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13th December

Updated 21st December

 BBFC Turn a Not So Deaf Ear to Responsibility

Surely a minor issue, but somebody is forgetting that traders could face criminal prosecution for selling to under 12s, something which is judged to be perfectly suitable for under 12s. The BBFC/BBC should put their mistakes to right.

Update : Thanks to the BBFC have taken time to have another listen and have confirmed that the contended bleep does in fact  sound like an inadequately bleeped 'f' word. Maybe it is something else, but to the average viewer it will sound like they've unsuccessfully tried to bleep an 'f' word. So there is no mistake and the 12 rating stands.

We can now rest assured that traders arrested for selling this to under 12s will be properly punished for the massive harm to society caused by the hearing a badly bleeped "f" word.

From goatboy on The Melon Farmers' Forum


Why on earth is this certificate 12? What`s in An Unearthly Child, The Daleks and Edge of Destruction that isn`t suitable for anyone under 12? If anyone could let me know I`d be terribly grateful.

Steve Roberts, producer of the DVD replies:

Basically, it was a mistake by the BBFC. We had bleeped the word "bastard" in one of the comedy sketches and they believed that what they could hear was an inadequately bleeped "fucker". They can`t reverse decisions, even if the error is theirs, and so the only option would be to resubmit for re-classification - and that re-submission would need to be a different version. As BBC Video were fine with a 12, they decided to let it stand.


6th December   Advertising a Rights Abusing Prohibition on Mail Order Hardcore

I am a little intrigued by the advance warning of 15th March 2006. If it is illegal now then I would expect it to have immediate effective at the BBFC. Videos certificated now will be in circulation with such ads for a couple of years to come. Is there something else coming into force on this date? Have there been any other Government announcements on this issue? Does it effect magazines and websites?

A letter from the BBFC to distributors.

Dear Customer,

Offers to supply R18 material other than in a licensed sex shop

I am writing to give you notice of a change of policy which will come into effect on Wednesday 15th March 2006.

As you may be aware, the issue of mail order supplies of works classified R18 has been the subject of recent legal action and the matter is now settled in domestic law. Following the outcome of the court action, the BBFC has taken legal advice regarding the use of classified video works as a means of promoting mail order supplies of ‘hardcore’ sex tapes.

Under the Video Recordings Act 1984 it is illegal to offer to supply an 'R18' classified video work other than in a licensed sex shop. This prohibition includes offers to supply by mail order from websites based outside the UK: making the offer in the UK is an offence in itself even if the supply would originate from abroad.

It is also illegal to offer to supply an unclassified video work unless that work is exempt from classification. Hardcore pornography is, by its nature, not exempt from classification.

Some video works include references to postal or website addresses and our legal advice is that we are entitled to cut these if they constitute part of an offer to supply R18 material or its equivalent (or stronger). Legal advice further suggests that whether a reference to an address constitutes part of an illegal offer to supply will depend on both the nature of the reference and the nature of the video in which it appears.

The following policy will therefore apply to all works submitted after 15th March 2006:

Sex works (18 or R18)

i) A simple website or postal address with no suggestion (verbal, text or
pictorial) that goods or services can be purchased from it (eg
“”) will normally be passed uncut unless the title itself implies that goods can be purchased from the address (eg
“”) in which case (ii) applies.

ii) A website or postal address accompanied by a suggestion (verbal, text or pictorial) that goods or services can be purchased from it (eg “Products are available in our online store”) will normally be cut if a visit to the website reveals that it appears to be offering R18 material or its equivalent (or stronger) by mail order.

All other works

iii) A website or postal address with no suggestion that goods or services relating to R18 material or its equivalent (or stronger) can be purchased from it (eg “”) will normally be passed uncut.

iv) A website or postal address accompanied by a suggestion (verbal, text or pictorial) that goods or services relating to R18 material or its equivalent (or stronger) can be purchased from it (eg “get hardcore sex at www.illegal”) will normally be cut if a visit to the website reveals that it appears to be offering R18 material or its equivalent (or
stronger) by mail order.

NB “by mail order” involves an offer to sell a tape, disc, chip or other storage device by means of the post or a parcel or courier service or similar. An offer to supply hardcore material by video-on-demand (streaming, downloads, etc) or other manner in which no physical product changes hands does not count as mail order supply of a video work.


23rd November   BBFC Response

The BBFC make some excellent points in their response. However it concentrates very much on the difficulties for the enforcing/prosecuting authorities in interpreting the very loose definitions in the proposals. This rather misses one fundamental point. Given that it is law persecuting internet downloaders not internet publishers, then if the authorities cannot define whether an offence has been committed, then how on earth can joe public expected to decide for himself.

The Home Office have proposed a law where it will be impossible for Internet users to decide for themselves what is illegal and what is not. I agree with Shaun,  we need criminal sanctions including prison for law makers that generate laws that so fundamentally trample on human rights.

Press release from the BBFC


The BBFC today published its response to the Home Office’s consultation on the possession of extreme pornography.  Whilst sharing the Home Office’s view that the easy availability of extreme pornography which features a lack of consent, serious violence, or both, is a cause for real concern, the BBFC has raised a number of questions about how the proposed legislation would work in practice.

 The Board’s main concerns are as follows:

  •  How would enforcement agencies judge whether the primary purpose of the work was sexual arousal?  Separating the ‘pornographic’ from the ‘non pornographic’ is becoming more rather than less difficult as film makers borrow styles images and themes from both sides of the divide.
  • It may be difficult to frame the various definitions in a way which ensures that mainstream material is not unintentionally captured.
  • Perceptions of whether an activity appears to be real will vary from viewer to viewer.
  • It is proposed that cartoons should be excluded, but given the advances in CGI technology cartoons can look very realistic and the Board has cut or banned violent pornographic Japanese anime.
  • The definitions of material such as sex with animals or a human corpse are wider than the definitions in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.   
  • Geographical variations in attitudes could lead to the anomalies which existed during the ‘video nasties’ era of the early 1980s as well as with current Obscene Publications Act (OPA) prosecutions with courts in different parts of the country returning different verdicts in relation to the same material.  
  • The legislation could lead to a reluctance to create legitimate works which seek to explore the nature and effect of outlawed material for fear that the research materials or even the resulting works will be caught by the legislation.

 The BBFC would like to see works classified by the BBFC specifically excluded from prosecution under the proposed legislation.  This would help ensure that material not intended to be covered would not be prosecuted and would also allow the public to be confident that they would not face possible prosecution for owning material as long as it was classified by the BBFC.  The BBFC also suggests that the legislation should include a ‘public good’ defence along the lines of that available to defendants under the OPA.  In addition the legislation could reduce the risk of confusion about whether to prosecute by requiring the Crown Prosecution Service to take account of the views of relevant authorities such as the BBFC.

 The BBFC takes the issue of sexual violence very seriously and research and our own public opinion polling tells us that material which would fall short of that covered by the proposed legislation is of concern.  An unintentional consequence of the proposed legislation could be that only the type of material which is specified on the face of the Act would come to be deemed to be harmful.  This could have the effect, not only of undermining the OPA, but of unintentionally undermining the BBFC’s classification Guidelines.  We would therefore welcome confirmation that the proposal should not be taken as a reason for the BBFC to liberalise its sexual violence policy.

 The BBFC has over 90 years’ experience of regulating the moving image and in its response to this consultation has offered it expertise to the Home Office.  Copies of the Board’s response can be found at:


17th September  Hanging the Blame on the BBFC

From Joystiq

The BBFC has defended the inclusion of a hanging scene in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean even though a 12-year-old Welsh boy is thought to have died copying it. The film was passed suitable for 12-year-olds to watch on video or DVD by the BBFC.

The Western Mail told yesterday how Scott Buckle, of Swansea, was found hanging by the neck from a tie in his bedroom hours after watching the swashbuckling adventure on video.

Swansea and Gower Coroner Philip Rogers recorded an accidental death verdict on Scott who died in February 2004. Psychiatrist Dr John Talbot told the inquest Scott could have identified with the "anti-hero" of the film, Captain Jack Sparrow played by Johnny Depp.

He added the film contained "Hollywood type" scenes of hanging not "horrible scenes of hanging". He said these would not have been a deterrent to anyone likely to be influenced by the action on screen. The film showed Johnny Depp's character with a noose around his neck but finally escaping death after a rescue.

Scott's mother, senior social worker Fiona Buckle, said she was convinced Scott was trying to imitate the scene and may have thought he too could escape hanging.

Yesterday BBFC spokeswoman Laura Shelton said the board had cut hanging scenes from other movies. It was done if there was a suggestion hanging could be done with no consequence but she said the scene in Pirates of the Caribbean was brief and "unreal".

The BBFC issued this statement to the Western Mail yesterday, Pirates of the Caribbean was passed '12A' for cinema and '12' on video/DVD. The BBFC takes imitable techniques extremely seriously (more than all other countries), particularly where very young children are the target audience.

Where there is the suggestion that it's possible to hang for a period of time without consequences the BBFC will always intervene in children's films. The BBFC cut The Mummy (1999) to significantly shorten a scene of hanging and in The Abduction Club (2002) a similar cut was made before the film's release.

Pirates of the Caribbean did not contain images that suggested it was possible to hang by the neck without consequences. In addition, the brevity of the scene and fantasy nature of the whole film made it clear that the story was unreal.


