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Can't Make British Porn...

Gay sex threesomes still banned and censored in the year 2000

Link Here24th December 2000

The BBFC have recently been undertaking legal discussions re their R18 guidelines on gay group sex. According to the legal advisors, the BBFC are still unable to pass gay videos FILMED IN THE UK which contain clear sight of anal penetration if more than two people are present in frame. However, provided that the distributor can give a written assurance that the video was filmed outside the UK (and therefore no UK law was broken), the BBFC do not now need to make cuts to sight of anal penetration during gay group sex.

Obviously, evidence in the video itself will be considered. For example, a group of men having sex in a room overlooking the Houses of Parliament or Trafalgar Square would not be acceptable regardless of any assurances from the distributor! Depictions of gay group sex which include clear sight of anal penetration are therefore now being passed at 'R18' provided they were filmed abroad, (as the majority of 'R18' gay submissions (chiefly from LOAD) are).

However, until such time as the law in the UK changes, the BBFC will still require cuts to sight of gay anal penetration where more than two men are on screen if the scene was filmed in the UK. Not to do so would breach the guidelines on not allowing depictions of illegal activities and would constitute incontestable evidence of an offence being committed under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act.

It is worth noting that the only activity prohibited is specifically clear sight of gay anal penetration in a group context. Depictions of masturbation, fellatio or simulated anal penetration (or where there is no clear sight of actual anal penetration) are not a problem even in a group context. It is specifically actual sight of gay anal penetration that is unacceptable if more than two people are present on screen and the scene is filmed in the UK. Anal penetration filmed in the UK where only two men are present on screen is, however, acceptable.

14th December   Sadism Without the Cuts

I previously reported that Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom had been granted an uncut cinema certificate. It has now also recieved an uncut video certificate. It will be released on video and DVD by the BFI in February.

12th December   Licence to Waive Cuts

Just as the BBFC are starting to ease up on censorship we hear that they could be on the way out...but thats another story for the dim distant future.

Anyway here are a few pieces of recent good news:

  • Terminator has been downgraded from 18 to 15 (no cuts)
  • Licence To Kill has been re-relesase uncut at 15, the previous film cuts have been waived
  • Street Trash has been re-released in a longer uncut version. 6s of previous cuts have been waived
  • The Beyond. Lucio Fulci's film has been passed uncut restoring over 1.5mins of cuts

City of the Living Dead and The Slayer are being resubmitted to the BBFC in uncut formats

5th December   Justification

First of all I noticed that Zombi Holocaust has received an uncut 18 certificate for the first time. It wasn't on the Video Nasties list but it is was an iconic film from the same genre and era. Good to see it finally getting an airing.

The BBFC are just about to update their site with the following justification for the two videos that they have recently banned. (A slight delay only, the Melon Farmers appreciate the good work of the BBFC in providing public information about cuts and bans)

Urotsukidoji IV: Infernal Road 1: The Secret Garden

This is the second time that this work has been refused video classification by the BBFC.

Throughout the work, there are realistic animated representations of children involved in sexual acts and perceived as sexual objects, or witnessing sexual acts. The Board's concern about the attractiveness of such material to paedophiles, and the appeal of the cartoon style to young children who would thereby be more vulnerable to its use by paedophiles to entice them, was confirmed by advice from a Consultant Clinical Psychologist. It is therefore unsuitable for classification under the Video Recordings Act 1984.

Before rejection, the Board carefully considered whether cuts would remove the dangers. However, they would have to be so extensive that no viable version of the work would remain. Indeed, it is doubtful if any version of the work would be acceptable.

A Caning for Miss Granger

A Caning for Miss Granger was unacceptable because the use of a model dressed as a young schoolgirl in a sexual punishment scenario was in conflict with the R18 Guidelines constraint on depictions involving adults role playing as non-adults . Also unacceptable under the Guidelines is the portrayal of any sexual activity, whether real or simulated, which involves lack of consent. In this case 'Miss Granger' was forced to submit to a series of "degrading or dehumanising" acts in order to save her job.

The Board's Guidelines prohibit the infliction of pain or physical harm, real (or in a sexual context) simulated... The Board concluded that the work both promotes the idea that pleasure may be taken from inflicting pain upon another person and clearly shows, with some relish, actual pain and physical harm. In doing so it goes some way beyond what might be regarded as "mild consensual activity".

The Board does not feel that the problems can be usefully addressed by cutting since the difficulty with this work lies not only in the great number of specific visual images, but with the overall theme of sexual pleasure being derived from imposing pain on a coerced victim. The work is therefore not suitable for classification.

4th December   Cannibal Death Trap at the BBFC

Just a couple of quickies, The precut version of Cannibal Ferox obtained its 18 certificate at the expense of a 6s cut. The cut was for animal cruelty ie the sight of small animal on end of rope banging against side of a jeep. Unfortunately there were nearly 7 minutes of pre-cuts.

Another of the original video Nasties, Death Trap , has passed through the BBFC uncut. 23s of cuts have been restored to Tobe Hooper's alligator film.


29th November   Caning the BBFC

A couple of Video bans have been posted on the BBFC site, ie A Caning for Miss Granger and Urotsukidoji IV: Infernal Road 1: The Secret Garden. I shall try and find out a few more details.

On a more positive note Cannibal Ferox has passed through the BBFC in a pre-cut version but best of all Fist of Fury has been passed uncut complete with all the nunchuk stuff. Its scheduled for release in  February on the excellent Hong Kong Legends label. This means that it is also highly likely that the other Bruce Lee videos will pass (they are going through the BBFC over the next couple of months). Big Boss is already out on DVD fully uncut. OK the Saw in the Head Scene is still missing but this is not in any print nor the Golden Harvest Archives.

20th November   Feasting on Gore

Herschell Gordon Lewis' iconic Blood Feast will finally surface on Tartan as a UK DVD, minus 23 seconds, in March/April 2001. This has taken like 37 years! The offending scenes included the whipping of a woman's back and were removed as supposedly infringing the Obscene Publications Act. She-Devils On Wheels and 2000 Maniacs will also be released, both uncut, at the same time. Gore-Gore Girls & Wizard Of Gore are planned, but are yet to meet the BBFC ...

Whilst on the subject of first time certificates, Salo: 120 Days of Sodom has been passed uncut for cinema exhibition. It was not submitted for video certification. In comparison with Blood Feast it has only taken 25 years for Pasolini's film to obtain a certificate. It is still of course good news.

Just to clarify, The BBFC have passed the full uncut version, not the cut UK club version that did the art-house rounds. It is identical to the recently deleted Criterion DVD. A few brownie points to the BBFC me thinks.

The BFI have now submitted this very same version for a video release.

12th November   Tender Ears

BBFC guidelines changes at the BBFC have reduced strong language allowable in the younger classifications. Billy Elliot is perhaps the first film where this harsh treatment has hit the public debate. On the other hand I have since heard that the film features over 50 occurences of the word fuck and wouldn't have qualified for 12 even under the old guidelines

Sue Clark aired the BBFC view in the Independent as follows:

Sir: You have carried several letters about the film Billy Elliot, which was given a 15 classification by the BBFC. There have been several suggestions about the reason for the classification. There is a very simple reason for the 15 rating, and that is the high level of use of strong language. Our classification guidelines, which are published on our website at or available from the Board, explain that strong language of the level and frequency used in Billy Elliot is not acceptable at 12. This reflects current public opinion about the use of bad language in films as established by our recent extensive public consultation. Had we passed this film at 12 we would have received very many more complaints than we have for the 15 rating.

5th November   Illegal Sex at the BBFC

Several R18s have recently been cut by the BBFC with explanations such as: One compulsory cut required to remove explicit sight of illegal sexual activity, in accordance with BBFC guidelines. There have been several films effected eg Bye Bi Buenos Aries , It's Too Big For Me , Viva Gay Sex & Merry XXX-mas.

With a little help from my friends I have found out the unbelievable reasons for these cuts. The illegal sexual activity in question is that of group gay sex.

It appears that the BBFC seem embarrassed about the enforcement of this violation of human rights but it must be noted, that the law is still on the statute books. In fact the BBFC have been reasonably helpful in that they have picked up on the fact that the police to do not prosecute unless buggery has taken place. Therefore scenes of group gay sex have been allowed where no penetration is visible. However, as soon as penetration is visible, then no other participants can be seen in the same frame.

