Exam date

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

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!).

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.

See http://www.bbfc.co.uk/education-resources/education-news/same-difference for more detail on the comparison.

The video below, from 2018, gives a reminder of the 'nipplegate' 'scandal' (Janet Jackson's 'wardrobe malfunction' at the Superbowl half-time show, with one boob exposed - the nipple was actually covered). I raise this as it exemplified the very strong difference between US and UK censorship and cultural attitudes. The MPAA is toughest on sexual content, while the BBFC are toughest on violent content - especially sexual violence.
So, the BBFC banned a long list of 'video nasties' especially because of their linkage of sex with violence, and enforced many cuts on films like Enter the Dragon despite its 18 rating, whereas the MPAA looked at American Psycho (passed uncut by the BBFC) and insisted on cutting a sex scene. The sample from a handout quiz makes the point...


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]


IS BANNING EFFECTIVE? (US DVDs, VoD, illegal download, VPNs, etc)












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)
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.

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.

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?

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'):

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

BBFC some pointers

BBFC + Wiki. MPAA + Wiki.

Can the BBFC maintain acceptance in our digital age? The organisation has moved on hugely since the ultra-conservative head James Ferman finally retired, but is still open to ridicule in the nature of this Ali G snippet...

A self-regulator with statutory backing (arguably just as Leveson would have liked the new press regulator to be, certainly if any PCC replacement didn't quickly prove itself as effective, though the 'Royal Charter' notion is not as direct as the 1984 Video Recordings Act).
The British Board of Film Classification is an independent, non-governmental body which has classified cinema films since it was set up in 1912 and videos/ DVDs since the Video Recordings Act was passed in 1984.
 That's the BBFC's self-description. The Wiki is useful.

Julian Petley, author of many books on censorship (including one called ... Censorship!), and renowned opponent of censorship, argues that like many non-governmental censors it fulfils a useful role for government, keeping them out of controversy yet generally reflecting the will of government.

BBFC background and cases

Main blogging is on the MediaReg blog (BBFC tag), eg this overview post.
A new overview will be added.


Question: why is there is a separate 12A for cinema only (12 for DVD/Blu-Ray)? [BBFC guide]

Very student-friendly, and also intended to be highly parent friendly, this has details on every new rating, detailed explanations of the current ratings, and case studies on controversial rulings.
For now, visit the site and note:
  1. the names of each BBFC age rating
  2. the key differences between the 12/12A, 15 and 18 rating: focus on the issues of SEX, VIOLENCE, SWEARING

Some useful historical examples to illustrate how ratings systems evolve over time.
Take each trailer below and note which rating you'd give it (explaining why).
Afterwards you can check out the BBFC site links on these, but have a go at rating them first.
This BBC overview will also be helpful - after you've worked through the examples belowBanned Movies (2011)

1: THE WILD ONE (1953)

BBFC recent cases

Wild Tales
Fifty Shades of Grey
Hunger Games
(Dark Knight franchise;
Human Centipede franchise)

The BBFC has remained relatively uncontroversial in recent times, although its 2014 report, widely interpreted as a relaxing of restrictions, especially at the 12/15 level, did attract a lot of flak from the right-wing press. The Daily Mail can always be relied upon for a good moral panic; here are the top results from a google of 'daily mail bbfc':

The Mail even managed to link the BBFC's liberalism (free market principles?!) with terrorism, though intriguingly didn't mention the BBFC once during this article:


Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Facebook the most important media regulator?

Formal regulation of the press is notoriously weak, with one consequence the overwhelming dominance of right-wing bias in the UK press - reflecting the views and interests of the billionaire owner barons.

Curious then to read of an apparent bias within the Facebook news feed against conservative, right-wing sources. That turns out to be a dubious spin based on one ex-employee.

It does highlight the growing power of FB to shape the media landscape as more and more rely on what pops up in FB for their news sources.

Facebook accused of censoring conservatives, report says http://gu.com/p/4j29x?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger

Saturday, 7 May 2016

GLOBALISATION US tabloid breaking English injunctions

US magazine editor pledges to expose British celebrities' privacy http://gu.com/p/4tqq8?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Blogger