General Article Film censorship in the UK: a brief history

Topic Selected: Censorship
This article is 7 years old. Click here to view the latest articles for this topic. looks back at the major milestones in UK censorship history, from the 19th to the 21st centuries. What are the films that broke the mould?




Due to exhibitors’ fears of official intervention, The British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) is established by the film industry itself, with the promise that ‘No film will be passed that is not clean and wholesome and absolutely above suspicion.’ Films are given either ‘U’ (for universal exhibition) or ‘A’ (more suitable for adults) certificates.

The BBFC has no legal powers to censor films, but its advice is generally followed by local authorities, which have the power to withdraw cinema licences. This is still the case today.


In response to a growing lobby in favour of state censorship, the new BBFC President, Liberal MP T P O'Connor, publishes ‘O'Connor's 43’ – a list of the 43 grounds on which films might be cut under the guidance of film examiners. These provide the basis for BBFC policy until World War II.


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