohibit
'material (including dialogue) likely to encourage an interest in a sexually abusive activity (eg paedophillia, incest, rape)'.
The BBFC’s Guidelines identify as of particular concern 'graphic rape or torture', 'sadistic violence or terrorisation' and 'sex accompanied by non-consensual pain, injury or humiliation'. Furthermore, the Board's 'R18' Guidelines, which
apply equally to 'sex works' at '18', state that the following elements are unacceptable: 'the portrayal of any sexual activity which involves lack of consent (whether real or simulated)', 'the infliction of pain or physical harm, real or (in a
sexual context) simulated' and 'any sexual threats, humiliation or abuse which does not form part of a clearly consenting role-playing game'.
It is the Board’s carefully considered view that to issue a certificate to this work, even if confined to adults, would be inconsistent with the Board’s Guidelines, would risk potential harm within the terms of the VRA, and would be
unacceptable to the public.
Some distributors including Universal, 20th Century Fox and Path้ are failing to include BBFC consumer advice for films or their age classification on posters and publicity material.
The BBFC has sent a warning to the studios reminding them of their agreements. Its guidelines require that all films which carry the U, PG, 12A, 15 and 18 certificates must display their classification and warnings about sexual or violent content
on all promotional material, including trailers.
But inquiries by the BBFC and The Sunday Telegraph have found a few new releases being advertised on billboards and in magazines either without their certificate or the warnings, or both.
Posters promoting The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor do not carry the film’s 12A certificate or the BBFC’s warning that it contains moderate violence and horror.
John Beyer, the director of Mediawatch UK, said that the BBFC should do more to ensure film companies include the certificates and guidance on material: It is the board’s responsibility placed on it by the Government to provide
information for people, mainly parents with young children. I think part of the problem is that the BBFC is an industry body rather than a public body.
Although the studios are not legally obliged to abide by the guidelines, the board “expects” them to do so. The BBFC, which is funded by the film industry, agreed to introduce the certificate in 2002 on condition that movies carried
highly visible warnings about content.
Other examples that have not carried the guidelines are Shine a Light , Martin Scorcese’s documentary about the Rolling Stones, and Lars and the Real Girl .
A spokesman for the BBFC said: Often one of the reasons why the certificate doesn’t appear is that the art departments working on the publicity haven’t featured it into their designs. On other occasions the publicity material for
films is released so far in advance that the movies haven’t even got a certification.
Having taken his seat alongside his 15-year-old daughter expecting see a movie packed with surreal and comical figures, what he actually saw was the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight . It was a relentlessly violent film,
filled with dark themes, he trembled.
Equally frightening for Smith was the fact that the BBFC had only given The Dark Knight a 12A certificate, meaning that a child younger than 12 can see the film providing they are accompanied by an adult. [As] I left I wondered what the board
could possibly have been thinking, Smith reports.
He was one of the lucky ones. Although terrified by the Joker, at least his daughter was on hand to reassure him that the nasty man with the knives and lint was made up.
Peterborough's MP has called on the city council to reclassify the rating given to the most sensational movie to hit cinema screens this year, Batman, The Dark Knight .
Stewart Jackson has written to the council's chief executive Gillian Beasley, expressing concerns over the 12A rating given to the film, which has attracted nutter controversy because of its violent content and dark themes.
In his letter, Jackson reminded her that the council can use its discretion under current legislation to reclassify the rating given by the BBFC. He said: I am not a spoilsport and I have seen this film ...BUT... I sincerely believe
that it is not suitable for children. The violence is gratuitous and the dark themes inappropriate for children's viewing.
I believe that the BBFC have made an error of judgement and I have written to the city council to amend the recommended classification.
A spokesman for the city council said that while the council is responsible for licensing cinemas, ensuring that the films being shown there have been certified and they are adhering to age restrictions, they would not attempt to reclassify a
film, which had been classified by the BBFC, the experts in this field.
Brilliantly acted it may be, but in its relentless violence the latest Batman production, The Dark Knight, goes to the very limit of mainstream movie-making.
This is dark, dark material indeed. Yet this is the film the BBFC has given a 12A rating, which means it is considered quite suitable even for young children, if they are accompanied by an adult. Children over 12, of course, can see it on their
And just who are the 'regulators' who came to this outrageously perverse decision?
