Jerry Barnett speaks of three main areas of censorship affecting the adult industry:
Over recent years I have attempted to track regulations that may affect the UK adult industry. ATVOD's rule 11, which specifies that web sites are responsible for age-verifying users before any hardcore still or moving images can be displayed, is
a source of major concern.
I have made representations to ATVOD that this regulation is punitive to UK businesses as it is not possible for a web site to implement such a mechanism without losing the bulk of its customers. Furthermore, since this only applies to businesses
based in the UK, it has no effect on availability of adult content anyway -- this regulation seems to be designed solely to drive UK adult businesses either offshore, or out of business.
ATVOD's response to this has not been sympathetic -- they repeat the mantra that they are protecting children while ignoring the simple fact that these rules do nothing to reduce the availability of easily accessible adult content. My
position is that the right approach to this is for the industry to use proper labeling technologies and ensure that parents are empowered and educated in how to block adult content if they so wish. Driving the UK adult industry out of existence
would simply destroy the chance of any self-regulation.
I am currently taking legal advice on whether these regulations can be challenged and feel there are several grounds on which to challenge them.
2) Internet filtering
Claire Perry MP (backed by the Daily Mail) is pushing for the ISPs to filter out adult content at the connection level. I'm strongly opposed to this approach for several reasons -- as are a number of free speech organisations, not to mention
Google. I have met with some anti-censorship organisations that are opposing the filter and will continue to meet with more. It appears an alliance against the plans is building.
There are several problems with network-level filtering:
Do we trust the government to decide what is adult ? The experience in other online censorship exercise shows that the list of blocked sites will grow over time. The filter in Australia was extended to cover all sorts of material that the
religious right objected to. We know that many people who legally enjoy adult content would not switch off the filter (for a variety of reasons -- confidentiality, embarrassment, etc.) The filter would be easy to get around. It's likely that
teenagers would find out how to avoid it while their parents are left with a false sense of security. It takes control out of the hands of parents and puts it into the hands of a nanny state that makes moral decisions about what adults and
teenagers should choose to look at.
The Michael Peacock obscenity trial, in which he was found not guilty, seems to have undermined the case for obscenity prosecutions and for certain censorship decisions taken by the BBFC. However, the CPS and BBFC have stated that despite losing
the prosecution the guidelines remain the same.
There is an opportunity to challenge the BBFC and CPS guidelines and it is likely that lawyers will take up this opportunity later this year. I believe this will be beneficial both for the industry and for free speech, and will be supporting this
Culture minister Ed Vaizey has confirmed the Government was looking at introducing cinema-style age ratings for educational videos. He told MPs he shared 'concerns' about the content of some sex education films and he is meeting with the British
Board of Film Classification to discuss whether they should have statutory age ratings.
Films are currently exempt from the classification system if used for educational purposes. But nutter pressure groups are campaigning against anything related to sex being seen by children and trying to suggest that supposed sexualisation is the
root cause of all society's ills.
Ministers are in the process of lowering the threshold for video games and pop videos to be submitted to statutory age ratings. A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport confirmed that the Government's new measure could also be
applied to sex education films.
The issue came up in the House of Commons with Vaizey was responding to a question from Tory MP Andrea Leadsom, who has campaigned in favour of the move. Leadsom claimed some material in the videos was sexually explicit and completely
inappropriate for young children. She said that some of the films, produced by Channel 4 and the BBC, were like porn . One BBC sex education video for nine-year-olds showed animated cartoon couples making love and contained information
on wet dreams and masturbation.
A BBC spokesman said: All educational resources from BBC Active are produced in collaboration with education experts and are issued with clear guidance so teachers can use them appropriately in their classrooms.
Leadsom asked in Parliament:
There are many parents across the country who are very concerned about the content of sex and relationship education videos that are being shown to children as young as six and have no external rating whatsoever.
In fact, they are being sold for profit by organisations.
Can the minister tell me whether he would consider requiring them to be rated by the British Board of Film Classification?
Ed Vaizey said he would meet with the board of film classification to discuss the issue.
This is the start of a revolution for independent film makers and distributors across the UK and Ireland - and even the world - in a bid to get as many signings as possible, to present to the money hungry BBFC to force them to bring their costs
of ratings down.
