The British Board of Film Classification is a misnomer. Instead of providing a useful advisory service, that enables us to make informed decisions about what we choose to watch, the BBFC acts as a censorship board, cutting, re-editing and rejecting films that are readily available in other countries.
This activity is related to the Video Recordings Act (2010) in particular, although my proposal has a wider scope than this piece of legislation alone.
Why does this idea matter?
This is not only about the right of an adult to have access to material without it first being approved (something that theatregoers or book lovers currently enjoy, as both these arts are not subject to official state censorship) but also the right of families to decide what is appropriate for their children. As Geoffrey Robertson and Andrew Nicol point out in Media Law:
Most civilised societies with pre-censorship systems for movies adopt age classifications that are advisory, or permit children to attend any film if accompanied by a parent or guardian. The UK system of censorship interferes both with the right to receive information and with the right of parents to determine family life (Robertson, G. & Nicol, A., Media Law, Penguin Books, London 2007, p. 825).
Many critics have identified the archaic nature of film and video censorship in an age when explicit material is easily available for download via the internet, but this misses the point – Namely, that as adults we are able to distinguish between what is real and what is fantasy, and censorship prohibits us from exercising this discretion.
Sadly, the organisation established specifically to avoid government intervention in the film industry has become the state censor, and it is now time to relinquish the scissors and start performing the function it is designed for – providing us with the advice we need to make an informed choice about what we and our families wish to see.