Hopefully recourse to the Human Rights Act should enable this abuse to be nipped in the butt.

There are some crap laws in the UK and this must rank as one of the worst. It would make bad law to ban anyone from private  group sex but to add on top gay discrimination seems outrageous. In addition, the law has been successfully challenged in the European Courts. However it appears that the Government haven't yet responded to this challenge. The Government have put a bill on the agenda for discussion but  have conveniently made the consultation period so long that that it cannot be put before Parliament until after the next election. Commentators have suggested that they are scared of being seen as pro-gay during the run up to the election.

In the meantime it seems to me that anyone enforcing this noxious law should be put in prison for gross crimes against humanity. (Of course up until recently the police and prosecuting authorities were doing just that, ask the Bolton 7 who won the aforementioned European Court challenge).

Thanks to a reader for providing me with the BBFC response when asked for an explanation about the cuts to Bye Bi Buenos Aries

Under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act it is illegal for "homosexual buggery" to take place when more than two men are present. The BBFC is therefore currently required to cut any sequences where unsimulated anal penetration is clearly taking place and more than two men are present in frame. Group sex is permitted in gay 'R18's if no anal penetration is visible and anal penetration is itself permitted provided that only two men are in frame. However, if more than two men are present on screen whilst anal penetration occurs this is - under UK law - a criminal offence and the BBFC is required to cut.

And thanks to Phil for the following observation from the BBFC's own guidelines:

The following content, subject to the above, may be permitted

Aroused genitalia.
Oral-genital contact including kissing, licking and sucking.
Penetration by finger, penis, tongue, vibrator or dildo.
Non-harmful fetish material.
Group sexual activity.
Ejaculation and semen.

3. These guidelines make no distinction between heterosexual and homosexual activity.

If I was the distributor I'd take this to the VAC!

Thanks to Anthony for observing that at least this outrageous prohibition should only apply where illegal sex is being filmed. Gay group sex may be illegal in Britain but it is perfectly legal in most civilised countries. Therefore, films shot abroad should be left uncut for sale in the UK.


29th October   VAC Today Gone Tomorrow

(The BBFC response to the R18 consultation contains a fair amount of good sense justifying the current tolerance to hardcore. However, on the subject of the emasculation of the VAC they are way out of line. They are arguing that the remit of the VAC should  only be to provide a second opinion on whether a particular film is with the BBFC guidelines. The definition of the guidelines will not be open to challenge on the supposed grounds that the BBFC are the absolute experts in the field. Of course the R18 affair proved beyond question that the BBFC are not experts on law and are also that they are open to political manipulation from politicians at the Home Office.

Another point of unneccessary criminalisation is to do with mail order. I do not see why the Home Office and BBFC seem so keen on introducing extreme penalties for simply posting a video. If they are so keen on protecting children why not introduce a variant on recorded delivery where the receiver of a parcel has to produce adult ID. This would totally eliminate the need for any further laws, people would be free to buy and sell via mail order, and kids would be protected.

Anyway here is a review of a recent Today program that I spotted on UseNet).

John Humphrys conducted a short interview with Robin Duval on the Today program this morning. As usual the anti-censorship position was not even put (only what one might expect from R4's equivalent of the Daily Mail).

The conversation centred around what would be done with the VAC - it seems that having made the "wrong" decision, they are to be nobbled. Duvall proposes that in future they should not be allowed to decide issues for themselves, but only to consider whether the BBFC has acted correctly within its own guidelines, because they do not have the "expert knowledge" that he and his minions possess. ISTM that this would reduce the VAC to the equivalent of a judicial review, and put the BBFC in final control of what is released, since grounds such as those used in the recent appeal would not be admissible. (Presumably the Board would be happy to go back to being the British Board of Film *Censorship*, since the idea that it merely 'classifies' would then be preposterous.) Curiously, he did not wish to replace the current VAC members.

The important point, that the VAC had allowed the appeal on the grounds that children would be unlikely to see the material, and that they might actually be justified in this view, was not brought up.

As regards laws to criminalise people showing porn to children, Duvall mumbled something about this being doubtful on account of the new Human Rights Act and the right to privacy; this sounded suspiciously like it had been lifted from the Home Office consultation document. It did not appear to have entered his head that preventing any adult whatsoever from viewing something is a greater infringement than preventing an adult from showing it to a child (however impractical such a law might be in practice).

7th October   More Nunchakas

Last month I reported that Enter the Dragon had finally been passed uncut. Thanks to dave for reporting on further submissions.

Alledgedly Bruce Lees The Big Boss has been passed for the first time uncut for a dvd release at the end of October The BBFC are now saying they are climbing down on there policy of cutting weapon scenes from martial art films as they are no longer seen as any threat to them. Fist of Fury is currently under scrutiny at the BBFC this one causes them a bit more concern as Bruces nunchakas draw blood in one scene, however its still hoped this will get through uncut.

On a final footnote Big Boss is an anamorphic print 5.1 sound with a commentary track and lots more goodies,its going to be released on the hong kong legends label along with other movies of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li , all films are going to be submitted in an uncut form in the light of the BBFC's recent policies change.


29th September   Schoolgirl Sluts at the BBFC

It appears that the BBFC will find the above title doubly unacceptable. They have just issued a press release outlining their intention to censor the titles of sex videos:

As you are no doubt aware, the BBFC has being reviewing all of its policies as part of a process which has led to new Classification
Guidelines being published on 14 September 2000. This review has included consideration of the sort of language which may be considered unacceptable if it appears in the title of a film or video work. It is likely that this policy will mainly affect distributors of sex tapes, but the principles will be applied to all works.

The title of a work is likely to be seen by many members of the public who would never choose to watch the contents. It will be displayed on packaging and promotional material, and will appear on the BBFC's website database. The potential for offence is therefore significantly greater than for language which appears in the body of the work itself, which is encountered only by those who have chosen to view the work in question. The degree of offence likely to be caused will depend to some extent on how likely the public are to come across the title by accident.

In addition to considerations of 'offence', the BBFC is also concerned about titles which apparently promise illicit pleasures even though the material itself is neither harmful nor illegal. In future, therefore, the BBFC may ask for changes to a title of a work if it falls into one of the following three categories:

  1. It suggests that sexual participants may be under 18 or that illegal sexual activity (eg incest, rape) is being depicted. Words
    such as 'schoolgirl', 'scout', 'teenager', 'very young' and 'child' are unlikely to be acceptable if the title has sexual connotations unless the title as a whole makes it clear that the content is not concerned with the presentation of sex involving under-18s.
  2. It suggests that the content may be degrading, dehumanising or humiliating. Words such as 'bitch', 'whore' and 'slut' may be unacceptable if used in a context which appears to degrade women.
  3. It is likely to cause unusual offence to a significant proportion of those who are likely to come across it. The use of pornographic language in a title is unlikely to be acceptable at 18. Particularly crude or explicit titles are unlikely to be acceptable even at R18.

As always, the BBFC will take all other relevant factors into consideration when reaching a decision on a particular title.

14th September   Don't Tell Us What We Should Watch at 18 - Public Tell BBFC

(The press are widely reporting that the BBFC have listened to this advice. However this should not be taken at face value, their new guidelines document contains the disappointing statement: The BBFC respects the right of adults to choose their own entertainment, within the law. It will therefore expect to intervene only rarely in relation to 18 rated cinema films. In the case of videos, which are more accessible to younger viewers, intervention may be more frequent.

ie the BBFC don't believe in censorship but ....

Anyway they today issued the following press release)

The public has told the BBFC that the Board's Guidelines for classifying films and videos should be more relaxed in the '18' category, but that the Board should be tougher on violence, drug portrayal and bad language at the lower classification levels. Publishing new Guidelines for the classification of all films and videos today, Andreas Whittam Smith, President of the BBFC said: After an extensive consultation and research exercise, involving two Citizens' Juries, a national survey, ten public presentations and hundreds of submissions from public groups and individuals, the Board has produced a new set of Guidelines for the classification of all films and videos. We were determined to get as clear a picture as possible of what the public thinks about the portrayal of sex, violence, drugs and bad language in films and videos. I am pleased to say that these new Guidelines reflect that.

