Richard Hammond under fire for 'ice cream is gay' line on the Grand Tour https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/dec/27/richard-hammond-ice-cream-gay-the-grand-tour?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger
Saturday, 17 December 2016
Sunday, 4 December 2016
Wednesday, 23 November 2016
Sunday, 20 November 2016
Pornography sites face UK block under enhanced age controls.
Potentially restricting adult freedom of choice: many sites would simply block UK IP addresses (identifying web users as being in the UK) rather than run the risk of fines, or take on the cost of a separate monitoring and age verification system for this one market
Potential for government abuse: the legislation uses the terms pornography and adult content interchangably; as we've discussed with Baise Moi the term pornography is slippery enough, but adult content can be defined as widely as the government wishes.
Saturday, 12 November 2016
Friday, 4 November 2016
Note there is no mention of IPSO in this story. The Muslim Council of Britain organised 50 civic organisations (including the biggest teachers union, the NUT) to co-sign a letter of protest over a Mail front page claiming foreign drivers were much more dangerous than UK drivers.
Not exactly a sign of public confidence in IPSO as a credible regulator.
Daily Mail draws criticism over front page story targeting foreign drivers http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/nov/04/daily-mail-draws-criticism-over-front-page-story-targeting-foreign-drivers?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger
In Brexit Britain, being a foreigner marks me out as evil
Thursday, 27 October 2016
Taking the p's, rather like the tabloids who dehumanised migrants, deified Maggie, and told us the EU were insisting only straight bananas were sold. After 30 years of such incessant truth trashing trivia treasuring guff why would anyone be surprised by Brexit, or the 2015 Tory victory predicted by...well, nobody.
But...digital disruption has trounced the press, with much of its ad revenue sucked online, and Leveson a boot to a dog not just down but on its last legs. Press power?! Passe more like.
Such are the opposing trains of thought on the influence of the UK national press.
The lengthy article linked below takes a wider view, looking back over centuries at an industry that seems to have been through boom and bust many times in power terms but still sparks fierce debate over its power or otherwise.
T May is freshly 'elected' (no election other than amongst Tory MPs) PM, and Murdoch seamlessly continues decades of power by being an early guest.
Yet press circulation is collapsing...
Like film effects, press power seems a simple point to make but slippier than a greased eel advised by Blackadder when it comes to 'objective' academic proof.
If the UK press (and politics) are new to you, this long read will provide a great introductory briefing you could then extend by reading some of Brian McNair's superb work, or the more radical critique of the classic Curran and Seaton tome Power Without Responsibility.
Revenge of the tabloids http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/oct/27/revenge-of-the-tabloids-brexit-dacre-murdoch?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger
Wednesday, 12 October 2016
Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Thursday, 29 September 2016
Saturday, 17 September 2016
Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Friday, 9 September 2016
(denude = diminish, undermine)
More and more of us are growing used to Facebook as the site where we encounter news media content, ignoring its intrusiveness and focusing on its convenience.
If Facebook decides to censor content that can be as impactive (maybe more in some cases) than formal regulators or government intervention (which often backfires).
This latest example calls to mind the debate over a Scorpions album cover. Both centre on a nude image of a child, making discussing the cases problematic.
The CEO of Aftenposten’s publisher, Schibsted Media Group, said Facebook had tried to stop the newspaper publishing “one of the most important photos of our time”. Rolv Erik Ryssdal added: “It is not acceptable. Facebook’s censorship is an attack on the freedom of expression – and therefore on democracy.”
Facebook deletes Norway PM's post as 'napalm girl' row escalates http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/09/facebook-deletes-norway-pms-post-napalm-girl-post-row?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger
See also Nudity and Facebook's censors have a long history
Zuckerberg continues to claim that Facebook is not a media company, just a technology company. But it is one with arguably more power than any other organisation on the planet for influencing the news agenda through promotion or censorship.
FACEBOOK BACKED DOWN AFTER ALL THE TERRIBLE PUBLICITY
Facebook backs down from 'napalm girl' censorship and reinstates photo
The likes of Mark Zuckerberg already rule the media. Now they want to censor the past
Sunday, 4 September 2016
Friday, 2 September 2016
|Read Guardian article here.|
Tuesday, 16 August 2016
Monday, 25 July 2016
Sunday, 24 July 2016
(1) it shows you can glean useful material from all sorts of sources, and
(2) its a sharp example of how profoundly censorship has shifted to reflect evolving social values
To be clear, this is about a stage musical - NOT a film (the movie came out shortly after, in 1950).
Wednesday, 20 July 2016
As ever with press regulation, the principles aren't necessarily so clearcut - this is a good thing, right?
