HOW DID IT HAPPEN

The National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association (National VALA or NVLA), which is the former name of what is now called Mediawatch-UK, is a pressure group founded in 1964 by Mary Whitehouse. The group was a citizen, self-appointed watchdog group, whose sole purpose was that of monitoring media in print, audio, television, movies, and from this what has become colloquially known in the UK as the “Video Nasty”.

Video Cassette Recorders becoming popular in the early 1970’s brought about a sudden surge in storefronts and shops providing movies on video cassette tapes that could either be rented or purchased. At the time there was no monitoring or regulating of content. In 1977 the Obscene Publications Act of 1959 was altered to cover Erotic Films. This, coupled with the British Board of Film Censors, and with The Obscene Publications Act defining obscenity as that which may “tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it”. This definition is of course open to wide interpretation.

Under the terms of the Act, the police were authorized to seize videos from retailers if the opinion was that the material was in breach of the Act. In the early 1980s, in certain police constabularies, police raids on video rental stores increased. Many videos seized were done so from the title alone. For example, Dolly Parton’s The Best Little Whore House In Texas (1982) was seized under the mistaken belief it was pornographic.

 

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