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Section B Essay (1)

Explain which forms of media regulation are most effective, which are not so, and your reasons for both. 
  • Past: In the past, before the increasing popularity of TVs in the 50s, films were only shown in cinemas and audiences had no other access to them. This means that the BBFC certificates were very effective as there was a physical gatekeeper who determined whether or not someone could view the film. When video games came out in the 50s, they were very basic and did not need regulating as the content was so simple.
  • Introduce BBFC and PEGI – independent non governmental body
  • Cinema regulation (Hate Crime): Most effective as needs a physical gate keeper who IDs people who aren’t obviously the age of the certificate. 12A screenings become less effective because it depends on parental judgement. For example, Hate Crime was refused a certificate because it was focused on the “terrorisation, mutilation, physical and sexual abuse” of a Jewish family as stated by the BBFC. The board felt that it would risk potential harm to viewers if given an adults only rating. This shows how effective cinema regulation is as the film cannot have a theatrical exhibition without a BBFC certificate and therefore wasn’t shown in British cinemas.
  • Cinema regulation (The Woman in Black): The Woman in Black contained strong horror and was deemed too psychologically threatening to be given a 12A rating without cuts. The BBFC regulation was effective in cinema release as Entertainment made cuts to the film to make it suitable for those under 12. However, the 12A rating becomes ineffective as although the content may not be suitable for younger members of the audience, the judgement comes down to parental decision. This means the physical gatekeeper which makes cinema regulation so effective isn’t put into force.
  • Store regulation: Is effective at the point of purchase but DVDs and video games become out of control once they have been purchased as they age ratings don’t have to be enforced. Grand Theft Auto 5 was a game that, although given an 18 rating due to the extreme violence and glorification of a torture scene named ‘By The Book’, it is a game primarily targeted towards teenagers. The regulation of video games is fairly ineffective as they are frequently bought as gifts for younger people and therefore the PEGI certificate is not abided by.
  • VOD and online download: Online download is a very ineffective means of regulating video games as there is no means of determining the age of the consumer. Hatred, a video game that explores the “genocide crusade” of a sociopath against the entire human race. Despite being given an 18 certificate by PEGI, the game caused a moral panic as the plot revolved around the protagonist committing violence for the sake of violence with very little context. The certificate awarded by PEGI proved to be ineffective however, as Stream, an online download website removed Hatred from sale due to the outrage it caused. Despite being awarded a certificate, the public deemed the game to be too dangerous for adult consumption.
  • Conclusion and future: Ultimately, all mediums of regulation are in effective if there is not a physical gatekeeper to determine whether or not the audience is of acceptable age to view the film or play the video game. In the future, I think there will be another means of regulating the ages of consumers, such as finger print identity recognition which will ultimately remove the need for human identification and can be enforced within customers homes.

Essay  

The BBFC is an independent, non-governmental body who view films and deem whether or not they are acceptable for public viewing and give each film a certificate to state which age group the film is suitable for. These certificates are effective means of regulation for cinema screenings as there is a physical gate keeper who decides if an audience member is of acceptable age to view the film. The BBFC is also effective as if a film is rejected and refused a certificate, the film cannot be shown in cinema or sold in stores. For example, Hate Crime was rejected a certificate and is not available for British viewing, and therefore demonstrates the effectiveness of regulation. PEGI stands for pan european gaming information and helps parents make informed decisions when purchasing games. However, the regulation of video games is more difficult than the regulation of films, as there are so many options for how to play the game, and therefore can be in effective. Video games such as Grand Theft Auto can be played in multiple different ways and therefore makes it difficult to regulate every feature of the video game. For both forms of media, regulation becomes in effective past the point of purchase, as there is no longer a body to regulate who views or plays the media item.

Cinema regulation is the most effective form of regulation as a physical gatekeeper is required to determine who and who cannot enter the screening and are able to turn people away who are clearly not of viewing age. Films that have been refused certificates, such as Hate Crime, are not allowed to be shown in cinemas and therefore cannot be watched. Hate Crime was refused a certificate without cuts because it was focused on the “terrorisation, mutilation, physical and sexual abuse” of a Jewish family as stated by the BBFC, and was therefore deemed unacceptable. The main issue was that the film provided little context towards the violence which the BBFC thought may encourage similar behaviour in audiences, even if given an adults only rating. This proves how effective the BBFC regulation is for cinema exhibition, as without a certificate, Hate Crime cannot be shown in British cinemas. However, in the past, cinema screenings were the only means of viewing a film and therefore if a film was refused a certificate, there would be no way to watch it. With the modern day advances of technology, Hate Crime is accessible for illegal piracy and may even be on video on demand services for download. Therefore, even though cinema regulation is effective to an extent, it does not prevent the film from being seen.

