Exam date

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

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'):

There are moments in which characters are threatened by robots, including Pat being threatened by a robot version of Jess who fires beams from her eyes and appears to be indestructible. But the context is clearly fantastical and the heroes win out in the end, preventing anyone from coming to any harm.

The robot villain concept was prominent in the marketing material
The controversial Patbot was also very evident in the main trailer (embedded above), which also features a Dalek from the BBC sci-fi TV series Dr Who, another scary villain not mentioned in the parental tweets or media coverage; here are sample screenshots from it:

This was a mess that was rooted in the production company's badly misjudged narrative and design; turning the safe, comforting (though it could be argued that this white male is an example of normativising patriarchy) figure of Postman Pat that kids wanted to see into a terrifying villain, allied with a plotline about privatisation that only adults could follow, was an extreme misjudgement of the target audience. However, the BBFC's Insight guidance was short and failed to function to warn parents of the potential upset the central villain could cause (even though it was specific with the detail about lasers shooting from his eyes), plus the U rating would discourage most from checking up on this - a PG rating might have been more suitable.

If the BBFC can say that they would now rate the 1978 animated kids movie Watership Down as PG, not U, why can't they be proactive and re-rate a film when it seems they have clearly got it wrong? Are they putting parents and children first or prioritising the commercial interests of distributors and exhibitors (knowing the huge issues that would cause for a film in its release window, with marketing materials finalised and ads paid for and placed, including a rated trailer and prints carrying the designated BBFC rating)?

The BBFC Twitter feed might in future be a significant compromise, enabling additional detail to be disseminated and publicised (media outlets are likely to report some of this too), but the fact that the Postman Pat tweet, which basically comprised just 4 words (contains mild comic threat), was retweeted just 4 times suggests that even with 12k followers it has yet to be sufficiently established. If re-rating a film already on commercial theatrical release with an agreed age rating is a step only for an extreme case, then surely the BBFC should be proactive with their Insight guidance, and alter this accordingly. Perhaps, like IMDB (and of course Twitter), they should open up their Insight entries to user comments, or alternatively provide links to alternative views (again, such as IMDB).

It could be argued that if the BBFC is being an effective regulator they will not be involved in controversy. Their extensive use of survey data and audience research is intended to help them to better reflect the UK populace as well as enforce wider law. There will always be some cases that cause clear divides in public opinion, but for the most part the BBFC will best show its effectiveness by avoiding controversy. Whether thats possible while the Daily Mail exists is of course debatable!

In many ways this is a great example of just how censorious and conservative Britain can be - or, an important distinction, its media at least. While it is unquestionable that there were social media and formal complaints by and from the public, this was a typically media-led storm ... with the Daily Mail, equally typically, right at the centre (fittingly for the ideologically right-of-centre paper!).

Watership Down is an adaptation of an iconic book (introduced to generations of UK primary [up to age 11] schoolchildren):
a classic adventure novel, written by English author Richard Adams, published by Rex Collings Ltd of London in 1972. Set in southern England, the story features a small group of rabbits. Although they live in their natural environment, they are anthropomorphised, possessing their own culture, language, proverbs, poetry, and mythology. Evoking epic themes, the novel follows the rabbits as they escape the destruction of their warren and seek a place to establish a new home, encountering perils and temptations along the way. [Wiki]
Much of the controversy that has followed the film is over the emotional impact of the death of a central character, reinforced by the famous soundtrack music, and the U rating given it by the BBFC (that they said in 2016 would be a PG if it was submitted for re-rating today). The magazine Total Film ranked it as the 47th greatest British film of all time and 'ranked 15th in the "100 Greatest Tearjerkers"' (Wiki).

