Britain to Toughen Movie Censorship, Citing a Link to Crime Blair Wants to Help Parents Shield Children from Excessive Violence and Sex in Films, Videos, Video Games

By Alexander MacLeod, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 24, 1997 | Go to article overview

Britain to Toughen Movie Censorship, Citing a Link to Crime Blair Wants to Help Parents Shield Children from Excessive Violence and Sex in Films, Videos, Video Games


Alexander MacLeod, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


British film audiences will soon be watching movies that have been subject to much tougher curbs on depictions of violence and sex.

Claiming strong public backing, Prime Minister Tony Blair has authorized a tightening-up of censorship of cinema and video movies and computer games.

He and Home Secretary Jack Straw say they are being guided by new government-sponsored research, soon to be published, indicating a link between on-screen violence and crime. On Dec. 17, Mr. Straw seized the high ground in a government campaign to ensure that film audiences are not exposed to excessive depictions of sex and violence. He named a new president of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), which views movies before they are classified for screening in cinemas or distributed as videos. Within hours of accepting the job, Andreas Whittam Smith, founding editor of the Independent newspaper, ordered an immediate review of guidelines for judging the suitability of films. "I want to inspire public confidence in the classification system," Mr. Whittam Smith says. "I particularly want to help parents regulate the viewing of their children." Straw's anger with what he saw as lax controls on films depicting pornography and violence erupted in June, after the BBFC approved for public screening the movie "Crash," described by one critic as "beyond depravity." Soon afterward, Straw discovered that James Ferman, long-serving director of the BBFC, had relaxed guidelines on the levels of sex and violence permitted on videos for home rental, without consulting the Home Office. Two videos Mr. Ferman allowed to be distributed were the US-made "Batbabe," reported to contain 30 minutes of sexual activity, and "Ladies Behaving Badly," a sexually explicit British production. By clearing the films, Ferman made it impossible for them to be seized as obscene under a 1984 Act of Parliament. Ferman's allegedly over-liberal approach to his task has attracted much criticism, but he has almost always defended his decisions. After clearing the Steven Spielberg movie "The Lost World," for viewing by children, Ferman said, "If we photographed the faces of children in the middle of a roller coaster ride, no one would read the emotion as pleasure. But most children come off the ride wanting to do it again." "The Lost World" received a PG-13 rating in America. For some years, there has been growing public concern that there is a link between on-screen violence and juvenile crime. Two children convicted of the 1993 kidnapping and murder of two-year-old James Bulger were found to have been influenced by a violent home video. …

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Britain to Toughen Movie Censorship, Citing a Link to Crime Blair Wants to Help Parents Shield Children from Excessive Violence and Sex in Films, Videos, Video Games
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