The BBFC – more dissent….

Recently I emailed the BBFC asking them why they were charging filmmakers for classifying purely factual DVD ‘extras’ such as interviews with cast and crew, director’s commentaries, and so on; when under the 1984 video recordings act such material is exempt unless it contains a considerable amount of explicit sex and violence. I cc’d this to a number of my filmmaker contacts, and I’ve decide to post it here, along with a reply from Charles Wood ( which I’m reprinting here with his permission.
To: the BBFC

I am contacting you on behalf of New Wave North West, which has as its members most of the region’s no/micro-budget feature filmmakers, for clarification when it comes to an ‘extras’ DVD.
Under your explanation of the ‘E’ classification and the 1984 act (, work is exempted if it is designed to inform, educate or instruct provided that there is no significant sexual or violent content.
From this it would appear that ‘extras’ content, such as
1. interviews with cast and crew informing and educating the audience about the film and its production are exempt.
2. a director or producer’s commentary again informs and educates the viewer as is thus exempt.
3. such as deleted scenes when placed in the context of a ‘mini-documentary’ in which the filmmakers explain the reasons why certain content ended up on the cutting room floor, is also exempt.
4. deleted scenes and other similar material, if presented without a context which informs, educates and instructs, would not be exempt.
Is it correct then that, under the provisions of the act, only material such as that listed under 4 above is to be submitted? As you state:
“Under the Video Recordings Act, the onus is on the distributor to decide whether or not a video work is an exempted work, and distributors have tended to put an ‘E’ symbol on tapes as guidance to the public.

The Board does not examine exempted works and does not decide whether or not a work is exempt.”

Thanking you in advance
Best wishes
Jonathan Williams
Co-ordinator, New Wave North West
and regular contributor to MovieScope Magazine

Nice one Jon.
In my view, the BBFC is simply acting like any other government organisation in order to pay its employees and maintain their work and jobs. This has nothing to do with, or any benefit for the viewing public. This is especially so when it comes down to matters such as covers and so on…they are simply using the “letter” of the law to extend their provenance…a typical strategy of government employees in these circumstances. It is not that they themselves are setting out to be corrupt, but they end up acting corruptly because of the consequences of their actions.
What they will say, is that the scope of the work “as a whole” has to be certificated, and unless the “whole work” is educational then , as the majority is not, they would have to follow the “letter” of the law, not its intention…which was to protect viewers from certain types of performance.
It becomes even more ludicrous when you watch a TV channel such as one of the freeview music ones, were the whole aim of many of the videos is to use sex to sell the song. When it becomes the whole aim of the visual I object to it like any other person, on moral grounds. However the BBFC gets round this by saying they have strict guidelines, and “moral” is not one of the tests…it is not their place to be a moral judge. So for example: blatant misrepresentation of Fidel Castro as a drugs baron  is acceptable (in all seriousness), be it true or blatant political propaganda. Yet they will charge you as a film maker to be sure you are not doing the same thing within the context of a drama that involves sex or violence.
The modern media. beyond all other place’s is the battleground between the Nobility in charge of our society and the ordinary persons right to a free and unencumbered life.
I am not sure one individual or a poor group of people can change this, as those in that power group change the rules to fit their needs at a whim.
But it is good to try, and beyond that, I think your statements are accurate as a reflection of the intention of these extras, they are indeed educational, and that is precisely what should be excluded by their own clear statements. That would be if interpreted by a sane judge looking at the intention of the legislation, not of a civil servant trying to make money for his department, in this case the BBFC, who have a vested interest in extending their powers. It is after all, easy money.
Charles Wood

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