The wider core issue here is whether children need protecting from anything frightening or upsetting, or whether this is actually an important element of emotional development. Fairy tales are frequently grotesque, violent and terrifying - and are seen as fulfilling a core developmental function. Does the addition of audio-visual content make film more harmful or impactful than the written word, and requirous of a much higher level of censorship?
Unlike many animated features, the film faithfully emulated the dark and violent sophistication of the book. As a result, at the first release of the film in 1978, many reviewers took to warning parents that children might find the content disturbing. When the film was first submitted to the British Board of Film Censors (now the British Board of Film Classification), the BBFC passed the film with a 'U' certificate (suitable for all ages), deciding that "whilst the film may move children emotionally during the film's duration, it could not seriously trouble them once the spell of the story is broken and a 'U' certificate was therefore quite appropriate".[8] However, in 2012, the BBFC admitted that it had "received complaints about the suitability of Watership Down at 'U' almost every year since its classification".[9] 
Some marketers in the U.S. also worried that the main promotional poster appeared too dark and might scare some children. The poster is actually showing Bigwig in a snare (his distinctive fur is clearly visible), yet the image on the poster does not appear in the film, which contains a far bloodier depiction of the scene. 
After a British television screening at Easter 2016, David Austin, the head of the BBFC said the film would receive a 'PG' (Parental Guidance) rating under current standards, if it was re-released. According to Austin, the use of an expletive would be "unacceptable" under the current criteria for language in a film rated 'U', and the film's violence was "arguably too strong" for such a rating.[10] [film Wiki]

It is almost impossible to imagine a similar fuss in any other European country, and the media howls of outrage were consistent with the rank hypocrisy of media coverage of other media. The UK press erupt in fury and issue dire warnings of dictatorship and the death of democracy if any proposals emerge of properly regulating the self-regulated press ... but the bulk of the press (ie the right-wing press, so excepting The Guardian and Mirror, plus the i/Indie) love to get their teeth into other media, and call for tighter regulation of them!

So here we got C5 and the TV regulator OfCom getting slammed for scheduling/allowing this broadcast, and the BBFC for misleading age rating guidance. Here are a few sample headlines:


MAIL GETS MAD SHOCK - note that the # is a functioning one [and careless sub-editor uses 'showed', not the correct 'shown'!]


GUARDIAN NEWS PIECE (by same writer as above)


The BBFC has acknowledged the film would now be re-rated from U to PG if it were submitted for classifying today. At the very least C5 should have been compelled to issue a parental warning before the broadcast began. Just like the Postman Pat movie, parents were caught unawares when children got scared and upset as they lacked information. Parents needed to know that the film included 'apocalyptic visions of the sun soaking the land with blood. The film includes scenes of bloodied bunnies fighting tooth and nail over their territory.' (Guardian)

This was broadcast on a specific religious public holiday, making it even more unsuitable, at a key time for family viewing (2.25pm).

C5 showed very poor judgement in scheduling this movie, reflected in tweets calling for sackings at the channel, but it is OfCom's job to oversee UK TV and its responsibility to avoid inappropriate screenings like this.

The trailer includes the scary elements!
This is a storm in a teacup (or tweet) that has been all too typically blown out of all proportion by the media coverage over a few tweets of ill-informed parents. The movie was released 36 years ago, in which time several previously banned films have been released uncut, so why should this film see its rating increase? The film and the book have been very widely used in schools for decades without any such controversy. Parents can of course use the likes of IMDB or YouTube to view the trailer and read user comments if they wish to scrutinise the media their children consume.

The original trailer makes the level of potentially scary or upsetting content very clear in its 3 minutes:

There was no complaint to OfCom; this whole issue is based on some tweets which the press picked up and hyped up (part of the attraction of Twitter for newspapers is that it presents free content - no need to pay journalists for investigation). Whilst the press routinely expresses outrage, and warns against fundamental threats to democracy if there are any proposals for proper, tough regulation of the industry (as opposed to the farcical self-regulation system, with IPSO just the latest re-branding of weak self-regulation), they consistently attack other media like a pack of wolves, calling for ever tighter regulation and censorship of other media. The Daily Mail is the acknowledged master of the moral panic, but in this case the blame can be spread across the entire press - despite some opinion pieces which dismissed the complaints, the main news coverage in even the left-wing papers helped fuel this story. The Mirror's headline was typical: "Channel 5 blasted for 'traumatising' viewers on Easter Sunday by airing 'inappropriate' Watership Down".
The S*n coverage also demonstrates how papers will twist logic to create a scandal:
Families who were enjoying time with their children were stunned when they switched over to Channel 5 to see the violent film being aired.
The heartbreaking animation film, released all the way back in 1978, is infamous for its shocking scenes of bunny rabbits being slaughtered.
So ... its famous for bunnies dying, which means parents would know this ... but somehow couldn't manage to exercise basic control and switch channels, or to bother looking at EPGs to see what was on before channel surfing. The S*n really must think UK parents are extraordinarily dumb! I'll look at how the Mail twisted the religious angle later, but again note the reliance on Twitter for this 'issue'.

