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Cinematograph Films Board of Review - Report - Year - 1972-73

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1973— Parliamentary Paper No. 301




Presented by Command 6 November 1973 Ordered to be printed 5 December 1973


P rinted by A uthority by the G overnm ent P rinter of A ustralia


Stanley Hawes, m . b . e ., f . r .s .a ., Chairman

Professor M. D. Neale, ph.D ., m .a ., f .a . p s .s ., f .b . p s .s ., Deputy-Chairman Professor D. C. Maddison, f .r .a . c . p ., f .a .n .z . c . p .

Miss Caroline Jones

R. W. Clarke, m . b . e ., a .a . s .a ., a . c .i .s .

During the year the Deputy-Chairman (Professor M. D. Neale) found that her increasing work commitments and her appointment to the Australian Pre-School Committee made it necessary for her to resign from the Board, and she resigned in March 1973.



1. Introductory

The Films Board of Review has met consistently since its appointment in January 1971. This is its first Annual Report and covers the period 1 July 1972 to 30 June 1973.

The Administrative Arrangements Order dated 19 December 1972 assigned to the Attorney-General the responsibility for the administration of the Customs Acts 1901-1971, section 50, insofar as it related to the making of regulations affecting the censorship of imported goods (including printed matter and films).

The censorship functions were formally transferred from the Customs Department to the Attorney-General’s Department on 1 March 1973, and the Board of Review, therefore, became responsible to the Attorney-General in place of the Minister for Customs and Excise.

2. Meetings During the year 1972-73 the Board held ten regular meetings and one meeting with the Attorney-General (Senator the Hon. Lionel Murphy).

In September 1972 the Chairman was invited to attend the annual meeting of the Commonwealth/State Consultative Committee on Censorship held in Melbourne and addressed the meeting on current trends in film-making and television with particular reference to the work of the Films Board of Review.

3. Decisions

The Board reviewed decisions of the Film Censorship Board on twenty-seven films, and on four items of advertising matter, with the following result:

Films approved for registration after review: 10 Films not approved for registration after review: 14 Of the films not approved for registration the Board considered that with some reconstruction one might be suitable for release with the ‘M’ classification and four with ‘R ’.

One appeal against registration with the ‘R ’ classification instead of ‘M’ was dismissed.

The decision of the Film Censorship Board to approve for registration with the ‘R ’ classification, after some reconstruction, a film previously declared by both Boards to be unsuitable for commercial release was confirmed.

The decision of the Film Censorship Board to authorise the screening at Film Festivals of a film previously refused registration by both Boards was confirmed.

The four appeals against rejection of advertising matter were upheld, with modification of wording in one instance.


4. Method of working

The Board has made its decisions during the year on the basis of its

interpretation of community standards and in the light of policy laid down on its appointment. In its interpretation of community standards the Board has been able to draw on the experience of its five very different members varied in occupation, training and age.

In many decisions the members of the Board have been unanimous, but often one or more members dissented from the majority view. It has also been apparent that the views of the Board do not fall into recurring patterns or groupings, and that the same members do not always agree on different occasions.

In reaching its decisions the Board has started from the point of view of respect for the opinions of the Film Censorship Board for whose integrity and competence it has a high regard. Sometimes the Film Censorship Board has itself been divided in its decision, but where it has reached a unanimous or almost unanimous decision the Board of Review has over-ruled it only for what it considered to be very valid reasons. Nevertheless, the Board of Review has upheld appeals against decisions of the Film Censorship Board on a number of occasions.

The Board of Review is concerned in practice mainly with films for commercial cinemas and not at all with films for television, for which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is the final court of appeal.

5. Changing standards

The Board has been aware of a considerable change in community standards since it began to function early in 1971. It has attempted to make its decisions in harmony with those changing standards and, in fact, to keep a little ahead of them.


During the year no film seen by the Board was rejected for indecent language and many words and expressions which would have been considered inadmissible two or three years ago are now accepted as a matter of course.


Permissiveness and explicit treatment of sex have not presented the Board with serious problems during the year so long as the film in which they occurred had some integrity and possible merit. The Board has rejected films which it regarded as pornographic or near-pornographic in the sense of using a trivial theme or plot to depict sexual activities in excessive detail. The decision whether a film had integrity was often the most difficult which the Board had to make. A problem also arose with films in which sadistic or other perversions appeared to be glamourised or treated as if they were of no consequence.



Violence continues to be one of the most difficult areas of decision-making. Violence has always played a part in literature, drama and film. Recently, however, violence in films has seemed to have more impact than previously possibly because of the increasing use of colour and naturalistic techniques, but

also because of an unmistakable tendency in present-day films to revel in violence and to depict it for its own sake. Often such violence is shown to have little injurious effect on the characters in films upon whom it is inflicted.

Although there is considerable argument about it, there is good evidence that violence on the screen does have an effect on those who see it, at least on children who already have some tendency to aggression. The Board has been particularly concerned with the effect on children but the introduction of the ‘R’ Certificate

has reduced the scope of this problem.


Drug-taking has perhaps been less of a problem in films seen by the Board this year than in previous years but it has continued to give concern. Is it, for instance, reasonable to permit films to show drug-taking when doing such a thing in real life in this country is against the law? The films which gave the most

concern were those in which the taking of drugs was shown as a trivial matter without particular consequences, indulged in by figures with whom certain members of the audience might be expected to identify.

6. Reasons for decisions

The Board is opposed to secrecy in censorship. It takes the view that the reasons for its decisions should be available and it has always set them down in the official record.

7. Age limits for admission to ‘R’ Certificate films

The Board has noted comments by a number of interested people that the lower age limit for admission to ‘R ’ Certificate films of six years in all States and Territories except South Australia, where it is two years, is too high. Many people have expressed the view that children below the age of six can be well

aware of what is being shown on the screen and can be affected by violence and sexual activity. The Board has not considered the matter fully, and does not at this stage express any opinion, but it does believe that the question of the lower age limit is one which should be seriously considered by the appropriate GovernĀ­


8. Meetings with the Film Censorship Board

The members of the Film Board of Review have held several joint discussion meetings with the Chief Film Censor and members of the Film Censorship Board. At these meetings trends in film-making and current censorship problems have been discussed both in general terms and in relation to particular films with

the idea of developing an integrated approach to them by both Boards.


The members of the Film Board of Review acknowledge the courtesy and assistance which they always receive from the Chief Film Censor and members and staff of the Film Censorship Board.

9. Meeting with the Attorney-General

Members of the Film Board of Review met the Attorney-General on 23 June 1973. At this meeting the Attorney-General indicated his views on film classifications and on the rights of adults to see what they wished.

The need for research into the effects on audiences of controversial films was discussed as well as the desirability of a record of the activities of the Board from its inception.