2nd September   Hot Coffee at the BBFC

A refreshing change from the nutter hysteria in the US

From Joystiq

David Yesterday I spoke with BBFC examiner Jim Cliff at the BBFC stall at Games Market Europe. I asked Jim some questions on the subject of how games are rated, the Hot Coffee scandal and the 18 rating.

Joystiq: First of all, what is the BBFC’s attitude to user added game content with regard to the rating of games in terms of mods?

BBFC: Well, it doesn’t really come under what we do which is rating games under the video games recording act, which specifies that the physical supplier’s work is classified.

Joystiq: With regard to the Hot Coffee mod, am I right in saying that the BBFC did not increase the rating despite the widespread condemnation of the content in America?

BBFC: Yes, we did not increase the rating beyond 18. The situation is that if that happens in the original game then we will take it into account in our rating, but if it’s added later then there’s really nothing we can do about it.

Joystiq: What would your advice be to the US based games classifications board, in particular the ESRB when addressing sexual content in games?

BBFC: We have different ways of rating lots of things in comparison with lots of countries, for instance in France the film American Beaut y recieved the equivalent of a Universal rating whereas in the UK we rated the film 18. We deal with media in different ways because our society is different. And in America, consumers have a reaction to content that we don’t have here. A lot of the British that saw [The Hot Coffee] episode said It’s not that big a deal, it’s not that explicit .


18th August   Young Love at the BBFC

David Hamilton's Bilitis has been passed uncut for DVD. It was previously cut to remove a sequence implying anal rape. The film is now uncut.

Fans of David Hamilton will also be pleased to note that Blackhorse Entertainment will also be releasing DVDs of Laura (passed 'X' uncut on film in 1982 but never previously classified for video release), A Summer in St Tropez (never previously submitted to the BBFC) and First Desires (never previously submitted to the BBFC). All have been approved '18' uncut for DVD release (but not yet confirmed) .

The only Hamilton film that's still unavailable on DVD is Tender Cousins (which was cut by 1 minute 25 seconds for cinema release in 1983 and later released on video in the same cut version).


16th August   More Justifiable Obscenity

The passing or urolagnia in Taxi Zum Klo is not the only example of the BBFC passing images that would normally be considered 'obscene' by the authorities (within the context of a sex work).

Dirty Pictures is a drama documentary about the Robert Mapplethorpe obscenity case in the US which includes still images of gay anal fisting.  It was passed 18 uncut on video in 2001 because it was a serious reconstruction of an historic obscenity trial and therefore unlikely to be found obscene 'as a whole' (or, even if it was, the 'public good' defence would apply).

In fact Robert Mapplethorpe's own books of art photos contain still images of not only fisting but also urolagnia and these are widely available in reputable bookshops, including the National Portrait Gallery! The police don't touch them because they're 'art'. The police know that any attempt to prosecute them would bring them into disrepute and ridicule (not to mention all the academics, artists and public figures who would queue up to defend the images in court under the 'public good' defence).


14th August   The Brown Bunny

The Brown Bunny has been passed uncut at 18 for video/DVD release and it does contain one scene of real fellatio (Chloe Seveigny fellating Vincent Gallo) at the very end of the film. It's just the one scene and the explicit fellatio last for less than a minute. This is contrary to excited press reports at the time of the film's premiere, which suggested a 'ten minute' blow job scene (the ten minutes in fact related to the whole scene within which the less-than-a-minute of fellatio occurs!). There are no plans for a cinema release.


12th August

Updated 15th August

  Flesh Uncut

Thanks to Simon and Gary

Couple of interesting points at BBFC today - Vincent Gallo`s Brown Bunny has been passed uncut for video, so looks like it`s skipping the cinema here, and the cinema release of the Dukes of Hazzard has been snipped by 12 seconds for a 12A, removing the glamorisation of drug use not permitted at 12A

Lucio Fulci's Zombie Flesh Eaters has apparently just been passed uncut by the BBFC, thanks to Anchor Bay UK who are the current rights holder! Just to think, all it took was 25 years to get this uncut.

Update: Box of the Banned

Zombie Flesh Eaters was in fact only cut in 1999 because of recent obscenity convictions it had received. The policy of not passing videos uncut until 10 years after the last convictions has now been dropped.

It will not, however, be appearing for sale individually. Anchor Bay have only licensed it to use in their forthcoming 'Box of the Banned', a seven disc collection of 'video nasties'. The box will include The Evil Dead (uncut), The Driller Killer (uncut), Zombie Flesh Eaters (uncut), Nightmares in a Damaged Brain (in the same pre-cut version that has already been released on DVD in the UK), I Spit on Your Grave (cut UK version), The Last House on the Left (cut UK version) and a new documentary called Ban the Sadist Videos , about the video nasty phenomena. It's a shame that Anchor Bay haven't submitted the full version of Nightmares in a Damaged Brain as the BBFC would probably pass it uncut now.


11th August   Justifiable Obscenity

The Taxi Zum Klo decision including urolagnia has prompted several points about obscenity and the Obscene Publications Act. On a closer look at the law, it does appear to be quite kind to what may be considered as obscene when included in film that may be considered as art.

Section 4(1A) of the Obscene Publications Act, as revised by the Criminal Law Act 1978, does in fact allow obscene film material to be published if it is proved that the publication of the film or soundtrack is justified as being for the public good on the ground that it is in the interests of drama, opera, ballet or any other art, or of literature or learning.

So, when considering a film, the BBFC must first of all consider whether "taken as a whole" it is likely to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely to see it. If it is not likely to be obscene "taken as a whole" then there's no problem. However, even if it is obscene, it is still possible to classify it if its publication is in "the public good". The same "public good" defence has applied to all printed publications since the Act was first introduced in 1959 and has applied to films since 1978 (when section 4(1A), quoted above, was added to the original section 4(1)). So, obscene material can indeed be lawfully published if there is some special merit to it.

With regard to the "taken as a whole" test - which decides whether the work is obscene or not - the BBFC must also take into account the overall effect and intention of the work (ie is it there just to arouse or does it have some other purpose). It is inevitable when considering a work "as a whole" that the overall context and purpose of the work must be considered. So the fact that something is a work with merit may influence how it is "taken as a whole".

It is worth remembering in this regard that the preamble to the Obscene Publications Act describes it as an Act "to provide for the protection of literature; and to strengthen the law concerning pornography" (since 1978, 'literature' has included films). The different standards applied to porn and non-porn works is therefore inherent in the Act itself, from the opening preamble (porn versus 'literature'), through the "taken as a whole" test (which requires context to be considered), right through to the "public good" defence (which allows even obscene material to be published if it has merit). Clearly, the purpose and effect of Taxi Zum Klo , taken as a whole, would be regarded differently to that of a porn work. However, even if Taxi Zum Klo is obscene, it may still be published if it has merit under the "public good" defence of Section 4.


23rd July   Kermode Appeal

Mark Kermode has written another article regarding the recent VAC R18 decision:

See the views of the VAC are detailed in their report (a pdf document)

The verdict of the Video Appeals Committee who have ruled that there is indeed a clear distinction between the sexually explicit films of Ben Dover and the equally explicit work of Michael Winterbottom. The distributors of nine porn tapes had claimed that it was "inconsistent" for the BBFC to slap them with sex-shop-only R18 certificates after granting an uncut 18 rating to 9 Songs, an 'arthouse' affair boasting nudity, penetration, masturbation, fellatio, cunnilingus, and copious ejaculation.

The VAC, however, declared that "we do understand the Board's logic" in claiming that Winterbottom's film is "wholly different" from its porn tape counterparts on the grounds of "context" and "story". The VAC also gave the thumbs down to the suggestion of a new 18-X category which could have allowed depictions of "straight down the wicket sex" to become available in high-street stores, and which - according to Geoffrey Robertson QC - could even have helped provide a cure for cancer!


20th July   Bollox Law Lives On

It was perhaps an inevitable decision but the whole state of UK porn law is starting to stink to high heaven. The current Video Recordings Act is ostensibly about protecting children when in reality is being used by politicians corrupting the law to fit their own morality and by vindictive enforcement agencies who seem to think they have the right to destroy people's lives to prove that the law is the law.

If our nasty minded Government want to maintain this repressive they legislation they need to urgently remove the right of councils to refuse licenses on trumped up justifications. The only justification for a refusal of a licence to any shop with an adults only area is if the shop fails to abide by the display or age restriction requirements.

Shops should be able to sell via any mechanism whatsoever including broadcast and mail order as long as that mechanism can be shown to take reasonable precautions against children obtaining hardcore.

The law should protect children...not dodgy politicians who corrupt the law to fit their own ends. Innocent people are being put in prison and lives are being ruined even when hardcore has got nowhere near any children.

From the BBFC

The Video Appeals Committee (VAC) announced today the outcome of the appeal by eight distributors against the decision by the BBFC to pass nine video works ‘R18’. The seven members of the VAC were unanimously of the view that the appeal should be dismissed.

The distributors submitted their works with a request for an ‘18’ rating. The BBFC rated all of the works ‘R18’, the category reserved for sex works which are only available through licensed sex shops. The distributors appealed to the VAC under the terms of the Video Recordings Act 1984.

