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THE British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) have published their response to the Home Office consultation paper on the regulation of ‘R18’ videos.
The Board stated that they share the Home Office’s concern about the protection of children from exposure to pornography.
The consultation document follows the Board's failure to win a judicial review of the decision by the Video Appeals Committee involving seven videos, which resulted in new and more relaxed Guidelines for ‘R18’ videos being published in July. The Board has therefore published a response to the proposals in the consultation paper.
The Board does not consider that changing ‘who is likely to view’ to ‘who may view’ will have a useful effect. The Board believes it would be more helpful to seek to establish likelihood in a way that places it beyond debate.
The Board also suggested borrowing the wording of the original 1984 Act “ to the suitability of a video work, have special regard to the likelihood of it being viewed in the home and to any harm that may be caused to viewers”. In the opinion of the BBFC the omission of ‘potential’ would also remove the troublesome definition in the Act, and the phrase ‘including children and young persons’ could be inserted after ‘viewers’ if needed.
In the run up to the judicial review the Board sought the advice of their own Advisory Panel on Children's Viewing, which is made up of specialists working with children or on children's issues. Following the viewing of one of the videos in the case the Panel concluded that “it was not likely to be psychologically harmful to those into whose hands it might fall inadvertently” and “the Board was not justified in taking a censorious stance on the off-chance of a child seeing it.”
In addition the Board commissioned a research study, for publication next month, to address the question “Are experts in a position to say that children are harmed if they view 'R18' videos?”
The creation of criminal offences of showing an 'R18' video to a child; allowing a child to watch an 'R18' video; failing to take reasonable care to prevent a child from watching an R18 video, and sentencing options. The Board assumed that the law enforcement agencies would comment on whether offences, which are likely to take place within the privacy of the home, are enforceable. The Board is also concerned that this option would not create an offence of showing unclassified material to a child. The Board welcomed the proposal that penalties for supplying ‘R18'’material by mail order should be increased.
The Board also stated a final option which had not been considered in the consultation paper, a possible statutory requirement that 'R18' videos should be clearly and prominently labelled with an appropriate warning, referring to the dangers of exposing children to the contents of the video. The Board recommended that ‘R18’ suppliers should be required to apply a permanent label to that effect on both the video cassette itself, and on the sleeve display.

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