With ridiculous rates and double charges for the same film to go to DVD and cinema, it is time to put a stop to this. The amazing people at the IFCO can do it - offering a safe 250 Euro for a limited release of 1000 copies in the first year. Why
can't the BBFC offer the same?
Please support this fight and help us get as many names (and roles in the film world) as possible to help indie film makers deliver to you, works of passion, dedication and enjoyment... (more than the average Hollywood flick can do these days)
This week Adam Torel, the managing director of Third Window Films, announced on Facebook that TWF would no longer distribute any of its films theatrically due to, quote: ...the resounding opening weekend failure of Himizu (and that
of Villain before it)...
Torel, whose company specialises in Asian films spoke of BBFC fees as a a major contributory to the decision:
I don't think people most people realize how hard it is for independent theatrical distribution in the UK. Even my friends who run distribution companies in other countries are amazed when I tell them. In my opinion it comes down to 3 things
which hurt us more than most:
In the UK we MUST certify all films with the BBFC. In the US you can release a film unrated , but obviously other countries make it mandatory. The main problem with the UK is that the BBFC require you to certify your film both
theatrically and for home video separately, each at a MASSIVE cost. Even though they're watching the exact same film and will give it exactly the same rating they still charge you twice! and the cost is astronomical!
£ 8.40 per minute of film plus a handling fee of £ 120!! Imagine the costs for certifying Love Exposure for both theatrical and DVD = more than £ 4,000!!!
Why the need to review the film twice? it's the same bloody film!! and get this: they actually watch DVD submissions AT HOME! I wish I got paid so much money to watch a film!
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is now automatically issuing all films classified for DVD or Blu-ray release with online classifications for use on licensed digital video platforms. The move aims to help the home entertainment
industry streamline their physical and digital products and to provide consumers with the classification symbols they know and trust for their on-demand downloads.
Content classified for DVD or Blu-Ray was previously given an online classification in return for a small additional payment; this has now been abolished. Digital certificates for films classified on Blu-ray and DVD will be included in the charge
for DVD and Blu-ray classification from 1 June, providing the same trusted symbols online as consumers recognise from DVD and Blu-ray packaging (U, PG, 12, 15, 18). The BBFC is also removing the membership fee previously required for online only
classifications, making them more widely accessible and cost effective for content only available online.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC, says The number of video-on-demand platforms continues to grow and we've been working with the industry for over four years to ensure the public's desire for clear content labelling is met. A key role for the
BBFC is child protection and we want as much online content as possible to receive classifications so consumers can make informed decisions about what they and their families watch. 82% of parents say they prefer to download content with BBFC
classification symbols and altering the way we provide online classifications will help content providers give consumers the information they need and trust when deciding what to watch.
Lavinia Carey, Director General of the British Video Association says, The development of the BBFC's voluntary online classification service took a great leap forward with the introduction of the speedy and cost effective "Watch &
Rate" service for video content not released on disc, as it allows distributors to continue providing viewers the same level of trustworthy age ratings and consumer advice for digital video services as they get on physical discs. Now any
content can be rated without having to pay for membership of the scheme, which should encourage more and more video distributors to use Watch & Rate even if they're not planning a DVD release.
The BBFC's service for streamed and downloaded content was launched in collaboration with the home entertainment industry in 2008. The service provides trusted classifications, category symbols and Consumer Advice to set-top box, video-on-demand
and other online content providers. Key affiliates using the BBFC service include Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Europe, Warner Bros., Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal, BT Vision, Tesco/Blinkbox, TalkTalk, Picturebox and Netflix.
For reasons unknown, British Airways has started submitting cut versions of films to the film censors of the BBFC.
The films are submitted for a Video on Demand rating and are noted as an Airline Version.
Assuming that the British Airways video system works on NTSC with the same running times as cinema versions, then the first 3 examples have been pre-cut as follows:
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Pre-cut by 1:02s It received a PG certificate without BBFC cuts. Note that the longer and uncut cinema version was also rated a PG with the same consumer advice: contains mild action adventure
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was more illuminating. The Airline Version was pre-cut by 1:23s for a 12 rating (the same as the cinema version) but the cuts resulted in a change of consumer advice. The Cinema Version reads: Contains one use of strong language and moderate sex references
. The Airline Version advice reads: Contains infrequent strong language and moderate sex references.
