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Sweden closer to banning film censorship

David Landes · 9 Jun 2009, 20:00

Published: 09 Jun 2009 20:00 GMT+02:00

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The planned dissolution of Sweden’s film censorship agency, Statens biografbyrå (SBB), means that Swedish filmgoers aged 15 and older will no longer have to wonder whether or not a particular film has been censored by the state.

The proposal comes as a part of the findings of a government-mandated inquiry into how to update laws governing how films are reviewed, including how to protect young people from media featuring content seen as harmful to minors.

Since 1911, SBB has been charged with reviewing and, when necessary, censoring films with unsavory content.

But technological changes as well as a proliferation of other outlets through which films can be viewed means that the agency only reviews a small portion of the content viewed by Swedish cinephiles.

According to current regulations, SBB can censor any film which depicts events “in such a manner and in such a context as to have a brutalizing effect” and is judged to have “explicit or protracted scenes of severe violence to people or animals or depicts sexual violence or coercion or presents children in pornographic situations.”

But the agency rarely exercises its power to cut scenes from films, or orders a film banned altogether.

The Local reported in 2007 that the board last cut scenes from a non-pornographic film in 1996, when three scenes were removed from Martin Scorcese's gangster movie 'Casino', despite protests from the director.

As an alternative, the inquiry proposed that a new media agency be created to replace both the SBB and the Swedish Media Council (Mediarådet), another state agency aimed at reducing the risk of harmful effects on children and young people of certain media content.

“The new agency won’t be so judicial, but rather a contact body with information; to help children learn to understand the media, to have a more critical eye,” said inquiry head Marianne Eliason to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

The new agency will also assume SBB’s current duties of managing the four levels of age restrictions for films in Sweden.

Current classifications include: approved for all ages; approved for children 7 and older; 11 and older; and 15 and older.

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Moreover, the new agency will no longer employ “censors”, but instead will include a team of “film examiners” tasked with determining the appropriate age restriction for a given film, rather than censoring it.

The inquiry also proposes that film companies be allowed to submit their films for review by the new agency voluntarily. However, films not reviewed by the new agency would automatically be classified as only appropriate for viewers 15 years and older.

Since implementation of the inquiry’s findings will likely require a change to Sweden’s constitution, Eliason doesn’t expect the new system to be in place before 2011.

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David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

23:10 June 9, 2009 by jimmyjames
My God, I honestly never knew the extent to which the Swedish citizenry is protected. It is then no small wonder that Swedes have such a fatastic and sometimes childish world view. You people have never really experianced racism,bigotry,violence, financial deprevation or anything else that is unpleasent.........you have not even been allowed to watch it in a movie. Your protected lives will eventually lead to your country and your race becoming extinct. That is very sad to me because the Swedish people have made a great many social advancements ....too bad there is not any Viking blood left in your people in large enough quantities to assist your survival.
23:17 June 9, 2009 by A. Shiraz
The swedes Sir are not extinct they are excellent Christians living true to the words of Christ more than anyone else I have known. They love each other and hence care so much for each other that they have such social programs and abolition of censorship, love etc. Indeed they are not scarred and traumatized like those exposed to the worst in Africa and Asia. They are indeed not merely children but children of God and God fights for those who are innocent and childlike. Dear God! come to the aid of these people! forever protect them and cause them to proliferate throughout the earth! may they inherit the earth and beyond and may the entire earth be as heavenly as these people's lands. We import these heavenly children in our countries to uplift our lands in the US. May they proliferate.
23:47 June 9, 2009 by iamanaccount
Good riddance. This kind of censorship has no place in a free society. Let individuals be the judge of what they can watch, children included. Many of the films previously banned by this organization are laughably inoffensive, even to those easily offended.
01:25 June 10, 2009 by Kaethar
Sweden in the past has basically edited or banned movies involving extreme violence. A lot of countries do this since there is a strong correlation between violence in the media and acts of violence of individuals.

Sweden banned the Cannibal Holocaust in '84 due to its extreme gore and violence and because several animals were killed live on screen. It's a decision I completely agree with. The hardcore gore fans can still find it online or overseas but it's better if it's not available to the general public.
03:46 June 10, 2009 by Omaro
I agree that Cannibal Holocaust was the one of the most controversial films in movies history and it was banned in many countries not only in Sweden but in Australia and Italy (the director was Italian). But that was in the 80`s , maybe in the 90`s it might happen but to be continued after that till now ??? ??? noway, it would be silly to maintain such law or agency nowadays, children and teens can surf the internat and there are things more disgusting than cannibal holocaust, have u forgotten the guy who hang himself in front of the Paltalk members on web cam?

