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30th June   

Comment: Straight Hype...

Oh my god! I agree with the BBFC
Link Here

Bruno film poster With Bruno, Bruno, Bruno. What can you say? The BBFC have said its gonna have to be 18, Universal (the distributor) have said Waaaa Waaaa Waaa. Why? Money. That's all. What else would you expect from an American company? The almighty dollar is in trouble on the shores of Blighty. However, I'm inclined to agree with the BBFC on this one. Anything to do with gay sex or homosexual references is always going to be taboo. Certain people will automatically dismiss this film as Fucking faggots, Fuck 'em . Everyone knows a man that won't watch Priscilla : Queen of the Dessert, because it has Fucking faggots in it. Even though, during that whole film we're only told the trio are gay / female performers, we never actually see anything, not even an onscreen kiss. Even the kiddie fiddling uncle had his scene severely edited by the director, as it lowered the overall comedic tone of the movie.

The thing is with Bruno , its getting exactly what it set out to get, adverse publicity, public outcry, and massive media interest. All of which will sell tickets, DVD's etc. For entertainers like Sacha Baron Cohen, this is probably the highest accolade he could receive. These people don't set out to offend, they just push the envelope in a way only they can, and their aware that this boundary pushing WILL upset, WILL offend, but will ultimately buy another storey for their houses.

I really don't think the BBFC should be blamed for their decision. They've done their job, so they're happy (as are their peers). The films uncut (although it is the slightly tainted U.S. print, but, small price) so I'm happy, in fact the only people who aren't happy, are the money grabbers at Universal. Why though? surely the film will make its money on DVD? where it will be seen by a majority of under 18's anyway. Did Borat break the box office? No. As for Ali G's transition to the big screen i don't remember that being up to Forrest Gumps takings. So I think it's safe to say, that Universal are just spoilt children that want ice cream before dinner. They know they're going to get the cash, they just want it NOW. If Universal had a brain they'd release the full uncut version in the U.K. (the BBFC would pass it as an 18), and advertise the hell out of the fact that the Brits have one up on their (supposedly) free brothers across the pond. But alas, no. They'll realise that just in time for the DVD.

 

26th June   

Offsite: For Discriminating Censors...

I often wonder why swearing on TV should bother us
Link Here

Andreas Whittam SmithThe publication of updated guidelines by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has coincided with the release of a new box set of Friends. The result is that the DVDs of the American TV series have now been given a slightly more restrictive rating, 12 instead of PG (Parental Guidance).

This minor change points to an important new development in film classification, that discriminatory language or behaviour has become an issue alongside traditional preoccupations with drugs, sex and violence. What caught the examiner's eye, or ear, was the moment when the character Rachel refers to herself as a "laundry spaz" to explain her clumsy efforts to load a washing machine. "Spaz" is a shortened form of "spastic".

The elevation of discrimination into a major concern is the biggest change in BBFC practice since I stepped down as President in 2002 after a four-year term.

...Read full article

 

26th June   

Update: Pygmies at the BBFC...

Censors should grow up over Brüno and sex
Link Here

Bruno film poster The censors can't agree on Brüno , Sacha Baron Cohen's latest atrocity, in which he impersonates a gay Austrian fashion pundit.

In the permissive Netherlands, it's been released uncut with a 12 certificate.

Even in Ireland, they've given it a 16. But the BBFC has given Brüno a full 18 certificate, since the producers have declined to cut the rudest scenes.

The distributor, Universal, has described the decision as absurd, no doubt peeved because it means the movie will take much less at the box office.

...Read full article

 

24th June   

Dark Knight Would Now be a 15?...

New classification guidelines published by the BBFC
Link Here

The views of over 8,700 people across the UK from the age of 16 upwards have formed the basis for the latest set of classification Guidelines published today by the BBFC.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:

The BBFC is committed to consulting the public every four years to ensure that the Guidelines we use to classify all works which are submitted to us not only take account of relevant UK legislation, but accurately reflect public attitudes and concerns.

You would not expect there to be a massive shift in attitudes since the 2005 Guidelines, and there is sometimes an assumption that public attitudes are becoming more relaxed as time goes on, but that is not always the case. A number of specific concerns which emerged from the extensive consultation exercise, involving over 8,700 people, as well as the members of our Advisory Panel on Children's Viewing and other experts, have been incorporated in the Guidelines published today. The BBFC is an open and accountable organisation and in order to bring about even greater transparency we have, in this new version of the Guidelines, gone into greater detail on how, why and when we do what we do.

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.

We know from a number of recent surveys that the work of the BBFC is well known and understood by the UK public and this latest research shows that the BBFC's decisions are in line with the vast majority of the public's expectations. This consultation exercise took particular notice of the views of people who had recently watched a range of films or DVDs and when asked, 82 per cent thought that the BBFC was an effective regulator. The same people agreed with the ratings given to the films they had watched in 99 per cent of all cases.

We have always said that film classification is not a science and that it is impossible to satisfy everyone. There will always be people who think that we are either too restrictive or too liberal, but it is clear that as far as the vast majority of the UK public is concerned the BBFC is getting it right. The BBFC classifies thousands of works a year and even slight changes to the Guidelines will have an impact on new and old works coming in for classification. Works which were clearly ‘U', or ‘15', or ‘PG' or ‘12A' under the old Guidelines would still be in the same category under the new Guidelines, but works which fell on the borderline between two categories previously could now find themselves being pushed into a different category. These new Guidelines, reflecting, as they do, current public concerns and sensitivities, will ensure that our classification decisions continue to command public confidence and support for what we do.

