David Cooke is the Director of the BBFC. He told the Guardian:
There are about 40 people who are examiners at the BBFC. They watch the films, play the games and watch the DVDs. All certification goes out with my name on it. That’s about 17,000 titles a year, which is a little nerve-wracking. I see between one and three films a week.
We try and keep in line with public opinion and I think we’re an accurate reflection. We’re not trying to lead the public but sometimes we have to make a decision. They aren’t Chris Tarrant issues; we can’t phone a friend.
We get twitchy when sex and violence come together. It’s a hugely contested area but we tend to err on the side of caution. It’s an issue the public is also worried about.
We look at sexual violence in terms of how likely it is that the scene will encourage someone else to do it. Is the rape scene aversive? Is it off-putting? If it is saying that rape is OK, that’s when it gets worrying and we will act.
Broadly speaking, at an adult level, people should be free to choose what they want to watch
Some sexual acts blur the lines. Urolagnia is a sexual fetish with a focus on urine and urination. Whether this is legal to show in a film is a case for the courts.
The Ketchup Effect is a Swedish film about a 13-year-old girl and her first sexual experiences. In it was a shot of an erect penis. Now we knew the penis wasn’t real and that the subject was being treated sensitively but we had to give the film an 18 certificate. Was it the right decision? Was it educational?
I think there are regional differences in terms of what is and what isn’t acceptable, but mainly in terms of bad language. The public don’t like bad language.
We are still one of the more conservative film regulators in the world. French regulators come out with completely different conclusions to us. Whereas we will put an 18 certificate on a Tarantino film, they give his films a 12 certificate and call it art.