ON THE RADAR: Dr Sheldon Hall Film ‘censorship’ on British Television – TUESDAY 7 MAY 2024

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ON THE RADAR research seminars promote the sharing of knowledge across the entire Sheffield Hallam University community – all are welcome, free to attend. Our next talk is by Dr Sheldon Hall.

When: the talk will take place on Tuesday 7 May 1-2pm. The film screening will begin approx 2.15pm, ending around 4.15pm.

Where: The Void, Owen Building

‘We do not have any machinery which could be described as “censorship”’: Regulating Feature Films on British Television in the 1960s and 1970s – Dr Sheldon Hall

Long before the advent of Ofcom, the regulation of British television was largely in the hands of the broadcasters themselves: the state-funded BBC and the Independent Television Authority (renamed the Independent Broadcasting Authority in 1972), which oversaw the operation of the commercial network, ITV. Bodies and personnel internal to these organisations were charged with ensuring that nothing was broadcast that could offend against accepted standards of taste and decency. This was easier done with in-house productions than with material acquired from outside. Feature films made originally for the cinema posed particular challenges because they had been conceived to be shown under entirely different conditions. Unlike with TV programmes viewed in the home, the theatrical exhibition of films was carefully controlled. But the certificates issued by the British Board of Film Censors, restricting access based on the age of viewers, had no force when the films were shown on television. How, then, did the broadcasters seek to fulfil their responsibilities?


This paper looks at the regulation of cinema films when shown on British television in the 1960s and 1970s, focusing especially on titles that caused particular concern and controversy. It will be illustrated with rare materials drawn from the written archives of the BBC and the IBA. The talk will be followed by a screening of Louis Malle’s 1971 film Le Souffle au cœur (Murmur of the Heart), which when shown under the title Dearest Love on BBC2 in 1979 led one viewer to write: ‘If this film does not deprave and corrupt then nothing will.’

For more information about ON THE RADAR or to add your name as a future presenter, contact Dr Diane A. Rodgers@SHU_radar / #shuradar

Dr Sheldon Hall is Reader in Film and Television in the Department of Culture and Media. His book Armchair Cinema: A History of Feature Films on British Television, 1929-1981, will be published by Edinburgh University Press in June.