British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) publishes new Classification Guidelines

A BBFC public consultation involving more than 10,000 people showed that young people and parents want to see an increase in classification guidance, particularly around online content, as well as more consistency across all platforms.

The BBFC says that demand for age classification has never been higher, with 97 per cent of people saying they benefit from age ratings being in place. 91 per cent of people (and 95 per cent of teenagers) want consistent age ratings that they recognise from the cinema and DVD to apply to content accessed through streaming services.

The BBFC’s consultation confirmed that people feel a heightened sense of anxiety when it comes to depictions of “real world” scenarios, in which audiences, especially young people, are likely to be concerned that it could happen to them. For example, realistic contemporary scenarios showing terrorism, self-harm, suicide and discriminatory behaviour. The research confirmed that the BBFC’s current category standards are reflecting the public mood.

The research also found that attitudes towards sexual threat and sexual violence have moved on since 2013/14. Although the BBFC already classifies such content restrictively, people said that certain depictions of rape in particular should receive a higher rating. The BBFC has therefore adjusted its Classification Guidelines in these areas.

People also said that they expect the strongest sex references, in particular those that use the language of pornography, to be classified at 18. The new guidelines reflect this demand.

The BBFC found film classification checking is most evident among parents of children under the age of 12, finding that 87 per cent check all or most of the time, and a further 9 per cent check occasionally. Interestingly, there has been a marked increase in the level of claimed classification checking by parents of children aged 12-14 years, up from 90 per cent ever checking in 2013 to 97 per cent in 2018.

The new guidelines will come into effect on 28 February 2019. To access the new guidelines, click here.