There's the scandal. The 33 members of the BBFC are anonymous. They wield huge influence, but they are unelected, unaccountable and, this paper suspects, wholly unrepresentative.
They claim to be independent, but whether or not that is true is anybody's guess.
We can be sure only of one thing. This secretive oligarchy is presiding over a relentless decline of standards in the cinema.
Even the liberal Andreas Whittam Smith is reported as saying this week that the Board is taking a more relaxed view of violence since he left six years ago.
Obscenity, brutality, vile language, the trashing of civilised values... all these are becoming normalised, even glamorised.
Truly, the 'independent' BBFC should be very proud of itself!
Cartoon violent scenes in the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight , have prompted objections about its classification with a 12A certificate.
The BBFC has received 70 complaints about the certification.
Parents have complained of having to shield their children’s eyes from scenes such as a man’s eye being jabbed with a pencil and the Joker describing how he enjoys killing people with a knife because they take longer to die.
Nutter Labour MP Keith Vaz, who is chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, said he would be summoning the BBFC to its hearings on knife crime in October: The BBFC should realise there are scenes of gratuitous violence in The Dark
Knight to which I would certainly not take my 11-year-old daughter. It should be a 15 classification.
Nutters have warned that the BBFC is becoming both too liberal and too willing to cave in to commercial pressure from Hollywood studios to maximise audience numbers. The board has admitted that its decision on The Dark Knight was
“borderline 15” – meaning that its examiners nearly gave it a 15. The 12A means children of 12 can go unaccompanied.
Parents are allowed to take children younger than 12 with them to the Batman film, although they are advised not to.
The BBFC has confirmed that Warner Bros asked for The Dark Knight to be classified as 12A and admitted that the board comes under pressure to keep classifications low so that as many people as possible can see films.
The real problem is that in previous Batman films, Jack Nicholson’s Joker was jokier, said John Whittingdale, Tory chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee: This ‘Joker’ is truly evil. Yet most
parents and children would not know this beforehand. Also, nobody goes to the BBFC’s website for parental advice.”
The board says its director, David Cooke, did not see the film before it was classified, although he has watched it recently. It is understood he supported the 12A classification.
In Scandinavia & Ireland the film is a 15 and in America it is PG-13.
Update: Nutter MPs
5th August 2008
Iain Duncan Smith, the former leader of the Conservative party, has joined the nutter onslaught after seeing it with his 15-year-old daughter.
Describing it as "relentlessly violent" in a letter to a newspaper, he wrote: I was astonished that the board could have seen fit to allow anyone under the age of 15 to watch the film.
Unlike past Batman films, where the villains were somewhat surreal and comical figures, Heath Ledger's Joker is a brilliantly acted but very credible psychopathic killer, who extols the use of knives to kill and disfigure his victims during a
reign of urban terrorism laced with torture.
Culture Minister Margaret Hodge has announced a consultation on whether the ratings for games should replicate the system for movies.
Dr Tanya Byron recommended that the rating system for games be reformed to make it easier for parents to work out if a video game was appropriate for their children. Dr Byron suggested a hybrid scheme putting BBFC ratings on the front of boxes
and PEGI ratings on the rear.
Announcing its response to the Byron Review recommendations, culture minister Margaret Hodge, said: The current system of classification comes from a time when video games were in their infancy.
She added: The games market has simply outgrown the classification system, so today we are consulting on options that will make games classification useful and relevant again.
Over the next few months the government is seeking responses to find out the favoured method of changing ratings and giving them legal backing.
The four options are:
A hybrid BBFC/Pegi system
Pegi ratings only
BBFC ratings only
No change except for the introduction of a scheme to ensure shops and suppliers comply.
But a report published by MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has backed the BBFC to be the body to oversee games ratings.
For its part the Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers Association (Elspa) said it would prefer that the industry-backed Pegi scheme became the only rating system.
What we are asking for is the government to empower Pegi with legal backing, said Michael Rawlinson, managing director of Elspa.
Ministers will tomorrow give the go-ahead to the first strict and legally binding classification system for video games.
Culture Minister Margaret Hodge is understood to be ready to accept recommendations from television psychologist Dr Tanya Byron, who conducted a review for the Government.
