Fascinating to see all these moral high grounders and gender extremists debate the rather unproven harm of porn whilst glorying in the chance to put men in prison. As if this doesn't cause actual massive harm to otherwise law abiding men, their
wives and their children. Not to mention the tax payers who have to foot the hefty bill to trash these people's lives
Public Bill Committee for the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill
Third Sitting, Thursday 13 March 2014
David Austin : My name is David Austin. I am the assistant director at the British Board of Film Classification, responsible for policy and public affairs. The BBFC is the UK's independent regulator of film and video content. We operate
online and offline. Our interest in clause 16 is whether it will have any impact on our classification of sexually violent and abusive pornography, particularly as we are under a legal obligation under the Video Recordings Act 1984 not to
classify any content that is illegal.
Murray Perkins : I am Murray Perkins. I am a senior examiner at the BBFC. I have responsibility for day-to-day classification of pornographic works and a particular expertise in those pornographic submissions.
Committee member Dan Jarvis : Do you think there are examples of sexually violent material that would not be captured by the Bill as drafted?
David Austin : Yes, there are examples of sexually violent material that are not caught by the Bill. There are a number of areas of violent and abusive pornography that are not caught. It might help if I list one or two of those areas.
Clause 16 clearly talks in terms of realistic and explicit depiction of rape in pornography. We deal with quite a large number of pornographic works every year and have done for many years. Some of these feature clearly fictional depictions of
rape and other sexual violence in which participants are clearly actors, acting to a script. These works may include scenes of relentless aggressive abuse, threats of physical violence with weapons and forced acts of sex. Depending on how realism
is interpreted in future -- certainly it has been interpreted very narrowly in the past, but I understand that the Government will amend some of the explanatory notes to the Bill on realism -- that may change.
Another area where we cut porn on harm grounds under the Video Recordings Act relates to abduction scenarios where individuals are shown bound, kidnapped, struggling with bonds, and whimpering -- shown as victims restrained against their will
with no other context. We also cut grooming scenarios which feature the grooming of individuals portrayed as youthful, sometimes youthful and vulnerable --sometimes they may have the appearance of children, although they are not children but
adults -- by characters in dominant roles. Animation is another area which we cut. There is a Japanese genre called hentai which is a pornographic genre which features things like incest, underage sex and forced sex. They may be realistically
animated but you could argue that they are not realistic in the terms of the Bill. The fact that animated images can be harmful is already accepted by Parliament in the Coroners and Justice Act where pseudo images of children in sexual abuse
situations are illegal.
The final area relates to explicit rather than realistic. We remove from pornographic works sexually violent content that in our view is harmful, where, for example, you cannot see the explicit act of penetration but the viewer is led to believe
that this is a rape scenario, albeit acted. We remove that content.
Dan Jarvis : Do you think there would be merit in explicitly referring in the Bill to those extreme types of pornography?
David Austin : One of the things that we need to bear in mind in relation to this Bill is that although clause 16 is tightly defined, the offence is one of possession, and when we cut in the physical world, on a physical DVD, the offence
is one of supply. The Bill is part of a wider approach to aligning protections online and protections offline. We understand that, following a consultation by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport published in July 2013, the Government will
bring forward legislation to deal with exactly the kind of content that I have just described to make this content illegal on UK video-on-demand platforms. That will align our standards on harm, which are based on research, with the standards
applied by Atvod, the Authority for Television on Demand, which is the UK regulator of UK-hosted video on demand. That legislation would cover UK-hosted content that I have just described.
Committee member Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab): Mr Austin, you mentioned as a throwaway that child abuse and child grooming were covered under other legislation. Could you expand a little on that? Is it strong enough as it stands?
David Austin : It was in reference to animation. We have not seen the updated explanatory notes on the Bill -- I do not know whether they have been published yet. The notes that we have seen do not talk about animated content. It is
possible to argue -- do not know how the courts will interpret it -- that animation is not realistic, even though it is getting more and more realistic all the time with computer-generated imagery. CGI images of children and animated images of
children in sexual abuse situations are illegal under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, so that would take care of animated depictions of child abuse, but it does not take care of animated depictions of rape of adults, for example.
Sarah Champion : But are animated or real films of child abuse and child grooming covered under current legislation?
David Austin : That is covered in other legislation, yes.