The Wrath of Titans. The airline version was pre-cut by 2:24s. The 12 rating and consumer advice was unchanged from the uncut cinema version.
Summer blockbusters are seldom rated 15 -- they get a 12A, ensuring that the movie is accessible to the masses -- so Prometheus is a rarity. Yet even this relatively adult rating has caused disapproval among sci-fi die-hards who feel that
anything less than an 18 certificate is a cop-out by the director.
They are sanguine about this at the BBFC. If we rated Alien now, says Cooke, it would be a 15. For a film to get an 18 certificate today it has to be either utterly terrifying throughout or there would have to be a level of sadistic
violence. It seems that over the past 30 years or so we have become far more tolerant of blood, guts and gore, not to mention bad language. [In fact the BBFC have rated Alien as 15 since 2003] .
The examiners will watch a film under natural conditions so that it feels as if we are actually going to the cinema , he says. We always view it straight through, though obviously at the end we can go back and look at stuff. There
is a cinema at the BBFC headquarters in central London, where examiners watch about three films a day. But sometimes -- as with Prometheus -- they go to the film company to watch the movie, to ensure its security.
That film has been passed with no cuts. But even if it had been censored , you'd barely be able to tell. When we make cuts, people think in terms of 'snip-snip', says senior examiner Craig Lapper, but these days, with digital,
there are so many other ways you can make a film more acceptable. You can suggest soundtrack changes and things like colour darkening, putting shadows in to obscure the more gory elements of a scene. So in The Woman in Black, the adaptation
of Susan Hill's ghost story starring Daniel Radcliffe, we didn't hear the crack of the woman's neck as she hung from a noose -- and, thanks to the cunning use of shadows, neither did we see her face.
I won't say what the film was, continues Lapper, but there's a forthcoming British movie that was a little bit too gory to get a 15 certificate. So I nipped round to the place where they were editing it and they [the film-makers]
increased the shadows so that you could no longer see someone's jaw hanging off.
Xbox LIVE will use the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC)'s well-known ratings for content sold via the Xbox LIVE Zune video marketplace, allowing users to make informed choices about the content that they purchase for themselves and
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC, says We're delighted to add Microsoft's Xbox LIVE to the roster of customers using BBFC services. In the digital age the variety of content platforms available means that, more than ever, the BBFC has a role
to play as a trusted guide to content. The public, especially parents, have told us it's important for them to see classification ratings they can trust before choosing entertainment for themselves or their children and by joining the BBFC's
voluntary service Xbox LIVE is helping its users make informed and confident choices about what they watch.
Microsoft's goal has always been to provide parents and caregivers with the tools and resources necessary in managing age-appropriate entertainment experiences on Xbox 360 for children, says Stephen McGill, Microsoft Ltd's Director of Xbox
and Entertainment. Alongside use of the forthcoming PEGI ratings system for video games, deploying BBFC classifications for film and video content on Xbox LIVE will allow parents to make more informed choices regarding what they and their
families watch on our service.
The BBFC's service for streamed and downloaded content was launched in 2008 to provide its trusted and recognised classifications, category symbols and Consumer Advice to set-top box, video-on-demand and other online content providers. The BBFC
worked closely with the home entertainment industry to develop a voluntary regulatory service that would bring the benefits of the DVD classification system to content delivered online. When the public was surveyed about the new service, 82% of
parents said that they preferred to download films that were classified with the trusted BBFC symbols and content advice. Government ministers and other Parliamentarians are on the record as supporters of the BBFC's work in this area.
Microsoft Ltd joins other key affiliates to the BBFC service including Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Europe, Warner Bros., Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal, BT Vision, Tesco/Blinkbox, TalkTalk, Picturebox and Netflix, bringing the
total number of members to 38.
As announced in the Queen's Speech, the Department for Culture, Media, Sport and Censorship is seeking views about the exemptions in the Video Recordings Act and about how advertisements shown in cinemas are censored.
