Dear Censor

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Timeshift, Series 11 Episode 6 of 12

Duration: 1 hour

Lifting the lid on the world of cinema censorship, this programme has unique access to the files of the British Board of Film Classification. Featuring explicit and detailed exchanges between the censor and film-makers, 'Dear Censor' casts a wry eye over some of the most infamous cases in the history of the board.

From the now seemingly innocuous Rebel Without a Cause, the first 'naturist' films and the infamous works of Ken Russell, and up to Rambo III, this frank and surprisingly warm documentary demonstrates how a body created by the industry to safeguard standards and reflect shifts in public opinion has also worked unexpectedly closely with the film-makers themselves to ensure that their work was able reach an audience.

Music Played

10 items
  • An Early BBFC Certificate

    An Early BBFC Certificate

    One of the earliest of the BBFC (British Board of Film Censors) certificates. These certificates were used and shown in front of all films released in British cinemas from the early days of the BBFC right up until the present day.

    This particular certificate is for an 'A' category film and is dated between 1916 and 1929 when T.P. O’Connor was President of the BBFC.

  • BBFC Certificate Board (1948 - 1960)

    BBFC Certificate Board (1948 - 1960)

    This particular certificate is for an 'X' category film and would have been used between 1948 and 1957.

    Note the examiners signatures in the bottom left hand corner and the signature of the BBFC President Sir Sidney Harris, who was President of the board from 1948 till 1960.

  • BBFC Certificate Board (1971 - 1982)

    BBFC Certificate Board (1971 - 1982)

    A major overhaul of the BBFC certificates came in 1971. A new colour system was brought in to show the different certificates:

    Green Certificates were used for the A category: ‘A’ signified films for ‘those aged 5 and older admitted, but parents advised that they may not wish children under 14 to watch the film.’

    Blue Certificates were used for the AA category: ‘AA’ signified films for ‘those aged 14 and older.’

    Red Certificates (shown above) were used for the X category: ‘X’ signified film for ‘those aged 18 and older’

    Note the drop of the Examiners signatures, leaving the President and Secretary’s signatures (at this point being Lord Harlech and James Ferman).

    The use of these colour certificates was used up until 1982.

  • BBFC Certificate Board (1982 - 2002)

    BBFC Certificate Board (1982 - 2002)

    1982 saw a return to the very classical black backdrop of the certificates.

    With that, a number of changes came about. The ‘X’ certificate was dropped and a whole new certificate system was introduced with the introduction of 15, 18 and R18 certificates. This particular certificate shows the newly introduced ‘PG’ certificate in which the BBFC still use today.

    Note also, the change from British Board of Film Censors to British Board of Film Classification. This is something in which BBFC Director James Ferman (signature on the right) had always planned do since he became Director in 1975. He would retire from the BBFC in 1999.

  • BBFC Certificate Board (2002 - Present)

    BBFC Certificate Board (2002 - Present)

    The present BBFC certificate which was first introduced in 2002.

    Note the new BBFC logo in the top left hand corner as well as the 12A certificate which was introduced in 2002. Thus making The Bourne Identity the first film to be released in the UK with a 12A certificate.

    Current signatures for BBFC President Sir Quentin Thomas and Director David Cooke can be found to the bottom left of the certificate.


Matt Pelly
Matt Pelly
Matt Pelly
Matt Pelly
Series Producer
Ben Southwell
Series Producer
Ben Southwell
Executive Producer
Michael Poole


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