Director of the BBFC Robin Duval said: What was very clear from the consultation - which involved over 3,000 people from all demographic groups and from right across the UK - was that adults want to choose what they watch without excessive intervention by the Board. The new '18' Guidelines mean that the Board will only intervene on the rare occasion where a film promotes violent or dangerous activities, gives instructive detail of illegal drugs use, or contains particularly explicit sexual images.

What also came across very clearly was that the present classification system was overwhelmingly accepted as a useful guide when deciding what to watch, and was particularly important in terms of protecting children from seeing inappropriate material. But, while the majority of the public felt we should interfere less in the adult category, they also thought we could be more restrictive in the 'U', 'PG' and '12' categories on violence, drugs and bad language. When it came to the '15' category, they felt we could be more relaxed about the portrayal of sex, but with the emphasis on responsible, loving and developing relationships.

We have taken particular note of the general concern expressed about the portrayal of drugs and drug taking, particularly at the lower categories. We have spelt out, for the first time, that 'U' films and videos should have no reference of any sort to drugs and have strengthened the restrictions at 'PG', '12' and '15'.

People will notice that we have dropped the list of examples of bad language which the old Guidelines contained. One reason for this is because there is so much disagreement around the country and at different age levels about what is offensive. However, we will be stricter on the use of expletives with a religious association. At the younger end of the scale, the language constraints have been tightened at 'U' and 'PG' and there will no longer be any automatic acceptance of the use of the 'F' word at '12'. In addition the standard at '15' has been tightened with the strongest terms being 'only rarely acceptable'.

Even though the public has - perhaps surprisingly - only limited concern about the levels of violence permitted by the Guidelines as a whole, there were still worries about children watching violent films. The Board has therefore made adjustments at the lower categories and given much greater prominence to concern about imitable techniques at all levels.

While the great majority of the public wants the Board's classification system to remain mandatory, they also want more detailed information about the content of films and videos to help them decide what they, and their children, should watch. The Board anticipates that with the pace of development in the new electronic media the emphasis on the provision of consumer information as an alternative to regulation will inevitably increase. The Board currently provides consumer advice about the subject matter of the film or video to distributors as a matter of course, but it is their decision whether or not to include the information in the publicity or packaging. The video companies at present make rather more use of it than the film exhibitors and distributors. We are prepared to increase the amount of information we provide and we will be talking to the local authorities, as the bodies responsible for licensing cinemas, as well as to the cinema exhibitors and the distributors to see if we can encourage them to carry more advice about their films.

Andreas Whittam Smith concluded: Neither the BBFC nor any other regulatory organisation has ever embarked on this level of public consultation and research before and it reflects the importance placed on getting the Guidelines right. As well as using the more traditional national survey approach, the Board used the latest in research techniques - Citizens' Juries. The two Juries gave the Guidelines a very thorough scrutiny over more than four days, and their views have played a significant part in the shaping of the new Guidelines. In addition we have taken into account a very wide range of opinion from committed libertarians to those who would impose the most severe restrictions. We have given particular attention to the views of our own Advisory Panel on Children's Viewing. I believe the new Guidelines represent the views of the great majority of the people in this country. However, we will continue to monitor the public's reactions to the changes at every category level.

While the public gave a clear steer that the classification system should remain mandatory the '12' category can be problematic, with children on either side of that age developing at very different rates. The Board feels that it would therefore be useful to explore whether the '12' category should become advisory, thus allowing parents to decide whether younger children should be able to see a '12' film. Were this to happen, information about the film or video content would have to be sufficient to allow parents to make informed decisions. The revolution in communication technology may mean over time that content regulators will have to rely more on information and advice than on intervention.

(I have transcribed the new 18 guidelines as an example of the changes)

  New 18 Old 18
  • Taboo themes are acceptable but not if their treatment is likely to encourage harm to viewers or, through their behaviour, to society. The following are of greated concern:
  • graphic rape or torture; sadistic violence or terrorisation
  • illegal or instructive drug use; material likely to incite racial violence
  • portrayals of children in a sexualised or violent context
  • sex accompanied by non-consensual pain, injury or humiliation
  • bestiality or necrophilia
  • other material likely to be found obscene by the courts
  • There are no taboo themes, provided the treatment is appropriate
  • No constraints.
  • There are no limitations on the strength or frequency of swearwords or on the explicitness of sexual references.
  • Sexual language is acceptable, but verbal threats and humiliation are not
  • No constraints
  • Extensive full-frontal nudity is acceptable in a sexual context, as long as there is no undue focus on the genitals.
  • The more explicit images of sexual activity mayl be cut unless they can be exceptionally justified by context
  • Material which appears to be simulated is generally passed 18, while images of real sex are confined to the R18 category
  • Scenes of simulated sex are allowed, but sex scenes may be limited because of length or strength.
  • Images of real sex must be brief and justified by context.
  • The Board may cut or reject any detailed portrayal of violent or dangerous acts which is likely to promote the activity.
  • Length and detailed scenes of violence are acceptable. as long as they are justified by their position in the film as a whole
  • Detailed focus on violent acts may be unacceptable if it promotes violence or the use of illegal weapons
  • Sexual violence may be implied and sometimes shown, as long as the scenes do not offer sexual thrills.
  • No constraint
  • Horrific themes, incidents and images are acceptable, as long as they do not breach standards on violence, sexual violence or sex.
  • The Board may cut or reject any detailed portrayal of any dangerous act which is likely to promote the activity. This includes also instructive detail of illegal drug use
  • Drug use may be shown in some detail, but there must be no clear instruction in how to use drugs.
  • Nor must the film as a whole promote or advocate the use of hard drugs.
  • Not mentioned
  • Mild fetishes may be represented,
  • All sex scenes should be non-violent and between consenting adults
Sex Education
  • Where sex material genuinely seeks to inform and educate in matters such as human sexuality, safe sex and health, exceptions to the normal constraints on explicit images may be made in the public interest.
  • Such explicit detail must be kept to the minimum necessary to illustrate the educational or instructional points being made
  • Where sex material genuinely seeks to inform and educate about human sexuality, explicit images of real sex may be briefly included
  • This sort of video is likely to feature qualified presenters and emphasis on health education and safer sex techniques
  • Explicit detail must be kept to the minimum necessary to illustrate the educational or instructional points being made


11th September   BBFC Guidelines Update

The BBFC's much heralded guidelines update is due for publication on their website on Thursday morning (14th Sept). This is in response to changes in public opinion as interpreted from the recent roadshows.

9th September   Bruce Does Nunchakus

The BBFC have now passed the uncut version of the martial arts classic, Enter the Dragon with an uncut 18 certificate. It has taken 27 years but surely this warrants something of a melon farming celebration.

To take advantage of the current liberal spell at the BBFC several other Bruce Lee titles have been resubmitted. I may soon have to start saying nice things about our censors!

9th September   Debbie Does Deep Throat in Dallas

The BBFC have now passed the hardcore classics, Deep Throat and Debbie Does Dalla s with uncut R18 certificates. It has taken 28 years but surely this warrants something of a melon farming celebration.

6th September   Ben Dover in Latex

There's a goodly amount of uncut hardcore passing through the BBFC at the moment and I have been most impressed by the lack of apparent difficulties. The Private films being distributed by Sheptonhurst are well known for their emphasis on anal sex and DPs; the Ben Dover series has been criticised in the past by the BBFC for its play acted coercion and Salvation films have managed to get Latex passed without cuts complete with its emphasis on fetishism.

Good work indeed from the BBFC.

The video may be purchased from Salvation Films, see
latex.jpg (8852 bytes)
4th September   In the Realm of the Censors

Good to see Nagisa Oshima's L'Empire des Sens (In the Relam of the Senses ) get a pretty near uncut 18 video rating. It is the same as the cinema version with just a little optical masking of an under-age boy.

It has been a long time coming but I guess hardly anyone will notice given the large quantities of hardcore now passing unscathed through the BBFC.


