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X-rate BBFC

In the pre-Christmas rush I have missed an email from someone at Ofwatch, who describe themselves as promoting the interests of adult subscription service viewers in the UK.

The BBFC (the British Board of Film Classification) are conducting a survey asking people if they agree with the way sex and violence are currently classified at all levels including R18. The last time they did this they were forced to relax the censorship of 18 classification film a little as most people were in favour of more choice for adults.

The survey opens up in a popup window the first time you visit www.bbfc.org.uk (and only the first time unless you clear your cookies). It is a simple multiple-choice form that doesn’t take long to fill in and can be completed online or even better, printed and posted (printed responses may carry more weight).

If you can spare a few minutes it is well worth completing it. I can guarantee that the likes of Mediawatch will be asking all their moaners to fill it in, so we desperately need a few open minded people to help balance things out and prevent the corrosive influence of the rightwing fundamentalist Christian groups who are opposed to just about everything and anything with an 18 certificate (or even a 15 certificate in many cases).

Apologies and hope that those interested in such matters still have a chance to participate in the survey.

9 comments to X-rate BBFC

  • Rob

    Here is what I wrote in the additional comments section of the questionnaire:

    “Film ratings are fine as a way to give information to parents deciding what to allow their children to see. As such, I see no reason for the existence of an official (presumably taxpayer funded) organisation such as the BBFC when there are already plenty of other ways to get information about films, such as reviews and parents’ organisations.

    “There should not be any laws controlling who sees what. Free individuals should have the right to decide what they watch, and what they allow their children to watch.”

    Somehow I don’t see the BBFC abolishing itself as a result of its survey…

  • The BBFC has been busy raising its profile in cinemas recently. They now rate many advertisements as well as films and trailers (and sometimes put a slide up for a few second before the ad explaining what the rating of the ad is) and also cinemas have been playing an advertisement for the BBFC (which is designed to look like a film trailer) that supposedly points out what a good thing the BBFC is. It’s yet another of these self-perpetuating bureaucracies that thinks it is self-evidently good and needs to tell everyone this. I also happen to think it needs to be abolished.

  • Guy Herbert

    The raising of the profile and the survey are part of the same thing, in case you hadn’t noticed, which is repositioning the BBFC as a service to the public, rather than an imposition. (Note the modish survey questions about the portrayal of smoking.)

    I believe this is a consequence of the recent radical relaxation of their censorship role. Which itself was due less to the personal liberalism of Robin Duval and Andreas Whittam-Smith (the preceeding chairman) than the helping hand given them by the internet’s and EU’s (yes, it is good for something) combined assault on the effectiveness of British censorship. People have begun to ask, “What is the BBFC for?” So it does have to sell itself.

    For those tempted like Rob to berate them as a charge on the taxpayer, they aren’t. They are funded out of fees from distributors for the ratings that they provide. They actually have a statutory role only in relation to video recordings and computer games (which latter they’ve never properly worked out how to deal with). Strictly speaking there is no film censorship in this country; though in practice the film censorship in this country is the strictest in the Western world. Film exhibitors are licensed by Local Authorities, who generally make it a condition of license that any films shown will be certificated by the BBFC for public exhibition.

  • Bernie Greene

    Thanks for the info Guy. I didn’t know they were not tax payer funded. But as to their power I am not so sure. For video and DVD they are obviously powerless to prevent under 18’s from viewing even if they can prevent sales of such to them. But for cinema viewing the certificate awarded does dictate the age of the children permited to enter.

  • Guy Herbert

    It’s not logical Bernie, it’s populist legislation.

    The Board of Film Censors, as they were, existed for many years before the 1985 Video Recordings Act. The latter was passed as video was becoming popular in the UK in response to press nonsense about “video-nasties” which were said to be being watched by children.

    […Reporter (concerned): Have you seen “I Spit on Your Grave?”
    Nine-year-old (with unconvincing bravado): Er… Yeah, we saw is at my mate Johnny’s house, er, twice. I thought the spit bit was best!…]

    The BBFC’s fans took the as an opportunity to give it the relevant statutory powers. Curiously, perhaps unsurprisingly, though the moral panic was purportedly about violence, the legislation was mainly about sex. It created the even weirder anomaly of R18 videos for pornographic content. Though the BBFC did not actually permit sex in R18 videos till the “liberalisation” of the late 90s (I am not making this up), they can only be sold in specially licensed premises (though there’s a peculiar exception that you’d be a brave retailer to rely on), not even by mail-order.

    There’s a great tradition of futile bans on selling things to children in this country. Currently banned: alcohol, tobacco, knives, glue (or any product containing solvents), fireworks, airguns, most videos, most cinema tickets, many of the most popular computer games, lottery tickets, a variety of “dangerous” toys… There are probably lots I’ve missed, but since children aren’t generally permitted to work either, I’m not sure where they’d get the money. Burglary and prostitution probably.

  • Rob

    Guy Herbert wrote of the BBFC:
    “They are funded out of fees from distributors for the ratings that they provide.”

    This still sounds like a tax to me – unless of course distributors are freely choosing to pay for the services of the BBFC.

  • Guy Herbert

    “Taxpayer funded” is usually taken to mean supported by a grant out of general taxation, which the BBFC isn’t.

    It’s like a license fee, charged of the user of the “service”. And as far as Film Exhibition is concerned, it is notionally voluntary. So it is closer to such pieces of bureaucratic extortion as planning gain.

  • Anthony Maxwell

    The BBFC is not funded my the tax payer. it is a private organisation and they get their funding by charging film distributers for their (compulsary) services.

  • Adding to what has already been said concerning the BBFC, there is a legal requirement under the Video Recordings ACT that all videos and DVD’s sold in the UK (with a few exceptions) must be certified by the authority that the Government suggest. That authority is currently the BBFC.

    You might be interested to know that the new UK communications regulator Ofcom will (in all likelyhood) be thowing a spanner in the works at the end of this month, at least as far as the R18 classification restrictions are concerned, by permitting R18 transmission on UK adult subscription TV for the first time.