Julian Brazier, in a letter to Conservative Policy Coordinator Oliver Letwin, has urged that an incoming Conservative Government shall take action on the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). He is concerned that the BBFC is
unreliable in preventing scenes of violence from reaching our screens at a suitable rating.
The letter read: In light of David Cameron’s recent comment: “Protection of childhood innocence against premature sexualisation is something worth fighting for I would like to make a submission to policy review. I recently
had a look at the annual report of the British Board of Film Classification - I believe that it is time to shake them up. The failure to rate films suitably can lead to the portrayal of topics and themes in a way that may encourage their wider use.
The BBFC is good at controlling scenes of drug use. They allow only scenes of drug use that put a negative spin on recreational drug taking. Their stance on the portrayal of violence is pretty weak, however. Examples are films such
as Green Street and The Football Factory , both rated ‘18’ and containing strong violence in the context of a popular past time. The BBFC says of The Football Factory : passed ‘18’ for the strong violence … that featured in its
tale of violent men attempting to profit from criminal activities Is this a theme that we want anyone, let alone 18 year olds to be watching? With the hooligan culture already wrecking some British football matches, do we need such films?
I believe in a free country but incitement to violence is unacceptable. House of Wax , a ‘stalk and slash’ film, rated ‘15’, contains occasional moments of strong gore and violence but was limited to a ‘15’ rating due
to the formulaic and predictable story, its fantastical setting, and its generally restrained treatment of the violence. Should the fact that it is in a fantastical setting be a reason for keeping any film as a ‘15’? Just because a film is not set
in the current world does not mean that 15 and 16 year olds will not attempt to copy dangerous action sequences.
In some cases, previously cut material is being reinstated. For example: American Gothic which was originally cut in 1987; Not of this Earth , 1988; and the 1994 film Dracula’s Widow , all had scenes of
sexualised violence reinstated. The reason given was, a lack of sufficient eroticised detail to raise concerns under either the current BBFC Guidelines or contemporary understanding of the relevant research and policy.
The BBFC should be reformed and its guidelines strengthened. In too many cases its censors appear to have been lacking the mettle to deal robustly with the film industry’s nastier output. Only one recent chairman has stood up to the
film industry – Andreas Whittam Smith – and he lost some bad cases under the appeal arrangements. Surely there is scope for reform here.
Also.. it seems he's tried this once before, remember the controversy surrounding the film Crash in the late 90's? He tried to do the same thing then, but was dealt a suitable
rebuttal by then chief censor James Ferman
Thanks to IanG:
We are failing
All hope is fading
For our liberal democracy
Do we have Nazis
And religious halfwits
Filling all our Parliamentary seats?
Six hundred 'visions'
But no sound decisions
Just pass a new law every week
Try 'hate' prevention
Ninety day detention
Ban demonstrations and end Free Speech!
Five million spy cams
All up and down the land
But they can't stop kids shooting kids
Now they blame games and films for all our 'sins'
The banks are empty
Lost all our pennies
In Brown's 'wonder' economy
Looks like its over
In mortgage foreclosure
For all that Sub Prime economic greed
So look ahead guys
And watch the headlines
For their next big knee-jerk thing
It could be Pros. on crack
Or school truants on smack
Whatever, its all just Spin!
Yeah we are sailing
With no bearing
On an ocean made of spin
You know the statute
Is in total disrepute
When Judges can't tell if you broke the thing!
Now where's our Rights gone
From that Constitution?
They were there before the 'Hand of Blair'
Don't we NEED them?
No Rights or Freedoms?
For the People, our Politicians don't care...!
For the People, our Politicians don't care...!
For the People, our Politicians don't care...!
The computer games trade group, Entertainment and Leisure Software Publisher's Association (ELSPA) has responded to a private member's bill presented by Julian Brazier MP.
This Bill highlights the importance of the classification of the visual entertainment industry, ELSPA said in a statement: The correct classification of computer games made for adult consumption - covered by the BBFC - is of the utmost
importance to the computer games industry.
ELSPA is requesting a meeting with Brazier to ensure that the bill takes their concerns into account.
British Board of Film Classification (Accountability to Parliament and Appeals)
Mr. Julian Brazier, supported by Mr. John Gummer, Keith Vaz, Miss Ann Widdecombe, Mr. Jim Hood, Stephen Pound, Mr. John Hayes, Mr. Lindsay Hoyle, Mrs. Nadine Dorries, Jim Dobbin, Mr. David Burrowes and Mr. Greg Hands, presented a Bill to make provision
for parliamentary scrutiny of senior appointments to the British Board of Film Classification and of guidelines produced by it; to establish a body with powers to hear appeals against the release of videos and DVDs and the classification of works in
prescribed circumstances; to make provision about penalties for the distribution of illegal works; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 29 February, and to be printed.
Now might be the time to start speaking out against this.
Regarding Brazier's BBFC Accountability bill, I actually emailed the BBFC about this, asking if they were going to respond and take up issue with him over this.
Whilst they didn't go into detail, saying they would be responding "in due course", I did get the impression that they didn't seem too worried. Letting slip that they didn't think the bill had much support (he has tried this once before after
The feelings I've been getting from other forums is that as the BBFC is already accountable to the government under the VRA, and that if the government really wanted to they could simply designate a different censorship body for home video and computer
games other than the BBFC, then it is not likely this bill will get through as its unnecessary.
Paul Jackson, director general of the games classifiers, ELSPA, recently met with Julian Braizer MP to discuss his Private Members
The Bill looks to enable senior appointments to the BBFC, and the classification of films and games, to come under the scrutiny of Parliament.
I was most grateful for the opportunity to meet with Mr. Brazier to explain how the classification system for games currently works and the challenges we face in this area, Jackson said.
Mr Brazier took the opportunity to express his concerns on the impact of violence in films and games on society which led to the introduction of his Bill.
Following on from this we agreed to stay in close contact and give advice and clarification to ensure the views of the industry are taken into account while the Bill is being developed and its merits debated by the House."
