The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will this week close a three-month consultation that most observers believe will end a loophole which means DVDs with titles like The Bitch of Buchenwald and Britain’s Bloodiest Serial Killerscan claim exemption from BBFC censorship.
As things stand, most sport, documentary and music videos can claim an exemption from classification. The BBFC’s head of policy, David Austin said:
The great majority of exempt video works are fine. They are not going to harm anyone, but there are a significant number of titles that are potentially harmful to children.
We know from our postbag that parents are concerned about exempt videos. Usually they write and say, ‘Why did you give this video an E classification?’ The answer is we didn’t as it never came to us — it would not have gone to anyone.
The BBFC estimates that around 200 videos might be caught by a change in the law.
Austin showed the Guardian examples of videos that have claimed exemption but would have been classified. One of the more shocking is a documentary about the American heavy metal band Slipknot . It shows one fan who has carved the word Slipknot in to her forearm and another who has done the same in her belly, to which someone is seen pointing in admiration.
A music video by the Norwegian black metal band Gorgoroth, which was rated X in Germany but is unrated in the UK, shows topless women being crucified with blood running down their breasts. A Robbie Williams video for the song Come Undone, contained on an exempt compilation, In and Out of Consciousness, shows drug taking and Williams cavorting in bed with two naked women.
Other potentially problematic DVDs include wildly violent cage fighting DVDs and ones that instruct in krav maga, the combat techniques developed by the Israeli army.
All the signs are that the government will change a law that was made in 1984, when no one could have foreseen a problem with music or instructional videos. The BBFC, together with other regulatory bodies, is calling for exceptions to the exemptions that would cover material that is violent, sexual, discriminatory, has repeated strong language or contains imitable behaviour such as drug use.
A DCMS spokesperson said: DCMS launched a consultation in May on the exemptions from age rating that currently apply to music, sports, religious and educational videos. The government will publish its response in the autumn.