THE BLOG

Music Video Ratings - A New Era of Creative Freedom

02/10/2014 16:36 BST | Updated 02/12/2014 10:59 GMT

I recently remarked on how David Cameron's video rating scheme might have unintended consequences in that it will probably create a whole new category of music videos that feature graphic sex or violence.

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Ella on The Run

Photo: Jack Briggs

Lighting & Styling: Dare

The BBC came to visit me and my team on the set of our latest music video production. We were producing a video for Ella on The Run's forthcoming track, War of Words.

In light of the fact that many artists are worried about censorship, the BBC's Chi Chi Izundu asked whether I thought the rating scheme was a good idea. As a music video director, I think the rating scheme is a fantastic initiative. Just take a look at how films have evolved since ratings were introduced. Filmmakers have more freedom to express themselves than ever. It takes tremendously graphic depictions of sex or violence to be denied a rating by the BBFC. To some degree ratings will absolve music video directors of their social responsibility since they will be able to point to a BBFC rating as proof that their video was made for a specific audience. This ratings scheme should lead to more, not less, creative freedom. As a feature film producer I am familiar with the BBFC guidelines and I can't think of a single music video I've ever seen that would have been denied a rating.

If the pilot scheme being run at the moment is implemented in full, I'd like to know what happens to videos that don't apply for a rating? Will YouTube, Vimeo and other online outlets refuse to broadcast them? If the scheme only applies to BPI members, will small independent labels and artists be denied access to certain online platforms if they cannot afford, or simply don't want to pay for a BBFC rating? Anything that limits the outlets for unsigned, independent artists would be a serious blow.

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War of Words Production

Photo: Jack Briggs

As a parent, I think the rating scheme is poorly conceived. A number of music video directors I've spoken to have said they're looking forward to the scheme because they will no longer have to think about making content for a general audience. Without an effective technological solution that will enable parents to enforce controls, there is little chance that children will not be exposed to 18 rated videos. And even if providers such as Vimeo or YouTube can work out a technological solution for the UK, what about the rest of the world? The rating scheme only applies to the UK, so will British music videos become synonymous with graphic sex and violence? Will we export explicit content to other countries that are not part of the rating scheme? Almost certainly. The Internet is global and information finds a way to circumvent geo-blocking and national boundaries. If there is an explicit video available in the UK, you can be sure that US, German, or Australian teenagers will find a way to view it. And once they can view it on YouTube, they can copy it.

Music videos are the tip of the iceberg. Extreme violence, foul language, nudity, graphic sex and far worse are no more than a couple of clicks away. Leaving a child alone in their bedroom with an Internet enabled computer or tablet is akin to putting them in a smut store full of every pornographic and snuff film ever made and asking them to promise not to look at any of them. The only way to ensure that children are not being exposed to inappropriate content is to actively monitor their Internet use. But that's virtually impossible in a world where smart phones and tablets can be passed around the playground.

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Filming War of Words

Photo: Jack Briggs

Conceived without the rating scheme in mind, there's no graphic sex or violence in the new Ella on The Run video - it's been made for a general audience. We've come up with a concept that relates to the song and will hopefully engage and entertain people. Ella's currently working on her new EP, and will launch it, and the new video in November. Filmed in the fantastically distressed Spode Works in Stoke-On-Trent, the video has a gnarly glamour to it. If you're interested in seeing how the footage the BBC broadcast comes together to make a music video, follow Ella on The Run on Twitter for updates on the video's launch. In the meantime, you can check out some of Ella's music on SoundCloud.