Nutter MP Keith Vaz, a frequent critic of violent video games, quizzed Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the issue during Prime
Minister's Question Time. He was pushing for Brown's support for his censorial mate, Julian Brazier
MP Keith Vaz:
On Monday, the Prime Minister said that he was very worried about the content of video and computer games. Some of those games, such as Manhunt 2, depict scenes of torture and murder using hammers, knives and guns. They seem
to make a virtue of gratuitous and graphic violence.
Will he meet a delegation of Members, including the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier), who has a private Member’s Bill on the subject, to see what further steps the industry can take to show better responsibility? Does my right hon. Friend,
as a parent, agree that—
Prime Minister Gordon Brown:
My right hon. Friend is right, and this is an issue that concerns all parties in the House and every parent. It is right that we look again at the classification system for those games and at what is happening on the Internet
in influencing young children.
That is why the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families has set up the Byron review, in which Dr. Tanya Byron is looking at these very issues. We want children to be able to enjoy the benefits of the internet and video games, without
being influenced by the pornography or violence of them.
Dr. Byron will report in March 2008 and while it would be premature for me to say what she is likely to recommend, the classification system is one of the things that she is looking at. I hope that when we get the report we can have a debate in
this House. I would be happy to meet my right hon. Friend’s delegation and move forward whatever changes in the law are necessary.
Films with graphic violence, including one [unrealistically] simulating the rape, torture and incineration of concentration camp victims, are being freely sold on the high street, prompting demands
by [nutter] MPs for a reform of the censorship laws.
SS Experiment Camp is one of a clutch of violent films banned 20 years ago by the director of public prosecutions that have been approved for general release by Britain’s film censors and are on sale in shops.
The BBFC said there was no evidence that the film causes harm to viewers, adding that there is nothing in this film that anybody should have any concerns about. The board states that sensibilities toward on-screen violence have changed
since the film was banned.
However, [Julian Brazier and several nutter] MPs have questioned the censors’ judgment and their greater tolerance of films and video games containing graphic violence. They want Gordon Brown to
give the public more power to appeal against the board’s decisions. The prime minister is set to meet a cross-party coalition of MPs to discuss toughening the laws on “video nasties”.
[The nutter] MPs are concerned that films previously considered so shocking that they were banned have been approved for general sale and are desensitising the public to extreme violence. They are
particularly worried by the decision of censors to grant a general release certificate to SS Experiment Camp , a 1970s low-budget movie that is sold alongside family films at high-street shops and online.
Jewish groups fear such films trivialise the suffering of Holocaust victims, who in the film are forced to have sex with Nazi commandants and are boiled alive if they refuse to “collaborate”. The blonde camp commandant forces a Jewish doctor to
perform sadistic experiments on women prisoners, including live ovary transplants.
Women dressed in striped prison uniforms are forced to become prostitutes, tortured, hung upside down and electrocuted. They are injected and incinerated after refusing to declare allegiance “to the supreme Fhrer”.
The film’s cover prominently displays the Nazi SS emblem and the words “Previously banned! Legally available for the first time”. Because it has an 18 certificate, it can be sold on the same shelves as U and PG certificate films.
SS Experiment Camp was approved for release by David Cooke, director of the BBFC, Sir Quentin Thomas, the president, and two vice-presidents, Janet Lewis-Jones and Lord Taylor of Warwick. Thomas is a former senior civil servant; Lewis-Jones and
Taylor are lawyers. Though it went on sale in October 2006, it has only just come to the attention of MPs, who are shocked by its contents.
A spokeswoman for the BBFC said SS Experiment Camp had been given a certificate with no cuts because we have no concerns about it. Although she accepted it contained sexual violence, she said the board did not believe it was harmful
to viewers. It is tasteless – but then I find most Mel Gibson films tasteless, she said. We do not believe that anyone watching this title is going to become antisemitic as a result. It is not going to create an attitude towards Jewish
women that is harmful.
A private member’s bill to be introduced by Julian Brazier, the Conservative MP for Canterbury, with support from senior MPs of all parties, would make it easier to challenge the release of “video nasties”.
Brazier strongly disputed the board’s claims and said the release of SS Experiment Camp was a clear case of the BBFC failing to protect the public.
We live in a country where half of all males think forced sex is justified under some circumstances and it’s this kind of film that glamorises the torture of women, Brazier said. This film may have an 18 certificate but in practice,
whatever its classification, it will rapidly find its way into the hands of under18s.
A motion by 50 MPs asking for a film’s release to be reconsidered would trigger an instant appeal, under the plans to be debated by parliament next month.
The move is backed by [nutter] Keith Vaz, the former Labour minister, who heads the powerful Commons home affairs committee.
The Holocaust Educational Trust called on the film censors to think again about their decision to release SS Experiment Camp , which was made in Italy by Sergio Garrone in 1976.
And to put the nonsense spouted by these ridiculous MPS here is a review from IMDb
The story involves a group of women who are delivered to the aforementioned SS Experiment Camp. While there they are subjected to some inexplicable experiments, which often seem to involve forced copulation with a group of
Nazi studs (who it has to be said all look strangely Italian). The purpose of the experiments is to find the best stud from this Aryan select and transfer his balls onto the camp commandant who, as we discover, lost his when a Russian woman he was
raping bit his off.
Now, the above synopsis may well make the film sound deeply depraved and offensive. Well, it is sleazy and in highly dubious taste but the execution of the film is so amateurish and unrealistic that it really sounds a lot worse than it actually
is. The depiction of the camp is more Butlins than Belsen at times. The inmates seem relatively unconcerned for the most part and the Nazi baddies are often hilariously unconvincing. That said, there are some nasty moments, particularly the
treatment meted out to the young girl at the orgy; she ends up hanging naked upside down in a shot that recalls the aforementioned distasteful cover shot. But, generally speaking, sequences that achieve such offense are uncommon here. The scenes
showing the experiments, while certainly tasteless, are often more strange than anything else. The copulation in a tank of water idea being an example where it is too bizarre to take altogether seriously.
