Exam date

When's the 2016 exam? Wednesday 8th June, am.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

WEB TV Top Gear remake hits low note

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

MUSIC VIDEO heteronormative YouTube age restricts queer visuals

Battle of the bulge: how streaming censorship is affecting queer musicians https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/dec/16/mykki-blanco-censorship-youtube-perfume-genius-lgbt?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger

Sunday, 4 December 2016

FILM conservative campaign fries French film regulator

French film board again under fire after Sausage Party rated 12 https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/dec/01/french-film-ratings-board-under-fire-after-sausage-party-granted-12-certificate?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

IPSO Princess, Press, Privacy: Mail breaches Code

Why the bikini photographs of Princess Beatrice fell foul of Ipso https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/nov/21/why-the-bikini-photographs-of-princess-beatrice-fell-foul-of-ipso?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger

Sunday, 20 November 2016

WEB tightens as BBFC expands to online age checks

Pornography sites face UK block under enhanced age controls https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/nov/19/pornography-sites-face-uk-block-under-enhanced-age-controls?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger

Saturday, 12 November 2016

ADVERTISING Mail bricks it over Lego boycott campaign

Campaigners claim victory after Lego stops Daily Mail promotions http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/nov/12/lego-ends-daily-mail-links-campaigners-claim-victory?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger

Friday, 4 November 2016

Greenslade sums up why IPSO isn't credible

Greenslade has an interesting position: opposed to statutory intervention but argues that IPSO remains a regulator The Guardian should refuse to sign up to, for reasons he makes very clear...

Why I have opposed the Guardian being regulated by Ipso http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/nov/02/why-i-have-opposed-the-guardian-being-regulated-by-ipso?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger

Why I reject press regulation through the royal charter

http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/oct/31/why-i-reject-press-regulation-through-a-royal-charter?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Copy_to_clipboard

Impress is here to stay. Let’s quit the barricades and think anew about press regulation

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/oct/30/impress-here-to-stay-fresh-thinking-needed?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Copy_to_clipboard

Press freedom danger if MPs vote in section 40 by the back door

http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/oct/27/press-freedom-danger-if-mps-vote-in-section-40-by-the-back-door?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Copy_to_clipboard

MPs and peers question independence of press watchdog

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/oct/27/mps-and-peers-question-independence-of-press-watchdog?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Copy_to_clipboard

Mail is dangerous driver say 50 organisations

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

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/03/brexit-britain-being-foreigner-evil-tabloids-racist?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Copy_to_clipboard

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Press Power Politics History

PPPH
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

LAW Lords create charter by back door?

Phone-hacking victims win House of Lords support over legal costs http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/oct/11/phone-hacking-victims-win-house-of-lords-support-over-legal-costs?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

LAW Courts put boot into press as fines rise

Newspapers warned of heavy fines if they identify victims in sex cases http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/oct/11/newspapers-warned-of-heavy-fines-if-they-identify-victims-in-sex-cases?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Murdoch reigns with private PM meeting

Theresa May had private meeting with Rupert Murdoch http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/sep/29/theresa-may-meeting-rupert-murdoch-times-sun?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger

Saturday, 17 September 2016

IPSO By George, royal privacy privilege harks back to Press Council

Are William and Kate right to pursue zero tolerance policy on privacy? http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/sep/16/are-william-and-kate-right-to-pursue-zero-tolerance-policy-on-privacy?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

BBC chair sacked by Prime Minister

Theresa May's role in BBC chief's exit 'brutal and extraordinary' http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/sep/14/theresa-may-role-bbc-chief-exit-brutal-extraordinary-rona-fairhead?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger

IPSO condemned as toothless by Select Committee

'Toothless' press watchdog Ipso not delivering in key areas, say MPs http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/sep/13/press-watchdog-ipso-mp-sir-alan-moses?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger

Friday, 9 September 2016

Facebook denudes democracy?

(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

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/09/facebook-history-censoring-nudity-automated-human-means?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Copy_to_clipboard

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

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/09/facebook-reinstates-napalm-girl-photo?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Copy_to_clipboard

The likes of Mark Zuckerberg already rule the media. Now they want to censor the past

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/09/mark-zuckerberg-censor-facebook-tech-titans?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Copy_to_clipboard

Sunday, 4 September 2016

ADVERTISER POWER YouTube censors demonetised videos

A notable outcry here, as it reinforces one of the fundamental lessons needed to grasp the complexities of media regulation: advertisers form a de facto, informal regulator. If they won't pay for space in your outlet, in most media industries that will lead to a revenue crisis.