Yes and no...
YES: the press has been using this as a means to get round regulation, and their foreign sites blend unique localised content with material from the main site/paper.
NO: isn't it unfair that rival US papers have no such concerns? Also: This is now a clearly globalised market - does a UK regulator make sense?
Digitisation has severely muddied the waters of regulation.
Mail Online refused to defend its story, saying the events had taken place in the US, and the piece was commissioned, written and edited by journalists working in its American operation.
As a result it was designed to comply with US law and journalistic conventions, not UK ones as regulated by Ipso.Ipso rejected this and said the Mail Online article had failed to follow UK rules on inaccurate, misleading or distorted information.
“[Mail Online] had not demonstrated the process by which it had regard for the complainant’s previous denials of the allegations,|” said Ipso.
“Nor had it explained why it had failed to include his representative’s position, explained prior to publication, that the allegations which had been put to him were untrue. It had also failed to provide a defence of the accuracy of the article, or its decision not to publish a correction.”
Ipso ordered Mail Online to publish its adjudication on the case in full on its website with a link on its homepage for 24 hours.Scientology leader's complaint over Mail Online's Tom Cruise story upheld.
Tuesday, 19 July 2016
The whole basis of the MPAA's voluntary (unlike the BBFC, it doesn't have statutory powers, but its ratings are followed by most major retailers and exhibitors) rating system faces a legal challenge, with the tobacco industry keen to ensure that smoking on screen is ... accessible to children.
|Perhaps the classic image of Hollywood glamour, Audrey Hepburn|
Saturday, 16 July 2016
Read more here.
Thursday, 14 July 2016
Friday, 8 July 2016
A number of cinemas in France are cancelling screenings of The Conjuring 2 following troublesome occurrences of “loud laughter”, “hysterical yelling” and violent altercations.
The French newspaper Le Parisien has reported that the majority of the 262 French cinemas initially planning to show the Enfield-set chiller have removed it from their programmes following disruptive conduct. Some Paris cinemas axed it on release day, according to 20 Minutes; the reason cited at Cyrano de Versailles cinema was to “ensure the safety of staff and customers”.
An “altercation” at the MK2 Bastille cinema apparently escalated into a large-scale brawl after one group annoyed other audience members by “screaming at the slightest movement” on screen.
Le Parisien reports that staff were unwilling to intervene, leading other cinemagoers to take action.One of the country’s major cinema chains, UGC, has opted not to show the film at all as part of an “editorial choice” to cut back on its genre content.The Conjuring 2 has exceeded expectations at the box office, having so far made $276m (£213m) worldwide – on course to beat the £246m of the original. Annabelle, a spin-off based on the unnerving dolly featured in the first film, made £198m.
That film also provoked disturbances in screenings in France, with multiplex managers removing it from schedules “for security reasons”. Similar scenes of auditorium mayhem were also reported during French screenings of Paranormal Activity and Sinister.
The Conjuring 2 pulled from French cinemas after disorder during screenings.
Sunday, 3 July 2016
There has been considerable research now published into how the wider media have covered Corbyn - finding he is rarely directly quoted in mostly hostile articles and features.
Saturday, 18 June 2016
China bans news coverage of Hong Kong bookseller abduction.
Friday, 17 June 2016
Great article that provides some historical context for the current, overwhelming right-wing bias of the UK press, which seemingly proved decisive in the 2016 Brexit vote. Here's a short sample - spot the Curran and Seaton book title in there ...:
There’s another consistent and important thread in the Mail’s long political story too. The Mail is a newspaper that wants power. The Mail is a player not an observer, today as in the past. It was the campaign against Stanley Baldwin’s leadership of the Tory party by Lord Rothermere’s Mail and Lord Beaverbrook’s Express in 1931 that triggered Baldwin’s famous onslaught about the proprietors aiming at power – “and power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”. These are words that could echo through the Mail’s coverage of the EU debate without a single change, as do Baldwin’s less often quoted comments that the press were “engines of propaganda” whose methods were “falsehood, misrepresentation, half-truths [and] … suppression”.
I looked up Baldwin’s great speech this week when the Mail, unlike almost every other newspaper, put nothing whatever about the Orlando gay club massacre on its front page on Monday. By any standards this brutal attack was the main story of the day. Every other newspaper led with it. Meanwhile what was the Mail’s front-page headline? It was “Fury over plot to let 1.5m Turks in Britain”. The Orlando story wasn’t on pages two or three either. These were political priorities, not journalistic ones.Just as with film, we need to be careful in assuming influence from a biased press - media effects is a tricky area! This is, to be fair, less contentious: when the bulk of the UK public have been exposed to decades of hyperbole and frequently made-up anti-EU stories, Euroscepticism is hardly surprising. Its that long-term impact of bias that is crucial, just as its the months and years of anti-Labour/left-wing coverage that makes it hard for the likes of Jeremy Corbyn to prosper - NOT the final editorials.