There have been many changes in our censorship laws over the years that are to be welcomed. Allowing directors’ greater freedom, whether with sexual imagery and language, has hardly been shown to have damaged society, despite some of the fierce
battles fought at the time and which rumble on today. Out of this liberalism has emerged a more creative environment and a more realistic depiction of modern life. What is challenging the boundaries now is the scale and reach of pornography on the
internet. Just by the sheer ease with which it can be accessed, it is beginning to enter the cultural mainstream and impinge on the lives of children. This is clearly a development that should be abhorred and stopped as far as possible, but in the
end it may simply come down to parents being evermore vigilant.
Whether this has influenced the attitudes of censors remains unclear. Asked about the film SS Experiment Camp , which is on sale in the high street alongside U classified movies, the BBFC said there is nothing in this film that anybody
should have any concerns about. The film depicts women being raped, electrocuted, hung upside down, having their ovaries cut out and burnt alive in incineration chambers by guards dressed in Nazi uniforms. That does sound “concerning”.
While censorship should have to make its case, there must be a sensitivity towards survivors of the death camps and their relatives. Depicting the Holocaust as a Jewish invention rightly causes vilification. Why should depicting concentration
camps as movie backdrops for sexual violence suddenly be acceptable? This film was banned 20 years ago and there seems no strong argument to have it lifted. Gordon Brown will meet a delegation of MPs to discuss toughening the laws on video nasties
amid worries about the influence they have on young people. These arguments may be inconclusive but Mr Brown would be wise to restrict the market in violent pornography.
Comment: We've Heard it All Before...25 Years Ago
Thanks to Julian
Time is running backwards. This is all part of Nutter Brazier's campaign, and we can expect more of this nonsense in the press in the run-up to his Bill.
And, of course, it was the Sunday Times which sparked off the video nasty furore in the first place with articles about ... SS Experiment Camp.
In the wake of Holocaust memorial day, the newly declassified film that has raised the most hackles is the 1970s' SS Experiment Love Camp , a low-budget excuse to parade a dozen naked women before the camera. At a camp for Mengele-style
medical experimentation, lithe young ladies are scalded, frozen, electrocuted and incinerated. They're made to have sex with the male officers (and, of course, the head nurse is a lesbian), and naturally come to like it. The Good Nazi falls in
love with one of the prisoners, but it's just his luck that his commandant, maimed by another prisoner who bit his testicles off, has the Good Nazi's transplanted to himself. The transplant surgery scene is disagreeable, but no more so than an
episode of ER.
Granted, a T&A flick set in a Nazi concentration camp is conceptually tasteless, and offensive - to Gypsies and homosexuals and to Jews most of all. But Love Camp isn't pornographic - and sexually pornographic films with a Holocaust
backdrop do exist. It even crams in the odd line of moralising: All these people being sacrificed! cries the Good Nazi. It seems so inhuman!
Interestingly, the film is expressly set in a camp for political prisoners. Aside from Dr Abraham, the surgeon forced to collaborate, none of the inmates is portrayed as Jewish. Invective from guards runs to "Filthy pig whore!";
Jewishness is never alluded to. Taking a film such as this seriously is a mistake. If this cheesy offering trivialises the Holocaust, one could make the case that ultimately any mere film is trivial in comparison to the real thing. Should the test
be truly doing justice to the magnitude of this historical atrocity, then we would have to ban not only SS Experiment Love Camp but also Schindler's List.
The BBFC has defended its decision to approve for general release films claimed to glamorise Nazism.
SS Experiment Camp is one of a selection of films banned 20 years ago but now approved by the BBFC and being sold online and in high-street shops.
MPs and Jewish groups are concerned that it trivialises the suffering of Holocaust victims.
It supposedly shows women being raped, electrocuted, hung upside down, and burnt alive in incineration chambers by guards dressed in Nazi uniforms. The film's cover features the Nazi SS emblem and the words Previously banned! Legally available
for the first time .
Community Security Trust communications director Mark Gardner said: Although we need to see the full content of the videos, they seem totally unacceptable. It seems these videos have been previously banned and I don't see why they should
be any more acceptable today than 20 years ago.
Gardner added that the trust was very concerned that over the last couple of years on the internet in particular content that was previously unacceptable has become increasingly mainstream.
We are trying to deal with it through international internet watchdog organisations, as well as directly with retailers. I don't see why they need to be catering for Nazis and sadism.
After viewing the films, the CST would raise its concerns with the BBFC. This is certainly a matter we don't intend to let drop
A BBFC spokesperson acknowledged that the film was not to the taste of most but insisted it was not antisemitic: If something was antisemitic we would cut it, but in the case of this work, we looked at it in 2005 and decided that it definitely
is not. It is tasteless and offensive, but not antisemitic. It doesn't contain anything illegal or potentially harmful, which is the test we have to use. The worst thing about it is probably its title.
Board of Deputies chief executive Jon Benjamin said: We have not seen these videos but by all accounts they are extremely unpleasant. Depicting violence and deprivation in this way should be of concern to everyone, although the subject matter
of some of these films makes them particularly distasteful to the Jewish community. We certainly support any moves to review the rules whereby this material is made freely available.
'A very important Private Members' Bill has been introduced in Parliament by Julian Brazier MP (Canterbury), which aims to make the BBFC more accountable to Parliament. For some time the BBFC has been classifying films with unacceptable levels of
brutal violence, obscene language and some very explicit sexual conduct and nobody can do anything about it.
mediawatch-uk believes that Mr Brazier's proposals are long overdue and we are supporting his efforts. Mr Brazier has specifically asked mediawatch-uk members to help him by writing letters to their Members of Parliament, or contacting
www.writetothom.com, urging them to support his BBFC (Accountability to Parliament and Appeals) Bill which will be given a Second Reading on Friday 29 February 2008
Needless to say if we do not do all we can to support Mr Brazier we will only have ourselves to blame if the Board continues to classify ever-worsening material.
