Friday 9 December 2016

Film examiner cut plans 'put children at risk of seeing explicit sex scenes'

Published 01/11/2016 | 16:26

The British Board of Film Classification wants to get rid of five of its current six examiners by the end of the year
The British Board of Film Classification wants to get rid of five of its current six examiners by the end of the year

Explicit sex scenes in films could be more likely to get through the censor's net and be seen by children thanks to plans to axe experienced examiners, Unite has warned.

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The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) wants to get rid of five of its current six examiners by the end of the year and replace them with younger, less experienced, cheaper compliance officers.

But union Unite has said that the BBFC, which is responsible for classifying films and videos, has such an important role in protecting children and taking forward the Government's plans to control online pornography that it is risking allowing scenes of sex or violence to be seen by too young an audience by doing away with the older staff.

Unite's general secretary Len McCluskey has written to the BBFC's president Patrick Swaffer about the planned staff changes.

He wrote: "It has always been my impression that the BBFC has maintained the trust of the public, particularly in relation to its child protection responsibilities, through the recruitment of mature and experienced individuals who have come from a variety of backgrounds, both personal and professional.

"It seems to me that to replace those individuals with young, inexperienced graduates is both unfortunate in terms of the BBFC's public persona, and, quite possibly, a case of age discrimination.

"Furthermore, I do not believe the public's trust, and especially that of many parents, will be enhanced by the knowledge that the BBFC is willing to lose the few examiners who view material on a day-to-day basis who are themselves parents, a status that brings an unimpeachable knowledge and understanding of child development."

The examiners are being given a choice of leaving on voluntary severance terms or being redeployed as compliance officers with a reduction in status and a £20,000-a-year drop in salary.

Unite is arguing that the cost savings are not necessary because the BBFC's most recent accounts revealed an operating surplus of more than £1.2 million and that turnover is up by 2%, and operating costs down by the same amount.

The union's regional officer Rose Keeping said: "You can't put a price on protecting children and young people from the tidal wave of sexually explicit and very violent films and videos that are available in 2016.

"With less experienced examiners, there is an increased possibility that an unacceptable sex scene and/or one of extreme violence sneaking past the censors' net - this would be detrimental to the promotion of child protection that the Government is actively supporting.

"We are also investigating whether what the BBFC is proposing for our members contravenes the age discrimination provisions in the 2010 Equality Act."

A spokesman for the BBFC said: "The BBFC's classification standards protect children and empower families.

"In making classification decisions, the BBFC has in place a structure that ensures consistency of approach and is based on published Classification Guidelines that are founded on large-scale public consultation.

"The BBFC is currently in consultation with Unite in relation to this phase of the reorganisation of its examining and compliance functions, which began in 2013. The BBFC must respect the privacy of the ongoing formal consultation process."

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