The BBFC Pretends To Be Doing The Film Industry A Favour


The British censorship board’s new price reduction scheme is not as generous as they would have you believe.

Mocking the British Board of Film Classification increasingly feels like shooting fish in a barrel, yet remains irresistible – if only because no one else seems willing to do it and the film industry and movie press accept their edicts and public pronouncements without a murmur. Someone has to point out the emperor’s new clothes in these situations, and if that has to be us, then so be it.

This week, the BBFC has announced to its ‘clients’  -i.e. the poor buggers who have to fork out large sums to the censors for their mandatory approval of every film released in the UK – that it is running a pilot scheme to reduce those costs. What might that be, you may ask? Well, the censors are introducing a scheme called ‘dual rating’, which means that – if the scheme works – it will allow “home entertainment (packaged media and VoD) customers to benefit from an additional discount where an identical theatrical version has already been classified by the BBFC, and crucially, assurances are provided that both versions are the same.” That’s straight from the BBFC notification sent out to ‘customers’ (again, those being people who have no choice in the matter) and is presented as a great new service from the public-spirited censors for cash-strapped major studios (the companies most likely to be issuing both theatrical and home entertainment releases).

You might well think that this is the equivalent of a mugger handing the victim back a fiver to pay for a taxi home after stealing their wallet. It is, after all, an ‘additional discount’, not the full waiving of fees. Why, we might ask, should it cost anything to certify a film for home entertainment when the same version has already been passed for theatrical release, possibly at the same time? Why, for that matter, should a film need certifying twice (or more) within a short time period if it is exactly the same version of the movie? Surely one viewing should suffice, even if the censors viewing the film have to tick a few more boxes and write a couple of lines of content warning afterward? I mean, I get it if the film is several years old and maybe the distributor wants an updated rating or has a better version – but charging for each individual but identical editions of new films is such an outrageous scam that you have to wonder just how submissive and cowed the British film distribution industry is to have ever accepted such exploitation.

Make no mistake – this is not the BBFC doing the industry a favour, as much as it might claim otherwise. It could easily waive these dual (or more) fees entirely if it wanted to. It won’t because it knows that it can get away with this, and no one should be fooled into believing that there is any need for this additional expense or that this new move involves any level of magnanimity.

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One comment

  1. That’s Britain for you – a rip-off safely entrenched inside a sanctimonious, moralising edifice. Massively skewed to favour the corporations with the necessary financial and legal clout, and hobble the small entrepreneurs supposedly so beloved by Thatcher and her descendents. BBFC have been living it large since the Video Nasties, which saved their bacon and massively expanded their powers – they owe it all to Driller Killer and Cannibal Holocaust – with an advance guard of rabid tabloid rottweilers obligingly whipping up panic to order, and conferring them a spurious legitimacy as the ‘voices of reason’. Like in some police thriller wherein the cop groks to the fact that without the hoodlum, he’d be out of work, the BBFC examiners would be on the dole queues (or applying for universal credit) without ‘extreme’ material! But that’s what society is, a series of legitimate rackets!

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