We have said for a very long time that the Board is a law unto itself and should be accountable to Parliament. Mr Brazier's Bill will go some way to achieving this and we hope his Bill will lead to a regime of classification that is more
responsible, promoting greater respect and civility in our society. Keith Vaz MP, Anne Widdecombe MP, Jim Dobbin MP and John Gummer MP among others are supporting the Bill.
More information can be found at: http://services.parliament.uk/bills However, it should be understood that Private Members' Bills are vulnerable and do not always become law unless they are very well supported by other MPs. We would be very
grateful indeed for donations towards this campaign, costing around £2,000. .
Julian Brazier (Con) is a senior backbencher and a Catholic.
Urging opposition to Brazier's BBFC Accountability Bill
Thanks to MichaelG who is writing to his MP
Please feel free to send all or part of this to your MP too
Dear Mr Murphy,
I am writing to you to express my most grave concerns over some recent activities in Parliament which I fear may have some very grave implications for everyone in this country who values basic Human Rights and individual freedoms.
As I'm sure you are aware, Conservative MP Julian Brazier has announced his plans to bring the British Board Of Film Classification under direct government control. He has cited the reasons that has led him to think that this is necessary,
claiming that the BBFC are becoming too lax in their attitudes to depictions of violence in films and videogames, and are, in some way, letting the public down by being more lenient in passing such depictions. Whether you share his opinion or not,
I feel there are some very important points which I should bring to your attention.
Firstly, Mr. Brazier's proposals are, despite what he might have everyone believe, very far indeed from being in the interests of the general public. The BBFC have been in existence since 1912, and have always been an organisation independent of
government and free from direct political interference. In a free country, one would expect that the government do not control any aspect of the media. Naturally, the BBFC have bowed to political pressure on occasion, but they have always been
allowed to continue doing their work without government intervention.
It is a fact that the BBFC have become more lenient in their attitudes towards violence in film and videogames, but their age ratings system remains clear, concise and as strictly enforced as ever. They have not become a law unto themselves, nor
are they flying in the face of public opinion. Quite the opposite, in fact. Their rather more liberal current policy has been the result of several years of public consultation, questionnaires, roadshows and far more attention being paid to the
attitudes of the general public to censorship. In general, people actually do want adults to have more freedom to choose their own entertainment, but for greater attention to be paid to the age ratings system and children to be protected more from
violent or sexually explicit material. It is a testament to the experience and wisdom of the BBFC that they have been able to deliver this.
I should point out here that Britain still has some of the tightest censorship of film and videogames in Europe. At the same time, generally speaking, the BBFC are more publically aware and accountable now than they have ever been. Far more, it
would seem, than a certain Mr. Brazier, who is also supposed to be acting in the public interests.
I'd understand completely if the BBFC's decisions were resulting in widespread social problems and copycat violence, but this is not the case, despite the odd unsubstantiated and hysterical tabloid headline, and Mr. Brazier's sabre-ratttling
rhetoric, full of inappropriately applied words such as 'incitement', 'glorification' and 'condonement' in relation to the film and videogame industry regarding their depictions of violence. As an aside, if you were to accuse a filmmaker of
'inciting people to violence' you would have to be able to prove that he or she set out to make their work with the deliberate intention of causing people to physically attack someone else. I'm sure most filmmakers who have filmed violent scenes
for their works would fully willing and able to successfully counter such farcical claims in a court of law.
How such claims and accusations can be taken seriously on the floor of the House of Commons is absolutely beyond me. I can see absolutely no reason or justification for the kind of Draconian measures Brazier is calling for. Despite his insistence,
there is no 'growing public concern' over the BBFC's policies either. Just a lot of incoherent, unsubstantiated noise (of the kind we've heard so many times before) from a tiny minority of perpetually-offended, morally superior busybodies with far
too much time on their hands.
I make no apologies for being blunt, but I know exactly what Julian Brazier is trying to do, and his reasons for doing it. For at least 10 years, Mr. Brazier has been extremely, openly and consistently critical of the BBFC, irrespective of any
changing attitudes or management they have had. Clearly in the light of the current political climate (which seems to have a distinctly puritanical, pro-censorship air about it), he has viewed an opportunity to strike. He has proposed that the
government are given the power to select BBFC board members, and to alter or influence their decisions wherever they choose.
Quite how Mr. Brazier feels qualified to act in this capacity, I am unsure, but you can guarantee that he isn't going to this much trouble to pass these brand new proposed powers to someone else, HE will be wanting to run this new show personally.
Personal ambition is undoubtedly the reasoning behind his actions. Worse still, Mr. Brazier's background of religious fundamentalism (he is a prominent member of the Conservative Christian Fellowship), put a rather more sinister twist on things.
Now a person's religious beliefs are their own business, but when heavily biased opinions and outdated prudish attitudes arise from such beliefs, they should never be allowed to influence matters of law and politics. Which is precisely what seems
to be happening here.
My research into Mr. Brazier's proposals also shed light on some disturbing links between his ideas and those of self-appointed media watchdogs MediaWatchUK, a small but frequently vociferous group of right-wing Christians who are the latest
incarnation of Mary Whitehouse's National Viewers and Listeners Association. For example, barely 2 months before Mr. Brazier's proposals were announced, John Beyer, the director of MediaWatchUK, was calling for a shake-up at the BBFC or even a
replacement organisation. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I have already written to you in the past expressing my concerns about the persistent attempts at meddling in matters of government policy, law and order, and even the sentencing of criminals, by
MediaWatch, who are supposed to be a non-political organisation. To allow an unelected group, with opinions as extreme as they have, an influence in areas as far reaching as this, is to open up a very dangerous situation indeed. John Beyer's views
are so extreme that he believes that anyone viewing adult material, of any kind, should be imprisoned for 3 years. Is this the kind of dangerous, religious extremist nonsense we should be allowing to have any influence at all in government?
