Blasphemy has been dropped from film classification in SA – despite bothering many more people than violence
- The Film and Publication Board (FPB) has a new set of guidelines on how movies and games should be classified – and even voluntary disclosure of blasphemy has been dropped.
- Blasphemy is a major complaint, almost on a par with swearing, and far more prevalent than complaints about violence.
- The FPB had considered making blasphemy a mandatory consideration in age ratings, and even expanding its definition to include cultural sensitivities.
Blasphemy in movies and computer games will no longer be signposted with a "B" warning, as is sex (S) or violence (V), and it will not be considered when age-rating material.
The Film and Publication Board (FPB) on Friday published its new guidelines for the classification of material as suitable for certain age groups, ranging from PG for family-friendly to that which is banned in South Africa for inciting harm to a protected group, including those who can be identified by their religion.
Blasphemy is never mentioned in the new guidelines, which are due to come into effect in July.
Previous rules used a broad definition of blasphemy, as anything that was "insensitive, offensive, demeaning, derogatory, disrespectful or irreverent expressions about any religion".
Such expression was not banned, or even considered when assigning an age-rating to movies or games, but could be voluntarily disclosed with a "B" warning.
That seemed set to change in the runup to the creation of the new rules, however.
In a 2017 discussion document on the guidelines the FPB identified as a key consideration whether blasphemy should be elevated from a voluntary to a mandatory notification. Seven months ago the organisation said it needed input on whether blasphemy provisions should be broadened to include "cultural sensitivity".
Instead it was dropped altogether.
According to FPB numbers from 2017, complaints about blasphemy made up 12% of the total complaints it received, just shy of the 14% of complaints that dealt with language. That is double the number of complaints that dealt with violence – but far outweighed by complaints about sex and nudity, which made up 68% of the total.
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