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Wednesday, November 11, 1998 Published at 05:49 GMT


'Tough act' for film watchdog

Outgoing BBFC director James Ferman: "A tough act to follow"

Britain's new chief film censor has vowed to carry on where predecessor James Ferman left off, calling him a "tough act to follow".

Robin Duval, a senior executive with the Independent Television Commission (ITC), will join the British Board of Film Classification in January as its new director.

He will later take over from Mr Ferman, who has been in the job for 24 years, as the most senior examiner at the board, which recommends certificates for films to be shown in cinemas and classifies all video releases.

He is already experienced in regulating taste and decency in his post as deputy director of programmes at the ITC.

Filmgoers resented any suggestion of "nannying" from the government or the board, which was set up by the film industry, he said.

[ image: David Cronenberg's film Crash was controversially passed by Ferman]
David Cronenberg's film Crash was controversially passed by Ferman
Mr Ferman has been strongly criticised by some for the BBFC's approval of films with violent or sexual themes such as Natural Born Killers, Crash and Kids.

But Mr Duval said: "Anybody that moves into a job likes to do things differently. But I do have to remind myself very firmly that Jim has done a remarkable job in 23 years.

"There have been a few press-led excitements, but he's a very tough act to follow. I am not proposing to march in and look for a different set of criteria or standards of investigation in films."

He said regulation must be led by public opinion, not form it.

"The regulator has to be very cautious before steaming in and telling British people they don't know sufficiently what's good for them and that they have to have it imposed."

[ image: The Exorcist: Banned on video by Ferman]
The Exorcist: Banned on video by Ferman
In 13 years of regulating independent television Mr Duval has seen many changes in what is acceptable on the small screen, but he believes that films can still go further.

"I don't think the change in films has been anything so great as the change in the last 15 to 20 years in television.

"The big scandals of the 1970s were Straw Dogs, Last Tango in Paris and A Clockwork Orange, and that kind of upfront approach took much longer to reach television.

"You could say the emergence of Channel 4 in the 1980s had something to do with the movement in taste, because it reached out to a wider range of minority interests."

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