Quite frankly, the implications of state censorship of the media (which is exactly what Mr. Braziers ideas amount to, however you care to dress them up) in a free and democratic society are absolutely horrifying and utterly unacceptable. I was
staggered and dismayed to discover that a small number of Labour MPs are actually in favour of this lunacy. Government interference, censorship, or control over the media, except in matters of national security, has absolutely NO PLACE in a free
country. With this move, Brazier will be moving us well away from the liberal attitudes of most of our European counterparts and taking us a significant step closer to the repressive regimes of China and North Korea, where government censorship of
the media is an inescapable reality. The mere thought of where this could lead is chills me to the bone. Will the government next be having a say in what literature we are allowed to read? What music we can listen to? Or, most worrying of all,
what the press are allowed to publish?
This could even have some very severe implications for New Labour. Consider, if you will, the fact that Brazier is a Conservative MP. This legislation is undoubtedly going to be hugely unpopular, not just with the press, but also with a few
million videogame enthusiasts and film buffs across the country, who are really going to resent being dictated to directly by this government, to say nothing of having their individual freedoms compromised in such a brazen, unapologetic way. Yes,
I did say THIS government. Because if this does become law, it is THIS government, YOUR government, Mr. Murphy, who will be seen as responsible for passing it. Perhaps, from this perspective, Brazier fully understands this, and as an opposition
MP, is hoping that it will be damaging to New Labour's popularity. Not only will he realise his personal ambition of undermining the BBFC, but he may well boost his party's own popularity by sitting back and allowing New Labour to carry out the
thankless task of passing it. Of late, New Labour seem to be developing quite a reputation as instigators of repression and eroders of the public's civil liberties (but don't just take my word for it, there has even been a recent documentary film
made called 'Taking Liberties', to say nothing of numerous very scathing articles in virtually every newspaper going). Do you really think it's a wise political move to introduce measures which will significantly compound this potentially damaging
opinion of your party at the behest of a Conservative MP?
Personally, this is an issue very close to my heart and I am already taking steps to fight Mr. Brazier's proposals. I am currently drafting a letter which will be circulated to all major film and videogame publications which are sold in high
street shops; my aim is to make all those connected with, or even just remotely interested in, film and videogaming fully aware of what Brazier's intentions are and why they need to be extremely concerned. There is an online Downing Street
petition currently ongoing in opposition to Brazier's proposals, and I aim to make as many people as I can aware of its existence. Hopefully, the word will reach several million people, making any chance of this being a low-profile piece of
legislation, which is rushed through without much attention being drawn to it, impossible. I will also be writing to the Liberal Democratic Party, asking for their support, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (as I feel this is will be a direct
infringement of the rights of anyone living in a free, democratic society) and the House of Lords.
There is a sensible, less extreme, less controversial alternative to Brazier's proposals which should hopefully allay some of the fears of those who are concerned about children being exposed to violence within the media. A public awareness
exercise in BBFC age ratings, enforcing the message that it is unacceptable to grant children access to unsuitable material, backed up by fines for those who caught in violation of the ratings (including parents), would make it absolutely clear
that age ratings on films and videogames are there for a reason and they should be given the same degree of attention and taken just as seriously as age restrictions on buying and consuming alcohol.
After all, you never hear of people clamouring for alcohol to be banned outright every time a group of kids have been caught drinking and have assaulted someone, do you? This must happen almost every day in this country. The alternatives I have
suggested will demonstrate that New Labour are concerned about children's exposure to violent material (covering the moral 'high ground, if you will), but also that they value the rights adults currently have to choose their own entertainment
without it having to be approved by the government before they can be trusted to view it (a highly patronising and insulting notion to any adult). This way, the moral minority will be appeased and the vast majority will not have to endure
unnecessary state censorship or feel that their rights are being abused. I would be interested to hear your feelings on this idea.
I realise this has been a very long letter, Mr. Murphy, and I thank you for taking the trouble to read it. I'm sure you value the basic freedoms we all enjoy in Britain as highly as I do. They have been fought for very hard over the years, and are
far too valuable to be frittered away simply because of one individual's personal prejudices and ambitions. I am counting on your help and support, Mr. Murphy; you are in a position to help stop this before we start down a very dangerous political
path from which there may be no easy return. Please help defend our freedoms whilst we still have them.
"It beggars belief that the BBFC continues to defend the indefensible. We are supporting Mr Brazier's timely attempts to make the Board more accountable to Parliament. This is a long overdue reform and the Board's latest
decisions prove the need for his initiative."
Comment: In Other Words
We are supporting Mr Brazier's timely attempts to make the Board more accountable to Parliament. Then it will have to finally answer to us and the legions of other blue rinsed moral guardians who like us vote Tory, read the Daily Mail and are
disgusted at all the morally corrupting society destroying filth that the wet liberal lefty morons at the BBFC allow people to watch at the cinemas.
This is a long overdue reform. It`s high time the BBFC stopped giving people the choice over what they watch and only allowed them to watch what we the silent moral minority think is good for them to watch.
Not exactly very encouraging reply from MP re BBFC accountability bill
Thanks to DarkAngel who wrote to his MP Mark Simmonds
Dear Mr Simmonds
I understand that fellow conservative MP, Julian Brazier of Canterbury, has put forward a “BBFC accountability bill” which I believe is up for debate on the 29th of February. If passed, this would allow the government to dictate BBFC
classification guidelines, over rule their decisions and even ban already classified works.
As a movie buff and a lifelong fan of the horror movie genre, I am very strongly opposed to this bill, as Mr Brazier is clearly trying to impose his moral ideals onto everyone else. It should be stressed first and foremost that current BBFC
classification guidelines were drawn up after an extensive public consultation back in 2000, where the overwhelming majority said they wanted less censorship at the 18 category. Hence why classification guidelines where relaxed. So who is he to
say what is acceptable for our viewing?
I am particularly concerned about this bill, as I see it has the support of numerous MP's, including neighbouring conservative MP for South Holland, John Hayes (lucky for him I don't live in his constituency or I would be having a few choice
words) and Mr Brazier has also apparently been contacting the likes of Mediawatch UK (Mary Whitehouse's former group) and the Catholic Herald asking members to lobby their MP's to support him.