Consultation Open date: 09 May 2012
Closing date: 01 August 2012
Please send your comments or if you have any queries about this consultation to:
or by post:
Advertising and Exemption Consultation Department for Culture,
Media and Sport
2-4 Cockspur Street
London SW1Y 5DH
Cinema Advertising Censorship
The government is asking whether the BBFC really needs to get involved in the censorship of cinema adverts. At the moment it is mandatory that the BBFC rate such advertising, but the Government is asking if the more general system of advert
censorship provided by CAP and ASA is sufficient.
Option 0: No change
Under this option cinema advertisements would continue to be referred to the BBFC for age rating whilst also being subject to mandatory self-regulation overseen by the ASA.
This regime has been in place for a number of years and it could be considered that it should remain on the grounds that it appears to work effectively to ensure that children are not exposed to inappropriate content via cinema advertisements
and consumers' rights are properly observed. Some may feel also that the statutory backing is an essential element of the regime.
However, as set out earlier in the preceding paragraphs, others may consider that the age rating role provided by the BBFC in relation to cinema advertisements is already adequately covered by the self-regulatory approach of the industry and
that it therefore represents an unnecessary burden on business.
Option 1: Remove the requirement for BBFC classification of cinema advertisements
This option would potentially remove the financial and administrative burdens on the cinema advertising industry of having to submit each advert to the BBFC for an age rating. Arguably, this would also make matters simpler for industry, reducing
the additional time constraints resulting from both BBFC and CAA clearance.
The BBFC has indicated that the current average classification cost is around £111 per ad classified. There is an additional administrative burden for industry attached to this process in supplying the BBFC with hard copies of the adverts
requiring classification. The impact on the BBFC of removing the classification requirement would simply relate to their resourcing of this function.
However, could removing the requirement to age rate adverts shown in cinemas by the BBFC result in a reduction in consumer and child protection? The industry bodies and the CAA believe the existing advertising clearance system as set out in
paragraphs 4.6 to 4.23, underpinned by the ASA's non-broadcast advertising code (CAP Code), is robust enough to ensure there are no regulatory gaps, particularly in relation to child protection, and that suitable consumer safeguards will be
This option would also not place additional enforcement burdens on local authorities
On music censorship the government is nominally considering 4 options:
option 0: Leave the existing exemptions in place and untouched, on the basis that either the present arrangements do not give rise to concerns to an extent that would justify legislative change, or that removing exemptions would place
unnecessary or disproportionate burdens on industry for limited benefit.
option 1: Remove the exemptions from age rating for music, sports, religious and educational video works. This requires primary legislation to achieve. Removing the exemption would mean that producers would have to submit all film material to
the BBFC for classification before making them available for sale in the UK regardless of genre.
option 2: Lower the existing content thresholds for exemption so that more products are brought within scope of the age rating requirement (as we have done recently for video games). This can be achieved by secondary legislation.
option 3: Ask other parts of the video industry to introduce a self-regulatory parental advisory system for the currently exempt genres, similar to the BPI's PAS labelling scheme for the music-themed products.
The BBFC has been awarded the 2012 British Video Association (BVA) Special Award. BVA Director General Lavinia Carey explains why the BBFC should be recognised on its 100th anniversary.
2012 BVA Special Award -- BBFC
In 1984, when the BBFC was 72 years old and the BVA was just four, it made a significant change to its name, replacing Film Censors with Film Classification , that indicated the beginning of the end of a peculiarly British tendency
to want to protect people from themselves by strictly controlling their entertainment and ensuring films screened in cinemas were sufficiently wholesome for public viewing.
This name change took place during the long reign of James Ferman as Director, while Lord Harlech was the BBFC's President, succeeded the year after by the Earl of Harewood.
By the time I joined the BVA in 1993, the video industry had gone through a tumultuous period of adjusting to the introduction of statutory regulation through the BBFC with the passing of the 1984 Video Recordings Act, which must have seemed at
the time like a step backwards after an apparent era of enlightenment. Yet this was a cloud with a silver lining. It heralded the development of the most strictly regulated video industry in the free world but one which provided a defence against
future storms to come.
