“Media regulation becomes less important as society progresses.” Discuss.
Media regulation has always been a vital aspect in protecting the vulnerable public from explicit and threatening images which may be harmful. However, with the rise of the internet and the desensitisation of society, it could be argued that the roles played by PEGI and the BBFC do not have as big an impact as they did ten years ago. Piracy and VOD mean that anyone can access any film despite the regulatory certificate, and the growing desensitisation of society means that people will go to further extents to choose their own entertainment, whether or not it has been certified as unsuitable. It is then fair to say that as society progresses, people will go to greater lengths to enjoy the entertainment they choose, thus rendering contemporary media regulation ineffective.
As society progresses, people demand more explicit content, and if refused this content, they will find other means of accessing these films, such as piracy therefore making the BBFCs regulation unimportant. The BBFC is an independent, non governmental body which views films and gives them a certificate before it can be released for public viewing, either for cinema exhibition or retail purchase. It was founded in 1912 and since then has been responsible in deeming content suitable for specific age categories. However, the BBFC has frequently had to alter what is deemed acceptable by holding public consultations every five years, because, as society becomes more desensitised to content, the content for each age category must be made suitable or else the regulator would be completely ineffective. For example, the first film which featured full nudity, The Garden of Eden (1954) caused public outrage as there had never been anything that graphic before an was given an X certificate. Yet, todays regulation states that nudity with no sexual context is deemed acceptable at all age levels, showing the progression of society. Society has also become more desensitised to violent and graphic content since cinema first began in the early 1900s, depicting only black and white images with no dialogue. Since then, people have began to demand increasingly more explicit content and film producers have continually pushed boundaries in order to satisfy audiences. This makes media regulation less important as modern society feel they have a right to choose their own entertainment, and thus by refusing certificates, people will find other means of watching films. For example, Hate Crime is a film that depicted the torture and mutilation of a Jewish family. It was refused a certificate by the BBFC as the gruesome violence was fuelled by nothing other than racism with no context to it. Despite being refused a certificate and therefore is not available for store purchase and cannot be shown in theatre, people will still desire this content even if it has been described as being harmful to the public. Online piracy is becoming more normalised as society progresses, which means that any film no matter what certificate (if it even has one) can be viewed online with the click of a button. Websites such as Put Locker and 123Movies are readily accessible by any member of the public, thus making the influence of the BBFC less important. As society progresses, piracy will only pose more of an issue to the film industry as it becomes even more normalised, thus causing media regulation to become les effective.
The regulation of theatre exhibition, albeit very effective when there is a physical gatekeeper to determine whether or not an audience member is of specified age, becomes very ineffective at the 12A certificate. 12A means that a child under can view a film if they are accompanied by a parent over 18, making the importance of the BBFCs certificate is less effective, as the film technically becomes a U certificate. The first 12A film to be given this certificate was The Dark Night Rises, as although the content was more explicit that the previous Batman Films, a large majority of the audience were children. This suggests that society had progressed and desired more graphic content, and therefore the BBFC regulation became less important as children were now exposed to the graphic content. The Woman in Black was also given a 12A certificate after cuts to graphic scenes of a young girl committing suicide and the ghost hanging herself. Despite being renowned for its harmful and psychologically threatening content, a child was able to view this film with an adults company. However, this film was followed up by hundreds of letters of complaint, explaining that the film was too distressing for some audience members. This means that, although the 12A certificate is due to a progression of society and a desire for more graphic content, the BBFCs regulation becomes less important because it meant that children were then exposed to the harmful content of The Woman in Black.
PEGI serves a similar purpose to the BBFC, regulating video games across all of Europe and helping parents make informed decisions as to which games are suitable for their children. Whilst preventing these games being sold to people under age, PEGI’s regulation becomes less important past the point of purchase as the desensitisation on society has caused children to demand content that may be too graphic for them. Grand Theft Auto 5 is known for being a came marketed towards teenagers of around 15, despite being awarded an 18 certificate by PEGI. The game was deemed too graphic to be given anything other than an adults only certificate, due to a graphic torture scene known as ‘By the book’, and the overall depiction of women in the game, thus promoting harmful attitudes in younger players. However, due to the timing of advertisements on TV for the game and the cartoon-esque graphics of the game, it is desired amongst children below 18. However, the progression of technology is more rapid that the progression of society in understanding the detail of video games; adults are less likely to understand how realistic video games are because they were simply moving blocks when they were children. This means that parents are more likely to purchase these harmful games for their children as they see the game as a driving game, as suggested in the title. Therefore, despite PEGI’s regulation being effective when purchasing the game, as a physical gate keeper is present, the progression and desensitisation of society means that PEGI does not have any importance when regulating the content consumed at home; children are being given the graphic content they desire.
Similarly, the progression of the internet has caused the importance of PEGIs regulation to become less important. For example, Hatred is a video game which follows the genocide crusade of a sociopathic teenager against the whole of society, being given an 18 certificate due to the lack of context towards the violence, apart from feeling ‘wronged’ by the wold. PEGI believed that this game would cause harm if permitted for children’s consumption and that it may influence them to behave in this way. This is a theory known as the hypodermic needle theory, and despite being highly discredited, parents, religious organisations and politics still strongly subscribe to these beliefs and thus stand as a means of preventing children from consuming such graphic content. The theory suggests that the player is passive to which the harmful content is being injected into their minds, causing them to copy what they are being shown on screen. However, despite the higher age certificate, PEGIs regulation is ineffective because the internet does not require any form of ID in allowing people to download the game; thus removing the effect of a physical gatekeeper. A child of any age would be able to download Hatred off Steam (a well known gaming download site), by merely typing in their date of birth which they could easily lie about. Therefore, the desensitisation of society causes the regulation of PEGI to be unimportant, as children of any age are allowed to submerse themselves in the graphic and potentially harmful content at the touch of a button.
Ultimately the regulation of film and video games will only become less important as society progresses, society is finding more and more ways to ignore the given certificate. Therefore, contemporary regulators will need to create new ways in order to enforce their regulation, thus helping to protect the vulnerable once again. The BBFC may need to create technology to detect what films are being viewed on a consumers device, and instantly shut down the content if it has been refused a certificate in this country. PEGI may need to introduce a new means of creating online accounts for people to download games on, but having the consumers go into a store for a physical gate keeper to determine the date of birth of the player; eliminating the ability for people to lie about their ages as physical evidence would need to be provided. As for parents allowing their children to consume content that may be harmful, the contemporary regulators should release statements and create workshops to help parents understand how technology has advanced, thus allowing them to make more informed decisions.