The proposed changes would mean all games coming under a system of statutory labelling, backed up by heavy penalties for underage sale.
Mrs Hodge is expected to give the go-ahead to a compulsory age classification system set down in law, expected to include 18, 15, 12, PG (parental guidance) and U (universal), the same as the system used for films.
The BBFC is likely to have to certify all games attracting a 12 certificate and above. The ratings will have to be displayed prominently on the front of the games.
Retailers who sell video games to underage children in defiance of the new ratings are likely to face heavy fines or up to five years in prison.
Tory MP John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said: 'Computer games, like films, provide entertainment, but some content is quite plainly unsuitable for children.
A report from Whittingdale's committee is tomorrow expected to back moves to give
the BBFC responsibility for legally-enforceable ratings for video games.
It will also point to risks to children from the Internet, particularly from social networking sites.
The moves to enforce cinema- style ratings are likely to anger games manufacturers.
The world's largest games developer, Electronic Arts, said the new scheme would be confusing for parents and would lead to games being released later in Britain than in the rest of the world.
The UK moved one step closer to online ID for all last week as the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) decided to give accreditation to NetIDme's age verification software. But for once this may be not cause for complete doom and gloom.
Also added to the list are GB Group (with their URU product) and 192.com.
Opponents of ID in any form will be outraged. Well-known anti-censorship site MelonFarmers inveighed against NetIDme (19 July) on the grounds that a database of people's porn-viewing habits would undoubtedly be of great interest to government. In
this case, however, the chances are that they are wrong.
The principles underlying NetIDme's technology are far closer to the Open Source ID project and involve the assembling of key data items to create a “token” that users may use as future verification of age. Thereafter, they claim, the data is
then disassembled again. Hey presto! Individual ID, without a massive underlying database.
In the UK, there has been much discussion over how adult entertainment should be regulated on the Internet. Parliament has been considering some controversial legislation that would make it a felony to download what some British politicians have
been loosely describing as "extreme pornography," and the BBFC — which has been critical of the proposed "extreme porn" law — is launching a voluntary program that will extend its rating system to online entertainment,
No one can say for sure exactly where the regulation of adult online content will go in the UK in the future, and like so many things pertaining to the Internet, the rules are still being worked out.
A clearly deranged suspect sits apparently alone in a dimly lit interrogation room. Suddenly, a menacing figure looms out of the shadows and proceeds to rain powerful, thudding blows on the suspect, reducing him to a cowering, whimpering
Doesn't sound like family entertainment, does it? But, from Friday, anyone will be able to watch these scenes - and many others like them - in the latest Batman movie. Its 12A certificate means that even the tiniest tot will not be refused entry
to the cinema, as long as he or she has an adult in tow.
The Dark Knight may well be judged the best of this summer's blockbusters. It's a thrilling action movie laced with psychological subtleties, its haunting crepuscular images underpinned by an edgy, nerve-jangling score. And at its heart is
a spine-tinglingly incandescent performance from Heath Ledger as Batman's crazed arch-nemesis the Joker.Without doubt, this is a major cinematic achievement. And, without doubt, it's not for kids.
The Dark Knight tells the story of Batman's continuing war on crime and in particular his personal battle with the psychotic Joker. It was passed ‘12A' for moderate violence and sustained threat.
The BBFC Guidelines at ‘12A' state that ‘violence must not dwell on detail' and that ‘there should be no emphasis on injuries or blood' and whilst The Dark Knight does contain a good deal of violence, all of it fits within that definition.
For example, in one of the stronger scenes, Batman repeatedly beats the Joker during an interrogation. The blows however are all masked from the camera and despite both their weight and force; the Joker shows no sign of injury. There are also
scenes in which the Joker threatens first a man and then a woman with a knife and whilst these do have a significant degree of menace, without any actual violence shown they were also acceptably placed at ‘12A'. In the final analysis, The Dark
Knight is a superhero movie and the violence it contains exists within that context, with both Batman and the Joker apparently indestructible no matter what is thrown at them.
The Dark Knight also contains some special make up effects that whilst clearly not real, have the potential to be moderately frightening.
The BBFC is pleased to announce that, following an open competition, Alison Hastings and Gerard Lemos have been appointed as Vice Presidents of the BBFC. They will take up their posts in November when Janet Lewis-Jones and Lord John Taylor of
Warwick step down after ten years as the Board's Vice Presidents.