25th August   First Hardcore Videos Passed

Several newspapers carried a report this week saying that 23 R18 videos had been passed since the change of guidelines. Of these videos, 19 were passed in a cut form with a few hardcore snippets (ie pre cut for old standards, not cut by the BBFC). The first 4 videos passed after August 16th are full hardcore, ie:

Moving Violations (Prime Time)
Search for the Snow Leopard: Eve of the Hunt (Prime Time)
Wicked Cover Girls (Prime Time)
Buck Adams' Centerfold (Prime Time)

The newpapers pointed out that this is already about the same number of R18 certificates as passed in the whole of the previous year. Since the press articles, Sheptonhurst (for the Private Shops) , have got in on the act with a further six R18s which are also presumably full hardcore.

Sex with Nurses (Sheptonhurst)
Dark Desires (Sheptonhusrt)
Mia: Sex Fantasies (Sheptonhurst)
House of Love (Sheptonhurst)
Madness 2 (Sheptonhurst)
Misty Rain's Mouth Jobs (Sheptonhurst)

On a related note, there has been an internet discussion voicing concerns that Private Shops have a monopoly of licenced sex shops and are happy to restrict sales to videos distributed by their own company. Apparently they have the excellent Private (the Swedish based company) catalogue at their disposal.

I would hazzard a guess that this is not a major concern as the ability to sell lucrative hardcore will soon bring in many more players into the market, eg Ann Summers and Beate Uhse.

19th August   A Long Hard Wait

A melon farmer recently enquired of the BBFC: Could you let me know when you expect the first hardcore videos to be ubmitted for classification at R18 under the new guidelines

The BBFC encouragingly replied:

A number of such works have already been submitted and are going through the classification process now.  Details should appear on the website soon. The 'R18' titles that recently appeared on the website were pre-cut versions held at the Board for some time awaiting the outcome of the Judicial Review and the publication of the new 'R18' guidelines.  We suggest you check the recent section of the website to see when the first titles are passed. decisions - video

7th August   Cannibalised Cannibal Ferox

From an e-mail from the BBFC, thanks to Robert

Cannibal Ferox was passed '18' by the BBFC in 1983 after approximately 7 minutes of cuts to remove scenes of cruelty to animals, sexual violence and some of the film's more extreme moments of violence.  Before the introduction of the Video Recordings Act in 1984, the BBFC issued a number of such "informal" video certificates but once the VRA came in to effect (at the beginning of 1985), all such "informally" classified videos had to be judged again under the precise terms of the VRA.  By this stage, both
the BBFC cut and uncut versions of Cannibal Ferox (both were released on video in the UK) had been successfully prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act.  It was therefore not possible for the BBFC to provide a formal classification at this stage since our cut version (as well as the uncut version) had been found obscene.  The BBFC-cut version of Cannibal Ferox was seen again for classification last year and was finally approved at '18' earlier this year after one brief cut for animal cruelty.  We are now awaiting the submission of packaging artwork before a final certificate can be issued.  The classified version will be the version passed in 1983. By today's standards the cut version of the work was judged to be acceptable at '18' and the previous conviction was not felt to be significant today. the cut version was removed from the DPP list at a later date and there have been no prosecutions since the early 1980s.

1st August   Eau Dear

From an article in the Mirror

Censors fury at raunchy ad for mineral water

A saucy advert for a Scottish mineral water has left censors hot under the collar after it showed a couple having sex in a photo boothat Queen Street station in Glasgow. The commercial for Highland Spring was refused a cinema certificate until some scenes were edited out.

The  advert showed a woman dragging her partner into the booth where she begins to undress him. Within seconds the pair are in a steamy clinch, but the woman somehow manages to hold onto her bottle of Highland Spring.

Last night the BBFC claimed the ad was the only one of 460 submitted in the last six months that was tasteless. They cut 14 seconds of the one minute advert which is tipped for a major advertising award. Sue Clark from the BBFC said censors were outraged by the advert filmed by the Picardy Group in Glasgow. She said: It genuinely looked like the couple were having sex. It was very graphic. The advert seemed to have very little to do with mineral water, which it was supposed to be trying to sell.

The commercial - the toned down version - is only being screened in London. Last night a spokesman for Highland Spring, who are backing up their cinema campaign with billboard posters depicting a woman photocopying her behind, said: These commercials are designed to be entertaining. We see Highland Spring as a health product and perhaps it makes you feel sexier because water is good for your body.


18th July   Hardcore Guidelines Announced

Truely incredible news. It appears that the vast majority of porn is now accepted as legal by the censors.

The BBFC today issued the following announcement:

The BBFC today published new Guidelines for the classification of 'R18' videos, which are available only through licensed sex shops. The Guidelines have been revised as a result of a High Court ruling in May against the BBFC. The Board had sought a Judicial Review of a judgement by the Video Appeals Committee upholding an appeal by two distributors against the Board's decision to refuse 'R18' classification for seven sex videos. Those videos have since been classified 'R18'. The new Guidelines, which reflect the legal position created by the outcome of the Judicial Review, spell out clearly, for the first time, what is not acceptable in 'R18' as well as what is allowed. Robin Duval, Director of the BBFC said:

The Board has revised its Guidelines in line with the High Court Judgement. We have taken this opportunity to make them clearer and more transparent and to spell out very firmly what is not acceptable as well as what is. There is no question of anything which is illegal being shown, or of any material which is likely to encourage an interest in abusive sexual activity. Violent sex continues to be unacceptable and it must be clear that all activity is fully consensual.

'R18' videos make up a tiny proportion of what the Board classifies each year, considerably less than one per cent of video titles since 1990, and they are only available through around 90 licensed sex shops in the whole of the UK .

The 'R18' category is a special and legally restricted classification primarily for explicit videos of consenting sex between adults. Such videos may be supplied to adults only in licensed sex shops, of which there are currently about 90 in the UK. 'R18' videos may not be supplied by mail order.

1. The following content is not acceptable

Any material which is in breach of the criminal law.
Material likely to encourage an interest in abusive sexual activity (e.g. paedophilia, incest) which may include depictions involving adults role-playing as non-adults.
The portrayal of any sexual activity, whether real or simulated, which involves lack of consent.
The infliction of pain or physical harm, real or (in a sexual context) simulated. Some allowance may be made for mild consensual activity.
Any sexual threats or humiliation which do not form part of a clearly consenting role-playing game.
The use of any form of physical restraint which prevents participants from withdrawing consent, for example, ball gags.
Penetration by any object likely to cause actual harm or associated with violence.
Activity which is degrading or dehumanising (examples include the portrayal of bestiality, necrophilia, defecation, urolagnia).

2. The following content, subject to the above, may be permitted

Aroused genitalia.
Oral-genital contact including kissing, licking and sucking.
Penetration by finger, penis, tongue, vibrator or dildo.
Non-harmful fetish material.
Group sexual activity.
Ejaculation and semen.

3. These guidelines make no distinction between heterosexual and homosexual activity.

16th May   Hard News

The subject of the impending legalisation of hardcore has been addressed several times on these pages but now it has started to appear in the mainstream press. Today's article appeared in the Sunday Times.

Censors are to give the go-ahead for the sale of explicit hard-core sex videos in Britain. The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has redrafted its R18 video category to allow some previously banned material, including penetrative sex, writes Richard Brooks.

The board has been forced to relax its guidelines after losing a landmark High Court ruling earlier this year. It will announce its new code by the end of July and the first videos will be licensed for sale next year.

Last year the BBFC refused R18 certificates - which allow videos to be sold to adults in licensed sex shops - to seven films on the grounds that they flouted its guidelines by showing penetrative sex. The video companies won an appeal to the video appeals sub-committee of the BBFC.

The BBFC challenged that judgment in the courts, but lost. The new BBFC guidelines will mean that explicit images of intercourse - involving both heterosexuals and homosexuals - will be allowed for the first time.

The BBFC is still not relaxing its ban on sexual violence or humiliation. We realistically had no other option but to go for some relaxation, otherwise we would find ourselves constantly challenged in the courts, said a senior BBFC source. But it must be consensual [adult] sex.

The relaxation will concern Jack Straw, the home secretary, who has overall responsibility for film and video classification through the Obscene Publications Act and Customs and Excise.

The Home Office, which said it was "very disapppointed" by the High Court ruling in favour of the video companies, has been consulted by the BBFC over its new guidelines.

Straw is particularly worried about the risk of such videos being seen by children, as most are bought rather than rented and so are kept in the house. The Home Office is now reviewing all pornography laws, in particular to protect children.