In upholding the Board’s decision on the nine works the VAC in its Judgment expressed the opinion that “the material which is the subject of this appeal is not suitable for distribution other than in a sex shop. We have considered each video individually but in none of them do we find any grounds to change the classification. The Board has the onerous task of ensuring that material of this kind does not fall in the hands of children or the vulnerable and the fact that a person may not order it by mail in this country and must purchase it in person goes some way to enable the Board to discharge this duty.”


18th July   Singing the Same Song as 9 Songs

From Channel4 by Mark Kermode

Last year, having correctly predicted that the BBFC would pass Michael Winterbottom's hardcore art-romp 9 Songs (which includes actual scenes of intercourse, oral sex and ejaculation) at 18 uncut for cinemas, I noted that the real test of the BBFC's apparent open-mindedness... will come when the film is submitted for video classification, for it is here that the issue of precedent will really start to bite .

My contention was that, if passed uncut for home viewing, Winterbottom's film could lead to a claim of preferential treatment by pornographers whose works are regularly given a restrictive R-18 rating which allows sale only in licensed premises. As I said at the time, Those distributors of R-18 sex tapes who are currently complaining about the confinement of their product to licensed sex shops may well be inclined to take their case back to the Video Appeals Committee (VAC) [who] may now be asked to overrule future R-18 ratings in favour of the more lenient 18 classification. After all, if it's alright for Winterbottom to peddle tapes which depict penetration and ejaculation, then why shouldn't they?

Fast forward to the present, and guess what? Kermode turned out to be right again! Last month the distributors of nine hardcore tapes ( Lubed, The Secrets Of The Kama Sutra, Ben Dover - Cumming Of Age Volume Two, Heart Of Darkness, Queensway Trailers, Dungeon Diva 2, Semi-Detached, Catering For All Tastes - Finger Buffet For Six and L'Elisir D'Amour ) appealed to the VAC after the BBFC slapped R-18 ratings on material for which they had requested 18 ratings.

According to the BBFC, the content of these tapes clearly fell within the terms of the R-18 for-sale-in-sex-shops-only category. Yet in presenting their case to the VAC, the distributors' flamboyant lawyer argued that these tapes depicted only "straight down the wicket sex", which he insisted was very different to the kind of 'fetish' material which needed to be restricted to licensed premises. To bolster his case that such material should indeed be available for sale in high street stores, the lawyer displayed several pornographic magazines boasting similar content and also requested in passing that the VAC take a look at... 9 Songs ! - which had been passed uncut on video.

The result of the VAC's deliberations is due next week, and it's impossible to predict which way their decision will fall.

The stakes in this current case have been raised by the fact that the high court recently upheld a ruling by Liverpool magistrates who had fined two adult entertainment firms (Interfact Ltd and Pabo Ltd) for supplying R-18 tapes by mail-order, rather than through sex shops. We have no doubt that one of the main reasons for the restriction [of the R-18 certificate] is to ensure that the customer comes face to face with the supplier" said Lord Justice Maurice Kay, arguing that this provided "an opportunity for the supplier to witness the age of the customer. A plea that preventing the firms from selling their product "at a distance" was in breach of Article 10 of the Human Rights Act was also rejected on the grounds that the Video Recordings Act was "lawful, necessary, and proportionate."

The distributors currently awaiting the VAC verdict have argued that a new category, X-18, should be introduced to enable them to sell "straight" sex tapes in high street stores, with R-18 certificates covering only "kinky" material. The VAC, of course, cannot bring about the creation of a new certificate, and nor indeed can the BBFC, at least not without the intervention of a higher authority. If the VAC finds in favour of the distributors' appeal, the effect will simply be to blur the line between the 18 and R-18 categories, thereby disrupting a system which ironically was created to facilitate the legal sale of hardcore material for the first time in the UK.

Personally, I can't help thinking that the BBFC dug themselves into a hole when they opted not to make token cuts to 9 Songs on video, as they had previously done with Catherine Breillat's Romance. Such cuts would have bolstered their argument that there is a "clear" distinction between art and porn, or between extreme mainstream cinema and sex-shop-only smut. If the VAC finds in favour of the distributors, there is a real danger that the R18 certificate may become unworkable. If the VAC find in favour of the Board, they're going to have to do some serious explaining as to why it is that Michael Winterbottom can show people shagging on tape, but Ben Dover can't. Watch this space.


6th July

Updated 7th July

Updated 12th July
  Zombies at the BBFC

Thanks to Andy who pointed out the latest George A Romero zombie movie, Land of the Dead ,  has been passed uncut with a 15 certificate (Saying that there will no doubt be a directors cut pop up sooner or later). A sign of the times then that zombie flicks are now being made suitable for at least older children

7.7.05 Thanks to Harvey:

I have been told (unconfirmed) that the cinema version of Romero's Land of the Dead has been cut by approximately 6 minutes to obtain an R rating in the US. Presumably it was this cut version that was submitted to the BBFC.

12.7.05 Thanks to Neil:

Now the reason for my email is to clear up any confusion. Romero was told when he made the film that he could do two versions, a theatrical release and a unrated DVD release. Hence the reduced time for the theatrical release. There was no cuts imposed on the US version because the sequences had never been included in the first place, always planning to make the complete version available on DVD. The BBFC version of the film is the uncut theatrical release


2nd July  MPs Join the Gutter Stalkers

The shameful politicians getting involved in this nastiness are proving themselves to be the lowest form of sound byte merchants merely baying to the clarion call of the Daily Mail.

The simplest bit of research would have revealed the bollox being spewed by the Daily Mail and Mediawatch-UK. I am sure that a quick phone call or email to the BBFC would have resulted in a well reasoned response detailing the decision about War of the Worlds. The BBFC are the most open and transparent of regulators. The decisions of the BBFC are always in line with published guidelines and where these do not cover all aspects of the issues, then the BBFC will detail the laws, research and other agencies involved in their conclusion. In fact their policy has in the past (probably changed now!) has been to forward queries to the examiner involved who would personally reply.

Interestingly one Matt Born sent me an email saying that he was doing some research on censorship and asked if I knew who the examiners are. He somehow forgot to mention that he is a reporter for the Daily Mail. Pretty underhand I thought.

I am not surprised to see such bollox in the Daily Mail but I am surprised to see MPs getting involved. Surely they should not take the Daily Mail at face value. I urge any other MPs considering joining this bandwagon to take time simply to ask the BBFC about their decision before rushing into false accusations of a lack of transparency.

Meanwhile I feel Mike Penning and Theresa May deserve a place in the Melon Farmer's Hall of Shame (Of course I am being horribly hypocritical and am relying on the Daily Mail with regards to the shameful actions of these MPs)

See the list of MPs supporting this Daily Mail inspired tirade Baying to the Tune of the Daily Mail

From the Daily Mail & Mediawatch-UK

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell was under intense pressure last night to name the film censors who gave a controversial 12A rating to Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. The decision means under-12s accompanied by an adult can watch the film – even though it contains disturbing scenes of violence. Despite mounting public concern over the move, the British Board of Film Classification has refused to identify the 30 examiners responsible for deciding what ratings are given to films shown in British cinemas. A spokesman said it was an independent body which was not funded by the taxpayer and insisted its employees had a right to privacy. But the stance was condemned at Westminster, with Conservative backbencher

Mike Penning tabling a series of Parliamentary written questions today calling on Miss Jowell to publish the censors’ names. ‘I cannot see why, if they are making these decisions on our behalf, we cannot know what sort of background they have and what sort of people they are’, said the Hemel Hempstead MP. Shadow Culture Secretary Theresa May last night joined the calls for the censors to be named. ‘I firmly believe that the public should have more information about the people who are entrusted with such a hugely important job.’

Commenting today John Beyer, director of mediawatch-uk said: “The Board’s decision on War of the Worlds shows again that the time really has come for a complete overhaul of the way films are classified. We recognise and acknowledge that the Board has done a great deal in recent years to improve the information available to the public on its websites and in the Annual Reports. However, the critical work of judging and classifying films remains rather obscure despite the Broad’s new Classification Guidelines. The truth is that ever more explicit and brutal imagery and language is classified as suitable for younger age groups. We believe that the Board, as presently constituted, is too close to the industry and should be scrapped. A new body, properly accountable to Parliament with the public rather than the industry’s interest as its priority, should be established forthwith. The Board’s decisions affect not only cinema audiences but television audiences too with around 3000 film shown on the five terrestrial channels alone.”


1st July  Stalking from the Gutters

The shameful Daily Mail have previously used the tactic of camping on the doorstep of the homes of BBFC examiners that they considered too lenient. It looks like they want to renew the tactic.

It must be particularly irritating to the BBFC who actually go to great lengths to provide in-depth answers to polite questions about policy.

From The Daily Mail

The BBFC last night refused to reveal the identities of the censors who gave War of the Worlds a 12A rating.  The organisation said it was determined to keep their names secret after previous rulings had led to censors being pilloried by the Press. ‘We’re not a Government body, we’re not funded by taxes,’ a spokesman said.  ‘So we’re not going to “out” our employees so they can be subject to outrageous stalking campaigns by the Press.’  The spokesman said the BBFC’s 30 full-time censors work on the principle of ‘collective responsibility’ and the board’s director, David Cooke, was answerable for their decisions


25th June   Appealing Outcome

I haven't heard anything about the R18 appeal to date but the Video Appeals Committee now have 3 weeks to come to a decision and produce the write up of their reasoning etc.