Alison Hastings is a media consultant; a member of the BBC Trust and Chair of the Audience Council England (as Trustee for England) and a member of the Audience and Performance Committee. She is also a member of the BBC Trust's Editorial
Standards Committee. She was a member of the Press Complaints Commission from 1997 to 2002.
Gerard Lemos is a Partner in Lemos and Crane Social Research and Visiting Professor in International Social Policy at Chongqing Business and Technology University, China. He is also a non-executive Director, Crown Prosecution Service; Chairman of
the Banking Code Standards Board and Deputy Chair of the British Council.
Sir Quentin Thomas, President of the BBFC said: The BBFC owes a debt of gratitude to Janet Lewis-Jones and Lord Taylor of Warwick for their dedication and wise counsel over the last ten years and I would like to thank them personally for their support and advice. They will be a hard
act to follow, but I am confident that Alison Hastings and Gerard Lemos will bring a depth of highly relevant experience and expertise to the Board when they take up their posts in November. I am very much looking forward to working with them.
The Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP, will lay an order before both Houses of Parliament proposing to designate Ms Hastings and Mr Lemos under the Video Recordings Act 1984 as the authority responsible
for making arrangements for the classification of videos and, where appropriate, video games. This must be done when Parliament is sitting.
Gerard Lemos is a partner at social researchers Lemos & Crane. He leads a team of researchers investigating social policy issues including race and community and the needs of vulnerable people. He is the author of numerous reports and books
including The Communities We Have Lost and Can Regain (with Michael Young), Steadying the Ladder: Social and emotional aspirations of homeless and vulnerable people and The Search for Tolerance: Challenging and changing racist attitudes and
behaviour in young people. Under his direction Lemos & Crane has also created a range of web-based learning networks including the award-winning RaceActionNet for practitioners and policy makers tackling racist attacks.
Gerard has served on a range of working parties and task forces for British Government departments including the Treasury, the Cabinet Office and the Social Exclusion Unit. Gerard is Deputy Chair of the British Council. He is also the Chairman of
the Banking Code Standards Board, a regulator of the retailing banking industry and Chair of the board of the Akram Khan Dance Company and a non-executive Director of the Crown Prosecution Service. He is a visiting Professor at Chongqing Business
and Technology University. He was formerly the Chair of the Arts Council of England's cultural diversity panel, Vice-Chair of Homeless International, an NGO, a Civil Service Commissioner and an Audit Commissioner. In 2001 he received a CMG for
services to the British Council in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
I first wrote Diary of a Bad Lad as a novel. It's a lot more graphic than the film. If it was published it would be available in High St. stores and anyone could buy it - including seven year olds.
Anyone can buy unrated DVD's from sites such as amazon.com and many others, and the same goes for downloads.
But to legally sell a typical DVD - film plus extras - in the UK you have to hand over around £1,200 to the BBFC for a ‘certificate' and an inane collection of words (contains ‘mild peril') that you have to put on the cover.
What's more this doesn't cover the film for theatrical distribution you'll have to pay them another £1,200 for that as well. Nearly £2,500 all together.
Now this sort of sum of money is nothing to a multi-million budget 'studio' film - whether British or American. In fact classification adds up to the shortest synopsis money can buy: 12, 15, 18 or whatever. It one of the ways in which the
multiplex audience is organised and controlled, and I don't have a problem with that.
But real independent films - British or foreign - never get shown in a multiplex, they get shown in Art Houses and Arts Centres - places that under 18's don't go to. So what's the point? It's just a completely unjustified tax!
£2,500 for someone to spend about 2-and-a-half hours watching something? That's £1,000 per hour. What a total, and totally unjustified rip off. Making Diary of a Bad Lad cost us £3,500 in cash with everyone on a royalty
deal. Why should we have to pay the BBFC more than 60% of the budget - or two weeks wages for an actor? And there are other films that have been made for less than £10,000 - so it's at least a 25% tax on them. And what about small
distributors trying to bring interesting foreign films to the British public - they're having to pay this tax as well before anyone starts making anything!