Update: Press and politicians pick up on BBFC suggestions to extend the definitions of Dangerous Pictures
David Cameron vowed to ban pornography involving simulated rape and said that online videos would be subject to the same rules as those sold in sex shops.
However. MPs were astounded when David Austin, assistant director of the British Board of Film Classification, revealed that actors who are clearly following a script could avoid falling foul of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which
is making its way through Parliament.
As the Bill stands, an image will be banned if it portrays something in an explicit and realistic way . So-called blue films are not, however, usually renowned for their realistic plot lines.
There are examples of sexually violent material that are not caught by the Bill. Clause 16 clearly talks in terms of realistic and explicit depiction of rape in pornography.
Addressing MPs, Labour's shadow crime and policing minister Diana Johnson said:
What the Government is doing is welcome and it's important but at the moment it doesn't go as far as the Prime Minister originally promised. His pledge was to ban material that was so extreme that it would be banned from licensed sex shops.
We're not talking about role-play here but hardcore pornography portraying rape and violent abuse.
In a letter seen by the Sunday Express, Mr Cameron promised to take action to end loopholes by amending the Bill.
Columbia-EMI-Warner, the distributor of Jim Henson's 1986 Labyrinth , anticipated a PG rating for the film.
Upon examination, however, the BBFC considered the film to be suitable at the U category. Whilst the creatures of The Dark Crystal were previously described by the BBFC examiners as frightening and monster like (albeit in the fairytale
tradition), and the overall tone rather sombre , the examiners of Labyrinth considered this film to be a lighter prospect, with sequences ... which aim at suspense and excitement , which are perhaps initially scary for children,
but it soon debriefs them with humour and explanation .
These are good times for British film fans. The UK is lucky to have some of the best DVD labels in the world ( Arrow , the BFI , Masters of Cinema , Odeon , Second Run , Second Sight , Nucleus...) producing essential releases of that cater for
But this golden age could be coming to an end, courtesy of some well-meaning government legislation. From May, the way home video material is classified is changing: material that is currently exempt from classification will have to be vetted
by the BBFC.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) decided that the best way to stem the tide of tabloid claims of pop video filth is to tighten up BBFC ratings. And they came up with some new and expensive regulations.
The main change is that any documentary material that contains clips of things that might be considered unsuitable for children will no longer be exempt from classification. So any DVD extra (an interview, for example) that contains a
clip from the main feature will have to be scrutinised again. A single use of the word 'fuck' is enough to put the work in 12 rated territory and hence need expensive vetting by the BBFC.
A 90 minute film on DVD/Blu-ray will set you back £ 615 plus VAT, according to the fee calculator on their website. No big deal to the major labels but potentially calamitous for the knife-edge
economics of the independent sector. It was Marc Morris, of Nucleus Films who first sounded the alarm about these changes and he offers a case study of the impact they'll have on industry.
The documentary Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide proved a big hit, but parts of the material, particularly the framing documentary were exempt from classification. Morris estimates it would cost between £
6,000- £ 7000 more had the documentary been made after the new law comes in.
Alan Byron, MD of Odeon Entertainment notes:
The economics behind collector's releases will now dictate that extra features are reduced and more vanilla editions will appear.
It goes without saying that all this was pushed through without consulting any of the labels it affects -- and there's been virtually no communication from either the DCMS or BBFC to explain that the changes were even happening
Francesco Simeoni of Arrow Films concurs:
The new legislation has serious implications for niche labels, says . Our audience is very much on an international level and so we must compete with territories that do not have to contend with such costs. Whether we choose to include content
for our releases has a whole new set of financial considerations which means we are at a significant disadvantage to our competitors.
We know all this, and it's not as bad as this article is making out. The BBFC podcast explains in great detail about scrapping the E certificate, and it's not about suffocating the industry. It's about informing the public about what the
contents are in the DVD which some viewers might find objectionable, which gives them a choice on whether to watch it, or not.
This is not the 80s, the Whitehouse/Ferman days are long gone.
In this episode of the BBFC podcast, we talk to David Austin, Assistant Director, BBFC and Hamish MacLeod, chair of the Mobile Broadband Group about how the BBFC Mobile Classification Framework works.
An interesting but rather ludicrous episode with participants patting themselves on the back for providing a well though out framework for determining an 18 rating and then the mobile companies earnestly trying to following it.