Chomsky has advertiser power as one of the five filters in his propaganda model.

The row and resignation over the Daily Telegraph spiking critical stories about HSBC to protect its advertising account with the bank; the 1960s manoeuvres of The Times to get rid of its new working class readers when advertisers refused to pay any extra for these non-ABC1s; Murdoch closing NoTW only when multiple advertiser boycotts were announced, with more to follow after social media campaigns, which threatened to contaminate other News Corp outlets; the fate of the Daily Herald, a left-wing, union owned paper that was for a time the biggest selling in the world, but would ultimately collapse and reappear as Murdoch's right-wing S*n ...

Some of the trashy YouTube content undermined by YouTube withdrawing ads from 'unsuitable' videos may appear trivial, but the principles of freedom of speech and media diversity are always most easily undermined by picking soft targets to establish censorial practices that can then be arbitrarily widened.

YouTube and Facebook, together with their all-important advertisers, exist as largely unregulated behemoths, gaining an ever expanding role in the media landscape. Censorship, whether it comes down to algorithm 'tweaks' or demonitising videos matters as mainstream media's reliance on digital platforms, not least these two, grows.

YouTube video makers protest as ads are stripped from 'inappropriate' content http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/sep/02/youtube-video-ads-youtubers-advertiser-friendly?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger

Friday, 2 September 2016

LIBEL Mail faces $150m Trump suit

Read Guardian article here.
Another major example of the difficulty facing any NATIONAL regulator, and the limitations of any media regulator when the rich can always use law courts.

A suit has been filed in Maryland claiming an extraordinary $150m damages after a Mail article is claimed to have defamed Donald Trump's wife Melania.

Unlike the Gawker case this is not enough to bankrupt the Mail - but if they lose it surely will have a huge impact on the press in the UK and beyond.

Trump is using the same lawyer that successfully claimed huge damages in the Hulk Hogan case, seeing Gawker go bust.

This is something of a reverse from recent years when the UK was widely used for libel tourism as accusers were more likely to win than in their home country and also to gain much harsher punishments and publishing restrictions.

Trump has launched 100s of libel suits and legal cases - never forget that the sheer cost of defending these is a serious issue for many media outlets, who will be more reluctant to fulfil their democratic reporting function when it comes to Trump as a result.

IPSO, just like the PCC, has nothing to say on this - shouldn't it (with OfCom?) be a factor here?


Sunday, 24 July 2016

HISTORY banned for not being racist in 40s USA

A quote I've picked up on as
(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).

Peter Guralnick (1994) Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley. London: Abacus.
'In the late 1940s [Memphis city censor Lloyd Binford] banned the stage musical Annie Get Your Gun, because it had a Negro railroad conductor and "we don't have any negro conductors in the South. Of course it can't show here. It's social equality in action."' (p.46)

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

IPSO asserts rule over US website Mail Scientology article

What makes this significant is not so much the appearance of IPSO being tougher than its abysmal predecessor, but its assertion over UK newspaper websites run in another country, an area of much uncertainty.

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

MPAA try to stub out smoking hot topic


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

Telegraph May not criticise Theresa

Guido Fawkes is a noted right-wing website. It flags up here how the Torygraph (nickname for the Daily Telegraph, a right-wing traditionally pro-Tory quality or broadsheet) ripped apart the claims of Theresa May to be a 'safe pair of hands' with an article during the Tory leadership campaign ... then swiftly took it down and removed it from their website. There were rivals seen as even more right-wing than May, but she quickly won without a vote when these figures quit the race, a shift that may have seen the Telegraph move to show support for the new Tory PM, never mind its readers or supposed democratic function.

Read more here.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Conjuring 2 disappearing trick from French cinema

Extraordinary case - a horror movie proved too effective, leading to fights over some audience members screaming at scary parts, and so it has been effectively banned from cinemas in France as the main cinema chains have withdrawn it.

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

Canary on BBC anti-left-wing bias

The BBC routinely gets attacked by left and right for bias against them - this lengthy article provides you with a detailed analysis from a left-wing perspective, using a range of very specific examples, not least the rather extraordinary treatment and coverage of Jeremy Corbyn, but also Israel and much more.

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.

Article.