So, under 18's can't/don't go to Arts Centre venues. Indie filmmakers want to give their audiences a clear idea of ‘what's in the box' so they are quite capable of writing not suitable for children , or contains scenes of sex and
violence . There are enough laws as it is governing content from Trades Description to Obscene Publications.
Do we really want to have ID verified to watch porn?
Umm...if you are ID checked to watch videos the data could well become very much sort after. Perhaps porn viewing may even be of interest to the database for suitability to work with kids. And of course Mediawatch, the police, and the tabloids
will all be salivating over being able to get viewing profiles of people in the public gaze. (I wonder if Max Mosley is a fellow fan of Salon Kitty)
Any promises of data security of pretty near worthless when it seems that police, councils and anyone contending copyright infringement can easily get hold of such data even for trivial reasons.
Where possible, I'll give any site a miss that demands NetIDMe verification.
NetIDme's age-verification software has today been accredited by the BBFC for its new media download classification scheme.
The BBFC scheme also requires e-tailers and VoD services to have in place age-verification software such as that produced by NetIDme to enable parents to monitor and control underage viewing.
Glasgow-based NetIDme launched the world's first online ID card for adults and children two years ago. Chief executive Alex Hewitt said: BBFC.online is a revolutionary scheme that enables the application of the same rules in the online world
that have been developed over many years to protect people in the real world.
He added that NetIDme is the first company to be accredited under the BBFC scheme and it is the only company currently capable of verifying under 18s.
Andy Cooke, Business Manager for BBFC.online, said: We are pleased to commend NetIDme as a novel solution for our members in meeting their obligations to age-verify viewers of digital content in the 12, 15 and adult categories, whilst
minimizing the exposure of younger viewers to potential abuse of their personal information.
Rajan Zed, acclaimed Hindu leader has given a United Kingdom (UK)-wide boycott call for Hollywood movie The Love Guru by Hindus and other religious Brits because it lampoons Hinduism and Hindu concepts and uses Hindu terms frivolously.
Zed has also criticized BBFC for giving it "12A" classification, when he says it deserved the highest "18" classification. Although BBFC claims We help to protect vulnerable viewers and society from the effects of viewing
potentially harmful or unsuitable content, but by giving The Love Guru a "12A" rating, it is leading the highly impressionable British children between 12 to 18 years to grow-up with a distorted view of Hinduism, Zed adds.
The Love Guru , a comedy starring Mike Myers (of Austin Powers fame) will be released in UK on August 1st.
Update: Ireland's Turn
16th July 2008
Zed has also criticized Irish Film Censor's Office (IFCO) for giving it "15A" (suitable for 15 and upwards) classification, when he says it deserved the highest "18" (over 18) classification.
Although IFCO claims We have a duty to protect children and young persons from harm, but by giving The Love Guru a "15A" rating, it is leading the highly impressionable Irish children between 15 to 18 years to grow-up with
a distorted view of Hinduism, Zed adds.
Update: Sweden's Turn
18th July 2008
Zed said the guru in The Love Guru instigates a bar fight, repeatedly narrates penis jokes, mocks yoga (one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy), wears female jewelry, mocks the concept of third eye, makes disciples drink tea
passed through his nose, orders alligator soup, induces elephant copulation in front of the crowd, introduces himself as “His Holiness”, lives in a lavish ashram staffed with scantily clad maids, and whose goal in life seems to appear on Oprah
He predictably called for a Swedish wide boycott of the film and for the Swedish film censors to award the highest rating.
A quartet of leading publishers have come out in favor of the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) rating system for the UK market.
The game industry there, including publishers association ELSPA, does not look favorably upon the BBFC, which itself hopes to claim a bigger piece of the UK's video game content rating pie.
The BBFC is probably best known to gamers for its 2007 ban on Manhunt 2 which was later overturned on appeal.
As reported by Next Generation, ELSPA head Paul Jackson minced no words in remarks to British government officials at a media forum in Whitehall: PEGI is the solution for today, and the solution for tomorrow.
Execs from Nintendo, EA, Ubisoft and Sega also weighed in, with Sega Europe CEO Mike Hayes adding: If you look at the PEGI system against the film ratings board in the UK, you will see that PEGI is the only system that has the power to prevent
games publishers distributing unsuitable content to children. It can ban a publisher's entire output, rather than just a single title. This power is backed by the entire industry.