24th June   Incitement to Censorial Hatre d

I was reading some of the recent debate of Labour's noxious Incitement to Religious Hatred legislation. I was impressed by the quotation from Liberty's Shami Chakrabarti who said: In a democracy there is no right not to be offended. Religion relates to a body of ideas and people have the right to debate and denigrate other people's ideas.

The Government were then quoted as saying that they do not expect many prosecutions under the new laws, but argue it is important for Parliament to send out a clear message against "hatred, racism and extremism". Religious hatred is defined in the bill as
hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief

It is one thing to argue that there will be few prosecutions but I got to wondering what impact this new law will have on film/video censorship. I know that the BBFC read the law carefully before deciding whether they must censor but once a law is identified then they very conservatively make sure that all material is well within the restrictions.

Clearly religious ideas are often worthy of hatred and are involved in many conflicts over the course of history history. Indeed in many of these conflicts there is little emotion except hatred towards the opposing factions. I am wondering how many films and videos will now be censored as a result of this ludicrous regulation.


23rd June   Good luck

The Melon Farmers wish the companies detailed below in their quest to sidestep some of the unnecessarily restrictive aspects of the repressive Video Recordings Act

The ludicrous charade of councils refusing sex shop licenses on a barely veiled  excuse of appropriate location would become irrelevant. Ofcon's rights abusing prohibition on hardcore subscription TV would be made irrelevant. Vindictive persecutions of those trading in legal hardcore outside of state control would cease. And the exchequer would be laughing all the way to the bank with all the increased revenues from UK companies allowed to compete with foreign companies for mail order and Internet trade.

I can't really see any advantage whatsoever in sticking with the current nonsense...But the bookies would surely make the nonsense status quo a long odds on favourite.


17th June   Appealing Films

Nine adult companies have got together with the aim getting hardcore material passed at 18 rather than R18. They have submitted hardcore material for an 18 and then appealed against the inevitable cuts. This will let them argue their case through the BBFC appeals procedure.

Getting hardcore passed as 18 will also serve to diffuse the current ludicrous ban on R18s on subscription TV and mail order R18s. UK sex shops are unnecessarily being discriminated against as all mail orders sales are being driven across to perfectly legal foreign operations.

The 9 companies worthy of Melon Farmers' support are:

  • Prime Time Promotions Limited
  • Prime Time Promotions Limited on behalf of Pabo Limited
  • Queensway Film Distribution
  • Tongue In Cheek Limited Trading as RELISH
  • Premier Film Productions
  • Solarnet Media
  • Ben Dover Productions
  • Millivres Prowlar Limited
  • Hot Rod Productions Limited

The films submitted are:

  • Lubed - Prime Time Promotions Ltd
  • The Secrets of Kama Sutra - Prime Time Promotions Ltd
  • Ben Dover Cumming of Age Volume Two - Ben Dover Productions
  • Heart of Darkness - Hot Rod Productions
  • Queensway trailers - Queensway Film Distribution
  • Dungeon Diva 2 - Premier Film Productions Ltd
  • Semi-Detached - Tongue In Cheek Ltd
  • Catering for All Tastes Finger Buffet for Six - Solarnet Media Ltd
  • L`Elisir D`Amore - Millivres Prowler Ltd

The titles are of a graduated range in strength from barely R18 to the strongest R18 content permissible. This series of appeals will test the boundaries of what adults will be permitted to buy in shops such as HMV as opposed to licensed sex shops which are currently the only legal UK source of R18 DVD's.

The Video Appeals Committee (VAC) will hear the appeal on 23rd and 24th June. It will take place at: Congress Centre,
28 Great Russell Street

The Appeal begins at 10.30am on the Thursday morning and is open to the public


27th May   Appealing for Less Restriction

Clearly Monday's High Court Judgment makes it difficult to have much hope but if it were to succeed it would clear up an awful lot of the bollox restrictions imposed by knee jerking politicians of the 80's.

My own suggestion for a tweak to law to try and keep customers, distributors and even politicians happy would be to take away Council powers to charge for or deny sex shop licences. (Except for shops that fail to implement the age restrictions). Thus any shop willing to provide a segregated area and impose age restrictions could sell R18s. There would still be more state control on selling to youngsters than normal goods as this would result in a revoked licence.

Prime Time and seven other distributors have mounted a joint appeal against the overly strict classification of hardcore material. The have submitted nine hardcore video works for an 18 certificate. The BBFC required cuts to eliminate views of real sex for an 18 certificate (of course most cuts would not be required for an R18) . The distributors are now appealing against the cuts for an 18.

The Video Appeals Committee (VAC) will hear the appeal on 23rd and 24th June. It will take place at: Congress Centre,
28 Great Russell Street

The Appeal begins at 10.30am on the Thursday morning and is open to the public


27th May   Classified Information

The BBFC have just issued their Annual Report covering decisions in 2004. It is available via "The BBFC" and then "Downloads" options on the BBFC website menu.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC, said:

This is my first Annual Report as Director of the BBFC and it details another very successful year for the Board. I am particularly pleased that the new students’ website, which was trailed in the Report, is ready to go live to coincide with the publication. 2004 was another record year with over 15,000 works classified. It also saw the most extensive public consultation exercise by any film regulator, resulting in new classification Guidelines published earlier this year. The Guidelines are there to enable us to make consistent, and, I hope, sensitive decisions which protect children and other vulnerable groups. Examples of how we have done this can be found throughout the Report.

As a relative newcomer I have taken the opportunity in my introduction to take an overview of the Board’s current position. We are working closely with the games industry and others to ensure that we see all the non-exempt digital games which should be referred to us. We are working closely with the film, video and DVD distributors on a number of key issues, including promoting the understanding of ‘12A’ and ensuring that our Consumer Advice is readily available and accessible. We will continue to keep closely in touch with public opinion and ensure that this is reflected in our practice in individual cases.

When I took over from Robin Duval it was clear that he had left the Board in very good shape. Productivity and efficiency had improved markedly along with the consistency and transparency of decision making. In the report for 2005 I will outline how I see the Board’s future strategy, and the steps we need to take to remain prepared for future challenges.


27th May   Student Classifications

Press Release from the BBFC:

Did the BBFC ban A Clockwork Orange ? Why wasn’t The Exorcist available on video until 1999? What is the truth behind the classification of Straw Dogs ? Why did the BBFC ban The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ? The correct answers to these questions and many more can now be found on which goes live today.

sbbfc – Students’ BBFC is a website designed for media studies students and film fans of all ages and joins the highly successful cbbfc – Children’s BBFC which caters for primary school children. cbbfc averages over 90,000 hits a month from around the world (not all of them from children!) and the new website is expected to more than match that level of interest. The BBFC is the only media regulator in the world to have websites specifically designed for children and students. The websites form an important and integral part of the Board’s media literacy commitment.

As well as containing information about the day to day workings of the BBFC, sbbfc includes case studies about specific films (including the ones in the introduction); sets classification decisions in their historic context; explains the legal framework within which the BBFC works; and will provide teachers and students with material for use in media studies courses.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:
cbbfc proved so popular with children, parents and teachers alike that we knew we had to do a version for older students. sbbfc is clearly geared towards media studies students from secondary through to further education but I am sure that anyone interested in film will find the site interesting and informative. cbbfc was unique anywhere in the world, but happily that will not be the situation for long. We have talked to a number of the other film and media regulators across the world, including in Australia, Thailand and South Africa who want to take up cbbfc’s, and no doubt sbbfc’s, winning formula.

The BBFC remains committed to protecting children through our classifications. But, we are also playing our part in improving media literacy. Our examiners regularly visit educational institutions from primary schools through to universities to talk about media regulation and the work of the BBFC. The two websites form an integral part of that work. Last year the BBFC appointed an Education Officer to coordinate the Board’s educational activities and maintain the two websites to make sure they are up to date and interesting for a very demanding audience. The young people of today are the parents of tomorrow and helping them to inform themselves about the medium of film will ensure that future generations can make informed choices about what they and their children choose to watch.


26th May

Updated 27th May

  A Song and Dance at the BBFC

Thanks to Twain

I have been following the film 9 Songs with interest. I have noticed on the BBFC website DVD extras totaling 18mins 29secs have been given an R18 rating. So where does this leave the situation now? I imagine that the extras contain more scenes of a sexual nature that they have given an R18 as the scenes on their own could be classed as hardcore pornography.

This could throw the whole discussion back into foreground as I am sure Optimum Releasing will be appealing.

After a little research it seems that the extras consist of the rough cuts that were eventually edited down to form the sex scenes in the movie. They do in fact contain more hardcore material than actually made it into the final cut. In fact the final cut of 9 Songs contains about 2.5mins of hardcore whereas the extras contain about 12 mins of hardcore in a running time of 18 mins.

The extras are also presented without out any plot elements and end up being similar to the material from an R18 DVD.  One can only presume that inserting the songs, dialogue and character development are sufficient to convince the BBFC that  the sex scenes in 9 Songs are not primarily intended for sexual arousal and so can be 18. Whereas the longer running hardcore extras without context end up being more sexually arousing and so are R18.