All this while in reality sites are blocked for trivial automated reasons that appear to have nothing to do with following guidelines. I bet no one has ever read the BBFC guidelines, let alone trying to tailoring a blocking algorithm to meet
The horror genre has long been plagued by issues of censorship. Director Jake West exhumes its history in his latest film Feature by Chris Fyvie:
It encourages us to understand history, and to see the kind of things that happen with moral panics, says director Jake West of his new documentary, Video Nasties: Draconian Days , which covers the passing of the notorious
Video Recordings Act of 1984 and the heavy-handed tenure of James Ferman as director of the BBFC.
It was a period that must be almost unfathomable for a generation of genre fans now able to access any and all uncut material at the click of a mouse, where films were arbitrarily subjected to the scissor treatment by overzealous bastions
of perceived good taste:
You had a huge amount of censorship going on, and often there was nothing clear from the BBFC as to what their policies were or why they were doing this; they were kind of making it up as they went along.
Day two of FrightFest in Glasgow saw the world premiere of Jake West's documentary Video Nasties: Draconian Days .
Draconian Days is a fascinating and thorough continuation of the first documentary, and director Jake West, producer Marc Morris and the BBFC's David Hyman were on hand for a Q&A after its premiere. Mostly revolving around the audience
sharing their memories from the video nasty era.
Starting with the Video Recordings Act of 1984, the documentary mainly revolves around James Ferman's BBFC era until 1999. Hyman (who appears in the film) feels that the documentary captures the tightrope Ferman had to walk without
being overly anti-BBFC.
I think it's well balanced in the sense that it shows James Ferman was caught between a rock and a hard place, explained Hyman. His instincts were to support film-makers because he thought he could identify with them, but he also had to
serve the public trust so he couldn't really please anybody most of the time.
BBFC seem to be tinkering with the phrasing of consumer advice
25th February 2014
The BBFC seem to be changing the way that it phrases consumer advice.
The long running format was to link advice phrases using a grammatically correct list. Eg for Before the Winter Chill, the BBFC noted:
Contains strong language and infrequent gory images
However today's listings have advice rephrased in the form
Contains infrequent gory images, strong language
Using proper English is a bit vague when used in short phrases. For example, BBFC consumer advice may read:
Contains strong language and sex.
Does that mean 'Contains strong language and strong sex' or does it mean 'Contains strong language and an unqualified level of sex'. Regular readers will now that BBFC always qualifies the level of sex so can infer that the 'strong'
applies to all the elements in the list until the next adjective. However casual readers wont know this. It would be easy enough to get it right, just ensure that all elements have an adjective and don't worry about repeating them, eg
'Contains strong language and strong sex'. The repeat emphasises the adjective so is probably still correct English.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport looks set to bring a new law into effect on 6th April 2014. The law will remove the current blanket exemptions for music, sports, religious and educational videos.
Videos that would be U or PG rated will continue to be exempt but videos that would be rated 12 or higher now need to be censored by the BBFC before they can be legally sold in the UK.
The mechanism to predict whether videos require censorship is provided by a long list of content that would likely trigger at least a 12 rating. If none of the triggers apply then the video need not be submitted.
The changes are applied via a Statutory Instrument meaning that it doesn't require debate in parliament.
The draft bill was as follows but it is possible that changes were made after a public consultation
The new regulation amends Section 2 subsections (2) and (3) of the Video Recordings Act 1984:
Subsection (2) of the current Video Recordings Act reads
(2) A video work is not an exempted work for those purposes if, to any significant extent, it depicts--
(a) human sexual activity of acts of force or restraint associated with such activity;
(b) mutilation or torture of, or other acts of gross violence towards, humans or animals;
(c) human genital organs or human urinary or excretory functions;
(d) techniques likely to be useful in the commission of offences;
This will be replaced by
The Video Recordings Act 1984 (Exempted Video Works) Regulations 2014
(2) A video work is not an exempted work for those purposes if it does one or more of the following-
(a) it depicts or promotes violence or threats of violence;
(b) it depicts the immediate aftermath of violence on human or animal characters;
(c) it depicts an imitable dangerous activity without also depicting that the activity may endanger the welfare or health of a human or animal character;
(d) it promotes an imitable dangerous activity;
(e) it depicts or promotes activities involving illegal drugs or the misuse of drugs;
(f) it promotes the use of alcohol or tobacco;
(g) it depicts or promotes suicide or attempted suicide, or depicts the immediate aftermath of such an event;
(h) it depicts or promotes any act of scarification or mutilation of a person, or of self-harm, or depicts the immediate aftermath of such an act;
(i) it depicts techniques likely to be useful in the commission of offences or, through its depiction of criminal activity, promotes the commission of offences;
(j) it includes words or images intended or likely to convey a sexual message (ignoring words or images depicting any mild sexual behaviour);
(k) it depicts human sexual activity (ignoring any depictions of mild sexual activity);
(l) it depicts or promotes acts of force or restraint associated with human sexual activity;
(m) it depicts human genital organs or human urinary or excretory functions (unless the depiction is for a medical, scientific or educational purpose);
(n) it includes swearing (ignoring any mild bad language); or
(o) it includes words or images that are intended or likely (to any extent) to cause offence, whether on the grounds of race, gender, disability, religion or belief or sexual orientation, or otherwise.