The EU referendum is a battle of the press versus democracy.
Saturday, 11 June 2016
The UK was used for libel tourism, the rich and powerful taking advantage of libel laws that were much too easy to use to silence the media (and/or to claim huge damages), with super injunctions (e.g. Guardian and Trafigura, and the Ryan Giggs cases) another much-abused libel tool showing how significant the wider law is.
You can't grasp media regulation by studying the formal regulators alone.
Here we have a case in which a vengeful venture capitalist funded a lawsuit by the wrestler which has caused Gawker (which once upset this VC) to go bust and be sold off. The case was lodged in Florida - where state law means that it doesn't matter if you appeal, you legally must pay up whatever damages the initial judge sets immediately, a variation on the once rampant UK libel tourism.
Read more here.
On a lighter note (though you could decipher the semiotics of the Aryan figure...),
Thursday, 9 June 2016
This in the week when the EU-mandated right to forget saw Axl Rose apply for a takedown of prominent Axl is fat meme images.
Monday, 6 June 2016
There are many forms of media regulation within the UK market alone, and more at the supranational level and in other countries. For example, film regulation, through the BBFC in the UK and the MPAA in the US, has notable differences. The issues of concern to each regulated media industry can vary too. In this essay I will explore some of the similarities and differences between the regulation of the film, press and TV industries in the UK, with some international comparisons. This requires comparing two approaches to self-regulation, the voluntary press system (until recently the PCC, now IPSO) and the statutory film system (BBFC), with the statutory 'superregulator' of broadcast (TV and radio), web and telephony, OfCom. OfCom and the BBFC are also quangos, a significant point I shall explore. I shall also consider examples linked to the issues of protection of children and the clashing adult right to free speech, privacy, and the tensions over the democratic role of media and democratic oversight of them, including the often neglected issue of ownership.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO, the 2014 successor to the Press Complaints Commission, PCC) stands in contrast to the other two as an entirely voluntary system with no statutory power or compulsion. The long history of rebadging and relaunching the same system suggests this has been an ineffective solution. From 1694 to 1953 the press enjoyed the unique distinction of having no formal regulatory system or organisation, those being the years licenses were scrapped for newspaper publishing (removing a significant layer of political control and censorship in the process) and the launch date of the General Council of the Press. There had been wide agreement with the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) call for reforms of the press industry in 1945, but this being seen as a delicate matter for democracy, with the press conceived of a 'fourth estate' independent from politics and business, another pattern was set. No party wanted to be seen as imposing censorship on the press, attracting their powerful hostility and in all likelihood struggling to win elections with such negative coverage, so a Royal Commission on the Press was launched in 1947, above party politics as a panel of independent experts.
It reported in 1949 that a regulator was required, and that there were serious issues with concentration of ownership into too few hands, general standards of content, and the overwhelming predominance of right-wing views and support amongst the national daily newspapers (although ti did feel that much of this would be resolved by the free market once the industry had recovered from WW2. The four year gap between this and the launch of the GCP is indicative of the reluctance of the press to engage in any regulation, no matter how minimal. It was only the threat of statutory regulation via legislation that persuaded the industry to agree to setting up a regulator themselves.
Arguably very little has changed today, with both the PCC and IPSO failing to cover several newspapers. Richard Desmond decided in 2011 that he would withdraw the two national dailies his Northern and Shell conglomerate owned, the Star and Express titles, from the PCC. This was not only a cost-saving measure, as the press pays a levy to fund the press regulator (similarly to the also self-funding BBFC, it does not receive any government funding), but also conveniently avoided two of the most-complained about papers receiving any more brand-damaging judgements. When the Star used the divorce of a rock guitarist from Toploader and his celebrity wife as an excuse to print stories on and photos of their young children, the family could not complain to the PCC but instead had to go straight to court, an expensive option not open to everyone. Remarkably, there was and is no sanction for this. IPSO is also an entirely voluntary regulator and The Guardian, Indie/i and FT all refused to join and so currently exist outside the system of press regulation.
