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Repeal most of the Video Recordings Act

Comment 1st July 2010

In the UK, it is illegal to sell a video cassette (or nowadays, a DVD) which has not been classified and given an age rating by the British Board of Film Classification. This law is the result of the "video nasties" moral panic in the 1980s and is increasingly irrelevant when video material can easily be accessed online.

BBFC age ratings should no longer be mandatory, and companies should instead be allowed to use a "NOT RATED" opt-out label on the packaging, as is the case in several other countries.

Why does this matter?

Although they are of little consequence to major film studios, age ratings are an unnecessary financial hindrance to the British film and video industry. To have material rated by the BBFC (a mandatory step), companies – regardless of their size – must pay expensive classification fees.

I myself am a freelance DVD producer and editor, and I've worked on DVDs of Polish arthouse movies for the US market. Most of my work is with overseas companies, because the smaller size of the UK market combined with the death-blow of the BBFC fees make it not financially worthwhile for UK companies to take risks releasing niche material. Consumers nowadays expect films to come packaged with audio commentaries, interviews, trailers, etc. – and each one of these must be rated by the BBFC at considerable expense, which is enough to completely wipe out any profits made for a small company. This ultimately results in less work in Britain.

Those are just the financial issues. The condescending censorship angle needs little explanation.

Lastly, the ratings are irrelevant now in the age of internet video.

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