Cinema regulation, however, becomes in effective at the 12A rating, as the power is taken away from the physical gatekeeper and given to the guardians of children under the age of 12. The Woman in Black was initially deemed too psychologically threatening for a 12A rating without cuts to music to change the tone of the film. The BBFC regulation was effective in cinema release as Entertainment made cuts to the film to make it suitable for those under 12. However, the 12A film still contained themes of child suicide and the supernatural, which may be unsuitable for younger audiences, but without the physical gatekeeper, there is no regulation of who views the film under parental supervision. Thus, the physical gate keeper which made cinema regulation so effective is no longer put into force.

Store purchase is the next effective means of regulating media at the point of purchase. The shop assistant is able to determine whether or not this customer is of the age certificate and can refuse service if not. However, the regulation becomes in effective once the DVD or video game has been purchased, since there is no gatekeeper to regulate the consumption of the game. Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA5) is a game that, although given an age 18 rating due to the extreme violence and glorification of torture (seen in a task named By The Book), is a game primarily targeted towards teenagers through the colourful advertisement and popular music featured. The regulation of video games becomes in effective because videogames are frequently bought as gifts for younger consumers, despite the person making the purchase being of age and therefore the PEGI rating is not abided by. Video game regulation is also ineffective as games can be taken out of context. In the past, video game used to be very basic and therefore there was little need for regulation and parents were certain of what their children were playing, but, with the increasing technology of today, graphics have improved greatly to give a more immersive experience. For example, there is a ‘Hot Coffee Mod’ on GTA which converts a violent, driving game into a game where the player controls sexual activities between their character and prostitutes. Therefore, what a parent deems as acceptable for their child may not always be how the game is consumed.  

Video download is the most in effective means of regulating the purchase of films and video games, as there is no means of determining the age of the consumer without user input. Hatred is a video game that explores the “genocide crusade” of a sociopath against the entire human race, and presents a young boy violently murdering innocent people who he crosses paths with. Despite being given an 18 certificate by PEGI, the game caused a moral panic as the plot revolved around the protagonist committing violence for the sake of violence with very little context, and therefore concerned parents that it may influence their children’s behaviour. The certificate awarded by PEGI proved to be ineffective however, as Stream, an online download website removed Hatred from sale due to the outrage it caused. This enforces how in effective the rating is because although PEGI deemed the game as being acceptable for adults only, the download site did not.

Ultimately, all mediums of regulation are in effective if there is not a physical gatekeeper to determine whether or not the audience is of acceptable age to view the film or play the video game. In the future, I think there will be another means of regulating the ages of consumers, such as fingerprint identity recognition which will ultimately remove the need for human identification and can be enforced within customers homes.

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Case Study: The Woman in Black

There are a number of scenes of supernatural horror and threat in which the ghost of the ‘woman in black’, as well as the ghosts of her victims, appear to and threaten the central character and others. The BBFC’s Guidelines at ’12A’/’12’ state ‘Moderate physical and psychological threat may be permitted, providing disturbing sequences are not frequent or sustained’. In this uncut version of the film, the scenes of threat and horror are stronger and more sustained than in the ’12A’/’12’ version and therefore more appropriately classified at ’15’. The film includes a scene in which the ghost of the ‘woman in black’ hangs herself from a noose, including sight and sound of her neck breaking. It also includes a scene in which a young girl smashes an oil lamp, causing herself to burst into flames. She is subsequently seen walking forwards, engulfed in fire. Both these scenes were originally reduced in order to achieve a ’12A’ classification at the cinema and a ’12’ on video. However, the uncut versions of these scenes are more appropriately classified at ’15’ where the Guidelines state ‘Strong threat and horror are permitted unless sadistic or sexualised’.

The BBFC received 134 letters complaining that the 12A category was too dark for the content of the film.

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Case Study: Hatred

Hatred is a shooter video game in which the character is a mass-murdering villain who “hates this world, and the human worms feasting on its carcass” and embarks on a “genocide crusade” against the entire human race. Health is regenerated by performing executions on incapacitated people; the moves made to kill those victims involve cinematic switches of camera perspectives. The character’s voice acting is deliberately kept to a minimum, with his ideology and motivations largely left open to interpretation.