There simply is no opting out of either the BBFC or OfCom systems. OfCom is a licensing power, and has removed the license from several TV channels, including Iran-funded Press TV for repeatedly breaching regulations. That makes it a criminal offence for any TV distribution platform, the likes of Sky, BT, Virgin or even Netflix and Amazon to carry the channel in the UK. In the case of the BBFC, if they refuse to issue an 18 or R18 rating that also makes it a criminal offence to distribute or exhibit that movie, a power they have only used three times since 2010, but had used much more frequently in the past. There is an exception here, arguably a positive example of local oversight being added to a national system: local councils have the power to issue their own ratings on the very rare occasions when they disagree with a BBFC decision. This was exercised in 2000 for the then-banned 1973 slasher movie "The Last House on the Left", with those limited screenings presumably pushing an embarrassed BBFC to finally issue the film with an 18 for an uncut version the following year.
Where the regulation of film and TV has been established through the passing of laws with relatively little fuss (at least until the current government began to pursue an openly hostile approach to the BBC and C4), repeated parliamentary investigations and reports have failed to make any fundamental difference to press regulation, with no party in power willing to gamble their re-election prospects on angering a still-powerful press. A second RCP reported just a decade after the 1st that the GCP had been a failure and that the state of the press was now worse, requiring tougher measures. With the threat of statutory regulation again raised, the industry replaced the GCP with the Press Council, which itself would be condemned as a failure by a third RCP in 1977 - two versions of the press regulator condemned as unfit for purpose within little more than 20 years of the first being launched.
One potentially significant change did come from the send RCP report, a legal change to require the signature of a government minister to agree any future sales of newspaper titles. None of the now four press regulators have had anything to say about the ownership of the press, a fundamental issue without consideration of which there arguably can be no effective press regulation. In practice, in the now 50 years since this legal change not one single sale has been refused by the government. Indeed, recently released documents show that Mrs Thatcher went out of her way to illegally smooth the path for Rupert Murdoch to take over the Times newspapers in the 1980s, Murdoch being seen as 'one of us', a reliable right-winger who would promote right-wing ideas through his papers. Murdoch would of course lead one of the most significant union-busting actions of the 1980s, taking on and defeating the powerful print unions with the full force of the police made available to him.
It is a picture Curran and Seaton would recognise from the 1850s, a time seen as marking the starting point of a truly free press as the government scrapped tax (stamp duty) on papers. Marxist academics, they quote from parliamentary debate to show how undermining the flourishing radical (mainly left-wing) press, and its spreading of class consciousness and awareness of the growing trade union movement, was the explicit aim of these reforms, which has taken on hegemonic status as an unquestionably good thing.
When the phone-hacking scandal, and public outrage over the Milly Dowling case in particular, created ...
Sunday, 5 June 2016
Press regulation is already problematic, with a 4th version since the GCP launched in 1953 looking no more likely than its predecessors to be judged a success.
In common with all media and media regulators, migration online is posing challenges. Is MailOnline a British newspaper operation when it's largest traffic source is the US? The same issue is raised by The Guardian which has a tiny circulation falling under 200k but the second largest online readership behind the world-leading Mail monster also has a majority US audience and targets distinct content at both American and Australian readers, with further editionalising likely.
The Guardian of course stands outside the regulatory system, having refused to sign up to IPSO. It is not alone in this, the FT, a long established global brand, and the Indie also refusing.
This week saw the now online-only Indie announce they were shifting key editorial roles to the US, once again reflecting the importance of US audiences, and the huge advertising market they create access to, for supposedly British newspapers.
Can IPSO or any future rivals (Impress are seeking Royal Charter recognition right now) or replacements cope with a British press that has multiple international domains (.com, .co.uk etc) for different markets? Will they consider complaints from American readers or individuals?
The future of media regulation looks ever more complex, with the globalisation digitisation and the spread of broadband creating multiple new challenges.
Independent looks to the US to drive digital-only future http://gu.com/p/4k9v2?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger
Of course, there may not be much of a press left if no solution is found to the monopolisation of online advertising by Facebook and Google (a combined 90% share!), with the printed version of papers already suffering from the online migration of advertising.
Given Peter Oborne's revelations about how the Telegraph spiked stories critical of HSBC to preserve advertising revenue from them, any blurring of the line between editorial and advertising would seem questionable.
Yet the London freesheet City AM is doing just that, announcing not just advertorial but advertiser-produced content with no editorial oversight for their website. Advertisers can simply create and post content designed to look like editorial, though there will be some unspecified notice that this is advertorial.
As the press grows ever more desperate to retain advertising revenue the effective licencing power that Curran and Seaton argue was invited by politicians in 1851 when stamp duty (tax) was scrapped can only increase. Chomsky cites advertising as one of the five filters removing radical, counter-hegemonic content in his propaganda model.
