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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 09:38 GMT 10:38 UK
Chief film 'censor' steps down
Andreas Whittam Smith stands down as Andreas Whittam Smith
Whittam Smith joined the BBFC in December 1997
Andreas Whittam Smith is standing down as president of the British Board Of Film Classification on Wednesday, after almost five years in charge.

Mr Whittam Smith is leaving the BBFC to take up a new post as First Estates Church Commissioner, overseeing the management of Church of England investments.

The board vets films and videos released in the UK, and Mr Whittam Smith's signature appears on a certificate before each production together with that of the BBFC's director, Robin Duval.

"I am very sorry to leave the BBFC as I have enjoyed my time as its president very much," said Mr Whittam Smith.

"The board is now seen as an open and accountable organisation with a set of guidelines which reflect current public opinions."

During his time at the BBFC, he brought sweeping changes to its classification guidelines, relaxing rules on sexually explicit or violent material in 18-rated films but tightening up rules on what younger viewers could watch.


Mr Whittam Smith, during his time in charge, has done things I personally regret

Alexander Walker, film critic
He said this was to account for changes in public opinion.

Whittam Smith also gave video certificates to a number of films which had previously been denied a rating for small screen release or banned outright.

These included The Exorcist, which had been repeatedly turned down by the BBFC, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Straw Dogs.

He also passed A Clockwork Orange following the death of Stanley Kubrick in 1999.

Kubrick had withdrawn the film over concerns of the effect the violence had on viewers.

Clockwork Orange
Clockwork Orange was unavailable for over 20 years
His concern for the protection of children led him to establish an advisory panel on children's viewing.

The 12-member panel, which includes people from the fields of social work, psychology, education and the media, act as consultants to the BBFC over the classification of titles aimed at younger viewers.

However, London Evening Standard film critic Alexander Walker expressed doubts over the changes made by Whittam Smith during his time in charge.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "He has done things I personally regret, one of which is allowing the content of pornographic films to trickle down into mainstream cinema."

Before taking up his BBFC role, Whittam Smith was best known as the journalist who founded The Independent newspaper in the 1980s.

A successor to Whittam Smith has yet to be named.

See also:

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