“Die sunderin” with hildegard knef caused the first scandal

FSK – film control for 70 years © VDB Photos (shutterstock)

Censorship does not take place in Germany. But protection of minors is widely desired in films. The Voluntary Self-Regulation of the Film Industry provides age restrictions – for 70 years now.

Sex, cannibals and politically unpopular scenes: What are cinemas, television and the Internet allowed to expose viewers to?? There has been censorship since the beginning of the cinema age. Even more so at the time of the Nazi dictatorship. And when Germany lay in ruins in 1945, the victorious powers ensured that denazification was not counteracted by Nazi propaganda.

The Basic Law abolished military censorship. But the protection of youth and the moral order remained an ie. To prevent state intervention, representatives of the federal and state governments, the film industry, religious communities and the Federal Youth Council founded the "Voluntary Self-Regulation of the Film Industry" (FSK) in 1949. Film distributors undertook to present their films there, cinema operators promised to allow access only to persons who had reached the release age.

1951: Discussions about "The Sinner

70 years ago, on 18. July 1949, the FSK screened the first film – "Intimacies" by Paul Martin – at Biebricher Schloss in Wiesbaden. The strip was a so-called defector. Made during the Nazi era, it was banned by the Nazi Film Review Board in 1944. The decision of the FSK: Released from 16 years without cut, not suitable for the quiet holidays.

More than 250.000 films, series and clips have been checked by the FSK reviewers since then. For the vast majority of films, the age classification is unspectacular. A few scandals, however, made the FSK famous. As early as 1951, "The Sinner" with Hildegard Knef caused crisis meetings and demonstrations. A few days before the film's release, the FSK initially refused to release it for adults as well. The film trivialized prostitution, killing on demand, and suicide.

Best publicity for the film. In the end, the film was cleared for 18 years by a vote of 9 to 4. Church representatives temporarily left the FSK in protest. There were riots in some cities, opponents threw stink bombs into movie theaters, police responded with water cannons.

Stable Provisional

The film industry's hope of using the FSK to prevent statutory youth protection regulations was not fulfilled. In 1952, the first youth protection law came into force. After that, the supreme state youth authorities were responsible for film releases. But they concluded an agreement with the film industry on a temporary cooperation with the FSK, but acquired clear rights of co-determination.

The provisional system proved to be stable. Even then, for example, the Ingmar Bergman film "The Silence" was given an 18+ release in 1963 and a large part of the Republic was outraged. The "loose ruling practice" of the FSC occupied the Bundestag. But Interior Minister Hermann Hocherl (CSU) rejected state censorship measures. On the initiative of CDU member of parliament Adolf Susterhenn, the "Aktion saubere Leinwand" (clean canvas campaign) was launched, opposing "fornication in the guise of art".

Radical change

Since the founding of the FSC, the media landscape has changed radically. Cinema and TV were joined by video and DVD. When the first video films hit the market in the early 1980s, parents, teachers and politicians were appalled by the level of violence and explicit sex.

In 1985, the Youth Protection Act was applied to video films; the FSK expanded its jurisdiction. From the beginning, private television was also accused of being too casual about violence and sex. For this reason, the broadcasters founded the Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Fernsehen (FSF) (Voluntary Self-Regulation of Television) in 1994, following the FSK's example.

Control in the network difficult

In the meantime, however, the Internet, playback channels such as YouTube or streaming services are radically challenging the protection of minors. Public broadcasters have committed to making films with restricted age ratings available on the network only at certain times. But international providers such as Netflix, Amazon and Co. can hardly be controlled.

Some politicians dream of algorithm-based solutions to check YouTube, Amazon Video or iTunes – but this is hardly politically feasible. It would be conceivable to limit by law to inadmissible content such as pornography, racial hatred, glorification of violence, and to rely more on information and recommendations for the protection of minors.

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