Curran and Seaton noted how the radical press, with its working class readership, largely collapsed at the point when conventional history says Britain gained a truly independent press. The Daily Herald was the world's largest circulation newspaper for a time, but by the 1960s the struggle to get advertisers saw the trade union owned paper making huge losses and it was sold as The S*n to Murdoch.
This advertising issue not only threatens the press industry overall, it particularly threatens to undermine the already undemocratic left-wing/right-wing balance of the UK press, currently running at around 13% to 87%, grouping the centrist i with the Guardian and Mirror.
Three Royal Commissions on the Press highlighted this as a key issue requiring tough regulatory steps, but the four versions of the press regulator have nothing to say on this (or ownership). A right-wing government is of course unlikely to seek change to a situation that favours it (although current Tory PM Cameron is finding he's not right-wing enough for some papers), while Tony Blair calculated that Labour would only have any hope of getting elected if they shifted away from left-wing policies to take on right-wing, free market ideals.
Friday, 3 June 2016
OCR PAPERS, QUESTIONS
For examples of A-grade exam essays, click here.
- An example of the exam paper
- All the past Media reg exam Qs compiled
- All the past 1a/1b Qs compiled (+ link to A-grade essays)
Wednesday, 1 June 2016
Tuesday, 31 May 2016
|Read article here.|
|Mass media is over, but where does journalism go from here? (Greenslade, 2016)|
Monday, 30 May 2016
It is a typical quango (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation): not part of a government industry but not fully free from government control either. Anti-censorship academic Julian Petley argues that the BBFC effectively reflects the will of the government without the government being accountible for their actoins. Like OfCom, the government set out the duties in legislation which they have to enforce: the 1984 Video Recordings Act greatly expanded their remit to cover video.
The BBFC is self-funding, though the cost of compulsory rating (charged per minute, so DVD extras can add considerable costs) is criticised by some Indie distributors who say it is unfair on low budget releases with limited box office/sales potential, to the point (£2-3k) where they sometimes can't afford a separate UK release.
Local authorities each have the power to overturn a BBFC rating for their own area, a power rarely used but has been seen with:
- Spiderman (2002) - reduced from 12 to PG by several, helping to usher in the 12A rating which allows younger children to see such films if accompanied by an adult
- This is England (2006) - Warp's social realist Indie production, a typically low £1.5m budget, got a controversial 18 rating principally because of a racist violent scene at the end (which causes the young protagonist to reject the racist path, but the moral message was deemed unimportant); in this case it was left-wing papers leading the press outcry and some councils agreed, giving it the 15 the producers had originally anticipated
- The Dark Knight (2008) - is it a coincidence that the $185m tentpole production from Warner Bros, one of the big six Hollywood conglomerates that dominate global cinema, got a favourable 12-rating despite being so violent and indeed marketed on its realism? The BBFC argues this was cartoon in style and so did't require a 15, an interesting contrast with (which carried an important social message and representation funded by the UK government through the UK Film Council but which lost any hope of significant box office with this rating - in contrast to the ultra-violence of American comic book characters). 2016's Batman v Superman was also heavy on the violence, if less realistic, and got a 12. Backed by a prominent campaign in the Daily Mail and other right-wing papers, several councils re-rated Dark Knight as a 15.
- 1973's Last House on the Left was screened whilst effectively banned by the BBFC, as some local authorities granted it an 18 for limited screening nearly 30 years after it was banned - the embarassment this caused the BBFC likely contributed to its getting a belated 18 BBFC rating.
In line with the consistent findings of the BBFC’s public consultations and The Human Rights Act 1998, at 18 the BBFC’s guideline concerns will not normally override the principle that adults should be free to choose their own entertainment with some exceptions.
The BBFC does of course have pressure groups committed to securing tougher censorship, notably MediaWatch, the successor organisation to Mary Whitehouse's National Viewers and Listeners Association, used by the government and BBFC to help build a sense of public demand for what became the 1984 Video Recordings Act (that includes a specific requirement to consider the greater 'harm' that might be done by accessing home media, with the ability to pause and rewind!).
Independent distributor October Films purchased the rights to the film for one million dollars after its screening at the Toronto Film Festival. The film received an NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, which resulted in the poor box office performance of a film. Parker and Stone attempted to negotiate with the organization on what to delete from the final print, but the MPAA would not give specific notes. The duo later theorized that the organization cared less because it was an independent distributor which would bring it significantly less money. [Wiki]
In general terms, it appears that the US ratings board, representing the views of the American public, has a lower tolerance for nudity or sex scenes ... Conversely, the UK public seems to have a lower tolerance for aggression [BBFC]
Thursday, 26 May 2016
Is THIS the most disturbing, dangerous film of recent years?