MAIN FINDINGS

  • 82% of recent film and DVD viewers thought the BBFC was an effective regulator
  • The same people agreed with 99% of the classification decisions for the films they had watched
  • Around 80% of people surveyed found the BBFC's Consumer Advice useful, with this figure rising to 85% of parents with primary school aged children
  • 85% of people who responded to the web based questionnaire found the Board's website for parents, www.pbbfc.co.uk, useful
  • 74% or respondents understood that the ‘12A' category means that the film is not generally suitable for under 12s.

MAIN CHANGES TO THE GUIDELINES

  • Clearer and more detailed information about what the Board takes into account when classifying works (pages 4-7) and when interventions will be made and on what grounds (32-33)
  • A clearer definition of ‘harm', which results from the High Court ruling on the video game Manhunt 2 (page 4)
  • The introduction of ‘discrimination' as a key classification issue in each of the categories covering race, gender, religion, disability or sexuality (page 12)
  • Clearer and more detailed information about how the tone and impact of a film is taken into account, as opposed to simply considering what is actually shown on screen (page 11)
  • At ‘U', the relaxation of the Guideline on references to drugs to allow for references which are both infrequent and innocuous (page 21). Under the old Guidelines a documentary which mentioned the Opium Wars between Britain and China had to be passed at ‘PG' for this single reference alone
  • At the ‘12A'/'12' category a tightening of the horror criteria (page 25). This is in line with the introduction of tone and impact and would mean that some films, like The Others, would be likely to be given a higher classification
  • At ‘12A'/'12' there will be a presumption against the passing of frequent crude sexual references (page 25). This is in response to concerns expressed by the public about films such as Date Movie, Meet the Spartans and Norbit.
  • At ‘15', solvent abuse is now specifically mentioned as a classification issue and depictions are unlikely to be passed (page 27). This is in response, not only to public concern, but expert opinion
  • Trailers and advertisements which are on the borderline between two categories be given the more restrictive rating because of the fact that the public has not chosen which trailers and advertisements to watch (pages 16-17) and because the BBFC has no control over which trailers or advertisements are shown before a particular film (eg a horror trailer before a ‘rom-com'). The exception will be public information films and charity advertisements where stronger material is acceptable to the public when there is a ‘public good' justification.At ‘18' the Board will continue to maintain the right of adults to choose their own entertainment unless material is in breach of the criminal law; or the treatment appears to the BBFC to risk harm to individuals or through their behaviour, to society; or where there are more explicit images of sexual activity which cannot be justified by context. As part of the research, respondents were specifically asked about explicit images of real sex in main stream films like 9 Songs and the clear message was that these images were acceptable at ‘18' because of the context in which they appeared.

David Cooke said:

There may be criticism from some quarters that these changes are not more drastic or restrictive, but they are significant and will have an impact on our classification decisions. They also represent the views of the majority of the public. The BBFC is committed to ensuring that works are placed in the most appropriate category for them, in line with public expectations, and we will back up these decisions with the sort of information the public needs to make informed choices about what they and their families watch. Our Consumer Advice, which appears on film advertising and DVD packaging, is well recognised and appreciated and for people who want more detailed information there is the Extended Classification Information for all films, which appears on our main website, and the specifically tailored information for parents which appears on www.pbbfc.co.uk.

 

24th June   

Reporting In...

BBFC Annual Report for 2008 published
Link Here

BBFC Annual Report 2008 The Annual Report for 2008 has just been published by the BBFC.

BBFC President, Quentin Thomas, uses his introduction to talk about BBFC Online and the internet in general.

The theme of age verification inevitably crops up as it seems to be on of the general establishment concerns these days.

Quentin Thomas wrote:

To take just one type of potentially harmful content, we know that many children are coming across pornographic or obscene material online. With the recent development of ‘You Tube' style pornographic sites such exposure can only increase. These sites offer instant and free access to a vast catalogue of explicit pornographic videos uploaded by users of the sites. Many of the videos contain violent, abusive or obscene content. Like ‘You Tube', they have no gatekeeping in place. Many lack even a warning page because each additional ‘mouse click' on the way to such content is thought to drive
to rival sites. At time of writing, three such sites are in the top 50 most used sites in the UK, with the highest sitting between www.guardian.co.uk and www.aol.co.uk, and ahead of www.twitter.com, in terms of traffic.

BBFC Director, David Cooke, uses his report to introduce the new classification guidelines for 2009.

 

23rd June   

Update: BBFC on Meths...

BBFC become a talking point over checking out crystal meth recipe
Link Here  full story: Grand Theft Auto...Grand Theft Auto brings out the nutters

Grand Theft Auto IV game Wow, we've all heard the stories of how “bad” Grand Theft Auto games are for our society, but as it turns out, the BBFC once investigated whether Grand Theft Auto IV contained a genuine recipe for manufacturing crystal meth.

The Times reports that the discovery prompted crisis talks with developer Rockstar. In testimony last year before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons, BBFC head David Cooke discussed his organization's review of GTA IV:

We did examine [GTA IV] extremely thoroughly and we are the only regulator I know of who looked, for instance, at the particular issue where… there was a concern about whether you were being given instructional information about how to make the drug crystal meth.

We actually took independent advice on the point and eventually were able to satisfy ourselves that some of the crucial ingredients and techniques were missing so it was not a genuine cause for concern.

REALLY? The recipe for Crystal Meth. Inside GTA IV? Good job BBFC, perhaps this is just one example of why you're no longer in control of ratings in the U.K.

 

19th June   

Updated: Black Circles...

A pre-cut Brüno rated 18 at the BBFC
Link Here

Bruno film poster The BBFC has ruled that strong sexual content in three scenes of Brüno made one of the summer's most widely anticipated films unsuitable for the 15 certificate needed to generate a blockbuster audience. The British comic's two previous efforts, Ali G Indahouse and Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, were both rated 15.

