Category Archives: Censorship

Film certification in India

For the past few months I’ve been trying to find the website of the Central Board of Film Certification in India. Google kept telling me that the URL which was still evident on other websites was no longer working. Finally, last night I stumbled across it. If you too have been trying to find it, here it is:

Given all the brilliant IT people trained in India I’m often struck by how ropey many important websites are. The new CBFC site is not wonderful. All I wanted to do was find out the most recent numbers of films in each major language. It took a long time to decode the minimalist menus to eventually find the statistics. The trick is to go to ‘Publications’ and download the two useful pdfs on offer. The first tells you about Film Censorship in India and the second leads you to comprehensive stats about Certification in 2009.

I’ve translated the stats on films certificated in 2009 into a chart. What’s interesting is that 53% of the 1288 films in that year were produced in the four South Indian languages. Of course this doesn’t mean all of them were released or that they all found audiences.


The number of Indian films certificated by language in 2009


The other interesting stats refer to the certification of foreign films. A total of 283 foreign films were certificated in 2009. The principal sources of foreign features were as follows:

  • US  198
  • Hong Kong  18
  • France  15
  • Thailand  13
  • UK  11

Finally the stats cover dubbing. 202 Indian films were dubbed into another (Indian) language. 73 films were dubbed into Hindi, 47 into Telugu and 44 into Tamil. 130 ‘foreign films’ (probably all Hollywood films) were dubbed into the three main Indian film languages, Hindi, Telugu and Tamil.

Sexual violence

An interesting reply to Nick’s letter to Ofcom, but the announcement yesterday that the UK government is going to legislate against downloaders of representations of ‘sexual violence’ is also worrying. (See:

I don’t like the idea (or the practice) of any kinds of violent acts towards men, women, children or animals, whether for sexual motives or any other and like most people, I’m sure, I feel for the mother who lost her daughter because of the actions of a violent man. However, as any media student ought to know, deciding on the meaning of media representations of any actions is a complex business. Who is going to do it? There are plenty of people who engage in consensual acts of simulated sexual violence and some who actually get pleasure from receiving pain (and who therefore need others to adminster it). Are they going to be imprisoned for exploring their fetish? It is going to be difficult to distinguish real from simulated violence. I just hope that legislation isn’t passed on the basis that it is too difficult to distinguish between consensual and forced ‘sexual violence’.

On the whole, I think the BBFC now does a pretty good job in classifying films and responding to public tastes. However, I’m a little baffled by the decision to make The Notorious Bettie Page an 18 Certificate film. Mary Harron’s film is not what some audiences expected and it might be criticised for leaving out some aspects of the Bettie Page story, but what she did decide to present is not likely to corrupt anyone in my view. I guess it must be because the subject matter includes fetish material and that this must be kept away from 16-17 year-olds? If the movie does anything (and I think it manages quite a few ideas) it satirises American society’s attitudes towards sex in the 1950s. Perhaps we will need something similar if the criminalisation of sexual activity is extended in the UK?

Governments, especially this one, are prone to create new legislative powers without thinking very long or very clearly. I hope they get this one right.

Tom and Jerry

One of the most disturbing events this summer was Time-Warner’s agreement to cut smoking out of ‘children’s’ cartoons after Ofcom requested them to do so, apparently after one parent’s complaint. I can’t find any info on Ofcom’s site regarding this ludicrous decision; Tom apparently rolls a cigarette in order to impress a ‘dame’. No doubt the parent’s nipper(s) was so impressed by this that they will go on to become a smoker: the ‘effects’ theory is alive and having an undue influence on policy still (my guess is Tom’s ploy failed and so if the ‘effects’ theory is correct the child would not have become a smoker).

I think this amounts to an Orwellian rewriting of history and am going to complain to Ofcom.