As my fledgling blog may have suggested, I’m a big fan of Arrow Video. They have gained a worldwide reputation for releasing fantastic editions of otherwise near-impossible to find obscure horror, video nasties and other forgotten gems, all complete with hours of exclusive, in-depth features on the making or the wider impact of these films. There are a number of other labels with similar reputations based in the UK (BFI, Masters of Cinema, Shameless Entertainment, etc) that altogether make this country a great base for fans around the world to get hold of these films in the highest quality possible, without having to resort to buying poorly transferred, cheaply made releases or piracy.
These filled-to-the-brim releases are possible because the BBFC exempts documentaries from being classified; thus it is usually only the films themselves that need to be examined by them on their by-the-minute fees which, as you can see on their fees calculator, means a 90 minute film costs £615+ VAT. Meanwhile, various pop acts have been making naughty music videos and performing on TV wearing less clothes than seems appropriate for the British climate. These seemingly innocuous events have summoned Mary Whitehouse from the grave who has instructed the Department of Culture, Media & Sport that these antics are going to ruin the lives of the children of the country, and also that parents are physically incapable of turning the channel if their fragile-minded cherubs are in the room. Therefore, the only suitable option that remains is to change the legislation allowing this disgusting material to be distributed without censorship; that the BBFC’s government-supplied regulations must now apply to material classified as ‘documentary’.
Back to the original point, this new legislation will mean that the likes of Arrow Video will have to submit and pay for classification of every one of the extra features, tallying up a bill probably 3 or more times that of the current guidelines. The much-publicised example comes from Nucleus Films who released an incredible 3 DVD set of Jake West’s equally brilliant documentary Video Nasties: The Definite Guide. Containing original trailers for every ‘Video Nasty’, these alone were submitted & classified as an 18 by the BBFC, but the hours of documentary content all passed as exempt. Under the new regulations, Nucleus Films’ Marc Morris has explicitly stated that they couldn’t re-release this set as the classification would cost them around £7,000. These specialist labels don’t work on great profit margins, so multiplying their classification costs in this way will mean they may find themselves left with three options;
1) Close the doors and give up.
2) Massively increase the price of the packages and probably go out of business when no-one buys them.
3) Forego the extra features that made them famous in the first place.
Meanwhile, the TV shows and pop artists this change is supposed to be clamping down on will continue their risqué broadcasts because the incurred fees will be a drop in the ocean for the companies involved, and I personally think there are barely any performances or videos that would warrant more than a 12A, probably rarely above a PG, meaning they ultimately wouldn’t be restricted at all. I don’t think that these labels are being directly targeted, more being completely ignored and so accidentally crushed by the clomping boots of the department that ought to be championing them for making the UK such a force in the independent home video scene.
Naturally this article has a point. There’s a formal petition online to add your name to the fast-growing list of people who disagree with these changes. I really think it is trying to fix an issue with the music and TV industries that doesn’t actually exist, not fixing it anyway, and causing massive repercussions to the home video industry in the process.
*Disclaimer: I actually like Lady Gaga for the record