Richard Desmond made his fortune from adult TV/mags
C5 is an easy target: until recently (2010-4) owned by pornographer Richard Desmond (whose Wiki), it has minimal PSB (public service broadcasting) requirements under OfCom rules and its license agreement, in contrast to the BBC and C4 especially, and takes a nakedly commercial approach to its programming (ingrained from the very start of the channel, with Dawn Airey's infamous "3 F's" summary to advertisers).
Northern and Shell conglomerate owns the Star and Express papers), and now the faceless US giant Viacom (see

However, it IS OfCom's job to ensure that UK TV is run according to OfCom guidelines, which have statutory power: OfCom can (and has exercised this on several occasions) fine and even withdraw the license to broadcast from channels that transgress or break the rules. Nonetheless, complaints were NOT made to OfCom but rather to C5. That can be seen as an issue with OfCom: are the public sufficiently aware of OfCom's existence and functions? Arguably not, based on this example. Complaints were mostly aired on Twitter as well as those directed to C5 itself.

OfCom was set up by legislation (UK law) that explicitly designed it as a light-touch regulator. We
have to go back nearly half a century to the early days of TV regulation under the ITA (replaced by the IBA in 1973) to see the regulator heavily interfering in the scheduling of UK TV channels. The IBA, ITC and now OfCom have been more reactive regulators, with the concept of pre-broadcast scrutiny or judgement gradually being replaced with judging complaints over perceived rule breaches. We have come a long way from the TV regulator dictating the scheduling of an entire TV schedule, as the ITA once did. OfCom received no complaint and had no issue to deal with; this was a broadcaster screening a U-rated children's movie in daytime, a bizarre controversy. By extension, any children's TV that contains scary or upsetting material would be banned if critics like the Daily Mail got their way.

OMG: The Religious Link
The religious link is another red herring. Despite the impression by given by much media, especially press, coverage of UK news, the UK is amongst the least religious countries in the world. If, like the BBFC, regulators see part of their role as reflecting the wider population and social values as they evolve, then the religious factor should not be an issue. The press wilfully ignores and distorts such context; the Mail reported the updated statistics showing the UK to be amongst the most atheist nations in the world in 2015, but ignore such inconvenient truths to shape stories to fit their narrow world view.
Daily Mail managed to overlook this inconvenient truth, reported a year before the Watership Down issue
The last dying kick of the blasphemy laws being used to censor UK media content came with the court case over the BBC broadcasting Jerry Springer The Musical in 2006, featuring a depiction of Jesus. The BBC spoke out against the organised campaign of letter writing, with a template being used for most of the record 63,000 complaints received, and resisted pressure to withdraw the programme from possible future broadcast or to apologise:
When the BBC decided to broadcast Jerry Springer: The Opera in January 2005, they received over 63,000 complaints by offended Christian viewers who objected to the show's portrayal of Christian icons (including one scene depicting Jesus professing to be "a bit gay"). The fundamentalist group Christian Voice sought a private blasphemy prosecution against the BBC, but the charges were rejected by City of Westminster magistrates' court. Christian Voice applied to have this ruling overturned by the High Court, but the application was rejected, the court finding that the common law blasphemy offences specifically did not apply to stage productions (s. 2(4) of the Theatres Act 1968) and broadcasts (s. 6 of the Broadcasting Act 1990) [Wiki]