These Regulations do not apply in relation to any supply of a video work which was first placed on the market before [6th April] 2014
Twenty years ago today, James Ferman , the director of the BBFC, was in the process of dismissing 13 part-time film examiners after they criticised him for refusing to liberalise the standards for film censorship in the UK
Sex education videos used in schools are to be given age ratings for the first time amid evidence that growing numbers of concerned parents are pulling their children out of classes.
From February, the government will scrap a regulation which exempts sex education videos from age classification. So for example, the BBFC will decide whether sex education videos are PG rated and so suitable for primary school. If the
depictions of sex in the videos are anything more than implied and the language is goes beyond mild references and innuendo , they will be effectively banned from primary school. Also schools will be told to send
parents letters detailing the content of sexual education videos before they are shown in class.
The new policy follows 'outrage' over a sex education video made by Channel 4 called Living and Growing . The video included a segment for eight year olds showing a naked cartoon couple chasing each other around a bedroom with a
feather before having sex. Another segment, aimed at children from five, asked them to name the body parts on a drawing of a naked man and woman.
Ed Vaizey, the culture minister, said:
Ensuring children are protected from inappropriate content in the best way possible, is vitally important. The new classifications will mean that children are better protected from harmful content and parents will have the information
they need to make confident decisions about whether certain DVDs are suitable for their children to watch.
The BBFC will be given the powers after a consultation found that teachers were concerned that growing numbers of parents, particularly from ethnic minority backgrounds, are pulling their children out of sex education classes. The
consultation, conducted by the BBFC, also assessed parent's concerns about Channel 4's controversial Living and Growing DVD, which was shown in thousands of schools. Teachers said that the feather duster scene, in which a
cartoon couple chased each other, conveyed a message that sex is fun and something for children and teenagers to be excited by .
David Austin, the head of Policy at the BBFC, said:
We hope to help schools and help parents find out more about the content of sex education videos before their children see them. What we haven't tended to look at [in the past] is sex education videos for younger children.
There was a lot in the [Living and Growing] video that was suitable. There was one with a cartoon with a woman straddling a man having sex, there was another of a man chasing a woman with a French tickler.
Parents didn't like that, and the company has started selling an edited version.
The BBFC announced their new guidelines for 2014 with all the usual propaganda press releases that were interpreted as 'cracking down', or 'tightening up' on the whim of the journalist.
So what did actually change? Well not a lot really. Expect that the vast majority of classification decisions will end up being the same under new guidelines as they were under the old guidelines.
The biggest changes are clearly that more strong language will be allowed at 12 and 15.
Also an unreported change at R18 may be well appreciated. Before depictions of BDSM material were restricted to mild non-abusive, consensual activity. The new guidelines allow for moderate non-abusive, consensual
And so the detailed changes. modified or inserted text is shown in red
At PG: An educational or historical exclusion has been added for 2014. Perhaps the kids will still be able to watch TinTin.
Discriminatory language or behaviour is unlikely to be acceptable unless clearly disapproved of, or in an educational or historical context, or in a
particularly dated work with no likely appeal to children.
The guidelines have been updated to reflect our era of political correctness and new clauses have appeared about censoring imitable anti-social behaviour
Potentially dangerous or anti-social behaviour which young children may copy must be clearly disapproved of.
No focus on anti-social behaviour which young children are likely to copy.
No endorsement of anti-social behaviour.