The BBFC initially banned it, one of only 3 to receive this fate this decade - see the Wiki list of UK banned movies list fragment below.
|2011||The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)||Originally banned due to highly explicit sexual violence, graphic forced defecation, and potential obscenity. The film was given an official age certificate of 18 by the BBFC on 6 October 2011 while the distributors agreed to make 32 cuts (two minutes and thirty-seven seconds) prior to release.|
|2011–present||The Bunny Game||Banned due to extreme levels of sexual violence. The excessive endorsement and eroticisation of sexual violence deemed the film to be unacceptable for its potential for being highly harmful under the Video Recordings Act 1984.|
|2015–present||Hate Crime||Banned as it focused on "the terrorisation, mutilation, physical and sexual abuse and murder of the members of a Jewish family by the Neo Nazi thugs who invade their home."|
IS BANNING (not cutting) ACCEPTABLE? SHOULD ADULTS BE ALLOWED TO CHOOSE, WITH BBFC INFORMATION?
IS BANNING EFFECTIVE? (US DVDs, VoD, illegal download, VPNs, etc)
DO BANS SIMPLY PUBLICISE A MOVIE?
IS DISTRIBUTOR/EXHIBITOR FOCUS ON TENTPOLES A GREATER FORM OF CENSORSHIP?
SHOULD SEXUAL VIOLENCE BE SEEN AS EXCEPTIONALLY BAD? DOES THIS OVERLOOK ISSUES WITH GENERAL VIOLENT CINEMA?
IS THE OBSCENE PUBLICATIONS ACT ACCEPTABLE TODAY? HOW CAN OBSCENE BE OBJECTIVELY JUDGED?
BBFC JUDGEMENT, EVEN WITH CUTS, IS BASED ON POTENTIAL HARM - WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE FOR MEDIA EFFECTS?
WOULD AN R18 BE A SUITABLE COMPROMISE?
IS THE BBFC REALLY THE HIDDEN HAND OF THE GOVERNMENT?
DID THE ELECTION OF TORIES IN 2010 CAUSE A SHIFT IN BBFC ATTITUDE?
BBFC DECISIONS CAN BE CHALLENGED THROUGH THE VIDEO APPEALS COMMITTEE (AND OVERTURNED BY LOCAL COUNCILS)
DOES THIS SHOW BBFC IS SUPERIOR TO SECRETIVE MPAA?
MORAL PANIC: PRESS COVERAGE MADE LINK WITH 'TORTURE PORN'; MAIL EVEN LINKED TO 1996 CRASH CONTROVERSY
In June 2011, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) refused to classify The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) for a direct-to-video release, effectively meaning that the film could not legally be supplied in any format in the UK.The BBFC had given the preceding First Sequence title an 18 certificate. The board stated that they had considered First Sequence to be "undoubtedly tasteless and disgusting", but deemed it acceptable for release because the "centipede" was the product of a "revolting medical experiment". They had also taken legal advice that First Sequence was not in breach of the Obscene Publications Act.
By contrast, the BBFC report on Full Sequence stated that the film's content was too extreme for an 18 certificate and was "sexually violent and potentially obscene". The board members felt that the centipede of Full Sequence existed purely as "the object of the protagonist's depraved sexual fantasy". They criticised the film for making "little attempt to portray any of the victims... as anything other than objects to be brutalised, degraded and mutilated for the amusement and arousal of the central character, as well as for the pleasure of the audience" and stated their opinion that the film was potentially in breach of the Obscene Publications Act. The BBFC stated that they would not reclassify the film in the future, as "no amount of cuts would allow them to give it a certificate".
Six responded to the BBFC's decision in a statement released the next day to Empire magazine. Six criticised the BBFC for including film spoilers in their report, and stated that the film was "...fictional. Not real. It is all make-belief (sic). It is art..." and that viewers should be able to choose for themselves whether or not they decided to view the film. Six also referred to the BBFC's refusal to classify the film as "exceptional".In October 2011, the BBFC granted the film an 18 certificate after 32 compulsory cuts totalling 2 minutes and 37 seconds were made. The cuts included: [access the full entry here if you want to read the list; graphic terms are used]
SELECTED QUOTES - each highlights an issue
Company was required to make 32 individual cuts to scenes of sexual and sexualised violence, sadistic violence and humiliation, and a child presented in an abusive and violent context. (BBFC Insight entry, NB: goes on to a short graphic description of cuts)
The BBFC decision has startled many, with some even suggesting that in this new Conservative era, censorship has become politically fashionable once more. (David Cox argues it was a political decision - reflecting Julian Petley's argument that the BBFC does government work without the government being held accountable)
How can it be that adults are not allowed to choose whether or not to see a film? It really felt like Britain was behaving like China. This kind of censorship is ridiculous. ... [M]any British people are becoming furious with this organisation, because they feel that it is treating adults as children.