Saturday, 18 June 2016

China - state censorship by the book

More examples of what authoritarian media regulation looks like - useful to bear in mind to balance out any attacks you want to make on Western censorship. Chomsky, of course, argues that ownership, advertiser power etc (the five filters) perform the same job less controversially for the hegemonic forces who shape 'our' supposedly democratic media.

China bans news coverage of Hong Kong bookseller abduction.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Press power in EU referendum, history of Mail might


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

Gawker libel suit Its the end of the word as we know it

American wrestling in the shape of Hulk Hogan may seem an odd topic for an aspiring academic to get into (although hopefully doing a Media course and any half-decent degree will teach you that there is much to learn from the seemingly trivial), but here is what will become a classic example of abuse of libel laws.

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...),
"Whatcha gonna do, brother? Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you?"

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Walled, walled web and hidden censorship

The notion of the wild, wild web gets ever weaker. Regulation of the web is largely privatised, down to the whims and ideology of sites.

We should think of the walled, walled web, especially Facebook, but the policies of major social media, which seek to keep users in and on their site as long as possible, thus sucking out maximum data and advertising revenue, are the major de facto web regulator - and their supposed commitment to free speech is every bit as sincere as the press's.

That means any state regulation of them is baaaad, an attack on freedom of speech - and let's not use the t-word please...

The wild, wild web persists when it comes to tax avoidance, an issue with several of the billionaire press barons too. The industries have in common neo-liberal, fundamentalist free market owners. There is a current fightback in Europe, with several states pursuing legal cases against Google and its use of internal billing to minimise declared profit and focus this in low tax Ireland.

Contrastingly, Facebook and Instagram freak at the (female) nipple (helping to inspire the #freethenipple campaign), and in this case seem to have worked to undermine the meme protesting across a controversial rape sentencing in America, protecting the privileged (the censoring itself having gone viral, they've now said this was a technical glitch and will stop).

Interesting point on privacy - held up for private citizens but not for those in the public eye or on matters of public record.

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.
See this Distractify post for more.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Applying political issues

“Some media regulatory practices are more effective than others.” Discuss. [OCR June 2013]

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

DIGITISATION FUTURE Indie focuses on US audience

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

Past A2 OCR + CIE Exam Questions compiled

THIS POST COMPILES BOTH OCR AND CIE EXAM QUESTIONS

CIE PAPERS, QUESTIONS














OCR PAPERS, QUESTIONS
For examples of A-grade exam essays, click here.
IN THIS POST:
  1. An example of the exam paper
  2. All the past Media reg exam Qs compiled
  3. All the past 1a/1b Qs compiled (+ link to A-grade essays)

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

ASA bans teen underwear ad

Jack Wills underwear party ads too 'sexualised' for teens, says watchdog http://gu.com/p/4kvya?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Mass media doomed, democracy too with churnalism?

Roy Greenslade recently opined that UK newspapers have reached the cliff edge, and could die out en masse very quickly now. The spark was a dreadful set of annual returns showing even the juggernaut of the Daily Mail struggling with print advertising.
Read article here.
Curran and Seaton looked back to the supposed liberalisation and birth of a free press with the 1853 scrapping of tax on newspapers, highlighting the role that advertisers played in deciding which papers survived the shake up. They found that it was mostly radical (left-wing) papers that closed, with advertisers effectively boycotting titles that spread news or views that undermined their parent businesses capitalist prospects (for instance by spreading knowledge of the trade union movement and fostering a working class consciousness).

Chomsky included advertisers as one of the five filters removing counter-hegemonic ideas and information from mainstream media in his propaganda model.

The role that advertisers can play in shaping editorial was shown when Telegraph columnist Peter Oborne revealed the paper had spiked pieces critical of major advertiser HSBC.

Today's very right-wing S*n newspaper grew out of a left-wing Daily Herald that faced secret services harassment but ultimately folded because they couldn't win sufficient advertising, despite offering the largest newspaper circulation in the country (at one stage the world!) at a time.
What do IPSO, the press regulator, have to say on this? Nothing.

Is this time of extreme pressure a good one to toughen up regulation of the press, with Impress if recognised and granted a royal charter threatening to bring huge fines to the table?

The BBFC arguably showed with their refusal to re-rate Postman Pat to PG that they wouldn't create such financial, business issues for film distributors once a film is in cinemas (all the marketing material, and even the trailer and actual film prints, would need replacing!). Perhaps then it is right if similar leniency is shown to a financially struggling industry ... or maybe the basic principles at stake are just too important to dilute?