Thankfully there are no similar restrictions on 15 and 18 rated films
Depiction of Weapons
At 15: 2009 guidelines simply said that "Easily accessible weapons should not be glamourised". From 2014 the depiction of such weapons is left to the discretion of the BBFC
Whether the depiction of easily accessible weapons is acceptable will depend on factors such as realism, context and setting.
At PG: The BBFC made a point of saying in press releases that strong language would be tightened up in the lower categories. However the only change is at PG where the repeated use of mild strong language has been restricted:
Aggressive or very frequent use of mild bad language may result in a work being passed at a higher category
At 12: Significant changes here. Previously the guidelines suggested that strong language should be allowed if infrequent (interpreted as 4 uses in a typical film). From 2014, this is more flexible and up to the censors.
Strong language may be permitted, depending on the manner in which it is used, who is using the language, its frequency within the work as a whole and any special contextual justification
At 15: 2009 guidelines disallowed very strong language (ie 'cunt') if repeated or aggressive. From 2014 this is left to discretion of the examiners. Accompanying press releases indicate that the BBFC will now allow repeated, or
aggressive, very strong language if contextually justified
Very strong language may be permitted, depending on the manner in which it is used, who is using the language, its frequency within the work as a whole and any special contextual justification.
Violence and Threat
At U: Mild violence only in 2009, Very mild violence only in 2014
Violence will generally be very mild.
At 12: The BBFC made a point of suggesting that scary, but not necessarily violent, films may be uprated from 12 to 15. The guidelines reflect this with a new clause as follows.
Although some scenes may be disturbing, the overall tone should not be.
At 15: 2014 rules now sometimes allow nudity with strong detail. Probably related to allowing a fleeting porn image that was quite key to the 15 rated film, The Hunt.
There are no constraints on nudity in a non-sexual or educational context. There may be nudity in a sexual context but usually without strong detail.
At R18: The 2014 guidelines seem to allow a little more BDSM previously only 'mild' activity was now allowed, from 2014 'moderate' activity is allowed. The following is the BBFC list of prohibited material:
the infliction of pain or acts which may cause lasting physical harm, whether real or (in a sexual context) simulated. Some allowance may be made for moderate
, non-abusive, consensual activity
A storm of protest greeted publication of new guidelines by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). It always does. Children as young as 15 are to be allowed to watch films filled with obscene language, reported
one newspaper. As a former chief film censor myself, I don't object to these expressions of outrage, though they are often unfair. For the activity comprises an unarguably good bit -- classifying films on grounds of suitability for
different age groups in order to help parents. And also a controversial bit -- preventing people watching what they might otherwise wish to see, indeed interfering with their freedom.
In these circumstances, you should be exposed to vociferous challenge.
Another lesson you learn as a censor is that the BBFC must take society as it is, rather than seek to change it, as various pressure groups would wish. I believe this stance to be completely realistic. How could a body employing just
60 people, managed by a handful of executives, have any expectation of holding back movements in social behaviour against which the government itself, the political classes more generally and the major faiths fail to have an impact?
This powerlessness is going to become more acute. Because today's parents, as a result of developments in technology and the social media, are losing control of their children's viewing habits. The plethora of devices means the
dynamics of film-viewing -- in terms of frequency, audience and impact -- has greatly changed in the past few years.
How to complain about mobile filtering over-blocking
The BBFC is now involved in how mobile internet filtering works. In this post we [the Open Rights Group] explain what role they have and how you should be able to get over-blocking problems fixed.
Over Christmas there was an awful lot of understandable concern about mobile filters, especially the Parental Control filters provided as an optional service by O2. We wrote about this at the time, but for now it's worth
repeating that one of the biggest lessons was that mobile networks don't do a good enough job of explaining how their filters work, why and how they make decisions about what gets filtered, and how people can complain.
I thought it would be helpful to explain what role the BBFC now has, and explain how the process for complaints about over-blocking (or under-blocking) is supposed to work.
The BBFC's role involves three things:
Setting a framework that describes what should be considered adult content for the purposes of mobile phone filtering. They have defined a set of categories and explained what content will be considered blockable.
They offer advice to the mobile networks when they are setting their filters.
They run an appeals process, which is designed to resolve disputes about over- or under-blocking.
