Dr Richard Berger talks about censorship in the media

Posted on Monday, January 28 2013

Dr Richard Berger, Associate Professor of Media and Education, was on BBC Radio Solent talking about censorship in the media.

Richard gave his reaction to the idea that the media could ‘airbrush’ history, after the BBC cut out scenes in a re-run of an episode of Fawlty Towers.

He told presenter Alex Dyke: “It happens all the time. It’s nothing new. It’s a shame it has happened, but I can understand why it has in this instance.”

He said that there have been some strange reasons why films and TV programmes have been censored – including a 1903 film called Cheese Mites, which showed cheese going mouldy, which was banned following complaints from the cheese industry.

He added that in the 1940s, rules meant that films were not allowed to show two people kissing unless they had at least one foot on the floor or women on a double bed.

He said: “Censorship is always a product of its time. If you look at things which have been censored, it tells you very much about the time in which it was made – which is why we are getting into all this trouble with Fawlty Towers now.”

He said that the scenes which have been cut – which involved Basil Fawlty talking with an army Major – was actually mocking the views that he holds, rather than being offensive.

“[John Cleese and Connie Booth] were young then and intelligent writers and they were mocking their parents’ generation with the character of the Major, so you’re meant to laugh at him.”

He added, however, that he understood why the scene had been cut.

“I don’t think [it should be airbrushed out] but I understand why it has been, in the particular climate which we are now in at the moment – particularly the situation which the BBC has found itself in. I can understand why people are very jittery.

“It doesn’t mean to say that it won’t be shown again in its entirety at a later date.”

You can listen to Richard’s comments on BBC Solent in full here.