After nearly 100 years, Sweden may finally be poised to shutter the agency charged with censoring films deemed unsuitable for adult audiences.
The planned dissolution of Sweden's film censorship agency, Statens biografbyrå (SBB), means that Swedish filmgoers aged 15 and older will no longer have to wonder whether or not a particular film has been censored by the state.
The proposal comes as a part of the findings of a government-mandated inquiry into how to update laws governing how films are reviewed, including how to protect young people from media featuring content seen as harmful to minors.
Since 1911, SBB has been charged with reviewing and, when necessary, censoring films. But technological changes as well as a proliferation of other outlets through which films can be viewed means that the agency only reviews a small portion of
the content viewed by Swedish cinephiles.
According to current regulations, SBB can censor any film which depicts events in such a manner and in such a context as to have a brutalizing effect and is judged to have explicit or protracted scenes of severe violence to people or
animals or depicts sexual violence or coercion or presents children in pornographic situations.
But the agency rarely exercises its power to cut scenes from films, or orders a film banned altogether.
The Local reported in 2007 that the board last cut scenes from a non-pornographic film in 1996, when three scenes were removed from Martin Scorcese's gangster movie Casino , despite protests from the director.
As an alternative, the inquiry proposed that a new media agency be created to replace both the SBB and the Swedish Media Council (Mediarådet), another state agency aimed at reducing the risk of harmful effects on children and young people
of certain media content.
The new agency won't be so judicial, but rather a contact body with information; to help children learn to understand the media, to have a more critical eye, said inquiry head Marianne Eliason to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
The new agency will also assume SBB's current duties of managing the four levels of age restrictions for films in Sweden (all ages, 7+, 11+, 15+). Moreover, the new agency will no longer employ censors , but instead will include a team of
film examiners tasked with determining the appropriate age restriction for a given film, rather than censoring it.
The inquiry also proposes that film companies be allowed to submit their films for review by the new agency voluntarily. However, films not reviewed by the new agency would automatically be classified as only appropriate for viewers 15 years and
Since implementation of the inquiry's findings will likely require a change to Sweden's constitution, Eliason doesn't expect the new system to be in place before 2011.
On the surface this might sound good but...
This is what they'll scrap:
The content of films or pre-recorded video recordings (videograms) shall be examined and approved by the National Board of Film Censors prior to showing at a public gathering or entertainment.
This will remain:
Swedish Code of Statutes (SFS): SFS 1990:894, Published on September 4, 1990
Chapter 16: On Crimes against Public Order
Section 10 b Any person who in a still picture or in a film, in a video recording, a television programme or other moving pictures depicts sexual violence or coercion with the intention that the picture or pictures be spread or spreads such
depiction, shall be convicted, except that the criminal act in view of the circumstances be defensible, and sentenced for unlawful depiction of violence to a fine or imprisonment for a maximum period of two years. And the same shall apply to any
person who in moving pictures explicitly or extensively depicts extreme violence towards humans or animals with the intention that the pictures be spread or spreads such depiction.
A person who negligently distributes material as referred to in subsection (1) shall, if such distribution takes place in the course of business or otherwise for gain, be liable to the penalty laid down in subsection (1)
Last week, Sweden announced that it will disband its Statens Biografbyra censorship board altogether in 2011, 100 years after it was founded. From then on, there will be no restrictions on films released in the country unless they break laws
governing such areas as child pornography, although the current age-related rating system will remain.
John Beyer of Mediawatch, the successor to Mary Whitehouse's National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, suggested the BBFC's increasingly light touch in recent years made it not so very different from the new Swedish organisation.
The BBFC no longer 'cuts bits out of films' but provides information about films so that members of the public can make up their own minds about what films they want to see or avoid. The Swedish government evidently want to
do just what the BBFC has been doing for some years.
In our opinion the BBFC has become far too lax in what it permits for public exhibition and there has been a gradual shift in what they regard as acceptable so that what would have been regarded as 18 a few years ago is now thought suitable for
15. Their 12A certificate allows very young children, accompanied by an adult, to see some very unsuitable material. The board is pretty much unaccountable and for this reason we supported Julian Brazier's private member's bill last year to make
the board accountable to parliament through the select committee system.
Comment: Letting the public make up their own minds
"The BBFC no longer 'cuts bits out of films' but provides information about films so that members of the public can make up their own minds about what films they want to see or avoid."
Oh how disgraceful and disgusting! How dare the BBFC let members of the public make up their own minds about films they want to see?
Instead they should have John Beyer and Mediawatch UK making up the public's minds for them.
"Their 12A certificate allows very young children, accompanied by an adult, to see some very unsuitable material."
Oh yeah very young children, accompanied by an adult are being allowed to see explicit violence and hardcore porn! Yeah right!
"The board is pretty much unaccountable."
Pretty much unaccountable to Mediawatch UK and Tory middle middle England who believe they know what is and is not good for the public to see. Let's keep it that way!