Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Hateful Spiel From The Daily Mail

One of the joys of being interested in censorship issues, and film ratings, in Britain is the sight of our moral guardians inevitable apoplexy after they lose yet another controversial decision.

This guilty pleasure comes home to roost, however, when suddenly the tables turn, and certain of the more reactionary parts of Fleet Street get nasty in their own inimitable way. The set-up is this: the BBFC, the classification body for film in Britain, have awarded a '12A' certificate to Steven Spielberg's adaptation of 'War Of The Worlds.' I wrote a little about the 12A/12 certification issue here.

Basically, the Daily Mail have become upset because they feel that the film is too violent for a classification that potentially means under twelves can see the film on the big screen.

That, by itself, would be fair enough. I don't agree, but then nobody would expect me to. I have no problem with the Daily Mail being angered by a film rating - after all, I get angry about them too, though always the other way around. What I can get angry about, however, is their attempt to 'name and shame' the examiners responsible. This is outrageous behaviour, and should be condemned. The BBFC is more than open to criticism, and as the quote from the Mail itself makes clear, is prepared to have its director answerable for all decisions.

Contrary to popular opinion, the BBFC is an excellent classification body, better than, to the best of my knowledge, any other anywhere in the world. Not only does ot run its own excellent website, far better than, for example, the MPAA, which gives no information on controversial decisions at all, but it also runs two other websites, the Childrens BBFC, which is a wonderful little website for kids interested in film, and the Student BBFC, which is designed for film students and other, older folk with plenty of information on recent and historical controversial decisions. As is pointed out here ('the BBFC are the most open and transparent of regulators' - fully agreed - Ed) and here (once again, 'the BBFC are actually very open and transparent, and more than willing to give reasoned responses to any of their decisions') and here (finally, 'the BBFC who, for all their faults, do provide in-depth answers to questions about policy and decisions'), no film regulatory body in the world is as open to outside scrutiny.

The real disappointment is that a bunch of MPS have got in on it, demanding naming and shaming too. This disgusting behaviour by supposedly responsible elected representatives is precisely the reason I spoiled my ballot in the election.

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