I find it absolutely appalling that Mr Brazier thinks a minority of narrow minded prudes and bigots should be allowed to dictate what the vast majority of the liberal minded public should be allowed to watch, considering the BBFC actually went to
great lengths to gauge public opinion on the matter before revising their guidelines in 2000.
I feel I should also point out that many European countries have far more liberal censorship laws than the UK, in fact Holland doesn't have any censorship at all, distributors simply classify and describe their own products. So if the media was
responsible for all of societies ills, as Mr Brazier clearly believes, surely these countries would have greater problems with violent crime and disorder, yet there is no proof of this.
I should also point out that the BBFC are already accountable to parliament in any case under the Video Recordings Act and local councils have the power to prevent films from being shown at the cinemas they licence, so his bill is unnecessary. But
trying to make things any more restrictive by adding further levels of bureaucracy, as he feels this don't go far enough, will simply damage the film and video game industry.
All other arguments aside, as a grown adult in a supposed free country I should be able to make my own mind up as to what is suitable for my viewing without state interference.
I therefore hope you will strongly oppose Mr Braziers bill for the above reasons.
Reply: Welcome Addition to Censorship Process
From Mark Simmonds MP
Mark Simmonds MP and Big Ears
Thanks you for your letter on Julian Braziers Private Members Bill on the future of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).
Julian Brazier has a long history of campaigning on these issues and his proposals represent an important contribution to the debate. He is right to highlight the concerns many parents feel about their children being able to view violent or
sexually explicit material.
At the moment, the BBFC classifies films shown in cinemas and then determines what films and games can be made available to the market. The Bill Proposed by Julian Brazier makes it harder for children to view unsuitable material. The Bill has four
main parts - allowing the Home Affairs Committee to scrutinise candidates for senior roles in the BBFC, allowing the same committee to veto aspects of the BBFC guidelines, a mechanism for MP's to trigger an appeal of a classification and allowing
classifications to be challenged retrospectively.
A balance has to be struck when classifying films and video games that both allows adults to enjoy violent and explicit material (if they so choose) and protects children. The Conservative Party is currently conducting a review of policy in this
area and will be holding a series of seminars on media social responsibility to discuss these issues. This Bill is a welcome addition to that process and we will consider its merits carefully as part of this process.
As this is a private members Bill it is unlikely but not impossible it will become law.
From issue 1203 (8 Feb - 21 Feb, 2008) of Private Eye (page 8)...
Shocked that once-banned video nasties are available on the high street (as, indeed, they have been for some years now), the Sunday Express launched a front-page attack on the increasingly lax standards of Britain's film
Censors admit these grotesque movies are 'tasteless' but they say they do not deserve to be banned because they are neither illegal or harmful, the paper thundered. The Sunday Express today demands action to sweep this filth off our
And, the highlights from the Sunday Express's sister TV channel, Television X, this week? Fetish Whores, Big Tit Vixens, Anal Teens, Hosiery Heels and Holes and the unforgettable Ick y Sticky Mucky Mingers...
I wonder if the proprietor of the Sunday Express (Richard Desmond) will be so supportive of Mr Brazier and company when they turn their attention to the output of Television X's big name stars such as Ben Dover?
Thanks to Dan who wrote to Julian Brazier about his BBFC Accountability Bill
Dear Mr Brazier,
I understand that you and several other MPs are seeking tougher legislation against violent video games. As a video games enthusiast I would like to ask you a few questions on your stance on this matter if I may and also offer you my views on the
Do you support the government being given the power to BAN violent video games?
Do you not believe adult video game players should have some choice over what games they play?
Much of the hysteria over violent video games is based on knee jerk tabloid scaremongering which is eagerly exploited by certain pressure groups and politicians for their own ends. Is it really fair for legislation to be brought in restricting
adults freedom of choice based not on facts but on hysteria, scaremongering and half truths?
One newspaper reported that the government could get the power to ban violent games that it thinks is to blame for certain violent murders. I question whether this is either fair or democratic. Effectively this is saying whether or not there is
evidence of a link between a real life murder and a violent video game the mere fact that politicians have blamed that particular game is enough to get it banned.
I would make the point to you that in the Manhunt /Warren Le Blanc/Stefan Pakeerah case there was no actual evidence that game was in anyway to blame for the murder. The game was in the possession of the victim and not the killer. Both
Stefan's parents blamed the game for their son's murder but this was merely their opinion and not evidence.
I back legislation to stop children playing games and also viewing films which is not suitable for them. But I question whether ultra tough knee jerk measures are really fair.
Reply: Out of step with the realities of modern life
From Julian Brazier MP
Thank you for your e-mail regarding my Private Member's Bill and its effect on the supply of computer games.
I understand your concerns on this matter - I am as concerned as you are about the creation of a "nanny-knows-best" state and have devoted the last four years (and my last Private Member's Bill) to fighting the health-and-safety culture
in adventure and risk-based activities.
To answer your first question directly, no I don't think the Government should have the power to ban video games (or films), but I am in favour of the BBFC continuing to have the discretion to do so.
For it would be foolish to ignore the impact of violent and sexually violent media on people's behaviour. Violent crime - particularly violence against women - is increasing steadily in the UK. A recent study [pdf] by the universities of Glasgow
and North London showed that half of young British males thought it acceptable, in one circumstance or another, to force a woman to have sex.
The links to the media are also becoming increasingly apparent. In September, for example, the Ministry of Justice published a research paper
(research series 11/07) which concludes that there is clear and consistent [evidence that] exposure to pornography puts one at increased risk for ... committing sex offences... and accepting rape myths. In December the University of
Columbia brought out a fascinating study into the effect of violent films on the brain, which showed that watching such films reduced the activity of the brain network responsible for suppressing aggression.
The BBFC, and its appeals committee, are getting increasingly out of step with the realities of modern life. The Bill seeks to bring Parliamentary scrutiny both to the process of selecting the principal officers of the Board and of determining
changes to the guidelines used by BBFC examiners. The bill would also abolish the current appeals committee, which has consistently taken a much laxer line than even the BBFC, and replace it with a jury, drawn at random from a list of volunteers.