The BBFC do not classify individual sites for mobile networks or run a first-stage complaints process. And they aren't responsible for the decisions that mobile networks make about implementing the framework. It's also important to
point out that their framework and complaints procedure only applies to networks' under 18 filters - their default safety level - and not to other services provided for different age groups. For example, they do not regulate O2's
Parental Controls, which is an optional service designed for those under 12.
How you can complain about overblocking
You should be able to complain direct to the relevant mobile operator. The BBFC have helpfully provided email addresses for each mobile network, which is where you should direct complaints about overblocking or underblocking in
the first instance. This contact information should also be on the mobile operators' websites. In some cases it isn't, however. For example, at the moment, O2 point people at their Twitter account or forum. As we saw over
Christmas, those are not helpful channels.
If you do not get a satisfactory resolution from the mobile network, you can then appeal to the BBFC. Details about how to do this are on the BBFC website . BBFC have committed to resolving the complaints they receive in five
What will happen after a complaint?
If the BBFC agree that a site should not be blocked by under 18 filters, in the case of over blocking, then they will inform the mobile network, who should then remove the site from their block list. The BBFC told us that in the
cases they have handled so far, the networks have responded fairly quickly to these notifications.
The same applies for under blocking - i.e. if the BBFC decide a site should be blocked, they will inform the network and it should be added to the block list.
Things are slightly complicated with overblocking because at the moment, mobile networks are allowed to block more categories than the BBFC have set out.
So even if the BBFC decide that a site should not be blocked against the BBFC criteria for over 18 content, the mobile networks might decide that the site should still be blocked because it falls under their additional categories.
For instance, we believe most networks block information about circumvention technology, which might help people learn how to get round blocking, even though such information is not considered blockable by the BBFC. Networks
also used to block content related to tobacco or alcohol, but the BBFC framework specifically excludes sites that supply age restricted goods or services such as tobacco or alcohol. We are not currently sure if any of the networks
continue to block alcohol and tobacco.
That may lead to a fair amount of confusion if the BBFC decide something should not be blocked but the mobile network decides it still fits one of their additional categories. This is made more tricky for consumers or website
operators because the mobile networks don't publish what categories they block, so it's impossible currently for someone to know in advance of any complaint.
Mobile networks need to be more transparent, consistent, clear and responsive
The BBFC site and process is a vast improvement on the previous code - it's clearer, more considered, and there's an added appeals process. They are taking the work seriously.
However, the issues with mobile networks' own implementation have not gone away. The BBFC's transparency, clarity and responsiveness cannot be a replacement for mobile networks' own information or process, because these networks
will be customers' or website owners' first port of call when they are looking for information or trying to complain.
It is still hard to get clear information from networks about what they block and why - for instance what categories they filter - and it is still hard to get information about their own complaints procedure. For example, O2 point
people at their Twitter account and forums, which to date have not been helpful. Three still link to the Mobile Broadband Group code of practice, rather than the BBFC. And Everything Everywhere used to provide a list of categories
filtered by their two filtering levels, but that link no longer works.
Families should be in a position to make informed choices about what their children can access via mobile phones. At the moment, it's not really possible for a parent to get a clear idea about what a mobile networks' default safety
filters do and why.
It also should be possible for someone who runs a website that is blocked by a mobile network for no good reason to get that problem fixed quickly. They should be able to find out easily if their site is blocked on different
networks. Again, at the moment that process is not clear enough and happens too slowly.
It shouldn't be too difficult to fix these problems - it's more a question of whether mobile networks consider it important enough to spend time and resources really addressing it.
Not only is the BBFC press release rather vague, but the consultation report is contradictory. Time and time again, we are told that the majority agreed with the BBFC's classification of certain films, yet the only people quoted
most of the time are those who disagree.
One could easily imagine the Board are allowing the vocal but irrational opinions of the minority to hold sway, in search of an easy life -- censoring and classifying according to the delusions of the most censorial. But that
would be silly, wouldn't it?
Surely the Board wouldn't survey so many people, be told -- as they continually boast -- that they are getting it right, and then still tighten up restrictions because some people are too dumb to realise that Ted isn't a kid's
film, too weak minded to be able to tell their kids that ghosts are not real - When you bring in supernatural, where you can't explain it away, then you have got problems. (Female, with children 6 -- 10) - or so prudish
that they are shocked by the use of arse and crap in a U rated film?