Either way, without professional journalism, what hope has democracy got? The churnalists of the Daily Mail website are controversial as they largely rewrite other papers work and re-present it as their own. Google and Facebook are likewise feasting off the expensive product created by mass media papers.
Mass media is over, but where does journalism go from here? (Greenslade, 2016)

With advertising being so utterly dominated by just two online giants, how can a press pay for its content in future? The Times and S*n have both shown that newspaper online subscriptions are a very, very hard sell indeed.


Monday, 30 May 2016

BBFC review and comparison with MPAA

The BBFC is a statutory regulator: it has the power of law behind its decisions. Originally set up by the industry in 1912 to avoid tougher censorship, and to solve the problem of each local council coming up with their own codes, making distribution difficult, its board retains links with industry but its Director is appointed in consultation with government.

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.
Just like the PCC and now IPSO, this film 'regulator' has nothing to say about ownership or monopoly in the film industry, or the dominance of the American big six. There are of course links, with Murdoch owning 20th Century Fox as well as The Times, S*n etc. Thatcher scrapped a quota system in 1985 that had previously guaranteed cinemas would show a minimum of British-made films. Today Hollywood films account for over 80% of UK cinema screenings, much more if we consider the US ownership of 'British' companies like Working Title.

Having successfully used the early 1980s video nasty moral panic to gain legal power over rating videos, the BBFC has since expanded into games (though PEGI delivers most of this) and music videos.

Its openness is probably the key point in favour of the regulator, boosting any argument that it is an effective regulator. Before James Ferman retired in 1999 though, it had been considered secretive and too close to government, especially the right-wing Conservative government led by Thatcher. Today, its Insight service provides specific detail on every decision it makes, and the criteria for age ratings are easily accessible on its website, and it has 12k followers for its Twitter account. It also undertakes regular audience research to see if values or expectations are changing to better represent the British public's views.

There have been relatively few controversies since the end of Ferman's reign, as the BBFC became more open and accountible. This coincided with a period of Labour government, so the liberalisation was perhaps partially due to the different political atmosphere after Thatcher's ultra-conservative reign where she tried to censor the press, TV and film (her successor as Tory PM, John Major, also showed his instincts with a 'back to basics' campaign for old-fashioned moral values).

That lack of controversy (there are few exceptions, but these are important!) is a strong sign of their effectiveness as a regulator, and can be contrasted very strongly with the press self-regulators, now on its fourth iteration as IPSO, the previous three having been disbanded as failures. There have been only 3 movies banned in recent years, and one of these, Human Centipede II, did get a release after extensive cuts. Many of the BBFC's historical rulings are at best dubious (The Wild One, Enter the Dragon, Last House on the Left), but the modern organisation seems unlikely to be viewed to be as out of touch. This statement from the BBFC's website exemplifies the very different approach they now take, partly reflecting a law passed under the Labour government:
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 R18 rating is another element of this, providing a restricted right to distribute pornography (in licensed sex shops only), though the Tory government has introduced a fairly arbitrary list of sexual acts it considers indecent, deviant and harmful, a stance that is likely to be seen as outmoded as the hard line on any sexual depiction that held firm up to the 1970s, and the Thatcher government's determination to limit depictions of homosexuality.

It is notable that the deregulation of UK TV with the move from the ITC to OfCom has not brought any comparable liberalisation, with C4 recently being censured for showing a 12A-rated movie at 6.55pm! OfCom and the BBFC each face a fundamental challenge from digitisation, with the easy access to online content and downloading, not to mention region 1 DVDs (including unrated versions of films not assessed or cut by the MPAA), undermining the effectiveness of age restrictions.

However, while OfCom persists with very stringent application of its watershed regulations even as more of the audience timeshift their viewing, making scheduling regulation seem increasingly outmoded (and again children can very easily access TV and films, including US series not yet broadcast in Britain, online, via Torrent sites for example, or by accessing parents' Netflix, Amazon prime or other streaming accounts), the BBFC is more realistic. The 12A rating is only for cinema; the BBFC are clear that DVD ratings are mandatory for retailers and distributors, but that this cannot be policed within the home - that is a parental responsibility. Perhaps newspaper flak is more impactive on TV cases than on film cases, with the BBC and C4 in particular under intense pressure just to prevent government privatization; when the BBC Director General dared suggest the watershed had indeed been outmoded by the internet the right-wing press was predictably savage, a classic case of what Chomsky's propaganda model would term 'flak' (one of his five filters that remove or undermine counter-hegemonic content from media discourse). See http://mediareg.blogspot.lu/2015/01/bbc-dg-invites-flak-by-suggesting.html.