A re-edit helped to avert a worse fate in the United States where Brüno was originally awarded a NC-17 rating, meaning that most American cinemas would not have screened it. A revised version was later passed as an “R”, restricted to over 17s or younger teenagers accompanied by an adult.

The same revised version, where black circles were inserted to cover body parts, was presented to the BBFC.

Under the British censor's system which unlike their American equivalent is based partly on public consultation this was insufficient to earn a lower rating. A spokesperson said: We felt that made it worse not better in some scenes because you could not tell what was acted out.

In two of the three most extreme scenes the sex was faked: an outrageous love scene between Brüno and his pygmy boyfriend and a sequence where Brüno mimes a sexual act in explicit detail.

However a third, filmed at a real swinger's party, shows unsimulated sex.

Conor Dignam, editor of the industry magazine Screen International, suggested that they may be gambling that the notoriety of an 18 certificate will merely build anticipation amongst a teenage audience and guarantee an even longer commercial life on DVD and television.

Update: Producers unhappy with 18 certificate

19th June 2009. Based on article from independent.co.uk

18 certThe film's distributor Universal described the 18 certificate as absurd .

There is no question they will lose money because of us. They actually requested the 18 certificate, explained BBFC spokeswoman Sue Clark. They knew very early on, at an advice viewing, that if they wanted a 15 they would have to cut some scenes. They have had plenty of time to do it and have chosen not to.

The scenes deemed unsuitable for a younger audience included an extended sex sequence starring Brüno and his pygmy boyfriend, another in which he mimes oral sex with a ghost of German dance act Milli Vanilli, and a third in which he attends a swingers' party.

Last night, David Kosse, president of Universal Pictures International, said the company had been left with no other option than to submit the film with an 18 request: They requested cuts that were some of the funniest bits of the movie. Ultimately you then know what you are going to get and, at the end of the day, we submitted the film to be an 18. We clearly wanted it to be a 15. In Ireland it is a 16, in the Netherlands a 12 and in America an R. It is absurd that you can see it as a 17-year-old in Dublin but not in London.

Kosse said the cuts would have proved too much of a compromise. Why take a movie that is very, very funny to the rest of the world but say the population of one country cannot see that version?

 

18th June   

Update: Burning Issue...

Liverpool to consult residents over an 18 rating for movies with smoking
Link Here  full story: Adult Rating for Smoking...Anti-smoking lobby for 18 for smoking in films

Liverpool City logoLiverpool residents and local businesses are to be consulted on a proposal which would see new films which show characters smoking given an 18 rating in the city.

The proposed classification would mean that films which depict images of tobacco smoking would only be regarded as suitable for adult viewing. The move is being proposed by Liverpool Primary Care Trust.

This proposal would not apply to films which portray historical figures who actually smoked and those which provide a clear and unambiguous portrayal of the dangers of smoking, other tobacco use, or second-hand smoke.

It would also not change the classification of old films which have scenes of people smoking. These films would still be shown in Liverpool using their original classification.

Under the proposal, cinemas and any other premises showing films would have to notify the council 21 days in advance if they intend to show films containing images of smoking.

The City Council's Licensing and Gambling Committee have agreed to consult interested organisations and the general public about changing its licensing policy. The consultation with the public is likely to start in the middle of August and last until October.

Cllr Malcolm Kelly, Committee Chair, said: I would stress that no decision about this proposal has been made yet.

We were given a presentation earlier this year by the PCT in which they spoke about the high level of young people who smoke in Liverpool and that research showed that young people, are more likely to smoke if they were influenced by seeing their favourite stars smoking in films.

However, we want to get the views of a wide range of organisations and the public in general before we decide whether to go ahead with this idea.

Overruling the BBFC

Based on article from news.bbc.co.uk

Government guidance says authorities should only overrule the BBFC if there are "very good local reasons".

In its report to the council, Liverpool PCT said the city's smoking prevalence was excessively high at 29%. The national level is 22%. It added that research from several countries suggested smoking in movies was the most potent of the social influences which lead young people into smoking.

BBFC spokeswoman Sue Clark told the BBC that while the council was obviously entitled to re-classify films, members of the public were unlikely to back the idea: We have done our own consultation with the public and we specifically asked them about whether smoking in films should be a classification issue - we were told it shouldn't. We don't make it a classification issue unless a film is actively promoting smoking to young people - and we've never seen a film which does that.

Excessive smoking in a film may be flagged up in its consumer advice, or the extended classification information on the BBFC website, said Ms Clark.

 

17th June   

Update: Game Over for the BBFC...

VSC designated as UK's game censor overseeing self rating via PEGI classifications
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

VSC logoAn overhaul of video games classification rules will make selling a video game rated 12 or over to an underage person illegal for the first time, Creative Industries Minister Siôn Simon has announced.

The PEGI (Pan European Game Information) system, currently used in most European countries, will become the sole method of classifying video games in the UK. It will replace the current hybrid system that has BBFC & PEGI ratings, either of which can appear on video games, and is sufficiently adaptable to work in the rapidly expanding online games market.

There is a new role for the Video Standards Council (VSC), an organisation which is independent from the games industry and will take a statutory role as the designated authority for videogames classification in the UK. It will have a mandate to implement the PEGI classification system for all video games.

This new system will work alongside the robust regulation of Films and DVDs carried out by the British Board of Film Classification, to ensure that consumers have the strongest possible protection across these media. There is no intention to disturb BBFC's jurisdiction in respect of linear material. The BBFC will continue to provide Blu Ray distributors with a one-stop service as at present. It is important that the BBFC and the VSC work together to share best practice in a rapidly changing and demanding media landscape.