The Daily Mail picks up on the relaxation of strong language in the 12 and 15 categories. The changes are:
BBFC Guidelines 2009
BBFC Guidelines 2014
Strong language at 12/12A
Moderate language is allowed.
The use of strong language (for example, ‘fuck’) must be infrequent.
(In practice this meant a maximum of 4 or 5 uses of 'fuck' in a 12 rated film)
There may be moderate language.
Strong language may be permitted, depending on the manner in which it is used, who is using the language, its frequency within the work as a whole and any special contextual justification
Strong language at 15
There may be frequent use of strong language (for example, ‘fuck’).
The strongest terms (for example, ‘cunt’) may be acceptable if justified by the context.
Aggressive or repeated use of the strongest language is unlikely to be acceptable.
(In practice there is a limit of 3 or 4 uses of the word 'cunt' assuming them to be non aggressive, non sexual, and not based on power imbalance. In addition these allowed used must be grouped together)
There may be strong language. (ie 'fuck')
Very strong language (ie 'cunt') may be permitted, depending on the manner in which it is used, who is using the language, its frequency within the work as a whole and any special
The BBFC press release added:
Regarding language, the public wants the BBFC to be more flexible about allowing very strong language at 15. Context, not just frequency, is the most important factor in how language in films is perceived by
The Daily Mail article spouted:
Children 'as young as 1'5 (sounds so much more outrageous than 15-17 year olds) are to be allowed to watch films filled with obscene language.
Swear words are now so commonplace among teenagers that age ratings will be relaxed, censors said yesterday.
The British Board of Film Classification claims parents accept it is game over when protecting their children from bad language. Controversy: The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe, received more complaints than any
other film in the past four years, according to the British Board of Film Classification
Under the new rules, even 12-year-olds could potentially be exposed to more profanities.
And the Daily Mail rounded up a little outrage from its panel of sound bite campaigners:
Pippa Smith, of the christian moralist campaign, Safermedia said:
It is truly outrageous -- parents and children are being let down by a regulator who is no longer interested in regulating.
Everyone except the BBFC and broadcast media knows children will copy the swearing they hear. Films make it cool. We dread to think what this latest announcement will mean for films deemed acceptable by the BBFC -- an
industry-funded body --for our children.
Margaret Morrissey, of the family group Parents Outloud, asked:
If no standards are set by adults, what chance do our children have of being polite and decent grown-ups and parents?
Philip Davies, a Tory MP on the culture, media and sport select committee, said:
This reflects the general decline in good behavioural standards. It makes children think it's perfectly normal and reasonable to use bad language. I would rather they weren't exposed to even worse levels of swearing.
They are still children at 15 and are already exposed to things in films at a younger age than I would care for them to be exposed to. I would like to think that people would want to bring up their children to know that that isn't
Vivienne Pattison of Mediawatch said:
Swearing is not tolerated anywhere else in life -- kids can't do it at school, you can't do it in public. So it is quite extraordinary that they're just saying "Well, it's a free-for-all in 15-rated films". There is this
idea that you just have to accept obscene language because we've got an evolving contemporary society and that's just how it is. But, actually, no we don't.
The Daily Mail leader writer whinged:
In page after page of an exhaustive survey, parents tell the British Board of Film Classification of deep concerns over their children's exposure to obscene language in the playground and online.
The BBFC's response? With the perverse logic of the liberal intelligentsia, it concludes that the fight to protect the young from words that have become part of their vernacular is game over , and no longer worth fighting.
Hence its hugely controversial decision to make films containing foul language accessible to ever-younger audiences.
But then what's new? For decades, the BBFC has brought ever-more graphic obscenities and pornography into mainstream cinema.
Is it any wonder the battle for decency is being lost, when a body set up to defend standards proposes abject surrender?
The BBFC will launch a crackdown on sexual content and swearing in films
The Daily Telegraph featured seemingly contradicted the Daily Mail by saying that the BBFC will launch a crackdown on sexual content and swearing in films. However they were referring to BBFC changes in the children's
categories rather than the 12 and 15 categories that were mentioned by the Daily Mail.
The Daily Mail also ran big headlines: Film ratings to be toughened up. Apart from a few lines of BBFC political correct vagaries about sexualisation then the toughening up claim seems to based on BBFC comments about horror
at 12 an 15.
BBFC Guidelines 2009
BBFC Guidelines 2014
Threat/Horror at 12/12A
Moderate physical and psychological threat may be permitted, provided disturbing sequences are not frequent or sustained.