At present about 80 sex shops in Britain are licensed to sell R18s. The BBFC has in recent years given certificates to about 40 such videos a year. Yet the licensed video shop market, worth about £3m a year, represents only the minority of hard-core porn video sales. Many videos are bought by mail order, while the black market is even larger.

I fear that this liberalisation process is going to go much further and cause real harm, said John Beyer, the director of the National Viewers and Listeners Association. We've not got an effective law in the Obscene Publications Act. It has meant that the director of public prosecutions has been unwilling to prosecute because it is not sure of an outcome.

Some also believe that once the BBFC loosens the guidelines on R18s, there will be a knock-on effect on 18 certificates, which allow films to be shown to adult audiences in public cinemas. The BBFC is already drawing up new guidelines for its 15 certificates.

Earlier this year, the makers of The End of the Affair complained after the film, starring Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore, was given an 18 certificate, though it contained only one non-explicit sex scene.

The forthcoming changes have, however, been welcomed by pornographers. I'm only interested in videos for adults that show them having and enjoying sex, said Greg Hurlstone, of Prime Time. Two of his firm's videos, Miss Nude International and Wet Nurses , were turned down for R18s last year. I'm most categorically not interested in anything involving kids and animals," he said. "Those who are should be locked up.

16th May   Online Changes

The BBFC have posted their latest annual report (covering 1999) on their website, as usual it is well worth a read.

In addition, the style of the website has also been upgraded. The content remains pretty much unchanged but it looks better.


29th May   A Hard Won Victory

So the BBFC have decided not to appeal against the decision of last weeks Judicial Review. Excellent news indeed and it will be interesting to see what gets submitted for the next tranche of R18s. It strikes me that there is no good reason why unedited hardcore could not be submitted and presumably passed. Of course JackBoots Straw is already plotting a change of law to ban anything that he does not personally approve of.

Andreas Whittam Smith appealed for public feedback in the Independent last week so it seems fair that this should be posted here too.


How can we tell if pornographic videos will harm our children?

By Andreas Whittam Smith, 22 May 2000

To what extent is exposure to pornography harmful to children and young people? For me, as president of the BBFC, the question is important. Readers may have noticed that the board's refusal to licence a number of pornographic videos was overturned by Mr Justice Hooper in the High Court last week. We shall not be appealing further. So Horny Catbabe, Nympho Nurse Nancy, Office Tart and the rest will be granted restricted 18 certificates, meaning that they can be sold only in licensed sex shops, although, of course, they will be viewed in the home.

Pornographic videos are qualitatively different from what children might see if they blundered into their parents' bedroom and found them engaged in sexual intercourse on top of the bed, with the lights on, to make my example sufficiently explicit. In the videos, no relationship is established between the parties; the participants treat each other as impersonal objects. And the camera is brought within inches of the action; this is sex magnified, this is close-up voyeurism. For both these reasons, sex videos can be easily be distinguished from the erotic material commonly found on television channels towards the end of the evening.

The problem is where to draw the line. Through the Video Recordings Act, Parliament has decided that such material, depending upon its strength, may be supplied. Parliament has likewise provided local authorities with the power to license sex shops where R18 videos may be sold to adults. The legislation gives the BBFC the task of licensing sex videos , or refusing to do so, according to its assessment of whether potential viewers may be "harmed". In practice this means focusing our attention on whether children or young people who come across such videos in the home might suffer , hence my question.

There is virtually no research to guide us. As compared with the massive analysis of the effects of screen violence, hardly any work has been done on the relationship between pornography and child development. There is a natural reluctance to question children about such matters. In the absence of academic work, the BBFC has been seeking advice from psychiatrists working with children and adolescents and applying common sense. During the case which ended in the High Court last week, it was agreed that young children can be affected by pornography, some quite seriously. What is unknown is how often this happens.

This is the context in which the BBFC devised a set of guidelines in 1983 when the Video Recordings Act came into force. These have remained our standard since then, interrupted by two short periods of experimentation with slightly more permissive rules. But broadly our tests have been as follows. Sex scenes must be non-violent and between consenting adults. They must also be legal, both in the acts portrayed and in the degree of explicitness. Erections may be shown but there must be no clear sight of penetration, or of masturbation or of ejaculation.

Distributors of sex videos are well aware of these rules, but they also know that the law provides a right of appeal to a Video Appeals Committee, a body which includes among its members two well known novelists, Nina Bawden and Fay Weldon.

This committee considers appeals in a different way from the courts. Rather than examining whether we have reached our decision in a reasonable way, taken into consideration all relevant evidence, acted in a manner consistent with previous decisions and so on, it conducts what is in effect a re-trial. The members decide whether they would licence the works which we have rejected, and if they disagree with the BBFC, the committee's decision prevails.

So it was with Horny Catbabe, Nympho Nurse Nancy, Office Tart and four others. In line with our published guidelines, the BBFC had asked that all shots of penetration and masturbation be removed. The distributors declined to comply. We refused the certificate. There was an appeal. The committee found in favour of the distributors. That should have been that, except that the BBFC was unhappy with the committee's reasoning.

The act asks the BBFC to consider "any harm" to "any person". The committee appeared to have elevated this test to devastating damage to more than a small minority of children. The BBFC wanted to know whether this was a correct interpretation of the legislation and therefore took the unusual step of seeking a judicial review of the operation of its own appeal body. This was the first time that the act, now 17 years old, had ever been tested in the courts. It was this process which resulted in Mr Justice Hooper's finding.

He went carefully through the steps in the argument. Was a child or young person likely to view the videos in question? Yes, all parties were agreed that it was likely. May such a potential viewer be harmed by the manner in which the videos deal with human sexual activity? Again an affirmative; all were agreed. As a result the BBFC must have "special regard" among other relevant considerations to that factor. Must it take into account, as is especially relevant in this case, "an unquantified risk of harm"? Yes, indeed. Does this mean that, as the BBFC argued, that a licence may be withheld until the risk is quantified? No, decided the judge, this may be a perfectly reasonable approach, but it cannot be said to be the only approach which a reasonable decision maker could adopt.

The law has been declared; justice given. But still the problem remains: what is the extent of the risk? The BBFC is currently engaged in a research project in which professionals who work with children, including children who show signs of being disturbed, are being asked whether they have evidence, even if it's imprecise, that children are harmed by viewing pornography. When this work is completed, we shall then have to consider whether to revise our guidelines. (In the meantime the BBFC will continue to break the law?)

19th May   Judicial Victory

Who'd a thought it, a few days away from computer access and they choose to announce the results of the judicial review. A tad worrying that there is a sexual offences bill coming up very soon now and now doubt a few prohibitions can be tagged to the end. Jackboots Straw hardly seems the sort to bother with demorcacy or consultations etc, he is on a 'mission from God'.

From the Guardian

Jack Straw, the home secretary, threatened a shake-up of Britain's obscenity laws after a landmark high court ruling yesterday that the film censors were wrong to ban the sale of double X explicit hardcore porn videos in licensed adult sex shops in Britain. Mr Justice Hooper dismissed the test case brought by Andreas Whittam Smith's BBFC, saying that the risk of the seven videos involved being seen by and causing harm to children was, on the present evidence, insignificant.

The BBFC last night refused to comment in detail on its defeat but when it started the case last September, Mr Whittam Smith said that failure would have `fundamental implications' for all its decisions on classifying videos and films, including those involving unacceptable levels of violence.

The judgment reinforces the legal view that adults should not be prevented from access to explicit material just because it might be harmful to children if it fell into their hands. As TV `decency' campaigners claimed that the decision would open the floodgates to hardcore pornography , Mr Straw said he would, if necessary, bring in new legislation to sort out the current `shambles' of the obscenity laws.

The home secretary believes that the situation is unsatisfactory and it will be considered carefully whether additional steps can be taken to protect children from exposure to this sexually explicit material. Any such changes may require legislation, a Home Office statement said. Mr Straw made clear his anger at the decision and said that he had personally intervened to replace the BBFC acting president, Lord Birkett, with Mr Whittam Smith to stop the licensing of such `stronger' videos to be sold in adult sex shops.

