The censors’ tools

Authored by: Julian Petley

The Routledge Companion to British Media History

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415537186
eBook ISBN: 9781315756202
Adobe ISBN: 9781317629474


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A tool much relied upon by UK censors of one kind or another in the pre-digital age was a sharp blade – used, for example, by the British Board of Film Censors to excise celluloid images of which it disapproved, and, in the first half of the 1930s, by British distributors of foreign magazines to snip out stories about the affair between the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson, stories which they feared might invite legal action if published in the UK. Indeed, the issue of Time magazine which reported in October 1936 that Mrs Simpson had filed for divorce appeared on British newsstands with four whole pages cut out. Another tool whose name at one time was almost synonymous with censorship in the UK was the ‘blue pencil’, the means favored by the Lord Chamberlain for removing offending lines, or indeed entire scenes, from the plays which he was responsible for examining.

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