Appeals, which currently can only be launched by the industry, could also be triggered by 50 MPs who feel a classification is too low. (In Australia anyone can appeal.)
In short the Bill will make the BBFC more accountable for the decisions they make. It does not seek to lay down the guidelines which the BBFC would make, nor does it prescribe which films should or shouldn't be shown. All it does is ensure that
the Board has to defend its decisions and general direction, and opens up the ultimate appeal to a broader ranger of people.
Thank you for writing to me and allowing me the opportunity to explain my objectives.
Julian Brazier returned to the stage in Prime Minister's Question Time and asked about reform of the BBFC and
implicitly for support of his BBFC Accountability bill.
Julian Brazier (Canterbury, Conservative):
Following the Prime Minister's reply to the right hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) a few weeks ago, does he now accept that there is an urgent need for reform of the British Board of Film Classification? What
possible justification can there be for the board's decision to release into British high street outlets videos and DVDs such as SS Experiment Camp , which shows in voyeuristic detail women being tortured to death by SS camp guards?
Gordon Brown (Prime Minister):
I share the hon. Gentleman's concerns. I think it is true to say, as I have looked at it, that the British Board of Film Classification has put a higher category on many films in a different way from that recommended by the
distributor, but it is also true to say that he expresses the concerns of many people among the general public. That is why I have agreed to meet him and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) to talk about the issues, and
why we set up the review headed by Dr. Tanya Byron. It will report very soon, and on the basis of that we can make recommendations for the future. As for the Conservatives who say it is wrong to review the issues, I say that the right thing to do
is to review them and then make a decision.
I interpret Gordon Brown's reply as telling Brazier that he is jumping the gun and should wait on the Government commissioned Byron report.
But the Daily Mail interpreted this somewhat differently and present Brown's support for the Byron Review as if it were support for Braziers effort
The Politics Show for the South East on Sunday 24 February at 12:00 on BBC One.
Film censorship is hitting the big screen again, as Canterbury MP, Julian Brazier, believes violent films and video games could be responsible for acts of violence.
The Bogey Man, Death Trap, The Evil Dead and Zombie Flesh Eaters . Just a few films that over the years have been called 'video nasties'.
The Canterbury MP Julian Brazier believes films like these, and also violent video games could be responsible for people committing acts of violence.
He quotes the case of Warren Leblanc who admitted murdering his 14-year-old friend Stephan Pakeerah with repeated blows from a claw hammer and knife.
Stephan's mother has publicly attributed the murder to Leblanc's obsession with playing the video game Manhunt, although the trial judge did not confirm her view.
Brazier also talks about the film Eastern Promises . This, he says, includes graphic scenes of throat slitting, child prostitution and a man having an eye gouged out.
So next week Julian Brazier's Private Member's Bill to make the BBFC accountable to Parliament will get its second reading. He claims that in the last few years the BBFC has followed a policy of allowing increasingly violent and sexual material
onto the market.
There are several points to Brazier' s Bill:
He wants Parliament to choose the four main officers of the BBFC. At present the BBFC makes all it appointments internally.
He believes Parliament should have powers to force the BBFC to tighten its guidelines
He wants MPs to have the right to appeal against a classification. At present only the industry can appeal a decision - either to restore cut material or to lower a classification, but not to raise it or to have it banned.
So on Sunday we hear from Julian Brazier himself, and we get the views of a leading academic on whether there is any link between violence and the movies.
Update: No Accountability for BBFC Accountability Bill
John Beyer was on there spouting the usual bollox. For those who haven't seen it I uploaded it to YouTube. I also tacked on the email replies at the end of the programme which, if they are anything to go buy, shows who is in touch with public
opinion (and it ain't Brazier or Beyer).
Regarding public accountability, if I write to Brazier in opposition of his bill he would simply reply that I am not one of his constituents and I should write to my own MP about it.
So I write to my own MP and he tells me that he's not even going to be in Parliament on the day its being discussed.
So how exactly are MPs accountable to their public who's freedoms they are trying to restrict?
Mediawatch-UK have commissioned a poll to show support for Julian Braziers BBFC Accountability Bill to be debated in Parliament today. They asked:
Melon Farmers Comment
The amount of violence permitted in films, games and on television should be more tightly regulated?
Nonsense question. DVDs are completely regulated with practically all of them requiring state approval before release. Can't get much tighter than that. No doubt Beyer wants to twist this answer to mean that people want more content cut or
There is an established link between the level of violence shown in films, games and on television, and the rate of violent crime in society?
Hard to disagree with the statement at first glance but note that it does not ask about a causal link.
The system of classification for films and games should reflect broad public opinion?
And the BBFC agree. They at least did an extensive survey and the results are far more believable than anything Mediawatch claim about public opinion
The BBFC process for approving films and games with a violent or sexual content should be fully transparent and accountable to parliament?
And indeed they are accountable. They can be sacked from their DVD and games roles. (No accountability for cinema censorship though). And in terms of transparency, they clearly explain all of their decisions.
The question does not ask whether people want MPs to be censors though which is what Brazier wants in his bill
Anyway the press release reads:
British Public Demands Accountability for Film Censors.
Mediawatch UK, the UK broadcasting watchdog, today publishes an important survey showing that 80% of the British public wants the BBFC to be fully transparent and accountable to Parliament.
The results of the survey, carried out by ComRes, coincide with a Private Members Bill introduced by Julian Brazier MP (Canterbury), which is receiving a second reading in the House of Commons today. The Bill attracted publicity earlier this month
when the Board classified a number of video works, banned by the Director of Public Prosecutions, such as ‘SS Experiment Camp'.
John Beyer, director of Mediawatch-uk, comments: “The results confirm what we have always believed. The British public continues to retain a high degree of common sense and is not impressed by the self interested demands of the film industry. We
again call upon the BBFC to review its guidelines on violence, call upon the games industry to act more responsibly on violence and call upon the Office of Communications to enforce the terms of the Broadcasting Code much more vigorously,
particularly with regard television programmes that condone and glamorise seriously antisocial behaviour and violence.”
