Film classification and censorship was one of the most contentious issues of the post-war era and looks likely to remain so during the digital age of the 21st Century. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the organisation of men and women who have been responsible for making the tough decisions of what we can – or perhaps more pertinently what we can’t – watch on our cinema, TV and computer screens.
The British Board of Film Classification was established in 1912 as a fully independent, non-governmental, self-regulating body tasked with the responsibility of classifying and censoring film releases in the UK. This remit was widened down the years to include the home video market, DVDs and certain computer & video games.
Debate continues to rage about how effective – and relevant – the BBFC’s role is. Those for censorship argue that the organisation has been too liberal with what it has allowed to be released and shown, particularly in recent years, and that the increasing levels of violence on our screens helps fuel and inspire violence in everyday society. Yet at the same time, those against censorship argue that they are still too restrictive in what they don’t allow to be seen, and that sex & violence on the silver screen is, at worst, merely a minor contribution to a wider and deeper malaise afflicting society.
To mark the event, the BBFC will be holding a number of events and special film showings over the Autumn, including the publication of a special centenary book. They’re even hosting an online competition for children on their ‘junior’ CBBFC website. Further details of these events can be found on the BBFC website here.
If you’re interested in reading about the film censorship debate and its history, the Library has a range of books on the subject in our cinema section. You can also follow the course of the many public debates on the matter – including the furore surrounding the release of such films as Straw Dogs and A Clockwork Orange – via our extensive online newspaper archives such as Nexis UK. Plus access to a wealth of film and cinema databases such as the various British Film Institute databases.
Cinema image by Soorian Soosay, reproduced under CC License from Flickr.