Everyone’s idea of what is right and wrong for their kids is different. When we think the BBFC have fouled up, we treat them as if they’re careless child minders, because in a sense, they are. But it’s the parents’ choice to let someone else do the minding. Is watching a bunny tear chunks out of another bunny on Easter Sunday damaging to your kids? Probably not. Would a PG rating, instead of a U, have stopped shattered parents from plonking their sprogs in front of those bunnies at the end of the long weekend? Probably not. Is it important to have a target to vent at – Channel 5, the BBFC – when we slip up while looking after our own kids? Definitely.
We also regularly receive complaints about classification decisions made years, sometimes decades earlier. Watership Down was rated U for film in 1978 and for video in 1987 reflecting our classification system and standards at those times. There were a few complaints from parents at the time who felt the film was too upsetting for very young children. The category has not changed since then, and we continue to receive one or two complaints about the film each year (more when a new edition of the DVD is released) despite the widespread familiarity with it over the past 30 years.
The BBFC continues to receive "one or two complaints" each year over its content, which includes scenes of rabbits fighting, being throttled and gasping for air.The film - which features the voices of Sir John Hurt and the late Richard Briers - received a U rating on its initial release for its "very mild language, mild violence and threat".According to Austin, though, "standards were different then". "The film has been a U for 38 years, but if it came in tomorrow it would not be," he continued.For it to receive a different rating, however, it would have to be re-submitted to the BBFC - something Austin said would only happen if the title was acquired by a new distributor who wished to re-release it.According to BBFC guidelines, a U-rated film "should be suitable for audiences aged four years and over" while a PG may feature scenes "unsuitable for young children".
This leaves me with one message to pass on to these parents and the BBFC. Grow the bunny hell up! It’s a cartoon about rabbits based on a children’s book. If that’s not suitable for kids, I don’t know what is. In both Bambi and Finding Nemo, the titular characters’ mothers barely make it through the first 10 minutes. Is that too much for these mollycoddling morons’ nippers as well? Tragedy can play a part in any good story. Besides, you can’t shelter kids from the fact that bad things can and do happen.Of course Watership Down is appropriate for children. But if some parents disagree, they should get off their arses, do some parenting and pay attention to what their children are watching. They shouldn’t complain to a broadcaster. And the BBFC shouldn’t pretend that films made today are less distressing than those made in the past. If anything, the opposite is the case. The Exorcist, which was X-rated on release, would probably only be a ‘15’ now.

3: PG Paddington?
If the previous examples are controversies over too liberal BBFC ratings and broadcaster scheduling, plus a supposed lack of warning or information, then this is a contrasting outcry over what many saw as an absurd rating which should have been a U.

A U is considered 'universal', but consideration required by parents for children aged 4 years and under, whereas the PG sets the notional line at 8, but neither carries an actual age minimum unlike the 12(A)/15/18.

BBC News Report:

CNN News Report - is the BBFC effective or credible when we see its decisions ridiculed like this by foreign media?:

The CNN report makes a useful comparison to Harry Potter - many of that franchise's films got a PG rating too, but are clearly a world away from Paddington!

Just as Shane Meadows and the production company Warp, as well as distributors Optimum Releasing, were sure they had produced and taken on a 15-rated production targeting a teen audience and were shocked to receive an 18 rating, so too were the Paddington producers surprised when the BBFC gave them a PG (see video of the producer expressing his shock):
In November 2014 the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) gave the film a PG certificate for its UK release and advised parents that the film contained "dangerous behaviour, mild threat, mild sex references [and] mild bad language." Paul King, the film's director, told BBC reporter Tim Muffett: "I'm not surprised about that [the PG certificate] but I don't think it's a PG for sexiness. That I would find very odd." Paddington's creator, Michael Bond, said he was "totally amazed" at the BBFC's advice. After the film's distributor challenged the certification, the BBFC revised the wording of its parental guidance, replacing "mild sex references" with "innuendo." It also further qualified the "mild bad language" as "infrequent", saying it referred to "a single mumbled use of 'bloody'." [Wiki]
The Postman Pat and Watership Down examples suggest a desire for wider use of the PG, but the Paddington case challenges that view.