The Government will now work closely with PEGI and the VSC on the development of a single, clear set of age-rating symbols to give parents the information they need to ensure that children are protected from unsuitable content, and help retailers to avoid breaking the law by selling games to people below the appropriate age. The new system will consist of five age categories and a series of pictorial boxes, describing content such as bad language or violence.

Professor Tanya Byron said: The PEGI system has been strengthened since my review and the Government has consulted widely on each of my suggested criteria. I support the Government's decision to combine the PEGI system with UK statutory oversight.

The new system:

  • mirrors the way games are classified in much of Europe, which is increasingly important as more games are played online and across international borders
  • is designed with child-safety as its main priority
  • is highly adaptable and works well for games distributed both on and offline
  • includes tough sanctions for manufactures who flout the rules, for example by making a false declaration about a game's content. These include fines of up to 500,000 Euros and a refusal to classify.

The new system will extend PEGI's remit so that all games are classified using its symbols. Information on the content of each game will be submitted to PEGI administrators including the Video Standards Council, which will then review each game to ensure it complies with the law. Following this evaluation, the manufacturer receives a licence to use the PEGI rating logos. The VSC, as statutory authority, will take account of UK sensibilities, and will have the power to ban games that are inappropriate for release in the UK.

PEGI's code of conduct determines which age rating is appropriate for different types of content. The PEGI Advisory Board, which includes representatives of parent and consumer groups, child psychologists, media experts and lawyers, maintains the code and recommends adjustments in line with social, technological or legal developments.

Comment: BBFC Director David Cooke Responds

See article from bbfc.co.uk

We have argued consistently that any games classification system needs to put child protection at its heart. It must involve consultation with the British public, command their trust, and reflect their sensibilities. It must take account of tone and context and be carried out by skilled and knowledgeable examiners. It needs to involve the provision of full, helpful and carefully weighed information to parents and the public more generally. It must have the power and will to reject or intervene in relation to unacceptable games or game elements. It should make a substantial contribution to media education, for example through dedicated websites and through work with pupils, students and teachers. It must be speedy and cost effective. It must have the capabilities to monitor online gameplay and to attract new members to online classification schemes. And it must be independent in substance as well as appearance, reaching its decisions and providing information on the basis of its own detailed assessments.

The BBFC has always supported PEGI and wished it well, but it continues to believe that it satisfies these requirements better than PEGI. However, it will cooperate fully in the detailed work needed to give effect to the Government's decision.

 

16th June   

Comment: Exempt from a Level Playing Field...

Micro-budget feature filmmakers stiffed by BBFC fee structure
Link Here  full story: Diary of a Bad Lad...What’s wrong with the British Film Industry

Exempt symbolsRecently I emailed the BBFC asking them why they were charging filmmakers for classifying purely factual DVD ‘extras' such as interviews with cast and crew, director's commentaries, and so on.

To: the BBFC

I am contacting you on behalf of New Wave North West, which has as its members most of the region's no/micro-budget feature filmmakers, for clarification when it comes to an ‘extras' DVD.

Under your explanation of the ‘E' classification and the 1984 act, a work is exempted if it is designed to inform, educate or instruct provided that there is no significant sexual or violent content.

From this it would appear that ‘extras' content, such as

  1. Interviews with cast and crew informing and educating the audience about the film and its production are exempt.
  2. A director or producer's commentary again informs and educates the viewer as is thus exempt.
  3. Such as deleted scenes when placed in the context of a ‘mini-documentary' in which the filmmakers explain the reasons why certain content ended up on the cutting room floor, is also exempt.

    But
     
  4. Deleted scenes and other similar material, if presented without a context which informs, educates and instructs, would not be exempt.

Is it correct then that, under the provisions of the act, only material such as that listed under 4 above is to be submitted? As you state:

Under the Video Recordings Act, the onus is on the distributor to decide whether or not a video work is an exempted work, and distributors have tended to put an ‘E' symbol on tapes as guidance to the public.

The Board does not examine exempted works and does not decide whether or not a work is exempt.

BBFC Reply: Up to You

BBFC logo Under the terms of the Video Recordings Act 1984, every video work, supplied on a video recording of any type (tape, disc, hard drive etc.), must be classified by the BBFC before it can be rented or sold legally in the UK, unless the work is exempt under Section 2 of the VRA. You can obtain a copy of the VRA from the Office of Public Sector Information.

The decision as to whether a work is exempt from classification is the responsibility of the video distributor. The BBFC's role is to classify works submitted to it; it cannot offer advice regarding the likelihood of a work being successfully claimed as exempt.

You should read the VRA and decide for yourself. You may find the BBFC's summary of the exemption terms helpful.

Comment: VRA weights classification process in favour of the major distributors

By Jonathan Williams

Exempt symbolsSo there you have it. It's nothing to do with us - you send it, we classify it - and if it actually doesn't need classifying we won't tell you because we don't make the decisions. Like I said, we classify...and we charge money.

If you click their 'exemptions link' it will tell you that the Video Recordings Act (1984) is policed by 'Trading Standards' (who have to find out that a video recording which transgresses the Act is being sold, seize it, track down who's responsible, press charges, etc).

My own suspicions are that the 1984 Act was a crass Mary Whitehouse/Daily Mail inspired response to 'video nasties' (or 'cult classics' as they are now called), is full of holes, completely out of date, and that the whole system remains in place largely on the basis of threats and bullying. It has not been challenged though as they essentially don't censor '18' material, so there is no outraged publisher prepared to mount a case in defence of D.H. Lawrence etc. No, in fact the major players like the system.