I can see the underlying argument but I think this nicely highlights the stupidity of the Video Recordings Act. You can be fined £20,000 for giving the R18 DVD with extras to your wife as a Christmas present yet the slightly shorter scenes in the main 18 rated film can be shown on TV free to air.

Of course it is interesting to see how the DVD is marketed. I for one would like to see the version with extras but on the other hand it could harm sales if it were restricted to sex shops. perhaps they will release 2 versions, with and without extras.

Updated 27th May:

Thanks to Ramsey who has found out that the DVD will be released as an 18 without the extras


21st May

Updated 25th May

  A Rigged Fist Fight

It appears that the BBFC are totally out of the loop when it comes to the censorship of R18 videos. They simply take orders from Police/CPS/Home Office and are not provided with sufficient information to make their own judgements. Perhaps it would be interesting to know exactly which organisation provides the censorship rules. Perhaps the BBFC could make it clearer in their details of cuts, eg the current CPS interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act.

This all starts to smack of a stitch up by the authorities. The BBFC suggest that the state are saying that fisting and urolagnia are obscene because the CPS obtain successful prosecutions. But we also know from Braintree's case t hat the CPS go to great lengths to secure a guilty plea which I then presume counts as a successful prosecution. I wonder if there are any recent contested cases when a jury has found fisting or urolagnia obscene within the context of supply to consenting adults.

Shaun recently enquired of the BBFC:

I understand from your justification for censorship of "R18" videos, that the phrase Current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act is generally used, as justification for much censorship of these type of works.

After a debate on the Melon Farmer's site, and a recent reply from one of your examiners, I wish to know (perhaps under the freedom of information Act) either all the relevant OPA cases on which this "current interpretation" is based, or a contact at the Crown Prosecution Service who might be able to provide this information. It is not fair, or correct that you base your judgement on such cases, if we are not allowed to verify them, or see what context such "obscene" material was supplied, and perhaps argue against it. Certainly I am sure that very few such legal tests involved supply licensed sex shops (where the jury might not find obscenity, after considering the likely audience) for example.

So I think we should have available to us, under the Freedom Of Information Act, concise details of any case law, where certain material has (and just as importantly has not) been found to be obscene. I believe too, that the context of supply is very important. What would be considered by a jury to be obscene if supplied in one setting (for example a shop near a school, to children) and not obscene in another (for example a licensed sex shop) surely is very important too.

I still believe that some material is being censored merely on the grounds of sheer distaste, rather than harm in any real sense, or that the acts depicted are illegal in themselves, which in my view, is the only real justification to begin to consider blanket censorship of them.

The BBFC replied:

The first thing to say is that the BBFC is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act.

The second thing to say is that the BBFC is required under the terms of its designation under the Video Recordings Act 1984 to seek to avoid classifying material that is likely to be in breach of the Obscene Publications Act or any other laws. In order to fulfil this obligation we have regular conversations with the relevant enforcement agencies (CPS, police) about what kind of material they are currently seizing and prosecuting under the Act. We understand that their policy on the types of material that are likely to be seized and prosecuted is in turn based on the types of material that have been successfully prosecuted in the courts. The BBFC does not have details of individual cases nor the basis of current CPS or police policy. You would need to contact them for further information about this.

You can find contact details for the CPS on their website, .

From dancing_monkey The Melon Farmers' Forum

There is little evidence in the public domain about any actual prosecutions (tested by a jury) for fisting and urolagnia but the following seems relevant (Although I later heard that the police worked round the following by ensuring that obscenity persecutions were tested in less tolerant locations)

Regarding the "illegality" of pissing and fisting, the following from Sexadelic magazine (quoting the Evening Standard) might be of interest:

Police officer Nigel Solomon bought a copy of Teenage Perversions from a Brewer Street emporium; back at the station he and his colleagues enjoyed a series of kinky vignettes which included anal sex, watersports and lightweight flagelation.  A few weeks later they apprehend an unnamed Malteses man; he is charged under section 2 of the OPA (possesssion of obscene material for gain) and four thousand tapes are confiscated from his Rupert Street headquarters.

On October 7th (1996) the case comes before a stipendiary magistrate at Southwark Crown Court. The magistrate is somewhat unimpressed by the footage he is shown, asking at one point is it all like this? Or can you fast forward to the obscenity . On discovering that this is as good as it gets, the magistrate states that there is no point in asking the jury to watch 8 hours of this sort of stuff when it is almost certain that they will find for the defence. He suggests that the police "reconsider" their case.


20th May   Reversing the Polarity

The BBFC have recently taken a little light hearted stick about awarding a 12 certificate to an edition of Dr Who already transmitted at 7pm featuring cruelty to Daleks.

It transpires that the BBFC awarded a 12 certificate to the Dr Who episode a few weeks before transmission. Furthermore, the BBFC were in fact expecting a 12 certificate.

So as a little twist to the saga, perhaps it should be the BBC who should take the stick for transmitting 12 certificate material at 7pm.


17th May   BBFC Censor from Behind the Sofa

I have no reason to doubt the BBFC on their judgement about the need for an age restriction. However the BBC have got their first and effectively decided that a PG or even a 12A is appropriate. The BBFC have opted for a 12 video certificate which threatens to put shop keepers in prison for selling it to an under 12...for something that has been shown on early evening TV!

The BBFC should consider the gravity of enforcement options before stepping out of line with a high age restriction. I think they may have been better advised to go with the flow and award a PG. Perhaps the over exaggerated flack shows how well the BBFC have done up to now to avoid such stories breaking out on previous occasions.

Based on an article from Mediawatch-UK

In their many years of struggle against Doctor Who, the Daleks have never hesitated to use violence whenever possible. But when the tables are turned and someone is nasty to a Dalek it is time to draw the line, censors say. They have refused to let young children buy a video or DVD of the Dalek episode from the latest Dr Who series because they say it contains ‘excessive cruelty’ to one of the metal monsters. The BBFC, which must give its approval before the programme can be released on film, awarded a 12 certificate on the programme in view of the scenes which show a Dalek being tortured. The programme went out before 7pm, long before the adult watershed, but the Board said it sets a bad example to children because it suggests that using brute force and cruelty is the only way to resolve a problem.

Speaking today John Beyer, director of mediawatch-uk, said: This is a rather puzzling judgement by the BBFC because the programme has already been shown by the BBC at an early evening slot when many under-12s will have been watching. No doubt the whole series has been recorded by Dr Who fans and so any BBFC classification seems pointless however well meaning the Board’s judgement may be. It is a great pity that the Board does not apply the same rationale to other material, such as the ‘excessive cruelty’ in Natural Born Killers or Reservoir Dogs . [Hold on the BBFC do apply the same rationale,  they feel that these films should be age restricted and so have awarded an appropriate restriction, in these cases an 18 certificate]

Based on comment from The Times

Doctor Who’s latest enemies are, of course, the Censors. Inhabitants of a strange parallel universe known only as the BBFC, the Censors suffer from tragic myopia but wield immense power. They have ruled that the latest series of Doctor Who cannot be shown to children under 12, when it comes out on DVD, because of the programme’s “excessive cruelty”.

The Censors specifically object to a scene broadcast last month in which the Doctor subjects an imprisoned Dalek to a bit of rough-house treatment. Taking a tough line with a species bent on mass murder and world annihilation is clearly too much for the Censors, who are worried that the Time Lord’s behaviour may set an unhappy precedent. In the words of one of the Censors, “however cross one might be with a Dalek, being cruel is not the way to deal with the issue. Some children might take it into the playground.”

It’s good to know that the BBFC are concerned that any Daleks who find their way through space and time into the nation’s playgrounds should not be unmercifully bullied. But leaving aside the important issue of just how the nation’s children should react to the arrival of a Dalek during lunchbreak another ticklish question of space travel arises. Just what planet are these Censors on?

The BBFC professes itself “concerned at the use of violence to resolve problems” in a programme that children might see. Where have they been while the rest of us were growing up? Conflict is integral to drama, and those who construct narratives to grip young minds have always known that.  To imagine that our children can be turned into a nation of Fotherington-Thomases, tripping through the daisies and greeting the sky, is to indulge in a fantasy further removed from reality than any Doctor Who script.

The truth about violence, whether in Doctor Who, Middle Earth or the Middle East, is that it is not morally wrong in itself. The real moral question is, do we allow the bad guys to profit by it?

It would be easy to dismiss the Censors’ judgment on Doctor Who as just another piece of bureaucratic foolishness from a body that has taken political correctness too far. But it is worth noting precisely because there are all too many examples in our society of just such a phenomenon. What is really remarkable about the BBFC’s judgment is not how singular it is, but how typical of a prevailing attitude.

The Censors’ action over Doctor Who crystallises, in all its absurdity, key trends of our time. First, the judgment of a bureaucratic elite is held to be superior to that of informed individuals, so government appointees, not parents, decree what is the correct way to bring up children.

Secondly, art, including drama, is forced to conform to external criteria of “worthiness”. Works that should be there primarily to entertain have to serve a socially useful function. Soaps have to communicate the right message on drugs or dating, children’s drama has to promote an ideologically approved means of resolving disputes.

Thirdly, children themselves have to be brought up in an environment purged of danger, conflict, risk or jagged edges. There’s not much risk of them torturing any stray Daleks in our playgrounds when they’re not even allowed conkers. And while absurd restrictions are put in place to protect their bodies, so now censorship is deployed to protect their minds.

