Letter: Screen porn

Sir: Underneath your leading article on film censorship ("When it comes to pornography, err on the liberal side", 12 August), you print an article by Andreas Whittam Smith on financial regulation in which he calls for "genuinely independent" advice. The irony of this is lost on you.

Mr Whittam Smith is also president of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), a privately appointed (by the film trade), self-perpetuating organisation accountable, where film censorship is concerned, only to itself, as the Williams report on pornography and film censorship stated some few years ago. Its only intra-mural check is the BBFC "council of management", which consists of 11 members, all male, all white, all into retirement or near- retirement age, all with a community of interest within the film manufacturing industries, and all without regulatory powers on the BBFC "board of classification" which Mr Whittam Smith and Mr Ferman (its retiring director) head.

For such an organisation to deny other social groups - teaching, child welfare, yes, even the media - a role in its working contradicts the very liberalism your leading article and news report attribute to Mr Ferman and Co.

Furthermore, your statement that screen violence is in decline is not supported by what I see week in, week out, in my role as film critic - and I see far more films annually than either Mr Ferman or Mr Whittam Smith, who leave the bulk of viewing and classification/censorship to their dozens of examiners on a rota basis. I see screen violence escalating in scale and content. The "retirement" from the fray of the ageing so- called hard-men superstars has been more than outweighed by the arrival of the Hong Kong refugee film-makers whose transplanting of their continuously violent and sadistic revenge plots from Asian cinema to the North American milieu has put a huge new quantity of extreme violence into international circulation.

ALEXANDER WALKER

London W9

The writer is film critic of the London "Evening Standard"

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