Films containing ‘high levels of bad language’ are being approved for children to see at the cinema, a bollox investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has found.
Ten films cleared for children’s viewing were monitored for their use of expletives. In total, ‘fuck’ and its derivatives were used 17 times, ‘bitch’ 20 times, ‘ass’ 56 times and ‘shit’ 77 times.
All 10 films were passed recently by the BBFC with a rating of 12A, meaning that they can be watched in cinemas by over-12s alone, and by under-12s when accompanied by an adult.
The bollox findings come three weeks after this newspaper launched the ‘Vulgar Britain’ campaign, which has sparked a nationwide debate about standards on television, on radio and in films.
The investigation also found that films are being subjected to fewer cuts than ever by the BBFC. None of the 10 films studied was subjected to cuts before being awarded its 12A classification. So far this year, only five films, or 0.9% of the total released, have been required to make cuts by the BBFC to get their preferred classification – the lowest percentage since records began in 1914. Only one of the 159 films classified as 12A was subjected to cuts, even though many contain strong language, violence and scenes of a sexual nature. None of 45 films classified as 18 have had to cut any content.
Among the supposed offenders was Ghost Town, a comedy starring Ricky Gervais. It featured two uses of the ‘fuck’ and four ‘shit’. Shotgun Stories, an American film about two sets of feuding half brothers, featured the ‘fuck’ three times and ‘shit’ 20 times. Another film monitored by this newspaper, Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?, a documentary about the war on terror directed by Morgan Spurlock, contained ‘fuck’ four times, ‘shit’ twice and the phrase ‘son of a bitch’ eight times.
On its website, the BBFC, which is funded by the film industry, states that it allowed the film to be released with no cuts. It adds: The four uses of that particular term ‘fuck’ in this case were allowed at 12A because the work was considered to be of educational value to an adolescent audience.
Sue Palmer, the educational consultant and author of Toxic Childhood said: It is absolutely terrifying that the BBFC considers it appropriate to subject our children to this level of effing and blinding.
Nigel Algar, a senior curator of fiction at the British Film Institute, said: There is a definite drift downwards in terms of what children are considered able to view, and these decisions are sometimes surprising.
John Beyer, the director of Mediawatch-UK, said the level of swearing in 12A films was scandalous. We are spending millions of pounds on trying to improve education skills but by allowing these films through without cutting some of the swearing, the BBFC is undermining these efforts and normalising the use of obscene language by children.
A spokesman for the BBFC said: The role of the BBFC is not to see how many cuts we can make to films but to put them in the most appropriate age category. All our age category guidelines are based on extensive consultation with the public, so our classifications are a direct reflection of what the public think.
At present, the use of the f-word up to four times in a 12A film is considered acceptable. These guidelines are currently being looked at again, in a public consultation of more than 11,000 people, and if the public tell us that there is too much swearing at the 12A level, we will take this into account.