Instead of distorting (cutting scenes) , even if these scenes are not suitable for some age groups, it is better not to show the whole movie on the cinema or TV.
04:36 June 10, 2009 by Marley420
Does that mean I can keep watching the re-runs of the 70's show on TV4 for the next 5 years?
05:35 June 10, 2009 by A. Shiraz
Apologies for my previous comment. I am an ignorant foreigner with a tendency to inspire jingoism and poor behavior and sentimentality. I am trying to understand and I don't wish to be a rabble rousing, flattering demagogue. Even if this is not for the best I hope it turns out to be for the best because Gods and men side with those who are kind and gentle , the aggrieved and the victims and spurn the aggressors and the violent. I just hope that all that is good within Scandinavia and Europe is a light to the world, a hope and a salvation and a path.
08:44 June 10, 2009 by Stockholmer
I don't think this will make any difference. They haven't banned any film (or made any cut) for several years, so we could just as well save the money.

I would though appreciate some kind of "tags", declaring if the film offers (extreme) violence, sex, etc. It would be a marketing thing, as it would attract the public enjoying that kind of film, and also help people who don't think that e.g. violence is enjoyable.
09:35 June 10, 2009 by Bender B Rodriquez
I fixed it for you.
17:12 June 10, 2009 by mkvgtired
Now just work on the state owned news outlets and we will be making progress. For instance, where is the coverage of the Packistan hotel bombing? I have noticed Swedish state owned news outlets seem to "forget" to report on certain unpleasant things.
00:24 June 11, 2009 by jimmyjames
For the record I too am personally opposed to gratuitous violence in mass media. This is a "Debate Comment" section, therefore alot of my comments are intended to promote,provoke, and stimulate debate/comments.
11:17 June 11, 2009 by Bender B Rodriquez
There are no state news outlets, but if you insist that SVT is state owned, I recall that they reported about it. Didn't reach the first page though since nobody here gives a about Pakistan...
11:42 June 11, 2009 by Craptastical
16:21 June 12, 2009 by Bumblebeetuna
Wow! I've always had that sense. You can really tell that the Swedes are really told how to think compared to most English speaking ppl I come across. I just could never put my finger on it. Based on my senses this censorship is not just in the film industry. In comparison to my own culture I would say maybe that is the trick to a healthier society. Though, we'd have to see some diversity hear to compare and that would send the censorship out the window.

I wonder how many other countries do this? !!
16:24 June 12, 2009 by VikingHumpingWitch
I watched a film in the US once and the F word was replaced by "freaking". LOLOLOL at protected Americans etc. blah and suchlike.
16:40 June 12, 2009 by jack sprat
Censorship or not, surely a line has to be drawn somewhere between what is fit for public viewing and what is o.t.t. and for instance obscene, as per this internet stuff that police are arresting and charging ppl.for.

Do the film companies simply release borderline material and hope that its acceptable, until such time as the police come knocking on their door?
18:24 June 12, 2009 by Kaethar
Oh no, you're one of those people...

The correlation is not a myth. You're in denial.
18:34 June 12, 2009 by LeKisse

You mean to imply Sweden is Utopian? *wink*

That aside, Swedes are some of the most open minded and aware people I've personally come across. As an American, I have have seen what too much media violence does to people. I don't suggest we censor anything though, people have a right to choose what they see - but just remember not everyone can handle it. Further, it is a cultural issue, I personally believe Swedes can handle it - and in fact have been, they see plenty of violence and probably do their fair share of renting or purchasing films from tradera and ebay with plenty of violence and sex.

Furthermore, Swedes debate well and tackle many subjects that are heated, violent, and taboo - and they do it with finesse. Just because they are not loud and obnoxious "get in your face" vikings (ahem Americans) doesn't mean they are childish - childlike, possibly, but with smarts and yes, class.
19:29 June 12, 2009 by spy

Censorship aside, I find your summing up of the Swedes interesting. As a caveat most of my following statement is a gross generalisation:

Personally I don't find Swedes open minded at all, although they would like to be. I find them to be secretly judgmental and envious - although they try not to show it. This is more prevalent in the young but it is still noticable to me.

I find it charming.
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