Margaret Hodge, minister for culture, creative industries and tourism, speaking at the Westminster Media Forum, encouraged the two sides to work together: Please try and prevent this from becoming a battle between two regulatory frameworks.
The BBFC's Peter Johnson said: Our view is that Dr Byron spent six months looking at all the evidence and all the arguments, including those of Elspa, and her conclusion was that the BBFC and Pegi should work together to achieve the best
possible outcome. She placed the BBFC as the senior partner in that arrangement.
Johnson said the BBFC was "disappointed that Elspa is trying to unpick Dr Byron's careful analysis".
Johnson said the BBFC had tried to engage Elspa in dialogue ahead of government consultation so that any new system could "hit the ground running". He added: Unfortunately, Elspa have said they don't want to talk to us about that
until after consultation. They have also encouraged some of their members not to talk to us.
29th July 2008
Michael Gallagher of the US games trade organisation, ESA has Backed PEGI Over BBFC System
Speaking in regards to the PEGI or BBFC debate, he said: The success of the ESRB rating system only goes to prove that industry self-regulation is the best way forward.
The BBFC – no longer hamstrung by “blasphemy” concerns now that this “crime” has been abolished in the UK – has approved, without cuts, a hardcore pornographic film called Passio . It has been given an R18 rating.
Featuring Danny Fox as a homosexual Jesus, Passio: Domini Nostri Secundum Matthaeum is a no-holes-barred attempt by director Matthias Von Fistenberg to replicate the “sexing up” of icons like Jesus, which he said took place at the
start of the Renaissance.
The debate is whether Mr Cooke's BBFC powers should be extended, making it compulsory for him to rate 12 and 15 games - and so help to stop children spending hours in front of the screen absorbing unsuitable images. But he faces opposition from
the games industry, which believes existing self-regulation is enough.
I wonder if the games industry antipathy of the BBFC is more to do with their ill fated ban on Manhunt 2. Coupled with their refusal to accept their own appeals process, and willingness to recourse to expensive court action to back up their
views. With the amount of money invested in a major game, who wants censors to be able to block it citing only their opinion of it being 'harmful'.
The BBFC have issued a press releases in response to recent criticism from the the games industry.
It is has also been noted that Tanya Byron's position may have changed. The Times reported Dr Tanya Byron stating that, ...her wish to have the BBFC rate all games 'may be changed slightly as a result of the consultation.'
The BBFC press release reads:
The BBFC's Director, David Cooke, today rejected criticisms from some quarters of the games industry of the Byron Report proposals for games classification. He said:
“We are disappointed and concerned about attempts by one or two video games publishers to pre-empt, through recent press statements, the forthcoming public consultation on video games classification. Their statements are misleading in several
The BBFC's current average turnaround time for games classifications is eight calendar days. In terms of international comparisons, this is notably quick. There is no reason why the increased role for the BBFC envisaged by Dr Byron should lead to
BBFC classifications are already cheaper for many games than those under the Pan European Games Information System (PEGI). Because the BBFC currently deals mainly with the most problematic games, BBFC costs will fall if, as Dr Byron recommended,
we take on all games, physical and online, rated ‘12' and above.
It is absurd to imply that the BBFC could not cope, or would need “a building the size of Milton Keynes”. The BBFC is a larger and better resourced organisation than PEGI, and is well used to gearing up, and to providing fast-track services where
We reject any suggestions that the Byron proposals for dealing with online games are not future-proof. Countries such as the USA and Germany already classify such games in a way which reflects national cultural sensibilities. The BBFC has made
clear that we are prepared to work through PEGI Online, which already recognizes BBFC symbols. But, with online games, the real need is not a pan-national grouping of markets, but rather soundly based and independent initial classification, full
information provision, and responsible self-regulation of online game-play backed by properly resourced independent monitoring and complaints mechanisms.
“The games industry really does have nothing to fear from a set of proposals which would provide more robust, and fully independent, decisions, and detailed content advice, for the British public, and especially parents. The Byron proposals, far
from envisaging the collapse of PEGI, specifically provide for a continuing PEGI presence in UK games classification. They also provide significant opportunities to reduce duplication of effort and costs. And they would make wider use of a
system, the BBFC's, which British parents recognize, trust and have confidence in.”