The R18 TV News Reports

Vintage TV news reports on the battle to legalise porn in the UK.

As hard as it might be for anyone to believe now, once upon a time, hardcore porn was so illegal in the UK that the very idea of it ever being made legally available was laughable – most people in the adult industry in the mid-1990s thought that there was no chance of a legal change within their lifetime. But within a few years, everything changed, though not without a major fightback by the BBFC and the government. You can read the full, amazing eyewitness story of how this all happened here.

As the various legal battles and small steps back and forth took place in the last few years of the 20th century, the story was surprisingly underreported in the press, perhaps to the relief of both sides. But the short-lived Channel 5 show X-Certificate – a pioneering magazine show based around the adult entertainment industry that was itself censored out of existence by OFCOM – did run this piece on the state of affairs during the final days of the legal tussle, with interviewees like Ben Dover, writer Tom Dewe Matthews (whatever happened to him?), the BBFC’s Robin Duval and Greg Hurlstone of Prime Time – one of the two companies that launched the appeal against the BBFC’s rulings that finally led to legalisation.

On the day of the judicial review that swept the BBFC’s arguments against hardcore out of the window – the judge noting that, for all the claims otherwise, there was (and is) no evidence of harm caused by adult entertainment – ITN News ran a typically handwringing report in which government members promised to look at changing the law to keep this filth off the streets (after careful consideration, they quietly changed their minds on that) while ‘family values campaigner’ Roger Smith tries to stoke the fires of moral panic – but as it turned out, no one cared. Outrage over the R18 ruling was muted and once the rules changed, no one noticed – by 2000, the days of porn on video being bought in high street sex shops (of which there was never more than a hundred or so across the whole of the UK) were already numbered by the online world.

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