Published: 22nd February 2016

David Cooke reflects on high profile classification decisions from his tenure as BBFC Director

David Cooke, Director of the British Board Of Film Classification (BBFC), will retire on 10 March 2016 following 12 years in post.

David Cooke joined the BBFC in September 2004 and has overseen the day to day running of the BBFC, three large scale public consultation reviews of the Classification Guidelines and the introduction of a new policy for classifying content depicting sexual and sadistic violence.

As a Member of the Board of Classification along with the President and the two Vice Presidents, David has been involved in the Board's highest profile decisions since 2004, including the passing of 9 Songs at 18 uncut, handling the advice process which enabled the first Hunger Games title to be classified 12A after reductions, and the shift from PG to 12A in the Harry Potter series with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. (BBFC Case Studies for these works are available.) 

David Cooke said: "I have hugely appreciated the interest and support of the viewing public during my time at the BBFC. I believe we have made real advances in online child protection, and in the provision of rich and useful information about content. All my colleagues at the BBFC have been a pleasure to work with. We now provide a better service to the industry, without compromising our standards, and we have a more respectful relationship with content creators themselves. I shall miss this endlessly fascinating work, but I know that the BBFC will be in very good hands with David Austin as its new CEO."

Patrick Swaffer, BBFC President said: “David's strong intellect, vision and leadership skills have ensured that, during his 12 year tenure, the BBFC has developed new services to reflect the changing technological landscape, consolidated its position as the provider of trusted age ratings and enhanced its reputation with the public, industry and other stakeholders. He achieved this with a skilful management style combining both direct involvement and careful delegation, applied with his quietly wry humour. 

“His clear and articulate exposition of the basis for classification and the reasons for individual decisions have ensured that the role of the BBFC has become more widely understood and highly regarded. He leaves the BBFC in excellent shape. On behalf of all the staff at the BBFC I want to thank him and wish him well for the future.”

Graham Lee, Chairman of the BBFC Council of Management said: "David has provided excellent foresight and leadership in the development of the BBFC into a strong, efficient and well trusted organisation. We will miss his intellect, understanding and good company.”

In addition to classifying film and video content, David Cooke helped the BBFC develop its services in line with technology, including new voluntary online regulation services for Video-on-Demand content, the introduction of a classification framework for mobile network operators, and the launch of an initiative to age rate UK online music videos.

Prior to joining the BBFC David Cooke held six government Director level posts, in the Cabinet Office, Northern Ireland Office and Home Office, working on topics such as the Northern Ireland Peace Process, devolution, asylum, criminal justice performance and broadcasting. David is also an Executive Board member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS).

David Austin will take up the post of BBFC Chief Executive on 11 March 2016, after David Cooke retires. David Austin is currently Assistant Director at the BBFC, coordinating the BBFC's policy work and leading on its public affairs outreach. He is also responsible for managing the BBFC’s research, communications and education programmes.