The moral panic whipped up by the media in 1994 and the hand-wringing within our sector, having been accused of stimulating violence among young people, required the BVA and BBFC, and supported by the Video Standards Council, to work more closely
to explain to politicians, journalists and the public that our business could hardly be more severely regulated without banning many popular and acclaimed titles.
Amendments were made to the Video Recordings Act later in 1994 expressly to give the BBFC ultimate power to cut scenes or reject works entirely where they are found to fail the test of suitability for home viewing. This modification was far less
harsh than the draconian amendments proposed by the then Liberal MP David Alton. It was accompanied by a collaborative solution to make BBFC classification decisions clearer to adults through the introduction of consumer advice on theme,
language, sex and violence within the content printed on BVA members' new releases. This pilot was later rolled out on a voluntary basis across the entire video industry and remains in place today as an example of best practice in packaged media.
James Ferman ruled the roost. Despite his zeal for authoritarian adherence to the spirit as well as the letter of the law, which intimidated some film and video distributors of the day, he had the wisdom to reach out to the public in a series of
road-shows to consult with audiences and critics alike, resulting in more relaxed interpretation of the law that allowed the over 18s greater freedom to decide what they watched, while tightening up on the lower age ratings to give adults greater
confidence in the classification system when making decisions about the suitability of titles they were buying and renting for children's viewing.
With successive Directors, up to the present day with David Cooke at the helm, the BBFC has greatly increased its collaboration with the BVA and its members. We enjoy unparalleled cooperation, with the BBFC-BVA working party, first set up in
1998, as a valuable sounding board for both sides to air ideas, concerns, solutions, news and views. This has resulted over recent years in a much faster and more flexible classification process, plus many innovations, ranging from directors'
cuts, the distributors' extranet for online submissions, the launch of the unique BBFC.Online system for voluntary classification of content as well as internet retailers and aggregators who make our content available to users, up-dated fee
structures for its voluntary online classification scheme, 3D BD and for previously viewed works, to the findings of its 2011 customer survey which sought ways to improve its service to industry still further.
These initiatives, many proposed by the BBFC itself, have contributed to a sense of working in partnership -- eons away from the rigid and remote regulator-versus-regulated relationship that existed 15 years ago. Distributors trust the BBFC and
the majority acknowledge that self-regulation in this country would not achieve the same public confidence that exists in our classification regime today. Furthermore, industry recognises the value of the BBFC's efforts to keep in touch with
public opinion. In recent years, it has developed tailored user-facing websites for children, students and parents, with educational resources and extended consumer advice which provides more detailed information about the content of
age-restricted works and the explanation for the category given to individual titles.
The BBFC has employed an outward-facing and commercially focused approach to achieve the status of a modern, responsive organisation. Its aim to stay ahead of the curve in our rapidly evolving industry by keeping up to date with the latest
technology and through a positive working relationship with all its customers is applauded by BVA Members in the year of the BBFC's 100th anniversary.
The distributor had requested a 15 rating But the examiners' reports show that they had concerns about scenes of violence at this category. They also recommended against cuts to a film expertly and technically executed . Examiners
considered the impact on the audience of the combination of action and violence as well as the likely appeal of the film to teenagers. But ultimately the Examiners concluded that the levels of punchy and upfront violence would best be
represented by an 18 certificate.
The BBFC has announced a change to their appeals process:
The BBFC has updated the structure of the independent Video Appeals Committee and the rules governing how it functions. The new rules will apply to any video work submitted to the BBFC for classification on or after 8 May 2012.
Much as I would like to make a post here praising the people at the British Board of Film Classification for their hospitality and helpfulness, I can't. So I've written out the story anyway lest anyone else find themselves in the same
So, a friend sent me a link to the BBFC website, which seemed to offer the ability for anyone to come in and view their records of any film they'd classified:
The BBFC has over 60,000 historic records of classification decisions made since 1 January 1913. Some are noted in Film Registers and there are paper files from around the late 1950s onwards. The file for any work which is over twenty years
old is available for research purposes on the Board's premises. The files do vary in size and content.