In contrast to the implied favouritism shown to studios and their subsidiaries with the ratings of Dark Knight and now Batman vs Superman: Justice League (12As that for many should be 15s) and the Indie likes of This is is England and Sweet Sixteen (anticipated 15, got 18), this is a useful counter-example: a $50m budget movie from StudioCanal, a subsidiary of NBC-Universal (like Working Title, who got a generous 15 for World's End) that got a higher age rating than the studio wanted.

PADDINGTON is a family adventure about a talking bear from Peru who travels to London looking for a new home.
There are infrequent scenes of dangerous behaviour, including Paddington hiding from a villain inside a refrigerator and riding on a skateboard while holding on to a bus, as well as a brief scene of a boy strapping fireworks to his shoes.
There are occasional sequences of mild threat when Paddington is chased by the villain who threatens to kill and stuff him, as well as a brief sequence in which Paddington lies unconscious on a table while a taxidermist prepares their tools nearby. There is also a short scene in a jungle when Paddington and his family run for shelter during an earthquake with trees falling around them.
There is some mild innuendo, including a comic sequence in which a man disguised as a woman is flirted with by another man.
There is a single mumbled use of 'bloody'.

Daily Telegraph headline (right-wing quality/broadsheet)
Sky News' headline
Daily Mail was also shocked...but they managed to criticise the BBFC for being BOTH too conservative AND too liberal!
The board’s warning about Paddington comes after it handed a 12A certificate to the violent new Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 film, which features public executions, corpses being devoured by wild animals and the bombing of a hospital. Children of any age are allowed to see a 12A as long as they are accompanied by an adult.Conservative Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith condemned the BBFC in 2008 after he took his then 15-year-old daughter to see The Dark Knight, the violent Batman film, also rated 12A.‘I was astonished that the BBFC could have seen fit to allow anyone under the age of 15 to watch the film,’ he said.

Although the entire concept of rating Paddington opens the BBFC (and, looking at US media coverage, the wider UK as a backwards, old-fashioned country) up to ridicule, it is the 'sex' warning that has proven most contentious. Indeed, the BBFC re-worded their original Insight guide after a bewildered StudioCanal complained:
After an approach from the film's distributor the BBFC altered the term "mild sex references" to "innuendo". (BBC)
Specifically, this comes down to a scene in which the father character (Hugh Bonneville) is dressed up as a woman, and a man briefly flirts with him. That carries a whiff of homophobia, though the BBFC are adamant that it is simply down to the hint at sex(!):
The author of the original book series, Michael Bond, told The Daily Mail, “I’m totally amazed… I might not sleep well tonight. I can’t imagine what the sex references are.” The BBFC later amended its wording after an approach by distributor Studiocanal, and replaced “sex references” with “innuendo.” On its website, the board said the innuendo comes during a scene in which Hugh Bonneville is dressed as a woman and “is flirted with by another man.” I asked the BBFC if the issue would have been different had it been a man and a woman flirting and was told that innuendo is classified equally regardless of the gender or sexuality of the characters. (Deadline Hollywood)

Brits confused by PG; Telegraph writer amazed at PG; Sky shock PG; BBC: BBFC changes sex refs guidance; BBC Newsbeat why its a PG; Mail shock PG; Guardian given PG; BBFC;

Google: Mark Kermode parents complain.

Google: Daily mail bbfc u scary children movie.

Guardian: Paddington rating.

Guardian: Barnes.
BBC: BBFC would re-rate.
Indie: 11 unintentionally terrifying films.
Mail gets cross!
Mail on remake announcement.
British amongst world's least religious (Mail!).
The S*n gets heated.
Telegraph blood-crazed bunnies column.
Mirror C5 blasted.
SpikedOnline free speech blogger.
Google: watership down bbfc.
Metro: films which scared you as a child.
Wiki on the film.

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