Visions of Wingrove

A blast from the media law past in today’s Observer, where we learn that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) (or a member of its classification committee in a personal capacity – you decide) has invited Nigel Wingrove to resubmit ‘Visions of Ecstasy‘ (don’t get excited, it’s just a database entry) for classification. This short film was banned at the time of its 1980s release and is the subject of a well-known European Court of Human Rights decision, Wingrove v UK, which Wingrove lost, with the UK benefitting from a wide ‘margin of appreciation’ in its regulation of certain kinds of offensive speech; the influential elements include the finding that “whereas there is little scope under Article 10 para. 2 of the Convention for restrictions on political speech or on debate of questions of public interest (citations of political speech cases omitted)), a wider margin of appreciation is generally available to the Contracting States when regulating freedom of expression in relation to matters liable to offend intimate personal convictions within the sphere of morals or, especially, religion. Moreover, as in the field of morals, and perhaps to an even greater degree, there is no uniform European conception of the requirements of ‘the protection of the rights of others’ in relation to attacks on their religious convictions.

The Observer reporter speculates on the symbolism of a possible certification and the links with the debate on the repeal of blasphemy laws in the UK. We will see. For a little bit of amusement, have a look at the Irish register of prohibited publications – while books are unbanned after 12 years, magazines (periodicals: part 3 of the list), once properly banned, stay on the list until they are taken off, although I doubt if many of them (such as ‘Daring Detective’ – banned 1951) are still publishing.

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