Anyone wishing to view the Board's records should email firstname.lastname@example.org and should provide a list of film titles and release dates. We will check the availability of each file and contact you to make an appointment to come in and view the
records. No file can be removed from our building. We only charge for this service if we have to recall a box from our external archive and the cost is £ 17.24 for up to four boxes. You will have to complete a
Copyright Acceptance Form before viewing and you should refer to it for terms and conditions.
Are you sure they sent us to the right place
for the BBFC research facility?
I took the day off work and caught the train to visit the BBFC...
Now is Good is a 2012 UK drama by Ol Parker. With Dakota Fanning, Kaya Scodelario and Jeremy Irvine. See
Passed 12A for strong language, drug use, sex references & terminal illness theme after BBFC suggested cuts were implemented for:
UK 2012 cinema release
The BBFC commented:
The BBFC was given a draft script before the film was produced and advised the company that a film of the script would be likely to receive a 15 classification. In order to achieve the company's preferred 12A classification, the
BBFC advised that:
some visual and verbal sex references should be removed,
that sight of potentially harmful behaviour should be removed,
that use of strong language should be reduced, and
that a scene in which drugs are prepared and taken should be substantially reduced.
When the film was submitted for classification, the changes recommended at the script stage had been made and the film was classified 12A.
Before the film's formal UK classification, Lionsgate, the UK distributor of The Hunger Games, approached the BBFC for classification advice. Lionsgate made clear that they were looking for a 12A classification which would enable many
children who had read and enjoyed the book to see the film. However, it was clear that the film shown to us at this early stage went some way beyond the BBFC's Guidelines at 12A. The level of detail of some of the violence and gore, such as the
tending of bloody wounds, required the 15 category.
We also considered at this early stage whether the theme and overall tone of the film were appropriate for 12-year-olds. Although the concept of children and young people being forced to fight and kill one another is potentially disturbing, we
concluded that the futuristic and fantastical nature of the setting distanced the sense of threat from reality. The film is also alive to ethical questions and we believed young teenagers were likely to understand that the film, like the novel,
is a critique of violence and of media manipulation. Indeed, it vividly invites its viewers to use and develop their media literacy skills.
The story has some similarities to The Lord of the Flies, which is taught in schools to the same age group. If anything, the latter takes a bleaker view of human nature.
Having concluded that the issues of theme and tone were appropriate for 12-year-olds, we suggested how the distributor might be able to secure the desired 12A classification by reducing the level of violence, blood and gore. Lionsgate returned
with another version of the film for advice, which took account of some of our suggestions. However it was still some way off the 12A criteria. Scenes with emphasis on injuries and blood remained, going against what the public, through our
research and consultations, have told us is acceptable at this relatively junior category. We again offered advice as to what Lionsgate should remove for the film to be contained at the 12A category.
When the film was finally submitted for formal classification we required a further seven seconds of cuts to the most violent and bloody sequence, which takes place as the game begins, as well as the digital removal of some bloody effects.
In all, Lionsgate removed around 20 seconds of the most violent, threatening and gory content and digitally removed other bloody effects. This was their choice. The BBFC did not require Lionsgate to make any cuts at all. We offered a 15
classification without cuts.
Jerry Barnett of Strictly Broadband, the UK's leading adult VOD service, is looking to get UK's adult trade industry to put up a fight against the repressive influence of (militant) feminist groups, often under the banner/accusation of objectification
In particular, Barnett proposes three particular fronts. Firstly to oppose default website blocking in the name of child protection, secondly, to oppose ATVOD's suffocatingly restrictive ruled for adult video websites.
Thirdly, following the Peacock obscenity case, in which material that the UK's CPS claimed was obscene was held not to be by a jury, Barnett is now planning a formal challenge to the British Board of Film Classification.
This will involve producing a film that includes the material that was found NOT unlawful, and using the subsequent court case as a means to rewrite obscenity law.
While the film has a happy ending and contains many positive messages for young audiences about bravery, friendship and the environment, younger or more sensitive viewers have found some scenes upsetting or worrying. The
BBFC has received complaints about the suitability of Watership Down at U almost every year since its classification.
Read about how the original examiners came to their decision in the attached documents and see whether you agree.