Evaluate arguments for and against stronger regulation of the media

Stricter media regulation essay


Evaluate arguments for and against stronger regulation of the media


.History of Regulation – BBFC 1912, media regulation in films got stronger up until 1984 video recording act after the video nasties era.

.1984 BBFC name change from Censors to Classification – less stronger regulation

.PEGI (2003) – Aim to provide parents with info on games so they make the right choices, not censor games.


Paragraph 1- Case studies/Facts


+Video Nasties 1980, Video Recording Act 1984,  Cannibal Holocaust (Deodato, 1980) – need stronger to protect from this and new technology e.g. VOD – Netflix

+PEGI – Steam, Xbox Live, Playstation Store needs to be regulated, children can buy games they are underage for online – e.g. GTA V,  29% of parent would let their child play GTA V (survey of parents conducted on babies.co.uk) – issue that needs to be addressed

+Video games interact – active not passive like a film

+The Bunny Game (Rehmeier, 2010) – offensive, unrelenting portrayal of kidnapping and rape with no message other than witnessing the pleasure the offender gets from it – doesn’t need to be seen in UK. Banned.  – Should BBFC be allowed to make that choice for us though?

+Bobo Doll Experiment (Bandura, 1963) – children affected by/replicate violence they see by adult ‘role models’ – Hypodermic Needle theory



  • Information not censorship
  • Hypodermic Needle Theory – 1930’s outdated
  • Need to protect films like Antichirst (Lars Von Trier, 2009) – serious drama, exploring grief ect, not a sex work but contains violent sexual images that may be offensive to some. People should be told this but not stopped from seeing it.
  • Uses and Gratifications theory – people interpret media differently, hard to regulate even if regulation was made stronger


Paragraph 2 – How should regulation be?

-People should be allowed to make choices, 1984 name change, censors > classification, BBFCinsight is good just needs to be more widely available and publicised


Media Essay Question

My essay question:

Evaluate arguments for and against stronger regulation of the media


Media Regulation Infographic

Media Regulation Theories Copy

The Hypodermic Needle Theory

Check da PDF YO.

The Hyperdermic Needle

Who is PEGI?

The Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) age rating system was established to help European parents make informed decisions on buying computer games. It was launched in spring 2003 and replaced a number of national age rating systems for example ‘The BBFC’ in the UK with a single system

What are ratings?

Age ratings are systems used to ensure that entertainment content, such as films, videos, DVDs, and computer games, are clearly labelled by age according to the content they contain. Age ratings provide guidance to consumers (particularly parents) to help them decide whether or not to buy a particular product.
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Descriptors shown on the back of the packaging indicate the main reasons why a game has received a particular age rating. There are eight such descriptors: violence, bad language, fear, drugs, sexual, discrimination, gambling and online gameplay with other people.
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How does the rating process function?

Prior to release of each version of a game, publishers complete an on-line content assessment and declaration form. The first part of the form deals with legal provisions in certain European countries.
  • The publisher then completes the second part of the form relating to the content assessment of the game and taking into account the possible presence of violence, sex and other sensitive visual or audio content.
  • According to the declared content, PEGI allocates a provisional age rating along with content descriptors to indicate why the game has been allocated that age category.
  • The PEGI administrator (NICAM or VSC depending on the provisional age rating given) are sent an examination pack which contains all of the information and material required to double-check the provisional rating against the PEGI criteria.
  • The publisher is then issued with a licence authorising the use of the age rating label together with the related content descriptor(s) for the game.

Do games have an influence on children?

The research on the impact of videogames has been focused primarily on violence. Numerous studies have been published, but until today there is no evidence that playing violent video games causes any long-term or lasting increase in aggressiveness or violence among players. Sources: – Jonathan L. Freedman , Evaluating the Research on Violent Video Games – Guy Cumberbatch, Video Violence Villain or victim? – Raymond Boyle and Matthew Hibberd, Review of Research on the Impact of Violent Computer Games on Young People.