Comment: Justifying Censor's Jobs

16th June 2009. By Mark, see also Future Artists

Future Artists logo The more I look at where we are at, the more I realise is that everyone is just trying to justify their jobs,

if we didn't have a censorship board then our country would be seen to have no morals and be liberal, so we have to have one so we are seen to be in control, even though the agency pretty much is saying, do what you like, but if we find you and do not like then we will destroy you,

As Richard Branson said, screw it lets do it and as nike said 'just do it

great work Jon!

Follow Up: Video Recordings Act UK (1984), Exempt Material

21st June 2009. by Jon Williams. See article from jw48.wordpress.com

I posted the following on today's Shooting People.org bulletin. It questions whether this act, strangely passed in 1984…and amended in 1993&4, and therefore several years before the advent of the DVD, is being applied by the BBFC to DVD extras material which could well be exempt, or presented in a way which would make it so, under the terms of the act. But the draconian penalties, a maximum 2 years in prison and unlimited fines means that none of the small distributors are prepared to challenge the BBFC. But there is something we can all do.

...Read on at article

 

13th June   

Update: Cut Passed Uncut...

BBFC Passes Lars Von Trier's Antichrist 18 Uncut
Link Here  full story: Extreme Cuts...Lars Von Trier sexual violence causes a stir

Antichrist poster The BBFC has passed Lars Von Trier's latest film, Antichrist , ‘18' uncut. The film contains images of strong real sex, bloody violence and self mutilation. The BBFC Guidelines for ‘18' rated works state that the more explicit images of sexual activity will not be allowed unless they can be exceptionally justified by context and the work is not a ‘sex work' whose primary purpose is sexual arousal. For these purposes Antichrist is very clearly not a ‘sex work'. 

The film also contains some bloody and violent images, including a scene of genital mutilation. The Board knows of no research evidence which suggests that the viewing of this scene would raise a significant risk of harm to adult viewers or to society, or which would otherwise justify intervention. There is, therefore, no basis for an exception to the principle, repeatedly endorsed in public consultations, that adults should normally be free to choose what films to watch or not watch.

The film was seen by the Director, David Cooke, the President, Sir Quentin Thomas and Vice President, Gerard Lemos. David Cooke said:


"Antichrist deals with what happens to a couple after the death of their child, focussing on the psychological impact on them both. The film does not contain material which breaches the law or poses a significant harm risk to adults. The sexual imagery, while strong, is relatively brief, and the Board has since 1990 passed a number of works containing such images. This reflects the principle, strongly endorsed in a number of public consultations, that adults should be free to decide for themselves what to watch or what not to watch, provided it is neither illegal nor harmful.

"There is no doubt that some viewers will find the images disturbing and offensive, but the BBFC's Consumer Advice provides a clear warning to enable individuals to make an informed viewing choice. And this is now backed up by detailed Extended Consumer Advice on our website".

See also Extended Classification Information from bbfc.co.uk :

18 certAntichrist is an English language drama from director Lars von Trier. It tells the story of a couple trying to come to terms with the death of their young son. After the mother experiences a mental breakdown, they retreat to an isolated cabin in the woods where the child's father, a therapist, hopes to help the mother to confront her fears. The film was classified '18' for strong real sex, bloody violence and self-mutilation.

At '18', the BBFC's Guidelines state that the more explicit images of sexual activity are unlikely to be permitted unless they can be exceptionally justified by context and the work is not a 'sex work'. A 'sex work' is defined as a work whose 'primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation'. It is clear that ANTICHRIST is not a 'sex work' but a serious drama exploring issues such as grief, loss, guilt and fear. The brief images of explicit real sex (sight of a penis penetrating a vagina during a consensual sex scene and sight of the man's penis being masturbated to climax) are exceptionally justified, in this context, by the manner in which they illustrate the film's themes and the nature of the couple's relationship. Their relationship is depicted throughout in a graphic and unflinching fashion, both psychologically and physically. The BBFC has permitted comparable explicit images in a number of previous features at the '18' level (eg L'EMPIRE DES SENS, 9 SONGS, SHORTBUS and Lars von Trier's earlier film, THE IDIOTS) where it has been clear that the purpose of the work - and the individual images in question - is not simply to arouse viewers but to illustrate characters, relationships and themes.

ANTICHRIST also contains two scenes showing violence towards genitals or genital mutilation. In one case, the man's genitals are hit heavily (although this is not shown on screen), resulting in sight of blood in his semen when he ejaculates. In the other case, the distraught woman cuts off her own clitoris using a pair of scissors. This act of self-mutilation is shown in close up, although the image is only on screen for a few seconds. The shot in question exceeds the BBFC's Guidelines at '15', where 'the strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable' and where 'violence may be strong but may not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury'. Even at '18' the BBFC recognises that the scene will be shocking and offensive to some viewers. However, the Board is aware of no evidence to suggest that the viewing of this scene is likely to be harmful to adults. The scene is not presented in an eroticised or attractive manner and is not likely to encourage emulation or arousal. Accordingly, the scene is acceptable at '18' where, in line with the consistent findings of the BBFC's public consultations, the BBFC's Guideline concerns will not normally override the wish that adults should be free to chose their own entertainment, within the law.

The film contains other examples of strong violence, including a scene in which the woman drills a hole through the man's leg with a bit and brace before bolting a large grindstone to the injured limb. Once again, although the scene exceeds the rubric of the '15' Guidelines, it was not felt to be harmful to adult viewers. The film also contains scenes of strong simulated sex, including female masturbation. These scenes exceed the '15' Guideline test that 'Sexual activity may be portrayed but without strong detail' but are acceptable at the '18' level.