The target of his anger is the 1984 Video Recordings Act, introduced as a private member's bill to curb the alleged excesses of `video nasties'. The case centres on a decision by the independent Video Appeals Committee to overturn the BBFC's refusal to give a special R18 certificate to seven `hardcore' videos produced by Sheptonhurst Ltd and Prime Time (Shifnal) for restricted sale in Britain's 80 licensed sex shops.

The committee, which is chaired by John Wood, a former deputy director of public prosecutions, includes the novelist Fay Weldon. The film censors said the seven videos - called Horny Catbabe, Nympho Nurse Nancy, TV Sex, Office Tart, Carnival International Version (trailer), Wet Nurses 2 Continental Version and Miss Nude International Continental Version - should not be licensed unless all shots of penetration by penis, hand or dildo as well as shots of a penis being masturbated or taken into a woman's mouth were removed.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill, for the BBFC, told the high court that if the videos were allowed to be sold all hardcore material would have to be licensed unless it was criminally obscene or could be shown to cause devastating harm to more than a minority of children and young people . But Mr Justice Hooper said the assessment by the Video Appeals Committee that the risk to children was insignificant was a reasonable conclusion.

Greg Hurlstone, a director of Prime Time, said he was delighted but insisted his US-made videos were double X rather than triple X productions, as they featured consensual penetrative sex without close-ups and no ejaculation or illegal practices. Last night Clive Sullivan, a consultant to Sheptonhurst, insisted that the decision would not unleash a flood of European triple X hardcore films: There are still limits which will be applied ,  he said. But John Beyer of the National Viewers and Listeners' Association called for new legislation to clamp down on porn. This will open the floodgates to hardcore pornography ,  he said.

Pertinent Comment from Polly Toynbee in the Guardian

William Hague is right. There is a liberal consensus: it is a consensus among New Labour and Tories alike to demonise liberals. These days if you bleat sheepishly at senior ministers that the liberal agenda has become the sacrificial lamb in the New Labour project, they grin and lick their lips wolfishly. They take it as a compliment. Labour likes to balance its progressive social policies with toughness on liberal causes. If liberals aren't hurting, then the third way isn't working. And so this week we had the repellent spectacle of Hague and Straw outbidding one another in punitive anti-liberal rhetoric on law and order to the Police Federation.

Jack Straw vented his fury on liberals again this week after the failure of the courts to overrule the video appeals committee, who gave a handful of hardcore porn videos R18 licences for sale in adult sex shops. The obscenity law is a `shambles' Straw decreed, promising to reform the whole thing. Good luck to him. I sat on the Williams committee on obscenity and film censorship, appointed in the dying days of the last Labour government. It was we who recommended the concept of the R18 licence, a decent compromise between letting adults do as they wish (within the law), yet protecting children and anyone else who doesn't want to see the stuff. We reckoned any portrayal of non-violent sex between consenting adults should be available to adults who liked that sort of thing. Children would be protected by only selling hardcore in windowless sex shops barred to under-18s. These sleazy joints have not exactly over-run the nation: there are only 80 of them nationwide.

Nympho Nurse Nancy and Office Tarts - the titles of these disputed videos brought it all back, those strange and embarrassing afternoon viewings in a special cinema, followed by finely balanced legal and academic discussion. Our report decided that causing `significant harm' should be the only reason to ban anything. The seven videos in court this week are precisely what we had in mind for an R18 rating: consensual non-violent sex, explicit but harmless. However the BBFC refused a licence unless the film-maker removed `all shots of penetration by penis, a penis being masturbated or taken into a woman's mouth'. I imagine that would leave most of the film on the cutting room floor. Some of the horrors we saw stay with me - Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS was just one of many indescribably vile films that failed the `significant harm' test, but why should adults in private be denied the right to watch non-violent sex? If the government really wanted to change the current sleazy, over-sexualised cultural climate, they should have eschewed the company of Rupert Murdoch, the pornographer who first broke all public decency barriers in his `family' Sun.

Here I declare an interest. In 1998 a firm of head hunters wanted to put my name forward for the post of vice-president of the BBFC, one of two deputies to Andreas Whittam-Smith. I laughed a good deal as I knew this would get nowhere, since despite apparent independence of government, the home secretary vets the top BBFC appointments. I told the interviewing board that they were wasting their time but they still sent my name to the home secretary. Of course Straw struck my name out. Why should he appoint a self-confessed liberal? I'd have done the same. What is the point of giving the moral right gratuitous targets? So it is not personal. But I do object to Jack Straw's persistent and deliberate war on every liberal front he can find, stamping Labour with his macho Mail-friendly imprint. Yesterday William Hague laid into the `liberal establishment' with relish, lambasting `liberal thinking' on crime. What is he talking about? Prison numbers have risen steadily under Labour - 66,000 now, the highest in history, another 20,000 being planned for. Britain has the highest proportion of people in prison in Europe, and proportionately more than those well known liberal regimes, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and China. We have more life prisoners than all the rest of Europe put together. But still that's not enough for Hague or Straw, each now competing to send yet more inside.

So how is the country to know where we stand on law and order? Who would guess from our political leaders that we are already the toughest? Prison works so badly for the young that 90% of the under 18s we lock up reoffend. You don't hear Jack Straw salute the Nacro scheme where only 20% of young criminals reoffend, if given housing, training and support. Alas, the tougher a home secretary talks, the more the courts respond by giving harsher sentences. The Hague/Straw caricature of the liberal is someone soft on crime, indifferent to victims, living in a Hampstead Elysium where crime never affects their lives. But reformers are just as tough on crime, in some ways tougher, more eager to stop it with proven remedies. Liberals know its the poor who are mainly the victims of crime, and they despise those who use punitive rhetoric for political gain, fraudulently deceiving the public about what really works.

Take all the issues that still require informed public debate. Why is Labour so cowardly about persuading people by reasoned argument? The government behaves as if public opinion were some immutable natural force like the weather. Where is the leadership on difficult things? Joining the euro hangs there in limbo, Peter Mandelson stamped on for bravely speaking some truth. Where is the leadership on proportional representation? Why run from any debate on cannabis? Above all, consider the question of asylum seekers. No one is advocating an open door policy: Europe has to have immigration controls. The objection to Labour's approach is its language and attitude towards these very poor people - the ones with most get-up-and-go and intitiative - desperately trying to better themselves and their children. That's not a crime. Most of the cabinet would try it too if they were poverty stricken foreigners. These are not `bogus' people, they are poor. They are non-qualifiers, not villains. By its harsh treatment (and disgracefully incompetent administration), by its brutalising attitude, Labour has helped stoke up the public hatred that they now fear so much in all their private polls.

Under a barrage from the rightwing press Labour cowers and placates on all these tough subjects. Most of you, gentle Guardian readers, don't see the daily bombardment of rightwing hate. But how will the country ever become better informed, nicer, less bigoted, unless a strong Labour government goes out to change hearts and minds? Liberal bravery would gain them friends, cowardice invites contempt even from the enemy.

8th May   Old New Guidelines

This week's Sunday Times carried an article with the headline: Teenagers to see 'quota' of film sex as censors loosen rules.  It basically picked up on some tasters from the much heralded new BBFC guidelines. Apparently, the censors will be a little more lenient on standard Hollywood style sex scenes for the 15 category, perhaps in response to the justified criticism for the overly strict classification of The End of the Affair . There may also be a trickle down to the 12 rating where the BBFC were noted for their caution over Shakespeare in Love.

The new guidelines were reported to allow 15 year-olds to watch simulated sex, provided there are no direct images of the genitals. It also stipulates that most sex scenes should be between people in 'responsible' relationships. It permits explicit language but bars sexual aggression. Of course there is to be a censorial sting in the tail, there will be stricter rules on violence for these categories where: Any detail of the infliction of pain or injury is unacceptable.

Unbelievably, the censors have come up with a quota system for language. An example was reported as only one 'fuck' allowed for 12 rated films.

Finally Duval re-asserts his personal prejudice against hardcore and reckons that this prohibition will be maintained. He also is keen that the current 18 rated sexless porn will not be allowed to become any more explicit.

Unfortunately for the censors, proper porn is so freely available that any free thinking person is able to get hold of it and  reach their own conclusions. It seems unlikely that they will concur with the religious nutters at the BBFC. It follows that because the BBFC opinion on porn is worthless, then all of their opinions are similarly steeped in prejudice and are therefore equally worthless.