History of The BBFC

Cinema The British Board of Film Censors was established in 1912 by the film industry when local authorities started to impose their own, widely varying, censorship standards on films. The BBFC was set up in order to bring a degree of uniformity to those standards. The object was to create a body which could make judgements that were acceptable nationally. To this end the BBFC has needed to earn the trust of the local authorities, Parliament, the press and the public. It must not only be independent, but be seen to be so, taking care, for example, that the film industry does not influence its decisions, and that, similarly, pressure groups and the media do not determine its standards. Statutory powers on film remain with the local councils, which may overrule any of the BBFC’s decisions on appeal, passing films we reject, banning films we have passed, and even waiving cuts, instituting new ones, or altering categories for films exhibited under their own licensing jurisdiction. However, by the mid-1920s it had become general practice for local authorities to accept the decisions of the BBFC. Video In 1984 Parliament passed the Video Recording Act. This act stated that, subject to certain exemptions, video recordings offered for sale or hire in the UK must be classified by an authority designated by the Secretary of State. The following year the President and Vice Presidents of the BBFC were so designated, and charged with applying the new test of ‘suitability for viewing in the home’. At this point the BBFC’s title was changed to the British Board of Film Classification to reflect the fact that classification plays a far larger part in the Board’s work than censorship.

The BBFC we know and love…

What do the BBFC classify?

  • Films, trailers and advertisements on behalf of local authorities who license cinemas
  • Video works under the Video Recordings Act 1984
  • Video works which are distributed over the internet under a voluntary, self-regulatory service
  • Commercial and internet content distributed via mobile networks under a voluntary, self-regulatory service

Classification Categories

  • Initially in 1912 there were two certificates (U and A). However Frankenstein (1931), despite a sequence in which the monster drowns a small girl had already been cut it could still not be passed. In response to such material, the advisory category H (for horror) was agreed in 1932, to indicate the potential unsuitability for children of the horror theme.
  • The X category was introduced in 1951 and incorporated the former advisory H category given to horror films.
  • During the 1960s, it was recognised that teenagers had specific concerns of their own which ought to be reflected in the ratings system. The principal changes to the ratings system were the raising of the minimum age for X certificate films from 16 to 18. However the introduction of the AA was finally approved by local authorities and the industry in 1970.

This split the ‘A’ category between…

‘A’ – which permitted the admission of children of five years or over whether accompanied or not, but which warned parents that a film would contain some material that parents might prefer their children under fourteen not to see. 


‘AA’ – which allowed the admission of those over 14, but not under 14, whether accompanied or not.

  • In 1982 the A rating was changed to PG, AA was changed to 15 and X became 18. A new rating R18 was introduced which permitted more explicit sex films to be shown in members-only clubs. Previously, such clubs had shown material unrated by the BBFC, but a change in the law closed this loophole.
  • In 1985, at the request of the industry, the Uc rating was introduced for video only, to identify works specifically suitable for very young children to watch alone.
  • In 1989 the BBFC introduced the 12 rating on film, to bridge the huge gap between PG and 15. This was extended to video in 1994. The first film to be given a 12 rating was Batman.
  • In 2002, the new 12A rating replaced the 12 rating for film only, and allows children under 12 to see a 12A film, provided that they are accompanied throughout by an adult.

An overview of the changes in ratings/classification…

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Classification Considerations

  • Discrimination
  • Drugs
  • Imitable behaviour
  • Language
  • Nudity
  • Sex
  • Threat
  • Violence


In 1984 Parliament passed the Video Recordings Act. This act stated that, subject to certain exemptions, video recordings offered for sale or hire in the UK must be classified by an authority designated by the Secretary of State. The following year the President and Vice Presidents of the BBFC were so designated, and charged with applying the new test of ‘suitability for viewing in the home’. At this point the BBFC’s title was changed to the British Board of Film Classification to reflect the fact that classification plays a far larger part in the Board’s work than censorship.

Using DVD and Cinema age ratings for Video On Demand

BBFC age ratings are issued according to their intended use at the point of submission as this can affect the final age category issued. For this reason, age ratings made for theatrical submissions cannot be used when the work is released on Home Entertainment formats such as DVD, Blu-ray and VOD. We recommend that content owners releasing works on VOD/Digital Video services familiarise themselves with the information below to see where any existing BBFC age ratings for these titles can be used.


