Letter: Video censorship lacks sensitivity

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The Independent Online
Sir: With regards to David Alton's amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, which proposes a new video classification 'Unsuitable for Children', it should be remembered that English law already has the potential for rigorous control of videos.

The Video Recordings Act 1984 gives the British Board of Film Classification the power to prevent video retailers from selling or renting out videos to young people below the ages of 15 or 18, to cut works to fit its categories, and to refuse certificates altogether. The Alton amendment codifies and advances the censors' standing in loco parentis, seeking to add another layer to the paternalism that is rife in the present system.

The reason for introducing this greater restriction is the belief that parents might not exercise the care that the BBFC and Mr Alton think they should. Certainly, parents often do judge films and videos differently from the BBFC, Mrs Doubtfire being a recent example. And parents can, at present, get 15- and 18-certificate videos and show them quite legally in the home to their under-age children.

But that does not make them wrong or immoral: they know their children best. To close this supposed loophole would have an enormous effect; not only would parental choice in this matter disappear, but all those households without children would also be unable to watch anything other than U and PG videos.

Any extension of the most restrictive video censorship in Western Europe should be resisted firmly, especially by parents who want the right to choose what their children watch. If MPs are concerned with real democracy, which includes cultural freedoms, then they should listen to the arguments against restrictions on access to this form of expression.

Yours faithfully,


London, N22

6 April