Ripping films to shreds on TV deceives viewers. A change is needed.

So, over five and a half million of us tuned into Jurassic World on Boxing Day.

Well, we thought it would be Jurassic World. Turns out though ITV actually screened a family friendly version of the film (as family friendly as rampaging, blood thirsty, human eating dinosaurs can be) with more cuts than a T-Rex victim. Keen to grab as big an audience as possible, the broadcaster scheduled its premier for prime time. Serving up censored films again and again deceives audiences, ruins their enjoyment and treats filmmakers with contempt. It’s high time viewers were made fully aware that they’ll be watching watered down TV versions of these films.

Promoting Jurassic World

or Spectre

with no mention they’ve been butchered so heavily is false advertising in my books.

In an era where distrust of the mainstream media and fake news is rampant, now more than ever we need transparency from our free to air channels. ITV has a moral responsibility to its viewers. As do the other culprits. Viewers must be able to make informed choices about what to watch rather than being mis-sold an experience. It begs the worrying question, just how else are broadcasters deliberately deceiving us?

Now, settling down to a blockbuster film on TV brings with it a sense of nostalgia for an age before mum, dad, son and daughter scattered around the family home to watch their favourite shows on their favourite device. Channel 4 was keen for us to indulge in a little Mrs Doubtfire and Crocodile Dundee style nostalgia this Christmas. But fans took to Twitter to vent their (warning; expletive heavy) anger after they saw classic scenes cut with a knife big enough to rival Mick Dundee’s.

When these cuts come without warning, it’s little wonder viewers want to give TV bosses the bird for raiding their treasure trove of movie memories.

Presumably the schedulers of 80s classics at tea time were keen to pull in folk like me who enjoyed these films as a teen. But, if that was the plan it backfired quicker than a malfunctioning DeLorean. Whilst these cuts probably go unnoticed to first time viewers there’s a real danger that we all lose the plot. Rather than take a careful approach to censoring Back to the Future (or heaven forbid, put it on at a suitable time), one viewer spotted that Channel 4 cut the whole ‘When this baby hits 88 miles per hour you’re gonna see some serious shit!’ line, which makes Doc’s later reference to 88mph just a tad confusing.

This slapdash approach to editing treats us with contempt. It changes how we feel about carefully crafted characters and stories. At least if we knew ahead we could turn over and not be subjected to this televisual torture.

Now I’ve watched a lot of films on TV in my 36 years so all this censoring doesn’t come as much of a surprise. I’m as annoyed now by it as I was back in the day when Bruce and Arnie’s ITV escapades were given the Mary Whitehouse treatment. Back then I wouldn’t have been too bothered about the disrespect that showed towards the creators. Now though, as a filmmaker I understand and appreciate the craft. The time and energy that went into storyboarding, filming and editing those Jurassic World kills is completely disregarded. Producing family friendly versions of films doesn’t really go down well with artists. Just ask Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow who slated Sony’s plans to do just that this summer.

Sadly in a multi channel world the main channels have foolishly started their own race to the bottom where artistic intention is but a relic of another age. Channel logos on screen, squeezing credits, ads mid scene, programme trails that pop up before the film finishes, news and entertainment updates half way through, movies nowadays are treated like schedule filler. The BBC announcer even spoke over the end credits of Chicken Run before all the dialogue had finished. Is nothing sacred?

The channels just don’t care about art though. It’s all about the dollar. No doubt the powers that be at ITV were over the festive moon with Jurassic World’s place as second most watched show of the day. While they’ll be in 007 heaven with the 5 million who caught Spectre on Monday even if viewers called it out for being heavily cut.

IMG_0280

A festive Bond premier really seems to do the trick for ITV as Skyfall netted the station some six million viewers a few years ago despite apparently being cut to shreds.

But serving up Granny and little Jonny friendly versions of blockbuster films to viewers none the wiser betrays their trust. Yes, with those kind of viewing figures there’s little chance savaging films will stop but the MI5 style secrecy surrounding censoring films on TV must stop. Tricking viewers only damages the reputation of British TV in our eyes and the world’s.

Ofcom must act, like it did when the BBC and ITV scandalously deceived viewers with the phone in scandal ten years ago. The regulator must order channels to tell potential viewers in advance if a film has been edited and exactly what has been removed. This would be in all advertising, in our TV guides (electronic and good old fashioned mags) and before the showing.

I’d like to see an on screen logo indicating I’m being subjected to a cut version so I can switch to Netflix for my cinematic kicks. Ofcom should order a heavily promoted uncut, post watershed showing of any edited film later in the week too.

With this transparency, film fans of all ages could make their mind up about which version to watch. Younger, more vulnerable viewers would still be protected and advertisers would get two bites at the cherry. Fed up folk like me would tune in to the channel for uncut showings of films I enjoy or premiers like Spectre. Trust in terrestrial TV would be less shaken and maybe, just maybe, ITV and I will bond again.

Image from pixabay of Daniel Craig licensed under CC0 Creative Commons

Image representing Jurassic World from pixabay and licensed under CC0 Creative Commons 

 

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