The BBFC Annual Report… In Numbers

Thursday, July 23 2015
The BBFC Annual Report… In Numbers

“When’s the report going to be ready?” The patient folk at the BBFC have been asked that question since January 2015, at least by us at The Raygun and very probably beyond that too.

For anyone interested in the film and video business, the arrival of the annual BBFC report is an exciting time. Stretching back to the 1980s and 1990s – the Ferman years – it’s always offered up a fascinating look at where the business is, certainly in terms of content.

Each report reflects the changing tastes and moods among the great British public, as well as offering a snapshot of what is offending the self-appointed guardians of our morality at, say, the Daily Mail and beyond.

During the Ferman years, it was remarkable for two things – the flowery tone of some of the passages describing in great detail the more outré moments the board had encountered while classifying and numerous complaints and run-ins with the authorities and powers that be. One year, sometime in the late 1990s, it even helpfully printed a list of swear words and how many times you could use them each to earn different certificates. Heck, we even reprinted the page in its entirety in timecode magazine, just because it made us laugh so much.

Back then, the BBFC was caught between a rock and a hard place, with the Conservative government of the 19080s and 1990s beholden to its pals in the press and the moral majority types, while on the other were ardent horror fanatics desperate to see films that wouldn’t even make it past Soho Square (the word “chainsaw” alone would likely ensure your film never saw the light of day, certain weapons and elements were effectively outlawed too).

Nowadays, the report is less contentious, more pragmatic and the BBFC has improved its communications and its message. But the report is no less fascinating – the devil is in the detail, sure, but there’s also the fun of reading between the lines as well as amassing some amazing stats.

As a companion piece to our interview with assistant director David Austin (see here), here then, is the British Board Of Film Classification Annual Report 2014 in numbers…

8,860 – the number of hours of content for Video Recordings Act classification viewed by the BBFC in 2014

955 – the number of films submitted for theatrical classification in 2014

70 – the percentage increase in content submitted voluntarily for online distribution

42 – the number of websites who were subject to appeals from owners and consumers about blocking of adult content delivered via EE, 02, Three and Vodafone networks. The BBFC is now looking at content delivered through those networks and putting anything that would be rated 18 behind adult filters… The complaints came from owners about over blocking, and from consumers worried about children accessing adult material…

One – the number of appeals aimed at getting the BBFC to up the rating for one website: “This related to a website advertising a male variety show for adults. The site featured dancers with soapy water on their torsos and partial sight of buttocks, but no strong nudity. The blogs on the site also emphasised the work involved in the shows, rather than any especially crude or sexual aspects.”

1,000 – the number of members of the public questioned by the BBFC about their views on “glamour” content. The findings are being applied to the BBFC’s classification framework for mobile content…

19 – the number of complaints about Mr Turner directed to the BBFC, the most received about any film in 2014. But, as the report notes: “It needs to be kept in mind that this is a very low figure for most complained-about film, and is a tiny proportion of those who will have seen it.” It involved a sex scene with no nudity and the report concluded: “Given the lack of nudity, the relative brevity of the scene and its importance in terms of narrative, and the audience appeal of the film, the scene is acceptable within the BBFC’s Classification Guidelines for sexual content at 12A.”

12 – the number of complaints received about, er, 12 Years A Slave. They were, the BBFC said, “contextually justified”

One – the number of uses of the “C-word” (the BBFC’s words, not ours) in Bad Neighbours, rated 15. It was deemed to be neither aggressively delivered or directed at an individual, meaning it was acceptable within the BBFC guidelines

Seven – the number of complaints received about The Equalizer. Included those both about the level of violence and also about cuts made to achieve a 15. As the report says: “The film’s distributor sought advice from the BBFC as to the likely category the film would receive prior to release. They were advised that the film would likely receive an 18 classification and in return they asked for advice about reductions required to attain a 15 classification. The BBFC offered advice and when the film was subsequently submitted for a formal classification, edits had been made and the BBFC duly classified film 15.”

12,000 – the number of young children, teenagers, university students and adults who attended sessions around the UK discussing the BBFC and its work, especially with regards to children…

33 – the number of digital video services using the BBFC for voluntary ratings at the start of 2014

27 – the number of digital services using the BBFC for voluntary ratings by the end of the year. This was down to mergers, closures, withdrawals from the UK market and other reasons…

2-6 – the age range in years of children being targeted by Hopster, the first vod service aimed specifically at a young audience. It has worked closely with the BBFC on U-rated titles and the “overall experience” of the service…

39 – the number of cases in which the BBFC assisted police and trading standards officers by giving information as to whether videos seized by authorities had classification or not, the latter contravening the Video Recordings Act 1984

One – the number of uses of the word “bugger” in Pudsey The Dog: The Movie. This doesn’t count as “very mild bad language” for a U certificate (that’s for words such as “bum”), so was removed to get a U certificate. Similar overuse of the words “ass” and “spastic” in Nativity 3: Dude Where’s y Donkey and My Dog The Champion were removed to get a U certificate…

Two – the number of fairy tale-style adaptations passed at PG – Into The Woods and Maleficent. Context is king in this scenario, with the fantasy nature of the storylines and their moral tone ensuring that even if they were scary for younger children, they wouldn’t get the PG rating. It was a similar story for Paddington, which contained mild threat and potentially dangerous behaviour (hiding in a fridge, firework as shoes), mild innuendo and mild bad language. Like the complaints, this was the subject of much press coverage, but, as the report notes: “Some of the press coverage of the PG lost sight of the fact that many children’s films are classified at PG, and that this is an advisory classification rather than a mandatory one.”