Commentators on the Right are sometimes accused of over-reacting to the march of political correctness by jumping at every provocation. Why get worked up about a ruling on Doctor Who DVDs, after all? Especially when we already know that good parents will already carefully police what their children see and bad parents won’t care, provided the kids aren’t screaming.

But it’s because some of us want to live in a country governed by a proper sense of proportion that we do react to every incursion of political correctness. We don’t want a society where access to entertainment and the upbringing of children are subject to a thousand tiny, well-intentioned but ultimately infantilising interventions.

There are a host of traps and temptations for our children to which sensitive parents need to be alert, such as the way teenage magazines push forward sexual boundaries. But the answer to this, and many other dangers, lies in teaching children to take responsibility for themselves and resist the fashionable flow. The best children’s authors realise that, and embody it in their heroes, from Charlie Bucket to Harry Potter. It’s a pity that wisdom is, in every sense, so alien to the Censors.


7th May   Piss Poor Explanation

I think the BBFC are out of order here. Urolagnia is not illegal, and only the visual depiction of it could be considered illegal. It does not matter a jot if there is real pissing going on if we cannot see it. In the bad old days when the depiction of straight forward sex was illegal the BBFC never banned real sex with obscured details. The physics of of the interactions clearly showed that it was real sex and the dialogue supported this.

I am also doubting the evidence that urolagnia has been successfully prosecuted in the context of R18s and the sex shop environment. It is about time the authorities pointed out which cases they are using to contend that fisting and urolagnia are obscene.

Thanks to Shaun

Re BBFC cuts to Dogging Diaries Episode 2 with the following BBFC statement: Cuts of 0m 4s were required. The cuts were Compulsory. Distributor was required to remove a verbal reference to urolagnia having taken place.

On Shaun's questioning the BBFC have replied to explain their stance:

The dialogue was not removed from Dogging Diaries - Episode Two on grounds that it may have been distasteful to some potential viewers. The dialogue was removed solely because of the meaning it gave to the images in the context of this particular work. Under current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act the Board will require cuts to remove urolagnia. In addition to straightforward clear examples of the activity, cuts will also be required if the viewer has good grounds to believe that urolagnia is taking place. Good grounds could include dialogue references which, when accompanied by otherwise ambiguous visual evidence, quite clearly implies that what the viewer is seeing is urolagnia. This was the case with Dogging Diaries - Episode Two in which the dialogue and visuals combined to create the clear impression of urolagnia. Neither dialogue nor visuals alone would have required intervention, and the distributor could have retained the dialogue, had they wished to remove the visuals. They chose to remove the dialogue and keep the visuals.

Murray Perkins
Senior Examiner


6th May   Fellatio at the BBFC

Referring to the previous post about Brown Bunny . The video has been passed uncut at the BBFC. It will miss out on a cinema showing and will be released on VHS/DVD in the autumn.

Interesting also to note that Deep Throat has recently been passed uncut at R18 for a cinema release. It is not yet clear where it can be shown though, as any cinema showing must be licensed for showing R18s. The previous R18 film, Good Old Naughty Days , was shown at the Other Cinema in London but this has now closed.

However viewers may still get a flavour of the hardcore action. The documentary film, Inside Deep Throat, contains a key 15 second hardcore sequence from the original that has been passed at 18

And for those of us who would like to see more hardcore in 18 certificate videos, there is the adult industry wide appeal.  This is attempting to get hardcore material freed from the impractically restrictive R18 certificate. This appeal seems likely to be scheduled in late June.


1st May   Brown Bunny at the BBFC

From The Melon Farmers' Forum

goatboy 28-Apr-2005:

I notice a trailer for The Brown Bunny was put through the BBFC last week.....

zadok :

I was intrigued to know what The Brown Bunny was, so I found this:

Anyone who has had heard anything about this film in advance will know that it contains a celebrated scene of fellatio. This occurs in the last five minutes and, along with a big surprise in the so-called plot provides a momentary transcendence of the catatonia the rest of the film is so deeply mired in.


30th April   Appealing Companies

Nine adult companies have got together with the aim getting hardcore material passed at 18 rather than R18. They have submitted hardcore material for an 18 and then appealed against the inevitable cuts. This will let them argue their case through the BBFC appeals procedure.

They should surely win as the concept of licensed sex shops has been abused by councils who refuse to grant licences with trumped up nimby justifications. The current situation is an abuse of human rights as censorship is being imposed without real justification.

Getting hardcore passed as 18 will also serve to diffuse the current ludicrous ban on mail order R18s. UK sex shops are unnecessarily being discriminated against as all mail orders sales are being driven across to perfectly legal foreign operations.

Anyway the 9 companies worthy of Melon Farmers' support are:

  • Prime Time Promotions Limited
  • Prime Time Promotions Limited on behalf of Pabo Limited
  • Queensway Film Distribution
  • Tongue In Cheek Limited Trading as RELISH
  • Premier Film Productions
  • Solarnet Media
  • Ben Dover Productions
  • Millivres Prowlar Limited
  • Hot Rod Productions Limited


25th April   Pissing About with Freedom of Speech

Thanks to Shaun

Re BBFC cuts to Dogging Diaries Episode 2 with the following BBFC statement: Cuts of 0m 4s were required. The cuts were Compulsory. Distributor was required to remove a verbal reference to urolagnia having taken place.

The above really is a step too far for state imposed censorship. Talking about such things, SHOULD NOT be censored, even in a sex film.

Especially considering that such activities (distasteful to some, I admit) have never been shown to be truly harmful. Distaste, however is no justification whatsoever for censorship, and I think our Human Rights should be upheld here.


13th April   BBFC Bounce Back

As always, the BBFC promptly provided full details on the 18 certificates for the strange sounding bouncebackability DVDs, Slowmo Boy & Slowmo Girl

From the BBFC

The first thing to say is that the BBFC classified these works over a year ago, in February 2004, and this is the first time that anybody has commented on our decision.

At the time of submission, the distributor did not state that they were seeking any particular category (as all distributors are asked to do on the submission form). Nor was any explanation of the works, their intended audience or their purpose given. Furthermore, once we had awarded '18' certificates, the distributor did not query or challenge the Board's decision and nor did they ask for an explanation of our decision.

As for why the works received '18' certificates, in the absence of any category request or indication of the nature and intent of the work from the distributor (either at the time of classification or subsequently), the BBFC considered the works in the light of similar 'posing' works (in which women pose near naked) and concluded that the intent of the works must be predominantly to create sexual arousal. Slowmo Boy features a close up of a man's lycra-clad crotch for 58 minutes. As the work progresses, it is clear that his penis is becoming increasingly erect and remains erect under the lycra for the last few minutes of the work. Slowmo Girl features 58 minutes of a woman's clothed breasts bouncing up and down. Given the limited amount of information available on screen there seemed little alternative but to consider that the main purpose of the works was to invite sexual arousal at the sight of clothed female breasts and a clothed male crotch. Classifying such material below '18' would defy public expectations and, despite the lack of any nudity or graphic content, we therefore decided to take a cautious approach.


10th April   BBFC Bounced on their Heads at Birth

From the description it certainly sounds like a ludicrous decision from the BBFC. I wonder what the BBFC thinks made these videos worthy of an 18 certificate.

From Pressbox

Two novelty DVDs, Slowmo Boy and Slowmo Girl , which failed to make any impression on the pre-Christmas market when they were released by in December, have seen sales pick up dramatically since then, simply by adding the phrase "Now with extra bouncebackability" to the packaging.

The word 'bouncebackability', which was coined by Crystal Palace manager Iain Dowie and championed by the satellite television programme Soccer AM , is the subject of a major internet campaign for it's inclusion into the Oxford English Dictionary.

All we've don e, explained founder, Robert King, is quite unashamedly, jumped on the bandwagon. Our sales were moving slower than the subjects of our movies and we needed to do something fast.

Slowmo Boy is a 60 minute movie which features nothing more than an extreme close-up of a rippling lycra-clad groin, a la Linford Christie in his pomp. Slowmo Girl draws more on Pamela Anderson and the Baywatch genre with an undulating swim-suited bosom the entire focus of the action. Both subjects move in what King describes as "glorious" slow motion. He also believes they ably demonstrate a physical interpretation of the word 'bouncebackability'.

The main problem we've had is the 18 certificate the BBFC handed out, King continued. I think people might have been expecting nudity, but there isn't any. These DVDs are just a joke - a kind of human lava-lamp. And that's also where 'bouncebackability' has helped. I think it forewarns people that they're not to be taken too seriously.

King insists that the footage is not erotic but thought-provoking. He says that the censors failed to understand his artistic messages. and  that the 18 certificate has deterred buyers. The 18 certificate leads people to expect nudity - but there isn't any.


11th March   Media Cruelty

From Channel 4 by Mark Kermode

So, here we go again; another day, another ludicrously misinformed media fuss about the way an "archaic piece of legislation" (namely the so-called 1937 Animals Act) is wreaking censorious havoc upon international works of art. This time, it's Emir Kusturica's typically carnivalesque knees-up Life Is A Miracle which has lit the blue touchpaper, with the famously confrontational director threatening to withdraw the movie from UK distribution rather than allow those nasty British censors to hack up his art.

