I was reading the Daily Mail and they had a piece about how evil the BBFC are to give the film Paddington a PG certificate that contained the phrase “Mild sex references” – this has now been changed to just Innuendo. On the other hand they seem to be fine with the rude words used in the film.
It’s not uncommon for that paper to be up in arms over the BBFC’s classifications over the years.
It tends to swing from “Why have they not banned X!” to “Why have they given Y such a high/low/correct certificate!“. Everyone is their own film censor.
I have had to deal with this great institution over the years. It was in the time when the 12A certificate came out and they contacted us, I think, to ask us if we could add consumer advice to the new certificate and to PG films. At that time we didn’t have that many films in the system. It was decided to add, if possible, this advice to all films in our system. After a couple of days, I managed to get that done.
They are a great organisation. However, they do tend to have a problem with public opinion over their classification recommendations. You have to remember that the BBFC isn’t a legal entity but local authorities allow this company to set the certificates on their behalf.
The local authority have no legal responsibility to take the certificate recommendation from the BBFC as law if they don’t agree with it! They are the final arbiters of what certification a film should have. This has happened a couple of times that I can remember. One was Camden council that gave A Clockwork Orange a “Camden 18” certificate. Some gave Spider-Man a lower PG certificate [ it was a 12 at the time ]. This reason, it was thought by the public was the reason why the 12A came in. That had nothing to do with it as a pilot study was held in Norwich, East Anglia, using a 12-PG certificate. That was the final part of the study that ran for about two years. This study ran for a while in that area and with the results it was thought that a new certificate was needed. So the 12A certificate was born.
Back to the origin of this post. The piece I was reading went on to say that the BBFC was originally called the British Board of Film Censors [ now Classification ]. The, print, article made a point of putting Censors in italics. A newspaper that think that film should be censored. They do, occasionally, censor films by requesting the film to be cut to allow it be given a certain certificate. It maybe a spurt of blood to get a lower classification or removing something that people may copy.
The article also went on to talk about that the board was getting friendly with the distributors and, possibly, being bullied into giving a certificate. This sort of thing has, possibly, happened in the days when the Daily Mail was going on about how good the Blackshirts were.
You can download a copy of the guidelines that the BBFC use to help classify films. Either from their website or clicking on the download icon. That was you can understand why a film has had a certain certification.
They also do a great, monthly-ish podcast [ you can also subscribe to it on iTunes ]. It’s a great insight into how this great organisation works as well as its history and controversies it has endured over the years.