Two – the number of instances of the word “fuck” being used in Step It Up All In. It was shown to the BBFC for advice ahead of formal classification (“Such screenings can assist distributors in ensuring they achieve their preferred classification,” says the BBFC) and was told it would be 12 for theatrical. The obscenities were edited, it received the PG, while the original uncut version was cut was classified as a 12 for DVD release…

Three – the number of pop promos excised from Pop Party 13, a CD and DVD package, to earn it a PG certificate rather than a 12. It was the first release submitted for classification to the BBFC after the amendment to the VRA stating that any non-feature content that might earn a 12 could no longer claim exemption now required submission. The first online music video submission, another new initiative, this time a voluntary scheme, came from Cheryl Fernandez-Versini. Two music DVD releases were rated 15 for strong language and sex references (Beyonce’s Platinum Edition and REMTV), while promos from Professor Green, Bastille ad Dizzee Rascal were all given 15 ratings…

Five – the number of films noted to have been informally submitted to the BBFC to see if they could receive a 12A certificate. The quintet mentioned were Taken 3,  Hercules, Pompeii, Exodus: Gods And Kings and The Expendables 3.

Five – the number of older films mentioned in the report which saw their certificates changing after being resubmitted. These were Au Revoir Les Enfants and Big (both PG to 12A), Tremors (15 to 12A) and Jubilee and Pumpkinhead II  (18 to 15)…

Four – the number of times the word “fuck” is stated in Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall, earning it a 12 rather than 15. One “motherfucker” was trimmed from The Young And Prodigious TS Spivet to earn it the same certificate…

Eight – the number of times the word “fuck” is used in Edward Snowden doc Citizenfour, earning it a 15. It was one of a number of documentaries, such as Still The Enemy Within, Hockney, Return To Homs, Traffic, Night Will Fall and The Decent One, earning 15 certificates for strong language, distressing themes and scenes. All This Mayhem earned a 15 rather than 18 despite lots of language…

Seven – the number in minutes of cuts made to House On The Hill to get it an 18 certificate. The true-life serial killer horror featured sexualised violence…

17 – the number in minutes of cuts made to The Hospital to get it an 18 certificate. This featured sexual violence, torture and rape

Eight – Crime dram The Hooligan Wars earned itself an 18 classification for “multiple use of very strong language”, totalling eight instances…

0 – the number of cuts made for violence alone in 2014. While some films, such as The Raid 2, Killers, Sin City 2 and others were mentioned and discussed, all receiving 18 certificates. Sexual violence is still the main problem, as the report notes: “The arguments that relate media effects to harm are a good deal less convincing where violence without a sexual element is concerned and the BBFC’s treatment of non-sexual violence at 18 reflects this. The BBFC remains confident the differentiation in its treatment between sexual and non-sexual violence is substantiated by the available evidence and, additionally, research undertaken to inform the BBFC Guidelines shows the general public supports this position.”

542 – the number of porn films submitted to the BBFC for an R18 classification, a 2.5 per cent increase on the previous year.

19 – the percentage of works submitted that needed cuts to get an R18 certificate, an increase of four per cent on 2013. “This,” it says, “continues to reflect the BBFC’s strict policies on material which combines sexual detail with activity which is illegal, harmful, abusive, or involves a lack of consent or the infliction of pain or injury.

Three – the number of instances in which the BBFC looked specifically at animal cruelty in films, with cuts made to Nonja: Tear Of A Shadow (for cockfighting), Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide 2 (a clip of a crocodile being cut open from a trailer for Last Cannibal World featured in the documentary) and Unbroken, for scenes where characters catch and eat a shark and an albatross. Of the latter, the report states: “Assurances were sought to confirm that no animal cruelty had taken place. The company confirmed that the animals were created with a combination of animatronics and computer generation.”

One – the numb of spoilers allegedly contained in the black card short BBFCInsight for Ida, which drew press and consumer criticism for containing spoilers. Showing it notes many of the comments made, the BBFC report states: “The BBFC seeks to avoid potential spoiler information in its short BBFCinsight wherever possible, whilst upholding the responsibility of providing clear and accurate classification information on films to the public, and especially to parents. The BBFC therefore launched in 2014 a pilot scheme to avoid such ‘spoilers’ on black cards and will continue to monitor this during 2015.” Similarly, the BBFC played down the advice on Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory Of Everything to avoid press controversy after the Paddington storm in a teacup (see above) to ensure that the press didn’t manufacture another non-existent controversy (the advice related to a shot of a special interest adult magazine)…

Five – the number of films mentioned in the report informally submitted to the BBFC ahead of proper classification to see if they could secure a 15. The five mentioned were The Equalizer, The Inbetweeners 2, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Horns and A Walk Among The Tombstones…

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