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.
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, a 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
Interviews with cast and crew informing and educating the audience about the film and its production are exempt.
A director or producer's commentary again informs and educates the viewer as is thus exempt.
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.
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.
BBFC Reply: Up to You
Under the terms of the Video Recordings Act 1984, every video work, supplied on a video recording of any type (tape, disc, hard drive etc.), must be classified by the BBFC before it can be rented or sold legally in the UK, unless the work is
exempt under Section 2 of the VRA. You can obtain a copy of the VRA from the Office of Public Sector Information.
The decision as to whether a work is exempt from classification is the responsibility of the video distributor. The BBFC's role is to classify works submitted to it; it cannot offer advice regarding the likelihood of a work being successfully
claimed as exempt.
You should read the VRA and decide for yourself. You may find the BBFC's summary of the exemption terms
Comment: VRA weights classification process in favour of the major distributors
By Jonathan Williams
So there you have it. It's nothing to do with us - you send it, we classify it - and if it actually
doesn't need classifying we won't tell you because we don't make the decisions. Like I said, we classify...and we charge money.
If you click their 'exemptions link' it will tell you that the Video Recordings Act (1984) is policed by 'Trading Standards' (who have to find out that a video recording which transgresses the Act is being sold, seize it, track down who's
responsible, press charges, etc).
My own suspicions are that the 1984 Act was a crass Mary Whitehouse/Daily Mail inspired response to 'video nasties' (or 'cult classics' as they are now called), is full of holes, completely out of date, and that the whole system remains in place
largely on the basis of threats and bullying. It has not been challenged though as they essentially don't censor '18' material, so there is no outraged publisher prepared to mount a case in defence of D.H. Lawrence etc. No, in fact the major
players like the system.
Comment: Justifying Censor's Jobs
16th June 2009. By Mark, see also Future Artists
The more I look at where we are at, the more I realise is that everyone is just trying to justify their jobs,
if we didn't have a censorship board then our country would be seen to have no morals and be liberal, so we have to have one so we are seen to be in control, even though the agency pretty much is saying, do what you like, but if we find you and do
not like then we will destroy you,
As Richard Branson said, screw it lets do it and as nike said 'just do it
great work Jon!
Follow Up: Video Recordings Act UK (1984), Exempt Material
21st June 2009. by Jon Williams. See article
I posted the following on today's Shooting People.org bulletin. It questions whether this act, strangely passed in 1984…and amended in 1993&4, and therefore several years before the advent of the DVD, is being applied by
the BBFC to DVD extras material which could well be exempt, or presented in a way which would make it so, under the terms of the act. But the draconian penalties, a maximum 2 years in prison and unlimited fines means that none of the small
distributors are prepared to challenge the BBFC. But there is something we can all do.
...Read on at article