Censors allow more sex and violence in films (but no swearing in front of children)

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The Independent Online

Higher levels of sex and violence are likely to be allowed in films with an 18 certificate, under guidelines to be announced today by the British Board of Film Classification.

Higher levels of sex and violence are likely to be allowed in films with an 18 certificate, under guidelines to be announced today by the British Board of Film Classification.

Only the most explicit sexual images will be outlawed, it is understood. More violence is expected to be sanctioned provided the film in question does not actively promote violence. But at the same time the board is expected to announce a crackdown on violence and bad language in films for children.

A film containing swear words will in future be given a 15 certificate rather than a 12. And the board is understood to be ready to get tough with films that portray drug-taking byforbidding them a certificate that would allow young audiences to see them.

But the tough measures being prepared for films aimed at children will contrast with the new liberal regime the board is expected to announce for 18 certificate movies. Here the board is prepared to face inevitable brickbats by producing guidelines outlawing only movies that actually promote violence or drug-taking. If that endorsement is not present, then adults will be left freer to make their own judgements about what they wish to see.

There is also likely to be looser restriction on sexual images in 18 certificate films. It is understood that only the most explicit images are likely to be outlawed under the new guidelines. The mixture of a more liberal regime for adults and a tougher one for films aimed at children is understood to be the main message of the board's new guidelines for certification.

Today's announcement follows research and public consultation by the board under its president, Andreas Whittam Smith. He has taken steps to learn what the public felt about film classification. Much of the feedback showed there was genuine anxiety about what children were able to see at the cinema, while adults felt they were able to decide for themselves. Significantly, the board recently refused to give Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible 2 a 12 certificate, despite the pleas of its distributors, as the violence, although of a slapstick nature, was unrelenting. The film was given a 15 certificate.

The new rules are likely to outlaw completely references to drug-taking in 'U' certificate films and videos. They are also likely to state that in 15 certificate movies any portrayals of sex should be rendered as part of a loving relationship.

Another key change expected is that swear words, at present allowed to a limited degree in 12 certificate films, will be ruled out for that age group.