(Director Tom Six questions the right to restrict adult choice)
those who want it will do what everyone did when A Clockwork Orange was withdrawn by its director in this country: order an "import" Region 1 DVD online. (David Cox: is film censorship pointless in the digital age?)
it is unstoppable anyway. In our age of the internet, people will just buy their copies from overseas or download it illegally. The film will be seen in the UK. The BBFC is not of this time. (UK distributor Eureka back Cox's point)
Through their chosen course of action, the BBFC have ensured that the awareness of this film is now greater than it would otherwise have been. (Distributor Eureka say BBFC ban was self-defeating: it actually increased the audience!)Internet threats might have prevented production:
Media ownership (and thus the country of origin of media content) is ignored by the BBC and IPSO, with OfCom's policies and powers on this radically reduced from the days of the IBA and even the ITC.
Not for the first time, EU law will step in to safeguard EU media markets against the dominance of US conglomerate giants. Mrs Thatcher swept away UK cinema quotas that had limited US content and set minimum levels for UK productions in cinemas, part of the 1980s wave of deregulation and triumphalism free market policies that ignored warnings about monopolies or concentration of power and ownership. France is a counter-example, still maintaining strict quotas for French-language content on cinema, radio and other media, without which it is debatable what future the French film industry would have.
Perhaps here is a partial explanation of why the Murdoch press, in common with the other billionaire-owned right-wing UK press, is so anti-EU.
Netflix and Amazon must guarantee 20% of content is European http://gu.com/p/4jh9c?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger
Wednesday, 25 May 2016
Most controversial examples of BBFC rulings or policy are linked to the 12/15/18 ratings (or outright bans); these are unusual cases with controversy over PG/U children's movies!
These cases, combined with controversies at older age ratings (Crash and more recently Human Centipede and sequels), give you a strong platform to discuss the effectiveness of the BBFC and this form of regulation: a quango with effective licensing power (just like OfCom); not formally a government body ('quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation' is what quango stands for) but nonetheless carrying out government policy, with its head appointed through government consultation (and generally an 'establishment' figure). Julian Petley (author of the book Censorship) argues that the BBFC effectively does what the government wants without the government being held accountable.
This 2010 BBFC article is a useful overview of how they can never please everyone, a simple but important point:
Archive cases; older films, can become controversial as the original rating is questioned - see the Watership Down example below, but also consider this example: the BBFC received a 2013 complaint about 1971 U-rated film The Railway Children, about the children playing along a railway line, and the dangers that copycat behaviour could pose. An important positive about the BBFC is that they pledge to respond to every complaint, and after consideration they altered the Insight entry:
Senior examiner Craig Lapper said the film had always been rated U - meaning suitable for all - but that the BBFC website now drew attention to the fact that the "playing on railway lines was in an archaic context". (BBC)
To be effective, surely a regulator must be trusted and its rulings respected by the public? The more the BBFC causes controversy the less effective it can be said to be. However, given the 100s of ratings the BBFC issues each year (almost 1,000 a year - see 2014 annual report for example), the very limited number of cases that attract any controversy is a sign of an effective regulator.
There is another way to look at this: the BBC is often seen to be doing its job of reporting in a balanced way when it gets attacked by both left-wing and right-wing critics, and there is a parallel here: the BBFC is attacked for being too liberal (Postman Pat, Watership Down, Dark Knight, Batman vs Superman: Justice League ) and too harsh (Paddington, This is England, Sweet Sixteen). It can never satisfy everyone, and there are well organised pressure groups on both sides of the argument: pro-censorship (MediaWatch [Wiki], who successfully campaigned to have the R18 rating tightened in 2013 so that VoD providers had to put proscribed content behind firewalls) and free speech, anti-censorship (eg MelonFarmers [NB: site contains frank discussions of graphic content]). See this short filmreference.com overview for more examples linked to specific films, US and UK.
CASE STUDIES IN THIS POST:
2014's Postman Pat
This was rated U, but sparked media and online controversy after many reports of young children being terrified by the robot Pat villain (and a plotline much to complex for kids to follow). Should it have been a PG? Was the BBFC Insight entry specific enough? Should the BBFC have reacted even during the film's cinema release window to re-rate the movie? Or was this just another handy moral panic for the likes of the Daily Mail?