For those who've missed it, here's the story so far. When Life Is A Miracle was first submitted to the BBFC last month, the Board noted that it contained a brief shot of a cat mangling a live pigeon, an image which appeared to be unsimulated and which could therefore fall foul of the Animals Act. The BBFC duly presented the distributors with two options: provide credible evidence that the scene was simulated; or make a cut of slightly less than two seconds. After some consideration, the distributors plumped for the second option, apparently considering the issue unworthy of a protracted verification process. Sadly, however, no one asked Emir about this, and when he got wind of the decision, he hit the roof.

Outraged at the 'censoring' of his fine work, Kusturica told the media that he would rather see Life Is A Miracle shelved indefinitely than "butchered". Asked to reconsider their decision, the BBFC pointed out that they were simply complying with a statutory regulation which was not theirs to overturn - the film seemed to depict a live animal being mistreated, and was therefore unacceptable. Kusturica shot back that the pigeon was already dead, and that he had found it lying by the side of the road. The BBFC pointed out that since the pigeon was still moving (its wings are demonstrably flapping) it seemed probable that (unlike Monty Python's infamous parrot), Kusturica's pigeon had yet to shuffle off the mortal coil. Unless, of course, Emir could provide evidence to the contrary.

What happened next was rather more peculiar. Having backed himself into a corner with his own threats of pulling the movie, and apparently realising that both common sense and UK law was against him, Kusturica admitted that, yes the pigeon was moving, but only because he had cleverly wired it up with bits of string, in order to simulate the writhings of a live creature. When asked to verify this assertion, the director promptly produced a letter attesting that no pigeons were harmed during the making of Life Is A Miracle - honest. Displaying the patience of Job, the BBFC duly looked at the scene again and conceded that, yes, unlikely as it sounded, it was just possible that the bird in question was part of some Gerry Anderson-esque puppet show. Since they were unable to prove that what Kusturica now claimed was anything but the truth, and since (contrary to press reports) the BBFC no longer cut movies just for the hell of it, the Board agreed to reverse their initial decision, and allow Life Is A Miracle to be passed uncut.

Judging by the ramblings in the mainstream British press, you may think that this is a triumph of the underdog over the rampaging powers of state censorship - a rare example of an international filmmaker cocking a snook at the forces of repression. Well, bollocks to that. For one thing, the much maligned Animals Act is in fact a perfectly sensible piece of legislation which simply requires that filmmakers do not treat animals like trash, and encourages them not to resort to acts of cruelty whenever artistic inspiration fails them. In the past few years, the Animals Act has been responsible for scenes of animal abuse being cut from everything from Ruggero Deodato's relentlessly sleazy Cannibal Holocaust to Ki-Duk Kim's supposedly highbrow The Isle - cuts which, incidentally, I wholeheartedly support and endorse. Just a few months ago, the BBFC snipped three horse-falls from Yimou Zhang's feted House Of Flying Daggers having taken advice from an independent expert who concluded that the manner of the stunts would clearly have injured or killed the animals in question. Again, good calls.

In the case of Life Is A Miracle , the BBFC clearly acted with patience and restraint, refusing to classify a scene which apparently infringed existing British law until evidence was forthcoming which suggested that it might be something other than it appeared. As for Kusturica, had he bothered to have an independent observer monitoring the animal action on his movie (or even, for that matter, had the good sense to take snapshots documenting his alleged 'wire and string' animation methods) he would never have had any of these problems in the first place. That's exactly why organisations such as the American Humane Association have flourished in Hollywood - because filmmakers have realised that the international market-place will no longer tolerate a laissez faire attitude toward animal welfare.

None of which is to suggest that the Animals Act prevents any responsible filmmakers from stretching their wings artistically. Despite a farcical scare story in 'The Guardian' announcing that the BBFC were going to ban the Mexican movie Amores Perros a few years ago, the film was in fact passed uncut when the director provided ample video evidence that all the dog-fighting scenes were carefully staged to ensure no harm befell the animals. Similarly, a scene which appeared to depict a staged bullfight in Talk To Her was allowed to stand when it was demonstrated that computer graphics had been used to superimpose the actresses face onto existing film of a training fight. Such precautions are open to all filmmakers who take the issue of animal welfare seriously. As for the rest of them, frankly they have no one to blame for their problems with the Animals Act but themselves.

In fact, rather than rushing to Kusturica's defense, those who actually understand the difference between censorship and regulation should be loudly applauding the BBFC for the even-handed manner in which they have handled the farcical situation surrounding Life Is A Miracle . Freedom of expression is one thing - freedom of behaviour is something else. Personally, I hope that Kusturica is telling the truth about that pigeon. As for the BBFC, they continue to prove that they have indeed put the adolescent silliness of the Ferman years behind them, and matured into one of the most sensible and accountable regulating bodies in the world.


11th March   100-1 on 9 Songs

From Reuters

Britain's censors have no regrets about allowing a ground-breaking film showing real sex to be screened uncut, despite receiving numerous protests ahead of its release today. Dubbed by its director Michael Winterbottom as the most sexually explicit film in mainstream British cinema, 9 Songs explores a relationship via a succession of intense sex scenes, complete with natural sound rather than the usual musical background.

A BBFC spokeswoman said it had received a stream of complaints since October's decision to show the film uncut with an 18 rating. We have probably received about 100 letters - only one was in favour of our decision, The rating was given within the BBFC's guidelines. There is nothing illegal or harmful shown in the film.


5th March   Dead Pigeons at the BBFC

From Index on Censorship

Award-winning film director Emir Kusturica is considering withdrawing his new film Life is A Miracle a typically full-blooded romance set against the backdrop of the Bosnian war - from British distribution because the UK censor has required he cut a scene of a cat killing a pigeon, the Guardian reports.

The BBFC said the pigeon was “apparently alive” before the cat was filmed pouncing. Under the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937 it is illegal in Britain to show any scene ‘organised or directed’ for the purposes of the film to involve actual cruelty to animals. There are exceptions, if the pigeon was dead at the time of the filming, which is what Kusturica claims. The BBFC has made exceptions for dramatic purposes, but usually only if the animal would have died anyway, if the cameras had not been present.


18th February   BBFC On Dope

The BBFC have banned 4 videos dealing with the cultivation of drugs.

Whilst these bans are not totally unexpected they do reveal a rather nasty streak of censorship that is starting to appear from several establishment sources, The term 'incitement' is starting to creep into all sorts of spheres and seems to be being used to deny free speech. So when does argument for say the legalisation of drugs become incitement. The usual mode of argument is to try and change the opinion of the opponent (even if one doesn't often really expect to achieve this). This is surely on some sort of scale of persuasion that starts with 'calm rational debate' and ends with incitement. My intuitive understanding of the word 'incitement' is that it is an aggressive form of persuasion associated with reasoning likely to appeal to a mob rule mentality.

If rational persuasion is to be considered as incitement then surely freedom of speech has been lost. Worrying times indeed.

I have read little about the up and coming drugs legislation mentioned by the BBFC. I wonder what other bollox is included. There is the obvious question is that: if the possession of magic mushrooms is to become a serious offence, then what happens if they grow in your garden. Perhaps we could get some royals done for possession of class A drugs. A Sunday stroll on their land may well reveal the required incriminating evidence. Perhaps even this doggerel is now to be considered incitement to treason


11th February   What's 12A?

Press release From the BBFC

A public awareness campaign, designed to improve the understanding of the ‘12A’ cinema rating, gets underway today. Centred on cinemas, the campaign will highlight on screen explanations as well as improved point of ticket sale information.

Improving the understanding of the ‘12A’ cinema rating was one of the key outcomes of the extensive public consultation exercise carried out by the BBFC in 2004. The ‘12A’ category replaced the mandatory ‘12’ cinema rating in August 2002, joining ‘U’ and ‘PG’ as an advisory rating. ‘12A’ rated films are suitable for children of 12 and over, but parents who would like to take children younger than 12 can do so. To help them decide which films are suitable for their children the Board provides Consumer Advice about the content of the films.

From now on at the beginning of ‘U’, ‘PG’ and ‘12A’ rated films, immediately following the well known BBFC ‘black card’, audiences will see an explanation of the meaning of the category that the film has been awarded.

Announcing the campaign, David Cooke, Director of the BBFC, said: Our research showed that around 40 per cent of people polled fully understood what the ‘12A’ category means. That is actually quite good after only two and a half years, particularly when it was also clear from the research that there is still some confusion about what ‘PG’ means, and that was introduced over 20 years ago! It was particularly good to see that the greatest understanding was among parents with children in the nine to eleven age range – the very people the category was designed for. However, parents with children younger and older than that group were confused. This had, in some cases, resulted in very young children being taken to see films unsuitable for them, causing disruption for other cinema goers, or older children being prevented from seeing ‘12A’ films because their parents thought the ‘A’ meant that the film contained adult themes.

We did consider whether a cut off age should be introduced to address the problem of very young children being taken to unsuitable films. But our current view is that imposing a mandatory lower age restriction on an advisory rating would only increase confusion. Instead, we decided to raise awareness of the meaning of the three advisory categories and the provision of Consumer Advice in the place where the public are most likely to be receptive to the campaign - at the cinema.

