It seems that the 25-year-old law governing video censorship in the UK was, through some oversight, never actually enacted. It was a simple oversight: the European Commission was never notified of the act, but it now means that the 1984 act and the revisions of 1993 and 1994 are invalid and that, in effect, the system of classifying films for video release no longer exists.
This will likely prompt tabloid scare stories about how our children can now be sold porn. Technically this may be true, as there can now be no legal penalty for supplying films to underage customers, but it’s a distraction from the actual issue. Shops aren’t suddenly going to begin selling 18 rated films to five year olds just because of a loophole in the law. The more disturbing part of this is what it may mean for the future of our system of classification and censorship.
This legal issue, discovered during a routine look at the act before the latest amendment, enacting classifications for video games, essentially means that, should it wish to, the government can now throw out the entire system we’ve had over the last quarter of a century and rewrite the guidelines. This worries me. With lunatic fringes like Mediawatch and Christian Voice well organised to mount high pressure campaigns for more restrictive censorship and a Government unpopular and headed into an election year there is a real danger here for movie lovers, this could genuinely affect and restrict our freedom to choose what we watch.
The BBFC, as yet, have made no public comment on the issue, if they don’t do so soon I shall write and ask them about it. I’ll have more on this as it develops, including my own proposal for what a new system (should such a thing be proposed) ought to look like.