1978's Watership Down 2016 TV broadcast
This time it's OfCom, the super-regulator of broadcast and online media and telephony in the UK, who were attacked for allowing C5 to screen this on Easter Sunday and without warning for parents of young children. The BBFC (rather cheekily?) announced they would re-rate the 1978 film from U to PG if it were submitted to them today. The flipside here is concerns that children are being over-protected, and need to be exposed to frightening material for emotional development.
This is also an example of how social media to some extent displace formal regulators, with the issue arising through tweets initially:
Another iconic children's TV figure given a franchise-expanding movie spin-off, it was rated PG ... leading, ironically given the fuss over the U-rated Postman Pat, to criticism of the BBFC for being absurd: 'innuendo and infrequent mild bad language meant movie did not get a U rating' (Guardian sub-headline). If parents and media critics accused the BBFC of being too liberal with Pat they were bemused and derisive about the over-protective, fussy PG rating for this.
|Kermode's take (Observer)|
In The Observer, Mark Kermode gave it [2/5], criticising "bland digimation" and lack of the "charm" of the television series, and saying that the film had "little to entice the over-sixes and plenty to scare the under-fives". (Wiki)
Andy Lea of the Daily Star Sunday ... mentioned concern over children "seeing their loveable hero transformed into a sinister robot ... For especially sensitive kids, it could even be the stuff of nightmares." (Wiki)
One of the vagaries of film-reviewing is that you never know what an afternoon might throw up. For me it was Postman Pat followed immediately by Godzilla, and frankly I’m not sure which was the scarier. (Brian Viner, Daily Mail)
Daily Mail headline.
An adaptation of a classic children's TV animated show does not seem likely material for a BBFC storm, but the UK media swiftly picked up on stories of terrified youngsters screaming in cinemas, terrified at the sight of the villainous robot (see the poster) Postman Pat.
The BBFC rating was U, as in Universally suitable, and not the PG rating that many felt it should be after dealing with traumatised kids.
Did the BBFC fail in its duty here?
This simply needed to be a PG, the film was unsuitable for many younger children, and parents were caught unawares. Protection of children from unsuitable content and influence is meant to be a core function of the BBFC, but it clearly failed all those terrified youngsters. The PG would have been a clear message to parents that they needed to read the BBFC Insight guidance before taking children to see this. Even the now-scrapped Uc rating would have helped; Uc denoted suitability for younger children, with U effectively a slight step up; if the BBFC really judge this a U and not a PG they should not have scrapped the useful Uc rating as they did in 2009.
The extensive media coverage of this, plus further online postings on sites such as the IMDB, highlighting the incidence of children being terrified and traumatised should have led to a review of and change to the original rating; the BBFC got it wrong and need to be flexible enough to change ratings even when a film is in its main release window. The BBFC tweet, just like the Insight entry, did not reflect the potential impact on children. The interests of exhibitors or distributors (who might argue against the potential cost of this, with the need to alter marketing material), should not be prioritised over parents and children.
Lionsgate, a vertically integrated conglomerate big enough that some now argue that the 'big six' dominating the global film industry is now actually the big seven, is behind the film; would an Indie also have got the favourable U? BBFC guidance suggests 4 as a typical age for U suitability; 8 for PG suitability. For films like this, which lack any crossover adult/teen/tween appeal (as Shrek and many others have), the 4-8s (and younger) are crucial to box office prospects.
|From the Wiki history of BBFC ratings.|
|A fairly typical IMDB user review (accessed 26.5.16)|
|BBFC tweet - note the low engagement, only 4 retweets!|
Some versions of the poster include the controversial robot Pat (with one version even based on this characters, with the tagline 'Do the Pat-Bot!' - see below), and the BBFC guidance provided a clear warning about the precise nature of the villain robot Pat through their 'Insight' service on their website. In this era of near-universal online connectivity there is no excuse for parents not making use of this service - it would be wrong for the BBFC to take on too much parental responsibility; the Insight service is designed to empower parents to make informed choices [see Guardian Watership Down article: 'ratings aren’t meant to be child minders'].
Whilst the BBFC felt the tone was exaggerated, there was substantial media coverage of the response of some young children which parents could also have heeded. Social media sites, including popular sites with user comments like the IMDB, carried a mix of views including some which reported their views that the film had been frightening. Indeed, the BBFC used its Twitter account to tweet that the film contained 'mild comic threat', an account with 12k followers (at May 2016) with a link to the Insight entry.
The BBFC Insight stated (under 'Threat'):