14th April   Extra Bans

The BBFC have banned a couple of short scenes that were destined for extras on the Lolita DVD. They justify their decision as follows

After careful consideration the Board has determined that these two scenes, which are more explicit versions of scenes present in the feature version of Lolita, are not suitable for classification at any category. They are NOT present on the Region 1 DVD.

The Comic Book and The Lake Point Cottages both contain strong depictions of sexual conduct between the adult Humbert Humbert and the 14 year old Lolita. In the case of the feature version of Lolita, the lack of specific sexual detail within the overall context of the film allowed the Board to classify Lolita in the adult category. In the case of these two works, however, we are presented with out-of-context sexualised images of an underaged girl. These scenes both contain images of sexual nudity and behaviour which were not present in the feature version and which are made even more problematic when presented in isolation or out of context as here.

In The Comic Book, we see a brief shot of Lolita's bare breasts (not present in the feature version) as well as lingering close up shots of Lolita's legs, caressed by Humbert. The atmosphere of the scene is highly sexually charged. In The Lake Point Cottages, we once again have an extended version of a scene passed in the feature version of the film. As with The Comic Book, we are presented with shots of Lolita's breasts and torso and a brief shot of pubis as her knickers are pulled down. These shots were not present in the version of the film presented to the Board for classification and would not have been passed had they been included.

Our main concern with these highly eroticised scenes is that they mightinvite feelings of arousal towards a child. We have a particular concern in the context of DVD extras where the scenes in question can be readily accessed and replayed at any speed. The obvious sexualisation of a 14 year old girl with the use of such provocative detail must raise concerns about the potential misuse of this material by those predisposed to seek illegal sexual encounters. There is, in the Board's view, a serious possibility of 'harm' being caused to some individuals, and potentially through their actions, to society more widely.

The Board has therefore refused cetificates to these two works.

8th April   Reviewing the Review

The Judge reserved judgement until Thursday 13th April

From the Guardian by Alan Travis:

Britain's film censors yesterday launched a high court battle to ban the sale of explicit hardcore videos in licensed sex shops. In a test case that could clarify whether or not videos featuring shots of sexual penetration are legal in Britain, as they are in many other parts of Europe, the British Board of Film Classification yesterday argued that such videos should remain banned until more is known about the possible harm caused to children who might watch them. The case centres on a decision by the independent Video Appeals Committee to overturn the BBFC's refusal to give a special R18 certificate to seven `hardcore' videos produced by two firms, Sheptonhurst, and Prime Time (Shifnal), for restricted sale in 80 licensed sex shops in Britain. Behind the case lies the home secretary's decision, two years ago, to clamp down on the production of hardcore pornographic videos after the discovery that the BBFC,under its previous president, Lord Birkett, had started to license `stronger' videos for sex shops to try to put the cowboys of the trade out of business.

But after Mr Straw appointed Andreas Whittam Smith as president of the BBFC, the board changed its policy and refused to license the seven videos - called Horny Catbabe, Nympho Nurse Nancy, TV Sex, Office Tart, Carnival International Version (Trailer), Wet Nurses 2 Continental Version, and Miss Nude International Continental Version - unless `all shots of penetration by penis, hand or dildo as well as shots of a penis being masturbated or taken into a woman's mouth' were removed.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill, QC, for the BBFC, argued in the high court in London yesterday that the decision by the Video Appeals Committee should be quashed as it had wrongly interpreted the law and had failed to take into account the risk of `real and significant harm' to children if the videos were sold for home viewing. He said the videos comprised `a seemingly endless sequence of energetic, joyless sex which appears consensual but in which there is no pleasure expressed except the occasional feral grunt' and added that their general effect was dehumanising and mechanistic. Lord Lester told Mr Justice Hooper that unless the committee's decision were quashed all hardcore videos would have to be given a certificate unless they were criminally obscene or it could be shown they did cause `devastating harm to more than a minority of children and young people'.

Lord Lester argued that the Video Recordings Act 1984, introduced to ban `video nasties', said it was accepted that some videos would be watched by children and that it was better not to run the risk of causing real and significant harm until more was known. But David Pannick QC, for Sheptonhurst, argued that the committee panel, which had been chaired by a former deputy director of public prosecutions, John Wood, had been acting legally, that the videos involved were, by the standards of the industry, not `hardcore' but `mediumcore', and that the risk of their being seen and causing harm to children was `insignificant'.

Mr Pannick said the child psychiatrist Gordana Milavic, who gave evidence on behalf of the BBFC, had seen during 19 years of treating children fewer than six cases where there was a direct link to pornography. He said the committee had also found that while there was much evidence of the impact of violent images on children, there was no systematic evidence or concern from psychiatrists about the impact of pornography on children. The case had to be judged in the modern world where any reasonably intelligent 11-year-old knew how to obtain graphic material from the internet.


27th March   Detailed Cut

Good to see that the BBFC have started to give more details on what they have cut on their web site . They may be abusing our human rights but at least they are telling us about how they are doing it.

13th March   BBFC Redundancy

My friends involved in the R18 appeal tell me that Mike Bor, a senior examiner at the BBFC, has been made redundant. He represents one of the old guard of experienced examiners who presumably has been opposing some of the dictatorial policies of Duval. Duval has spent some months  manoeuveuring Mike Bor into a situation where he can declare him redundant and now there exists one seriously pissed examiner.  More to follow....

13th March   Finally the Judicial Review

The date of the much heralded Judicial Review has been set for April 6th in the High Court. The BBFC are challenging the procedures used by the Video Appeals Committee whilst hearing an appeal against unjustifiably strict censorship of R18 sex videos.

At the original appeal the BBFC failed to provide any credible justification of harm caused by adult consensual porn and so rightfully lost their case. Their attempts to use the tired excuse of harm to children foundered primarily due to the effectively enforced restrictions imposed by sale from licensed sex shops.

The reality is, is that Jack Straw has ensured that the BBFC is now run by a bunch of religious nutters who have a deep seated loathing of porn (and the rights of their fellow man).


20th February   Resigned to Tyranny

After having carefully diminished the responsibility of his examiners whilst simultaneously imposing ever more ludicrous decisions, Duval's regime is now suffering something of a staffing crisis. A new batch of examiners will therefore be recruited for the spring. No doubt the usual commendable non-discriminatory recruitment policy is in force, just so long as the applicants are middle-aged, church-going, censorial and Tory.

Trying to hold the censorial line whilst society is changing around them is inevitably banishing the BBFC to the periphery. Images recently broadcast on Channel 4's Private Parts are exactly those deemed unviewable by our moral betters. The ridiculously out of touch BBFC view on porn has merely resulted in a tiny proportion of the porn actually viewed being censor approved. Especially stupid in an area that surely the BBFC would like to have maximum influence over, so as to remove elements of cohersion, aggression etc. A further cost to the BBFC is that anyone who knows what's what in   adult entertainment will see for themselves that the BBFC views on the subject are worthless. They will then extrapolate this to reason that all BBFC views are worthless.

Similarly in more mainstream decisions about age classification, an overly cautious approach will soon be spotted by parents who will see that an awful lot of 18 rated videos are suitable for their older children. They will then extrapolate this to considering that all 18 rated videos are likely to be OK.

In a modern age where there are many alternative media providers, the only practical way forward is to concentrate on the well supported function of age classification. Cuts and bans can only be used in the incredibly rare situation where such decisions would actually be appreciated and respected by the viewers.

16th February   Age Old Problems at the BBFC

As reported earlier, Robin Duval spent the first few months of his dictatorship at the BBFC diminishing the power of the examiners. He is now using this power to push through some mad decisions. The harsh age rating inflicted on The End of the Affair was in fact imposed personally by Duval. The examiners had sensibly recommended a 15 rating and were ruthlessly overruled.  Exactly the same scenario panned out for American Beauty and also The Green Mile .

16th February   A Day in Court

The VAC ruling passed seven videos with an R18 rating. The BBFC were displeased. However they could not overrule this decision. What they could do is get a judicial review. This would be a review of the procedures and legality of the decision. In other words (i) did the VAC follow the correct procedures and (ii) did they apply the relevant laws correctly?