With 76% of respondents wanting the amount of violence permitted in films, games and on television to be more tightly regulated, and 68% believing there are links between violent crime and the level of violence in films and on television, there is
great public concern that the BBFC's classification decisions should reflect broad public opinion and suggests that the general public is dissatisfied with the current system.
Beyer continues: We believe that the Prime Minister, who has expressed personal concern about all the violence and pornography that children can so easily see, was wrong to exclude film and television from the remit given to psychologist Dr
Tanya Byron whose report is due next month. Film is a very powerful global influence and it is astonishing that the Board has escaped proper scrutiny for almost 100 years. It is right that Parliament should represent public concerns and we hope
very much that Mr Brazier's Bill will go through unopposed.
Julian Brazier has failed in his bid to increase censorship of video games and films containing extreme violence.
Julian Brazier's plan would have allowed more appeals against BBFC rulings. He argued standards had been "watered down" and explicit films and games were fuelling a "tide of violence".
He was supported by several Tory and Labour MPs, but both front benches opposed it. The Lib Dems said it gave MPs undue influence over censorship.
Brazier's private member's bill failed when the debate ran out of time. Private member's bills allow individual MPs to introduce legislation on a subject of their choice.
Brazier's plan would have allowed an independent jury to reverse a ruling, if 50 MPs signed a Commons motion - even after the film or game was released. During a Commons debate, he cited the example of a previously banned video, SS Experiment Camp
, which was re-examined by the BBFC and released in 2005. Another film, Irreversible , featured a nine-minute rape scene he said, adding: If this is not glamorising rape then it is difficult to imagine what would be.
His bill was supported by Labour MP Keith Vaz, who represents a seat in Leicester where the mother of murdered 14-year-old Stefan Pakeerah blamed his killer's obsession with the Manhunt video game - a view not supported by the trial judge.
Vaz said video games were different from films because they were "interactive": When they play with these things they are able to interact, they can shoot people, they can kill people, they can rape women and that's what is so wrong about
the situation we have at the moment.
Another Labour MP, Stephen Pound, said there was a danger that in extremely violent films the sanctity of life becomes diluted , particularly when dealing with the young and impressionable.
Conservative MP John Whittingdale dismissed SS Experiment Camp as pretty tasteless and offensive but said scenes of sex and violence were mild compared to many mainstream films.
He said Mr Brazier's bill could do damage to the film industry and that the BBFC largely did a reasonably good job.
Lib Dem spokesman Don Foster suggested if MPs were to start signing a motion to get a title banned sales would absolutely rocket. I believe the proposals contained within this Bill would give politicians an undue and dangerous influence over
these sorts of issues.
Culture Minister Margaret Hodge said the BBFC, while not getting it right every time did an extremely good job in incredibly difficult circumstances. She said the government had responded to concerns by asking Dr Tanya Byron to review whether more
regulation to protect children was needed - due to report back next month. Urging MPs to await that report next month, she said legislation would not be effective on its own. Parents, internet service providers and others would also have to take
She was still speaking as time ran out at 1430 GMT and the bill now stands no chance of becoming law.
I'm wondering why this private member's bill on the single issue gets debated for five hours, but the entire CJIB has slightly less for its second reading, and there wasn't enough time for people to debate the extreme porn clauses at all in the 3rd
Comment: Foolish Brazier
Thanks to Wynter
Mark Kermode successfully made Brazier look like a fool when he was interviewed on R5 Live on Friday afternoon.
Skip forward to the 2 hr mark, its only about 10 mins long, Brazier rehashes his tired old arguments that had only been debunked that morning, ie Manhunt being responsible for the death of a young lad, Mark Kermode rubbished his argument about
films like Irreversible and pointed out to him that nobody knows more about classifying films than the BBFC who are already transparent and by allowing MP's or whoever to interfere wouldn't prevent these films from being released, it would just
muddle up the classification process.
One thing Kermode should have rebuked was Braziers claims that rape and violence is going up as a direct result of the media. Which of course is nonsense!
The time-honoured tradition of stodgy men arguing over things they know nothing about continued in England during last Friday's game censorship debate in the House of Commons, with MP Keith Vaz showing us how it's done while speaking in defense of Julian
Brazier's bill to add a censorship level above the BBFC.
In comparing the interactivity of video games to movies, Vaz unleashed this little gem:
However, someone sitting at a computer playing a video game, or someone with one of those small devices that young people have these days, the name of which I forget, PlayStations or PSPs, something of that kind.
Well, whatever they are called, when people play these things, they can interact. They can shoot people; they can kill people. As the honourable Gentleman said, they can rape women.
The gentleman he is referring to is the bill's author Julian Brazier, though being completely off-base when quoting someone else doesn't excuse you from being off-base in the first place. The man can barely remember what these horribly offensive
rape-machines are. When you have to struggle to remember what you were talking about in the first place it's probably a good indicator that you should sit down and shut up.
Luckily for British gamers, the House isn't completely full of uninformed idiots. Conservative MP Edward Vaizey actually took the time to check this claim out with the BBFC.
Is the honourable Gentleman aware of any video game that has as its intention the carrying out of rape or that allows the game player to carry out such an act? The BBFC and I are unaware of any such game.
In his speech in parliament, Julian Brazier accused the film, Irreversible, of glamorising rape. It did no such thing. And while the film is extremely difficult to watch, you are left with a glimpse of how lives are destroyed by rape.
This is exactly why politicians should not set themselves up to be the arbiter of what the general population can and cannot watch on DVD and in the cinema. Politicians simply cannot be trusted to watch the films they would readily ban.
Kent MP Julian Bazier has slammed a decision by the Video Appeals Committee to overturn a ban on the controversial video game Manhunt 2 .
Brazier said: This shows once again that the BBFC and its appeals system do not meet the concerns of the public. The public wants a significant tightening up in this vital area.
Brazier feels the time has come for action: We need a consensus that videos and video games involving extreme violence are extremely anti-social. Watching these things happen does affect people’s behaviour. We’ve got to recognise that there’s a strong
link between what people watch and what they do.