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!).

DIFFERENCES WITH THE MPAA
The MPAA has no legal status; it is an industry self-regulator. Distributors have no legal requirement to submit a movie to the MPAA for rating, and exhibitors/retailers are not legally bound by its ratings (though will conventionally enforce these).

In contrast to the UK, where no BBFC rating means a legal ban, US films can be released unrated. This will usually limit distribution - though not as much as the highest MPAA rating, NC-17, which is an absolute kiss of death at the box office.

There are suspicions that the BBFC is more favourable towards studio films; this seems clearer with the MPAA. Trey Parker, director of South Park: The Movie, a rude, crude production backed by big 6 studio Paramount, discussed in  This Film is Not Yet Rated how that film got an R rating after very specific guidance from the MPAA, but his low-budget Indie debut, no more shocking or crude than South Park, got the dreaded NC-17 ... and he was left with no idea why, or how it might have been cut for an R rating: 
Independent distributor October Films purchased the rights to the film for one million dollars after its screening at the Toronto Film Festival.[16] 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.[3] The duo later theorized that the organization cared less because it was an independent distributor which would bring it significantly less money.[3] [Wiki]
MPAA ratings are not changed for DVD; the BBFC sometimes does, with the assumption that the ability to pause and rewind presents greater danger of potential harm or influence. 

Whereas the BBFC has sought over time to better reflect the UK population with greater social and cultural (including ethnic) diversity on its board, and is open about who sits on this, the MPAA remains secretive (as explored in This Fil is Not Yet rated) and mandates that only parents can join, and only if they have kids aged 5-15 (whenever those kids reach 21 they must step down).

Their appeals process adds two religious (Christian: Catholic and Methodist) figures into the mix, which seems extremely unlikely to generate favourable outcomes for distributors seeking lower age ratings!
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]
There are caveats to this. The fact that the BBFC granted 18, not R-18, to two notorious, highly controversial movies that featured unsimulated sex scenes (including extended rape scenes) might seem highly liberal ... but Baise-Moi and Irreversible largely got the 18 rating based on the likely audience: sophisticated arthouse ABC1s, the typical niche audience for foreign-language movies in the UK.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Human Centipede 2 and BBFC

Initially banned in Australia, then passed with 30 seconds of cuts; initially banned in Britain (as potentially breaching the Obscene Publications Act) - the distributor appealed to the Video Appeals Committee but also proposed limited cuts to the BBFC, who came back with 32 cuts of over 2 mins ... and Bounty/Eureka agreed, and withdrew the appeal. released unrated and uncut in the US, and long available on DVD and Blu-Ray from the US.



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.

2011The 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.[73][74][75][76]
2011–presentThe Bunny GameBanned 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.[77]
2015–presentHate CrimeBanned 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."[78]

ISSUES RAISED:
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



WIKI SUMMARY:
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.[16]The BBFC had given the preceding First Sequence title an 18 certificate.[17] The board stated that they had considered First Sequence to be "undoubtedly tasteless and disgusting",[18] but deemed it acceptable for release because the "centipede" was the product of a "revolting medical experiment".[18] They had also taken legal advice that First Sequence was not in breach of the Obscene Publications Act.[19] 
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".[20] The board members felt that the centipede of Full Sequence existed purely as "the object of the protagonist's depraved sexual fantasy".[18] 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"[21] and stated their opinion that the film was potentially in breach of the Obscene Publications Act.[16] 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".[16] 
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.[22] Six also referred to the BBFC's refusal to classify the film as "exceptional".[22][23]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:

EU sets online EU film TV quota

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

BBFC terrifying Postman Paddington and bloody bunnies

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)
TRUSTED REGULATOR?
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 [2016]) 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:

2014's Paddington
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.






1: POSTMAN PAT (2014) TERRIFIES TOTS: PG NEEDED?
Kermode's take (Observer)
In The ObserverMark 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)
Daily Mail headline.
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)





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?

YES:
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 warned parents this may not be suitable for unsupervised children; 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.
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!

NO:
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'):