Antichrist also includes a single use of strong language.

 

12th June   

Update: Rated S for Suspense...

Government to announce computer game censorship scheme in Digital Britain report
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

Digital Britain ReportLabour will announce the new industry standard age classification system on Tuesday next week (June 16th) as part of its Digital Britain report, MCV reveals.

The news comes 12 months after the publication of the Government's Byron Review, which recommended the introduction of one clear age ratings system, falling on the side of ‘cinema-style' classification.

However, a year of consultation with industry followed, in which publishers and ELSPA made their support for a PEGI-led system very clear, rather than the DVD-style BBFC ratings.

 

12th June   

Comment: Cover Charge...

The BBFC, even more money for nothing!
Link Here  full story: Diary of a Bad Lad...What’s wrong with the British Film Industry

Diary of a Bad Lad From What's wrong with the British Film Industry, a series of articles and polemics by Jonathan Williams, one-time media academic and the writer/producer of Diary of a Bad Lad :

Interesting what you find you, isn't it. Having had to fork out more than £700 to the BBFC, and having signed and returned the form saying that I accepted the ‘18' rating and the ‘consumer advice' saying: contains strong sex, sexual violence and very strong language, they seemed to be taking a very long time in issuing the final certificate; so I contacted them to find out what was going on.

Back came the reply that I had to submit the packaging, to send them three copies of the DVD cover artwork which they would have to pass, and they sent me a link so that I could download the submission form.

Hang on, I thought: What's all this, you don't have to submit covers of books to anyone? Ah, yes, but as they explained, this was completely voluntary. I didn't actually have to submit anything, I just had to tell them I wasn't and they'd issue the certificate.
But they also informed me that:

You should be aware, however, that by opting out of this scheme, which is registered as a Restrictive Trade Practice acceptable to the Office of Fair Trading, the product of your company may be refused handling by wholesalers and/or retailers who are members of the Video Standards Council (VSC).

So there you have it. You send them the artwork, they look at it, they say: That's OK, here's your certificate, and you can now go ahead and add a VSC logo to the cover as well.

And then they ring you up and say: That'll be £41.28. Do you want to pay by credit card?

What?! More than £700 so that someone can take your film home and spend 90 minutes watching it is bad enough. But over £40 to look at your cover as part of what they call a voluntary scheme, but one which, if you don't comply with it, means that the main retailers and renters won't handle your film! This isn't a voluntary scheme, it's a government sanctioned protection racket!

 

28th May   

Tougher on Teens...

BBFC complete their latest public consultation
Link Here

BBFC logo The BBFC  have just-finished their latest public consultation on their classification guidelines.

Sue Clark from the BBFC said there will be a slight toughening up on Horror/psychological Horror at the 12A and 15 categories. 18 rated films will remain untouched unless we absolutely must intervene.

She was also asked if there would be any extension of the 'advisory' 12A to perhaps a 15A. But this idea isn't on the cards at the moment (or ever).

 

28th May   

Offsite: We Want Your Job!...

Interview with a BBFC games examiner
Link Here

GamesMaster logo GamesMaster interviewed James Blatch, an examiner with the BBFC.

GM: Hi James, Tell us exactly what your job is with the BBFC.

James: I’m a Film, Video and Video Games Examiner with the Board. My job is to watch/play submissions and recommend a category. On average The BBFC classifies a couple of games a day and I’m one of ten examiners on the games team.

GM: Many believe the job is just playing games all day and slapping a rating on at the end of the day?

James: Have you been reading my job description? Of course it’s a little more technical than that. We examine in teams of two, all non-linear material is watched in full; that’s cutscenes and accompanying video etc. We’ll play the game through, but because games have a repetitive element we will use level skips and game saves to speed our progression. Unless it’s really good, in which case we cancel all calls and work till midnight.

...Read full interview

 

28th May   

Offsite: Magic Bullet...

The ends of censorship
Link Here  full story: Magic Bullet...Film festival entry shows the futility of film censorship

Magic Bullet logo One of the events at the Gothenburg Film Festival this year was to be Markus Öhrn's Magic Bullet installation, showing forty-nine hours of all of the film ever censored in Sweden

After viewing Magic Bullet one really has to wonder what possible difference it could have made if none of the cuts to films which it gathers together had ever been made. It is a small step then to wonder also, whether the likes of the SBB, and in the United Kingdom the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), should just close their doors.

Well, it could be argued that they have, indeed that they did some time ago, as what they do now is not "censorship" at all: what they are now are the classification services they publicly claim to be. The BBFC, for instance, claims it seeks to maintain a balance between the liberal principles of its own classification guidelines and the rigid inflexibilities of certain aspects of the law in Britain. Most cuts made by the BBFC are agreed in consultation with film directors in relation to their own commercial concerns surrounding the likely impact of the classification licence awarded on box office returns.

A key activity of the BBFC is to undertake what is, in effect, "market research", aimed at ascertaining what the film consumer is likely to find objectionable, unacceptable, unsuitable for children, and so on, in relation to range of themes and subjects. To the extent to which it engages in this kind of activity, one could say the BBFC is part of the bigger cultural machinery whose purpose is to match up the consumer with the cultural product. It helps to mediate between distributors and, for the most part, anxious-parent consumers; the former generally wanting to meet their target audiences' expectations and the latter wanting to know in advance what they are likely to get in terms of raw imagery.

...Read full article

 

25th May   

Update: Cuts Uncut?...

UK distributors will submit Antichrist uncut to the BBFC
Link Here  full story: Extreme Cuts...Lars Von Trier sexual violence causes a stir

Antichrist logo The 'most shocking' film in the history of the Cannes Film Festival is heading for cinema release in Britain, where distributors will attempt to convince the censors that its scenes of torture and pornography should be shown in their entirety.

