British Board of Film Classification

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Other Legislation

Other pieces of legislation that affect the work of the BBFC.

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008

This law makes the possession of an ‘extreme pornographic’ image a criminal offence. The Act defines such an image as one which is pornographic and grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character and which portrays in an explicit and realistic way, an act which: threatens a person’s life; results, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals; involves sexual interference with a human corpse; or involves bestiality. Works classified by the BBFC are excluded from this definition.

Jim Caviezel as Jesus, The Passion Of The Christ 2004

Section 79 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel. This means that the BBFC is no longer entitled to consider whether the publication of the film might comprise a blasphemous libel.

'Blasphemous Libel' used to be a common law offence, dating back to the Middle Ages, and applied only to Christianity.  A work was said to be blasphemous when it contained 'any contemptuous, reviling, scurrilous or ludicrous matter relating to God, Jesus Christ or the Bible'.  It was not considered blasphemous to speak or publish opinions hostile to the Christian religion or to deny the existence of God, if the publication was couched in decent or temperate language.  The abolished law was only rarely invoked in the history of the BBFC, most notably in the rejection in 1989 of Nigel Wingrove's film, Visions Of Ecstasy.

 

The Race Relations Act 1976

The Race Relations Act 1976, as amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, places a legal obligation on public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups.

In 2004, Examiners discussed whether the Act was relevant during their deliberations after seeing the film, The Passion of the Christ, which some commentators accused of being anti-Semitic. The BBFC's conclusion was that it was neither anti-Semitic nor indeed blasphemous.

 

The Hypnotism Act 1954

The BBFC is occasionally required to classify video works which claim to show self hypnosis techniques to help the viewer give up smoking; lose weight; become more confident etc. The BBFC treats these works with caution and has sought expert advice to help with the age rating decision.  The Hypnotism Act deals specifically with hypnotism as part of a stage act and so, arguably, does not apply to so called 'self-help' works. The BBFC tends, with some exceptions, to rate these works 18 for an adult audience.

 

The Human Rights Act 1998

This incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into British law. Articles 8 and 10 of the Convention are the ones most likely to impact on BBFC age rating decisions.  Article 8 covers the right to respect for private and family life.  Article 10 deals with the right of freedom of expression.  When rating works, the BBFC will have regard to the impact of any decision on the rights of any relevant person.

The Act does permit restrictions on freedom of expression as are prescribed by domestic law and are necessary in a democratic society; in the interests of national security; territorial integrity or public safety; for the prevention of disorder or crime; for the protection of health or morals; for the protection of the reputation or rights of others; for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence; or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

 

The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002

Though the BBFC classifies some public information/campaigning films and trailers for cinema they cannot pass adverts for tobacco products as it is illegal, in the course of a business, to publish a tobacco advertisement.
 

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