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Film and Video Censorship in Modern Britain

Julian Petley

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How does film and video censorship operate in Britain? Why does it exist? And is it too strict?

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1. A Nasty Story
2. Nastier Still
3. Two or Three Things I Know About 'Video Nasties'
4. 'The Tenor of the Times': an Interview With James Ferman
5. 'Reading Society Aright': Five Years After the Video Recordings Act
6. The Video Image
7. 'Not Suitable for Home Viewing'
8. Vicious Drivel and Lazy Sluts
9. Doing Harm
10. The Anatomy of a Newspaper Campaign: Crash
11. The Last Battle, or Why Makin' Whoopee Matters
12. 'The Way Things are Now': an Interview With Robin Duval
13. The Limits of the Possible
14. Full Circle
Appendix: The DPP 'Top 60' List of 'Video Nasties'

About the Author

Julian Petley is Professor of Screen Media and Journalism in the School of Arts at Brunel University, Chair of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, a member of the board of Index on Censorship, and co-principal editor of the Journal of British Cinema and Television. His most recent publications are Freedom of the Word (2007), Freedom of the Moving Image (co-written with Philip French, 2008) and Censorship: a Beginner's Guide (2009).


Film and Video Censorship in Modern Britain is a sound, well-researched and cogently argued overview of the censorship debate in Britain over the last four decades. Indeed, the accessibility of Petley’s writing and the clear linear tracing of complex and frequently interlinked aspects of the censorship debate ensure that this text is a must for scholars of film and video censorship as well as those teaching the subject.

- Beth Johnson, Keele University, Crime Media Culture

One of the most prolific writers on media regulation and censorship in Britain, more in particular on film censorship, is Julian Petley. Over the past two decades, Petley published many articles and books on the topic, not only academic work in scholarly journals and volumes, but also journalistic and opinion articles in newspapers and activist journals like the Guardian or the Index on Censorship. Most of this work has now been brought together in one intriguing volume, which to a large extent offers a refreshing update of the debate on audiovisual censorship since the 1980s.

- Daniel Biltereyst, Ghent University, European Journal of Communication

An incisive and insightful account of the censorship business in Britain -puerile, nit-picking and pubic hair-splitting. Petley shows that the real victims are those which it pretends to protect, that pressure for repression comes from hypocritical politicians and 'popular' journalists, and that the visual media industry itself has been cowardly and complicit in muzzling the artistic freedom of its members.

- Geoffrey Robertson QC

This is a significant work which draws together many of the disparate yet interlinked strands of the censorship debate and offers a great deal of coherent and thoughtful analysis to both scholars and teachers of censorship, film and media.

- Sian Barber, Royal Holloway, University of London, Journal of British Cinema and Television

A necessary, fascinating, meticulous, exasperated book on a thorny subject ... full of reasonable good sense in the face of almost surreally unreasonable, hideously entrenched, all-too-horribly British attitudes.

- Kim Newman