In previous cases,  the BBFC claimed that the videos were legally obscene. This is a dubious area, so the BBFC's case is now that the the VAC were mistaken in their interpretation of section 4a of the Video Recordings act 1984. They claim that this bans videos which could significantly damage a substantial minority of children. Or something along those lines. Essentially the question is (i) how likely is it that children could see these videos and (ii) how likely is it that these children would be harmed by such exposure. The BBFC claims that the VAC had too little information to assess whether section 4a had been contravened.

On Thursday morning the BBFC brought their case before Mr Justice Forbes, seeking leave for the judicial review. The VAC were not represented, but opposition was supplied by Sheptonhurst, one of the companies whose videos are in question. Also attending in the public gallery were Clive Sullivan (from Sheptonhurst), Robin Duval (BBFC), and James Ferman (former director of the BBFC - he may have left but he just can't keep away).

The hearing was only 20mins and the result was that there will be a judicial review. The reason was that section 4a had never been tested before, so the judicial review will have great significance for future cases.

Afterwards  Clive Sullivan said that he was not terribly surprised and Sue Clark gave out BBFC press releases of no great informational content.

14th February   British Board Of Film Censors

To give them their due, the BBFC haven't banned a cinema film for a while until now.  I guess they have now given up the right to argue that they are classifiers rather than censors. Anyway they have elected to ban Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left. They justified their decision as follows:

The Board has, however, concluded that The Last House on the Left is not suitable for cinema exhibition because of the explicit and sadistic sexual violence contained in the film. This is the second time that The Last House on the Left has been refused classification by the BBFC. The present version is some four minutes longer than the version offered in 1974, but is still several minutes shorter than the original uncut version. Although the recent resubmission was of a cut version of the film, it was still found to contain elements which are unacceptable under the Board's published Guidelines. The Board asked for further cuts to remove images of the horrific stripping, rape and knife murder of two women. The option of making additional cuts was offered to the distributor in May 1999 and in September they confirmed that the film would be resubmitted with further cuts. After much delay it is now clear that the distributor has declined the option to proceed further. The Board is therefore unable to classify the film in this version.

14th February   Further Humiliation for O

Poor O, after having successfully endured the sado-erotic whims of Sir Stephen she now has to endure the sado-religious whims of Sir Robin and Sir Andreas. They justify their humiliation as follows:

The Story of O, a French language film dubbed into English, has been passed '18' for cinema exhibition. The film was a 'cause célèbre' when released in the 1970's and was refused a certificate by the BBFC when first submitted in a cut version in 1975. The version now classified by the BBFC has been pre-cut by approximately eight minutes and is five minutes shorter than the version rejected in 1975.

The film, whose theme is sado-masochism, is very much a work of its time. Much of the action is conveyed by the facial expressions of the characters. Explicit detail, in the present version, is avoided. The main female character, the 'O' of the title, is throughout free to withdraw her participation in the events portrayed. The Board is satisfied that the film
falls within its published Guidelines for '18' rated films.

10th February   BBFC Win

The BBFC have been granted their Judicial Review. The only concession to good sense is that the procedure has been expedited and the Review must take place within the next three months.

9th February   Duval in the High Court

The BBFC are in the High Court tomorrow for their application for Judicial Review of the Video Appeals Committee procedure during the recent R18 Appeal.

The BBFC have a 20 minute slot to state their case and have produced a 328 page document to fill the time nicely. Sheptonhurst have a 10 minute slot and the Video Appeals Committee are not present at all. If the judge grants the BBFC their request it will be another six months before the review occurs.

I hope that Duval is a little more honest under oath than he was in this week's Sunday Times. He claimed that the R18 videos contained sadistic sex . I am assured that the videos contain no violence at all.

Anyway melon farming best wishes to Sheptonhurst and yah-boo-sucks to the BBFC.

8th February   Press Release: Film Censor's court-case "A Pointless Exercise"

Dave Bird, a memeber of the Campaign Against Censorship condemned as a "pointless exercise" proceedings by the British Board of Film Classification in the High Court this coming Thursday (10th Feb). These seek to challenge by Judicial Review last July's judgement of their own Video Appeals Committee concerning four titles by Sheptonhurst Video, which overturned BBFC's refusal to grant them 18R certificates. After the preceding appeal [number #14] last May certificated Makin' Whoopee, BBFC said in page one of their finding that they would consult the Home Office and Customs & Exise.

Why do so, when  the law had not changed asked Bird, what new factual information could they give? The first-ever introduction of the idea, in this current application, that adult-only videos must be treated as if children will somehow see them anyway, is a wrong, improper, and irrelevant consideration. The Appeals Committee was quite right to throw it out .

Procedural Faults Unlikely

Judicial Reviews only test whether a decision was made by proper procedure on relevant evidence [i.e. it is not for the court to say we would have come to a different conclusion  on that evidence ]  Given the long and closely reasoned judgement by VAC chair John Wood, a former deputy Director of Public Prosecutions,  it is very unlikely the court will find any fault in fairness or procedure; so it is likely that the estimated £150,000 legal cost of the review will therefore be wasted. The BBFC is funded by a levy on certification of films and videos in general, currently £611.86 for the first hour [source: BBFC], which is where it would have   to look to cover any over-spending.

N.B.Judge-only hearings such as Judicial Review have no sub judice rule against prior comment, since judges are deemed not to be influenced by reporting in the way  a jury might be -- see Wedgwood Benn and the electoral court [Hansard 8th may 1961  vol-640 col-35] and Vine Products vs Green [1966].

Public Opinion Running Against the BBFC

According to the BBFC's own reports, its autumn tour of public consultation meetings showed a preponderance of support for the view that consenting adults should be able to see consenting adult sex without any regulation. The BBFC is holding some further consultation meetings in the spring and will then release details of questionnaire replies and randomly-sampled surveys; these are likely to show similar trends.

There is absolutely no need to change the law so it will in future do the wrong and absurd things the appeals committee refused to, if that is what the Home Office is contemplating, he added.  Public opinion is against such a move, and they should make the law more in accord with it rather than seek to please the extreme right.

Dave Bird, Feb 2000.

The Video Appeals Panel that sat on the R18 appeal are:

  • John Wood CB [ chair ], former Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions and former DPP of  HongKong.
  • Nina Bawden  FRSL JP, novelist,  president of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists
  • Dr Philip Graham,  Chair of the National Children's Bureau and former Professor of Child Psychiatry.
  • Fay Weldon, novelist and playright  
  • Dr Neville March-Hunnings, lawyer, and editor of Common Market Law Reports.
7th February   End of the Affair Affair

The BBFC recently awarded The End of the Affair an 18 cinema certificate. This seemingly harsh judgement has been challenged in the press by the producer, director and stars.

Producer Stephen Woolley said, There's nothing in our film except for a bit of bottom. In the love-making scene they said there was too much movement from Ralph [Fiennes]. In the second love-making scene they are semi-clothed. There is a double standard operating in that violence has become acceptable on screen. It's OK to show your children explicit violence like in the Bond films, where we have murder, mayhem and death. And then we have a scene of making love and they are not allowed to see it.

Ralph Fiennes said, In this particular instance I think it's absurd, completely absurd. I don't think the sexuality in it is sadistic or abusive or based on violence. It's mutually consenting adults making love, which is why we are all here.

The BBFC responded by claiming the sex scenes were too strong. The sex scenes in it are not permissible at '15' because of the nature of the sex, said spokeswoman Sue Clark. She went on to say that the Board would soon publish a consultation document containing a new set of proposed guidelines for classification. This would enable it to judge the extent to which it remained in touch with public taste and opinion.

Sue Clark, the BBFC head of publicity, wrote to the Evening Standard to deny press suggestions that the BBFC somehow counted and spoke about the number of Ralph Fienne's 'pumpings'. Probably fair enough, but she did go on to argue that Stephen Woolley's gripes are less worthy on the grounds that he has previously tried to pressure the BBFC to lower the certificates for Shag and A Company of Wolves . Not really a very good arguement as the 18 certificate on A   Company of Wolves was ludicrously over strict.

It strikes me that the best way to interpret BBFC certificates is to just downgrade them by one. Anything currently banned should be considered a realistic 18, anything currently 18 is a realistic 16 and 15 certificates are realistic 12s.

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