Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Petition mission: Changes to the Video Recordings Act

In recent years, the UK-based "boutique" DVD and Blu-ray labels like Arrow Video, Second Sight and Masters of Cinema have enjoyed something of a golden era, putting out interesting titles passed over by the major labels and loading them chock full of informative bonus features. That they are able to do this is at least in part because, at present, it is unnecessary to have bonus materials certified by the British Board of Film Censors, provided they don't contain content that would take the age rating above that of the film itself (e.g. someone saying "fuck" in a documentary accompanying a U-rated film).

The Conservatives (who else!) have decided to amend the Video Recording Act (which, let us never forget, they initially foisted on us back in 1984) in order to require that any bonus features including content that would net anything above a Universal rating be classified by the BBFC. The effect on small independent labels would be disastrous: the BBFC charges by the minute, so the likely result is that they would simply consider it no longer cost-effective to include bonus content like documentaries, deleted scenes and the like, which often amount to several hours' worth of material per disc. These labels often struggle to make ends meet as it is. They're in the business because they love these films rather than because there's loads of money to be made in releasing them. Their job is hard enough as it is without forcing them to pay hand over fist for the privilege of giving their customers more bang for their buck.

Read film critic James Oliver's open letter to Culture Secretary Maria Miller here and then please consider signing the petition here. Let's ignore for a moment my belief that bodies like the BBFC deserve to be consigned to the trash can of history full stop -- if we can't get rid of the existing legislation entirely, the least we can do is fight to make sure it isn't made WORSE.

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