David Cooke
David Cooke is former Director of the British Board of Film Classification. He was in post at the BBFC from 2004 to 10 March 2016. Before that, he was a civil servant, working on the Northern Ireland peace process, devolution, asylum, criminal justice and broadcasting policy.

Entries by David Cooke

The Film Censor Hangs Up His Scissors

(0) Comments | Posted 27 February 2016 | (00:00)

I'm due to retire from my position as director of the BBFC on 10 March, following almost 12 years in the post. I've been reflecting on that time and have spoken to a number of colleagues, BBFC stakeholders and media about my time at the BBFC. During one of these...

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Jurassic World: Why We Have 12A and What It Means

(2) Comments | Posted 24 June 2015 | (16:58)

I've been in the job of Director of the British Board of Film Classification for ten years now, and I still sometimes see some confusion about what the 12A certificate means...though less than there once was. In fact, we consulted the public in 2002 about whether, for cinema releases, they...

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The Ethics of Film Classification

(3) Comments | Posted 11 November 2014 | (16:56)

I've given talks recently at Cumberland Lodge and Queen's University Belfast which both had this title, although they covered different ground. It's a vast subject, made even more complicated by the sheer variety of views about what film actually is. Is it most like photography, or novels, or plays, or...

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Film Education: How It Looks to the Under-18s

(1) Comments | Posted 9 June 2014 | (11:45)

I've written before about the British Board of Film Classification's established education programme, through which we work with schools, colleges, universities, charities, industry partners and other education institutions, to offer a broad spectrum of education events. Since January this year, our Head of Education, Lucy Brett, and our Education Officer,...

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Maintaining Public Trust in Film Classification

(0) Comments | Posted 12 January 2014 | (20:42)

Public trust is crucial to an organisation such as the BBFC. It is vital that the public - parents in particular - trust that the classification decisions we make reflect their own sensibilities. If for example, we were to classify depictions of strong, unsimulated sex as suitable for all, or...

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From Silent Screen to Smart Phone: Classifying Content in the 21st Century

(0) Comments | Posted 2 September 2013 | (01:00)

Today the BBFC becomes the new regulator of mobile content, replacing the Independent Mobile Classification Body, which had regulated this content since 2004. From 2 September, the BBFC will provide the UK mobile network operators EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, with a new independent Classification Framework for content accessed via...

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The BBFC at 100: A New Cutting Edge

(0) Comments | Posted 11 July 2013 | (17:39)

We launched our Annual Report on Thursday 11 July, as we regularly do at this time of year. The report looks back at the activities of the previous year, including key strands of work as well as individual film classification decisions at each of the BBFC classification categories. The 2012...

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Guidelines Not Guardians

(0) Comments | Posted 1 March 2013 | (09:15)

Today the BBFC published an online survey as part of the Review of the Film Classification Guidelines. These are the published Guidelines we work to when classifying all films for cinema and DVD release in the UK. The Guidelines Review process was established in 1999, with the first...

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Insight in the Shadows

(0) Comments | Posted 28 January 2013 | (10:38)

Shadow Dancer (Director, James Marsh, 2012) tells the story of Colette, a young mother from an IRA family. She is caught after leaving a bomb on the London Underground. Colette is confronted with the prospect of prosecution and long imprisonment, and persuaded to become an informant by Mac, an Mi5...

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Nostalgia for the Light... and the Dark

(0) Comments | Posted 24 July 2012 | (13:24)

If you have ten quid to spend on a bottle of wine, you could do far worse than to invest in one from Chile. Has the BBFC finally succumbed to product placement? No chance! The thought was planted in my mind by a mysterious juxtaposition of Chile's Atacama Desert, the...

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Reflections on the Hunger Games

(0) Comments | Posted 25 April 2012 | (01:00)

The Hunger Games is a film which prompts reflection and invites comment. Given our central concern for child protection, what has the experience of classifying it been like?

Of course the BBFC doesn't commission or control the films it classifies, though people sometimes comment as though we do! Film studios...

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This Film Contains... From Censor To Trusted Guide

(3) Comments | Posted 10 March 2012 | (00:00)

In the early years of the BBFC, the emphasis was on deciding whether or not a film was suitable to be viewed at all, hence our original title of the British Board of Film Censors. Nonetheless, even as early as 1912 the BBFC also performed a significant 'consumer advice' function....

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History Isn't Bunk, Mr Ford!

(0) Comments | Posted 11 January 2012 | (13:30)

Inspired by a recent dinner with the author, I am reading, or rather listening to, my friend Jonathan Powell's second memoir of No 10, The New Machiavelli. Just as he did at Oxford, as a diplomat in Washington, and as Tony Blair's Chief of Staff in Downing Street, Jonathan writes...

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Calling the Shots Online

(6) Comments | Posted 15 December 2011 | (09:24)

Since October we've seen a number of new initiatives about how we and our families navigate the internet. The Bailey Review, published in June, recommended, among other things, that it should be easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted digital material. BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media responded with...

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Learning From the Next Generation

(0) Comments | Posted 16 September 2011 | (01:00)

That feeling at the start of the new school year stays with you through life. The chilly nip behind the morning sun as it picks out dewdrops on spiders' webs, the stiff formality of cap, collar, tie and blazer, the mingled excitement and anxiety at the prospect of new people,...

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On Mature Reflection: Slow Food Film Criticism

(2) Comments | Posted 10 August 2011 | (11:18)

There are many fine film, theatre, TV, games, music, fashion and food critics. Make your own list of the popular arts and take your pick. But do we need some more of those independent-minded souls who stand back a bit from the fray?

As someone who works in the film...

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Let's Talk About Sex

(5) Comments | Posted 26 July 2011 | (01:00)

Of all the BBFC's classification issues, sex is perhaps the trickiest. For bad language, for instance, it's relatively easy to define and apply the rules. But when does a sex reference become too strong for 12A? And when does a sex reference, or sex scene, need to be restricted to...

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The Tree of Life

(1) Comments | Posted 13 July 2011 | (13:07)

I recently watched Terrence Malick's latest, in film fan mode rather than professionally. The film has already set rivers of ink in motion, and it's a foolhardy venture to comment after just one viewing. I'm looking forward to the DVD already.

At the heart of the film is one of...

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Censorship And Sensibility

(12) Comments | Posted 1 July 2011 | (16:18)

What's it like to ban a film? When I used to deal with asylum cases, the courts said we had to exercise "most anxious scrutiny." It's a bit like that, however inexact the parallel. Freedom of expression is a strong human right, and it always needs a powerful balancing case...

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