Lars Von Trier's new film Antichrist has stunned the Cannes Film Festival, eliciting jeers and cries of disbelief from critics who dubbed it art-house torture porn.

The psychological horror film opens with a young child falling to his death through an open window whilst his oblivious parents, played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, have sex nearby in graphically-shot scenes.

The grieving couple retreat to Eden, their cabin in the woods, where the woman becomes increasingly unhinged. In the final quarter of the film, she takes revenge of the most gruesome kind against her husband. The most offensive sequence, which had critics gasping in disbelief, sees Gainsbourg's character performing an act of genital self-multilation with a pair of scissors.

When distributors expressed fears that the film would not be granted a release in their home countries, the producers said offered an alternative cut - which they described as a good Catholic version - with four extreme sequences excised.

However, the UK distributor which snapped up the rights, Artificial Eye, is determined that Von Trier's original cut be shown.

We will be submitting the film for classification in its current form, a spokesman for the company said. We can't comment on how the British Board of Film Classification will respond, but we are keen for Antichrist to be seen as the director intends.

"We absolutely think the film has good commercial prospects here in the UK. It has polarised the opinions of the critics in Cannes and this has ensured a 'must see' buzz that we can capitalise on for our release.


The BBFC has a history of allowing controversial arthouse films to be shown in their entirety. In 2002, the organisation granted an 18 certificate to another Cannes offering, Gaspar Noé's Irreversible . It featured a nine-minute rape scene 'so graphic' that dozens of female critics walked out of its debut screening.

 

29th April   

Offsite: 30 Years On...

The Williams Report still offers a better framework for film classification than the OPA
Link Here

Index on Censorship logo Thirty years ago, a Home Office committee chaired by Bernard Williams produced that rarest of publications — a sensible official document on the subject of obscenity.

Commissioned in 1977 by a Labour government that still retained the last vestiges of the liberalism associated with Roy Jenkins’s first period as Home Secretary, the Williams Committee Report had the misfortune to be published in the early days of the anything-but-liberal Thatcher government.

The report was hastily kicked into the long grass by the new regime at the Home Office, greatly aided by papers such as the News of the World, The Times, the Express, the Telegraph and the Sunday People running scare stories — many decked out with alarmist quotes from Mrs Whitehouse — about it being a ‘pornographers’ charter’, ‘too blue for Maggie’ and ‘giving official sanction to filth’.

In July 1980, when Leon Brittan, then Minister of State at the Home Office, announced that the government had still not reached any view on the Williams Committee’s recommendations and that he did not anticipate any legislation on the subject being introduced in the current session, it was abundantly clear that the report was dead in the water.

...Read full article

 

14th April   

Wishing for an 18 Certificate...

Supporting the hype for Wishbaby
Link Here

Wishbaby DVD The BBFC initially gave a 15 rating to Wishbaby, which is billed as a savage fairytale.

But director Stephen Parsons demanded an increase in the rating to 18, insisting the film was meant for adults only.

In one sequence a teenager is shown having his eyeball gouged out with a hat pin while other teens record his misery on mobile phones. Another shows a mother being suffocated and beaten to death with a hammer. [Beware of Daily Mail exaggeration]

Parsons said he was concerned that children as young as 12 and 13 would be able to see the film if they looked old for their age or had slightly older friends. He said: I deliberately set out to make a horror film for an adult audience. If my daughter had been allowed to see a movie like this when she was 15 I would have been extremely concerned.

I assumed my film would have an automatic 18 rating. It includes scenes of kids doing horrific things to each other. When I was told it had been given a 15 certificate I was disturbed, not least because one of the scenes, which involved a character being filmed as he was tortured and the footage being sent around via mobile phones, could have incited copycats.

Parsons made a formal complaint to the BBFC, which reviewed the film and agreed it needed an 18 certificate. In a letter to Parsons the BBFC said: We ultimately agreed that the cumulative effect of the sex, violence and drug use just tips the film into the lower end of 18.

A spokesman for the classification body said: On some occasions, particularly in the horror genre, film companies and producers prefer a higher rating because it makes the film appear to be more graphic or frightening than it is. They feel that a 12A or 15 rating makes the film less appealing to those who enjoy horror films.

This was the case with the recent Nicholas Cage film The Wicker Man when we gave it a 12A rating, but producers wanted a 15 rating. We assessed the film under our guidelines and stuck with the original decision.

Parsons is now calling for the BBFC to review the standards it uses to classify films. He said: It is widely accepted in the film business that the standards used by the BBFC are all over the place. In fact there are no standards any more.

 

10th April   

I Am Not a Number...

BBFC bans BDSM video NF713
Link Here

publicity still from NF713 NF713 is a BDSM video by China Hamilton (Mista Solutions)

Rejected in 2009 with the BBFC justification:

NF713 takes the form of an extended sequence in which a man tortures a woman psychologically, physically and sexually. The woman is bound and restrained throughout and the man in question is in a position of absolute power and control over her. The man tortures the woman in order to make her confess her crimes against an unnamed 'State' but his ultimate aim is to break her down and make her fully compliant, eradicating her individuality and making her a mere number, 'NF713'. The man employs a variety of techniques ranging from invasive questioning about her body and her sexual life to genital torture with forceps and electricity, makeshift waterboarding, beatings and forced urination. The torture is unremitting and takes up the majority of the work's 73 minute running time. Throughout large sections the woman is naked or semi-naked and her nudity is focussed upon, particularly in the later portions of the work. The work concludes with a series of black and white stills of the woman, bound and restrained.