Adam Simmonds, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northampton, conducted research into children’s exposure to violence from computer games and said it was ‘outrageous’ that Hatred had been certified for sale. ‘We say that adults should be allowed to play these types of games, but then we’re shocked when children act them out in the playground with real weapons,’ he said. Destructive Creations, the Polish company responsible for the game, said online: ‘Just don’t try this at home and don’t take it too seriously, it’s just a game.’They claim the game is set for release on June 1 and call it a horror with an ‘atmosphere of mass killing’ in which the player can ‘spread Armageddon upon society’.

Though plenty of other games glamorize lifestyles laden with criminal activity, the gameplay trailer for “Hatred” opens with an angry male with long, dark hair collecting weapons from a darkened room. He is then shown stabbing police officers and women – as well as shooting pedestrians on the street and in a shopping mall. The trailer currently has more than 1.2 million views.

Destructive creations – “At the end of the day you, gamers will judge if we were able to do a game that’s simply fun to play,” Destructive Creations said. “The whole situation only pushes us forward to go against any adversity and not to give up. It also makes us want to provide our fans ‘Hatred’ pre-orders sooner, as many of you have asked for them.”

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Case Study: Grand Theft Auto

Torture

The mission “By the Book” generated controversy from reviewers and commentators for its depiction of torture. In the mission, protagonist Trevor Philips interrogates a man, Mr K, to extract information about an Azerbaijani fugitive who poses a threat to the FIB. Trevor uses torture equipment (such as electricity and pliers) on the restrained man, which players select from a table. Once Mr K provides the FIB with the information, Trevor is asked to kill him, but instead drives him to the airport, providing him an opportunity to escape. While driving Mr K, Trevor monologues about the ineffectiveness of torture, pointing out Mr K’s readiness to supply the FIB with the information without being tortured, and expressing that torture is used as a power play “to assert ourselves”

Women

Some reviewers claim that the game’s portrayal of women is misogynistic. Chris Plante of Polygon felt that the supporting female characters were constructed on stereotypes, and wrote that the game’s “treatment of women is a relic from the current generation”. Todd Martens of the Los Angeles Times considered the satirical portrayals of women uncreative, and added that violent and sexist themes hurt the game experience. Edge noted that while “every female in the game exists solely to be sneered, leered or laughed at”, it treated its all-male lead characters in a similar vein through their stereotyped tendencies towards violence. Dave Cook of VG247 reinforced the sentiment that the female characters were constructed on stereotypes in an editorial: “They’re either there to be rescued, shouted at, fucked, to be seen fucking, put up with, killed, heard prattling away like dullards on their mobile phones or shopping“. Sam Houser, Rockstar Games co-founder, felt that the development team sometimes overlooked their portrayal of women in Grand Theft Auto games, but that the weight towards male characters “fit with the story we wanted to tell”.

Games in the Grand Theft Auto franchise, including a teenager confessing to robbing and murdering a taxi driver while trying to recreate a scene from GTA IV). Dr. Craig Anderson at Iowa State University and his colleagues conclude that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive thoughts, feelings and behaviour, and a decreased empathy and prosocial behaviour. Researchers argue that the inherent structure of violent video games limit young people’s abilities to develop perspectives of victims and does not encourage affective sympathy in children, as any negative effects of being harmed or killed in the games are minimised ignored, or even rewarded.

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Case Study: Sniper Elite 3 & 4

From hilltops to towns, every level offers myriad ways of approaching any given target, and the game’s open-ended verticality allows you to traverse rooftops, mountain paths and other high vantage points for the upper hand against a group of soldiers. – Makes the game more difficult to regulate.

The Guardian

“the sniping is so darn moreish you don’t really want to be thinking too much beyond your next long distance takedown”

Mr Jackson 

Players are being rewarded for violence by graphic images – “it is corrupting and should be banned”

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PEGI

PEGI stands for Pan European Game Information and are an age rating system that was established in 2003 to help European parents make informed decisions on buying computer games. In the UK, 37 % of the population aged between 16 and 49 describe themselves as ‘active gamers’. 49% of games are suitable for players of all ages, there are many that are only suitable for older children and young teenagers and 4% of games that are made for adults only.

 

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PEGI states that there is no evidence to prove that playing violent video games causes any long-term or lasting increase in aggressiveness or violence. The research on whether video games encourage violence focuses primary on short term effects and is inconsistent. And then suggested to read these documents:
  • Raymond Boyle and Matthew Hibberd, “Review of Research on the Impact of Violent Computer Games on Young People” Stirling Media Research Institute, March 2005
  • Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen and Jonas Heide Smith,“Playing With Fire? How do computer games affect the player? ” Report for The Media Council for Children and Young People, September 2003
  • Freedman (Jonathan L.), “Evaluating the Research on Violent Video Games”, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto.