LONDON — Andreas Whittam Smith is stepping down as president of the British Board of Film Classification after nearly five years in the job.
Since Whittam Smith, a former newspaper editor, became the BBFC’s ninth president in 1997, he has led a liberalization of movie ratings, particularly with regard to sexual content.
This was a response to the results of an extensive public consultation exercise, initiated by Whittam Smith, which revealed that British audiences were far more relaxed about sex on screen than previously thought.
Under Whittam Smith, the BBFC’s prime concern switched to curbing excessive screen violence, and particularly to the protection of children from it.
His philosophy was that adults should be allowed, as far as possible, to make their own viewing choices, rather than having the BBFC do it for them through censorship.
Announcing his departure, Whittam Smith commented, “I recognize that not everyone shares my and the board’s view” on this issue.
Nonetheless, the BBFC is currently exploring the possibility of making the current “12” rating an advisory catagory, rather than a legally enforceable one. Under the U.K. system, the “12,” “15” and “18” ratings are all legally binding.
Whittam Smith will stand down July 31. His replacement has not yet been announced.