In the BBFC's view, the primary purpose of NF713 is to sexually arouse the viewer at the sight of a woman being sexually humiliated, tortured and abused. As such it constitutes a 'sex work', which is defined by the BBFC's Guidelines as a work whose 'primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation'. The focus on the woman's naked, humiliated body together with the conventional BDSM aspects of the later part of the work lend credence to the view that sexual arousal is its primary intent, as do the closing series of black and white stills which strongly resemble conventional erotic fetish photography. The BBFC operates a strict policy on sex works and does not issue classification to such works if they depict non consensual sexual activity (whether real or simulated), the infliction of pain or physical harm (whether real or simulated) or sexual threats, humiliation or abuse that do not form part of a clearly consenting role-playing game. NF713focuses exclusively on these elements of non-consensual activity, pain, humiliation and abuse and takes the form of a dramatic scenario in which the viewer is invited to believe that what is being shown is 'real'. Unlike many BDSM works it is not apparent that what is occurring is part of a consensual role play where the roles are clearly set out and, in any case, the Guidelines preclude the kind of strong abuse on offer here, even if consent is established.

Even if one were to take the view that the primary purpose of NF713 is to explore the nature of torture in dramatic form, the work would still be in clear breach of the BBFC's Guidelines and policies on sexual violence. The unbroken sequence of sexual torture and humiliation means that the work runs the risk (whether intentionally or unintentionally) of eroticising sexual violence and thereby causing harm to viewers. The work invites the audience to relish sight of – and be sexually aroused by - a restrained and helpless woman being sexually molested, humiliated and tortured. Such a complete focus on sexual violence, together with the elements of eroticism provided by the nudity and semi-nudity of the female victim, runs a real risk of eroticising sexual violence in a potentially harmful and dangerous manner.

The BBFC considered the possibility of cuts. However, given the extent of unacceptable material and the pervasive theme of sexual violence and sexual threat, cuts were not considered a viable option on this occasion.

See article from nikiflynn.com : I am Not a Number

I’ve just spent the last few days being tortured and interrogated for Control & Reform Productions. The film is called Enemy of the State [Since renamed to NF713] and it’s the dark brainchild of China Hamilton and me.

It’s somewhere between Closet Land and 1984 - but with no faking of the torture scenes. It’s set in a non-specific police state and I’ve been arrested for distributing anti-State pamphlets. As such, I no longer warrant a name; I’m simply NF-713. My soft-spoken interrogator gradually convinces me to cooperate through various kind and caring methods, as he only wants to help me. Help comes in various forms, as does corrective treatment:

Bastinado, back whipping, breast whipping, electric shocks, hydrotherapy , medical torture, brainwashing, force-feeding… Except for the use of a small whip in one scene, my bottom was actually spared. (How’s that for a first?) I was wrecked by the end of the shoot, still crying after the cameras stopped rolling.

Niki Flynn also speaks at length about the BBFC rejection notice: R is for “rejected”

The British Board of Film Censors has just examined my naked, humiliated body in exhaustive detail and declared it potentially harmful and dangerous.

While I’m not too surprised the film didn’t get an 18 certificate, I’m actually fairly disturbed by some of the alarmist language in the rejection note.

The note describes the unremitting torture inflicted throughout the film, making it sound far worse and more graphic than it actually is. Frankly, in the cut submitted to the BBFC there is very little actual abuse shown and the focus is mostly on the psychological aspects of interrogation and the resulting Stockholm Syndrome. But they felt its primary intent was to sexually arouse the viewer and as such it’s a sex work and the non-consensuality makes it unsuitable for the British public, who are apparently likely to become rapists and torturers after viewing such a dangerous film.

...Read the full article

Update: Is Obscenity Law undermined by extreme porn?

10th April 2009. Thanks to Alan who commented:

Slight oddity - they don't seem to realise that it has always been legal (except kiddy porn and now "extreme" porn) to own films that aren't classified and thus can't be legally distributed.

See article from theregister.co.uk by John Ozimek

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) have issued a rare rejection notice for a disturbing and realistic DVD called NF713.

A spokeswoman for the BBFC denied that the decision was in any way influenced by the new extreme porn law, adding that they did not feel it breached that legislation in any way. Opponents of that law immediately questioned whether the government had not now created an impossible legal position, according to which certain material that was not illegal to possess was nonetheless illegal to publish.

...Read full article

 

4th April   

What's Your Birth Date Dad?...

Approved age verification scheme for BBFC Online
Link Here

Aristotle logo The BBFC has formally accepted Aristotle International as a provider of approved age verification for digitally-delivered home entertainment.

The decision means that movie studios, online distributors, and eventually producers of all forms of digital content will comply with BBFC regulations when using Aristotle's age verification service, Integrity.

We are pleased to certify Aristotle as an appropriate age verification and gate-keeping mechanism for our Aggregator Members for those digital home entertainment works classified '12', '15', '18', or 'R18' for digital delivery by the British Board of Film Classification, said Andy Cooke, Business Manager of BBFC.online.

Aristotle's Integrity solution provides identification and verification of digital access to content in over 130 countries. More than 50 million consumers have been age verified by Integrity to date. Motion picture properties recently in theatres or about to be released that utilize Aristotle's Integrity age verification service include www.iloveyouman.com, www.sexdrivethemovie.com, and www.tropicthunder.com.

Aristotle is also approved for use by leading global Fortune 1000 companies in financial services, tobacco, and alcohol advertising and distribution, social networks, online gaming and video gaming where financial, regulatory, or social responsibility guidelines must be met.

Aristotle's Integrity is a suite of widely accepted identity and age verification solutions based on government issued ID.

 

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