There may be moderate physical and psychological threat and horror sequences.
Although some scenes may be disturbing, the overall tone should not be.
Horror sequences should not be frequent or sustained.
Threat/Horror at 15
Strong threat and menace are permitted unless sadistic or sexualised.
There may be strong threat and horror.
A sustained focus on sadistic or sexual threat is unlikely to be acceptable.
From my reading of the rather subtle rewording it would appear that one borderline 12/15 film every blue moon may be move from 12 under the old guidelines to 15 under the new guidelines. I think the Telegraph will be disappointed
if they think Film ratings are to be toughened up.
Finally David Cooke reiterates most of what was said in yesterday's press release in a Huffington Post article. But he does make the point that if film censors actually censored according to the wishes of the Daily Mail sound
bite panel, then they would end up simply being ignored:
Public trust is crucial to an organisation such as the BBFC. It is vital that the public - parents in particular - trust that the classification decisions we make reflect their own sensibilities. If for example, we were to
classify depictions of strong, unsimulated sex as suitable for all, or restrict mild language to older teens or adults only, the public would soon start to lose confidence in, and so ignore, the BBFC's classifications.
We therefore go to great lengths to ensure that our decisions are in tune with society's concerns.
But, As David Flint comments, it seems a shame that the BBFC go to the trouble of ascertaining that the majority of the public thought they got it right about, say The Woman in Black, and then somehow give more credence, or at
least more column inches of PC pandering propaganda to a handful of whingers and moralists.
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is publishing new Classification Guidelines today alongside the results of the large-scale public consultation which underpins them. The new Classification Guidelines will come
into force on 24 February 2014.
Speaking to more than 10,000 members of the public from across the UK from December 2012 and throughout 2013 has highlighted public trust in the film classification system. 95% of parents with children under 15 say they check the
BBFC classification before watching a film and 89% of film viewers consider classification as important. 92% of film viewers agreed with the classification of films and videos they had seen recently, with even the most complained
about film of the past four years, The Woman in Black, receiving 89% support for its 12A rating. Only 11% thought it should have received a higher rating.
Specific changes to the Classification Guidelines as a result of the public consultation include:
Greater weight will be given to the theme and tone of a film or video, particularly around the 12A/12 and 15 level;
Particular attention will be given to the psychological impact of horror, as well as strong visual detail such as gore;
Regarding language, the public wants the BBFC to be stricter with the language allowed at U and more flexible about allowing very strong language at 15. Context, not just frequency, is the most important factor in how language in
films is perceived by the public.
A specific issue highlighted by the consultation is in relation to sexual content, where the public is particularly concerned about the sexualisation of girls, and pornography. The content of music videos and the ease of
accessibility of online porn are special worries.
Parents are also concerned about risks to vulnerable adolescents including self-harm, suicide, drug misuse and premature access to sexual content, including what some describe as the normalisation in films and videos of
behaviours which parents consider inappropriate.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC, says:
Regular public consultation is crucial to continued public trust in what we do. Our new Classification Guidelines reflect explicitly concerns raised by the public during the 2013 consultation and will, I believe, ensure that we
continue to be in step with what the public wants and expects in order to make sensible and informed viewing decisions.
There is also room for continued improvement. Although it is 12 years old this year, the 12A rating remains confusing for a significant minority, with up to 27% of consumers unable to describe accurately what 12A means. We and
the film industry will work during 2014 to improve understanding of this very important rating as well as raise awareness of BBFCinsight information, which is vital in helping parents decide if a 12A film is suitable for their
The new Classification Guidelines are now available online and will come into force in six weeks time, on Monday 24 February 2014. The consultation exercise, which began in December 2012 and was completed in 2013, involved more
than 10,000 members of the public from across the UK, and for the first time involved teenagers as well as their parents. The consultation process issued hundreds of films and videos to households across the UK and asked for their
views on the classification of this material. The research continued through the spring of 2013 with focus groups in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland looking at how the public thinks specific issues, such as sex,
violence and language, in films and videos should be handled. Over the summer several thousand members of the public completed questionnaires about classification generally and about 60 specific films and videos, including some of
the most controversial films of the past four years.
Large-scale public consultation is used to revise the BBFC Classification Guidelines every four to five years and is supplemented with additional in-depth research on specific issues.