Parents more relaxed about swearing in films, says new BBFC boss Natasha Kaplinsky

Natasha Kaplinsky - Yui Mok/PA
Natasha Kaplinsky - Yui Mok/PA

Parents are more relaxed about 15-year-olds hearing the worst swear words in films, research for the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has revealed.

Although the board is often considered a censor, Natasha Kaplinsky, a former newsreader who recently became the first female head of the BBFC, has insisted its approach is to work with the public in order to best categorise film ratings.

According to focus groups the board has worked with, while parents today still care about swearing, they are much more lenient about hearing the c-word in a film with a 15 rating.

Ms Kaplinsky, 50, told The Sunday Times Magazine that her background as a journalist will make her stronger when watching the “tougher stuff” she will have to view in her job. She became a household name after working for Sky News, BBC News, Channel 5 and ITV News.

“In news you are faced with some very gruelling images that don’t always make it to air, so I’ve had my training there,” she said.

She is an ambassador for Save the Children and president of Barnado’s, and sees the BBFC role as a logical extension of her charity work.

Shifting societal attitudes

Every four years, the BBFC consults 10,000 members of the British public to examine how societal attitudes shift.

The latest research has found that, compared with 20 years ago, viewers are more relaxed about depictions of consensual sex between adults on screen, including same-sex relationships; however, they are more concerned about portrayals of mental health and drug abuse.

David Austin, chief executive of the BBFC, also told The Sunday Times Magazine that viewers were more tolerant of “quick kills with a blood spurt” compared with violence that is sadistic and extended.

As its president, Ms Kaplinsky will be a member of the board of directors and will chair the Board of Classification, which meets monthly and oversees all matters relating to classification, including the most complex and controversial of cases.

Ms Kaplinsky, who was the first-ever winner of Strictly Come Dancing in 2004, now lives on a farm in East Sussex with her husband, Justin Bower, and their two children.

‘Being a child is very tricky’

She also told the magazine that “being a child at the moment is very tricky” due to the nature of online activity.

“I definitely wouldn’t want to grow up again. I’m fully aware of the influences that our children are under – they’re bombarded by this content constantly – and yet we’re able to provide a safe space for them. We’ve always relied on the classification system to do that.”

She cautioned how “online is largely unpoliced, and that’s a worrying situation as a parent – you see how it influences their behaviour”.

When she took on the role in September she said it was “crucial that children’s welfare is at the forefront of policy decision-making and this is central to the BBFC’s efforts in the online safety space”.

She added: “The challenges that young people face now in the UK are greater than ever before – and I am committed to giving voice to their needs.”