I am delighted to say that the film distributors and cinema exhibitors have agreed that the messages should appear at the beginning of films. In addition we are currently talking to the Cinema Exhibitors Association about providing increased information in cinema foyers, and in particular at the point where tickets are sold. The film distributors have improved the provision of Consumer Advice on ‘12A’ film publicity, as well as extending the provision of Consumer Advice to cover all categories. An overwhelming majority of respondents (almost 90 per cent) were in favour of this approach.

The ‘12A’ category has been a real success with the audience for whom it was intended. But we owe it to the rest of the cinema going public to make sure that there is no confusion attached to any of the advisory categories.”


  1. The wording of the three category explanations are as follows:
    Universal Suitable for all. U Films should be suitable for audiences aged 4 years and over. Check the consumer advice before allowing very young children to view a U film.
    Parental Guidance General viewing but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children.
    PG films should not disturb children aged around 8 years and over. Children may watch unaccompanied but some content may upset younger of more sensitive children. Check the consumer advice before allowing young children to view a PG film.
    12A Suitable for 12 years and over. No-one younger than 12 may see a 12A film in a cinema unless accompanied by an adult. Responsibility for allowing under 12s to view lies with the accompanying adult. Check the consumer advice before taking under 12s to see a 12A film.
  2. The ‘12’ rating remains for videos, DVD and video games and is a mandatory rating as it is illegal to supply 12 rated works to anyone under the age 12.
  3. The Consumer Advice for all films is available here on the BBFC website


10th February   No Guidance from New Guidelines

When the Home Office and enforcement authorities were discussing their approach to the legalisation of hardcore they decided that the BBFC guidelines would be the de-facto standard for all agencies. The previously published guidelines were therefore used by magazine publishers, web publishers, individuals who wanted to import pornography etc.

The previous guidelines provided clear lists of examples of what is and what is not acceptable. These have now been deleted. The R18 guidelines page on the BBFC site doesn't even make it clear that hardcore is acceptable because it only uses the phrase for explicit works of consenting sex between adults . However the BBFC guidelines booklet, found on the BBFC’s website at Downloads, makes it a lot clearer. Page 21 distinguishes R18s from 18s by saying that R18s contain clear views of real sex

The Guidelines and the summary of the research findings can be found on the BBFC’s website at Downloads.  Hard copies of the Guidelines can  be obtained from the BBFC.

Press release From the BBFC

BBFC publishes new classification guidelines

The BBFC today published new classification guidelines which increase protection for children from harm, while retaining the right of adults to choose their own viewing.  The Guidelines reflect the views of over 11,000 people from across the UK, 7,000 more than contributed to the 2000 Guidelines survey, as well as advice from a variety of experts consulted by the BBFC. 

President of the BBFC, Sir Quentin Thomas, said:
‘Our classification Guidelines are at the heart of our contract with the public and therefore have to reflect their views as accurately as possible. As well as the quantitative research, we used focus groups to look specifically at violence, bad language, drugs and the ‘12A’ cinema category. The clear outcome of all of the research was that the Guidelines are still, on the whole, in line with public attitudes and concerns.  However, drawing on both the public’s responses and expert advice, we have added, or given greater weight to, a number of key concerns.  These include suicide techniques, self-harming and incitement to racial hatred or violence.  The protection of children remains at the heart of the Guidelines.’

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:
‘Some might say that because we have not made major changes to the Guidelines the whole exercise has been a waste of time.  On the contrary, it enables the Board to re-affirm its public accountability in the thoroughly researched knowledge that, since the 2000 Guidelines were published, public opinion has become neither markedly more censorious nor more liberal.  The Guidelines ensure that people going to the cinema or renting or buying a DVD can be confident about what to expect from the work.  In support of this approach, the Board now provides informative Consumer Advice on every work we classify.  We rely on the industry for the display of this advice in publicity and on packaging, and we greatly value their co-operation in making this information available.  It can also be found on the BBFC’s website.

‘It is impossible to reach a classification decision which will be agreed upon by the whole population.  Indeed, as a member of one of the focus groups said “We can’t agree here, so how are 56 million people going to agree?”  What did receive overwhelming support was the proposition that the BBFC’s role is to protect children from both harmful and unsuitable material, with over 90 per cent of respondents agreeing.  The proposition that adults should be able to choose for themselves what they watch, within the law, was disputed by fewer than 20 per cent of respondents.   

‘We are acutely aware that there will be works which we pass, at whatever classification, which may shock or offend some sections of the population, just as we sometimes outrage libertarian views when we intervene to cut, or even refuse a certificate to, a work.  What the research shows, and the Guidelines reflect, is that for the majority of the public we get it right for the most of the time.’

The most important classification issues for the public were (rating it very important):
  • drugs and drug taking – 75 per cent
  • violence – 65 per cent
  • sexual activity – 56 per cent
  • swearing and strong language – 49 per cent
  • racial references – 46 per cent
  • religious references – 34 per cent

Percentages of people who think the BBFC Guidelines are ‘about right’:

  • Sex – 58 per cent
  • Violence – 53 per cent
  • Language – 51 per cent
  • Drugs – 54 per cent
Issues which have been added to the range of classification concerns, or which have increased in emphasis:
  • incitement to racial hatred or violence
  • expletives with a racial association
  • language which offends vulnerable minorities
  • suicide and self-harm
  • emphasis on easily accessible weapons
  • sexual violence and rape
  • promotion or glamorisation of smoking, alcohol abuse or substance misuse.


30th January   A Fine Line Between Fine Words and Bollox

It seems rare these days that the officers of the BBFC get a mention in the newspapers so any snippets are worth picking up. I think that the vast majority of the extensive BBFC tinkering with R18s is well within the line that could be called obscenity.

From The Times

David Cooke, the film censor's director, revealed some of the pressures facing his organisation earlier this week. Debating regulation at the Oxford Media Convention, Cooke said: There is a fine line between hardcore pornography and obscenity and we need to observe very carefully to find the distinction.


20th January   Wackos at the BBFC

The BBFC have just made their first ban of the year. A video titled Terrorists, Killers and Other Terrorists, Killers and Middle East Wackos DVD coverWackos has been refused a video certificate. It looks to have been re-titled from the politically incorrect Terrorists Killers & Middle-East Wackos.

The BBFC have published the following justification on their website :

Terrorists, Killers and Other Wackos comprises a compilation of uncontextualised clips showing real killings, executions, suicides, accidents, mutilation and torture (of both humans and animals) and other distressing images. The work presents no journalistic, educational or other justifying context for the images shown. Rather, the work presents a barrage of sensationalist clips, for what appears to be the underlying purpose of providing prurient entertainment. This is reinforced by the addition of a loud music soundtrack, which further trivialises the images shown. The trivialisation of human and animal suffering is further exemplified by the tasteless inclusion of occasional ‘comic’ captions. The work also contains a disturbing and distasteful undercurrent of racism and xenophobia. A significant amount of the material is taken from certain recurring geographic locations and could provide fuel for forms of racism which are hostile to non-white people.

The Board carefully considered the work in the light of our Guidelines and the tests set down by the Video Recordings Act. A key consideration is the question of any harm that might be caused to potential viewers or, through their behaviour, to society because of the manner in which the work deals with violence and “horrific behaviour or incidents”. The Board has concluded that the video is potentially harmful because of the influence it may have on the attitudes and behaviour of at least some intended or potential viewers. By presenting actual human death, mutilation and suffering as entertainment, the work has the potential to desensitise viewers, and perhaps even to incite some to harm others. The work invites the viewer to take sadistic pleasure in death, injury, mutilation and pain and encourages callousness towards victims. Given the rapid-paced editing, the addition of inappropriate music and supposedly ‘amusing’ captions, the work appears calculated to appeal to young and impressionable persons (whatever its classification). The Board considers that the work may have a significant brutalising effect on their attitude to human life and pain.

Given the potential for the work to deaden the sensitivity of viewers to pain and suffering and to impair the moral development of younger viewers in particular, the Board also considers that the work raises serious concerns about possible breach of the Obscene Publications Act. This Act makes it an offence to distribute any work that, taken as a whole, has a tendency to deprave and corrupt (i.e. make morally bad) a significant proportion of those likely to see it.

A further consideration for the Board is that of public acceptability. (This is the ground on which, for instance, the Board has regard to issues of bad language.) In this case the combination of the shocking and distressing images in the work, the lack of any justifying context, the editorial treatment, and the calculated appeal to the intended audience, all appear to the Board to raise serious concerns about the acceptability of the work to public opinion. Taken together with the harm issues, and potential breach of the law, these concerns about acceptability strengthen the basis for refusal of classification.

The Board considered whether cutting the work would be a viable alternative to refusing a classification certificate. However, the essential difficultly with Terrorists, Killers and Other Wackos lies not so much with any particular images (most of which would have been acceptable in a different, more serious, context) but with the manner in which the images are presented, and with the underlying, exploitative purpose of the work. Cuts would therefore be unlikely to modify the tone and overall effect of the work acceptably.


10th January   Censor of the British Empire

Hopefully honoured for steering the BBFC on a course far more liberal than 'the establishment' probably expected

From the Ealing Times

Robin Duval was awarded a CBE in this year's honours for the work he did at the BBFC.

The former director of the BBFC, who retired last September, was pleased with the award and said he did not find it difficult keeping the news a secret.

He told the Times: I have had the kind of job where keeping secrets is quite important. My friends and family are very pleased for me

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