Sex scenes could evade the censors net as jobs axed, U...

Sex scenes could evade the censors’ net as jobs axed, Unite warns

01 November 2016

The chances of scenes from sexually explicit films getting through the censors’ net, with serious implications for child protection, could increase if five examiners are axed, Unite, the country’s largest union, has warned.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), which classifies films and videos, plans to axe the examiners by the end of the year and replace them with younger, less experienced – and cheaper – compliance officers; at present, there are six such officers.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has written to the BBFC’s president Patrick Swaffer asking him to reconsider, given the organisation’s enhanced role in taking forward the government's plans to control online pornography.

Unite said that the BBFC has, historically, recruited mature individuals for its examining department, who brings with them many years of work experience and, in many cases, having direct experience of child development in a professional capacity.

The examiners now face a choice between leaving on voluntary severance terms or accepting redeployment into compliance officer posts with a similar reduction in status and a £20,000-a-year drop in salary.

In his letter, Len McCluskey said: “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The union argues that the financial imperatives behind the proposals are no longer valid, as the BBFC’s most recent accounts revealed an operating surplus of more than £1.2 million, with turnover up by two per cent and operating costs down by the same figure.

Unite 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 inexperienced 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.”  

Notes for editors:

  1. The BBFC is a non-profit organisation responsible for classifying all films and DVDs released in the UK. Works released on DVD are required to be classified under the terms of the 1984 Video Recordings Act. Works for release on digital platforms are submitted for classification on a voluntary basis. 
  2. The Digital Economy bill was introduced into the House of Commons in July 2016. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced that the aim of the policy is to introduce an effective regulatory framework to enable the smooth introduction of the government's manifesto pledge to introduce age verification checks for online pornography.
    It is envisaged that the BBFC will be responsible for creating a proportionate, accountable independent and expert regulatory function, drawing on its experience in making effective editorial judgements. The DCMS judges this experience to be of great importance to the success of the policy. 
  3. The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees, job seekers and trainees because of age. For example, this may include because they are 'younger' or 'older' than a relevant and comparable employee. 

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Email: 

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.