Famous Case Study


Director: Lars Von Trier

Status: 18 uncut

Year: 2009

Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist is an English language drama about a couple whose young child dies. It was described by its director as a horror film and contained several strong images which required consideration when it arrived at the BBFC in 2009.
The strong real sex includes images of genital contact and unsimulated penetration shown in close up. At the 18 category, the BBFC’s Guidelines state that the more explicit images of sexual activity are unlikely to be permitted unless they can be exceptionally justified by context and the work is not a ‘sex work’. A ‘sex work’ is defined as a work whose ‘primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation’. Though the images are strong, such as the women performing clitectomy on herself, it was clear throughout that Antichrist was not a ‘sex work’ but rather a serious drama exploring issues such as grief, loss, guilt and fear.
The film was seen by the Director, David Cooke, the President, Sir Quentin Thomas and Vice President, Gerard Lemos. David Cooke said:
“Antichrist deals with what happens to a couple after the death of their child, focussing on the psychological impact on them both. The film does not contain material which breaches the law or poses a significant harm risk to adults. The sexual imagery, while strong, is relatively brief, and the Board has since 1990 passed a number of works containing such images. This reflects the principle, strongly endorsed in a number of public consultations, that adults should be free to decide for themselves what to watch or what not to watch, provided it is neither illegal nor harmful.”
Therefore the film was passed uncut despite some criticism.Others defended the decision to pass a niche horror work at the high end of the adult category and criticised those commentators who called for the work to be banned without having seen it.

A Serbian Film

Director: Srdjan Spasojevic

Status: 18 with cuts

Year: 2010

The 2010 Serbian language drama, subtitled in English, tells the story of a retired Serbian porn star, Milos, who is tempted to make one final film by an offer of money from a mysterious director.

A Serbian Film was initially submitted to the BBFC for DVD and Blu Ray release on 10 August 2010. At the time, the film was scheduled to be shown at the London Fright Fest on 29 August. Normally, the Fright Fest operates under a special agreement with the local licensing authority, in this case Westminster Council, allowing films that have not yet been classified by the BBFC to be screened without a certificate to an adults-only audience. However, rumours about the film’s extreme content had led to Westminster Council receiving complaints about the proposed screening, as a result of which they took the unusual step of directing that the film could only be screened at the festival if it had been classified by the BBFC.

On 25 August, the BBFC presented the film’s distributor with a cuts list. In total, 49 individual cuts were required, across 11 scenes. It was estimated that around three minutes 48 seconds would need to be removed. Although this might seem like a large number of cuts at first, many of the cuts were very small.

Recognising that the film was intended as a political allegory which intended – and needed – to shock as part of its overall thesis, the BBFC attempted to construct the cuts carefully so that the message of the film, as well as the meaning of each individual scene, would be preserved.

Black Swan

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Status: 15 uncut

Year: 2010

The story is about Nina – a dedicated ballerina who is quietly desperate for the part of the Swan Queen in her company’s up-coming re-imagining of Swan Lake. In terms of the issue of the self-harm seen in the film, BBFC Guidelines at 15 note ‘Dangerous behaviour (for example, … self-harming) should not dwell on detail which could be copied’. Such scenes in Black Swan were judged sufficiently aversive in nature and therefore unlikely to encourage copying or promotion of such behaviour. The subject of bulimia was so ambiguously treated in the film as to be covered by the 15 rating. Critically, such activities are not shown to relieve or comfort Nina, but only to exacerbate her problems and state of mind. The issue of drug misuse also occurs in Black Swan. In a bar, Nina is encouraged by Lily to drink a spiked drink in order to relax. Nina takes the drink fully aware that it has been drugged. She is then shown initially enjoying herself, but gradually becomes disorientated and loses control of her actions. Guidelines at 15 state that ‘Drug taking may be shown but the film as a whole must not promote or encourage drug misuse’.

However, one scene in particular took Black Swan right to the 15 / 18 classification border: Nina and Lily return home late after a drunken evening out. In defiance of her mother, Nina invites Lily to stay the night. They both embrace passionately and remove each other’s clothing. Lily later performs cunnilingus on Nina. It was recognised that the scene was relatively extended and carried an erotic charge. However, the sexual activity is carefully framed and visually discreet; it lacks aggravating strong detail such as genital nudity, close-ups or sustained focus on the nudity or the sexual mechanics and is played off facial reactions. It was also felt that the tone is sensuous rather than salacious or pornographic. The narrative context within which the scene occurs was judged to be an important mitigating factor. Firstly, it demonstrated Nina’s emerging personal assertion and awakening sexuality and secondly, her increasing loss of grip on reality. It later transpires that Nina has imagined the entire event. On balance, it was judged that this sex scene could be contained at 15 within Guidelines.

There was no concern about the sex being ‘lesbian’ at 15, as the BBFC applies its criteria to the same standards regardless of sexual orientation. However, it was recognised that this would be an aggravating element for some viewers.