Bbfc classification guidelines 2009


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Bbfc classification guidelines 2009

  1. 1. bbfc The Guidelines
  2. 2. Introduction 2General Principles 4Legal Considerations 5Consumer Advice 8Overarching Factors 10Main Issues 12The Categories 18U 20PG 2212A12 2415 2618 28R18 30Intervention 32Advice Viewings 34Appeals 34Websites 35June 2009
  3. 3. Introduction1. The British Board of Film 4. The BBFC classifies video worksClassification (BBFC) is an which are distributed other than asindependent, non-governmental body a video recording (for example, byfunded through the fees it charges to means of download or streamingthose who submit films and video over the internet) under a voluntaryworks for classification. Here, and scheme called the Guidelines, videoworks are taken to include video 5. The BBFC will not classify materialgames, and films and programmes which it believes to be in breach ofreleased on DVD or Blu-ray, or the criminal law.distributed by means of downloador streaming on the internet. 6.Where possible the BBFC will carry out its responsibilities through2. The BBFC classifies films on behalf appropriate use of the classificationof the local authorities who license categories, particularly in order tocinemas under the Licensing Act 2003. protect children from any harm which may be caused. If necessary,3. The BBFC classifies video works however, the BBFC may cut or evenwhich are released as video reject a film or video work. Therecordings under the Video BBFC’s approach to material whichRecordings Act 1984. (The video is unacceptable at any category isgames covered by the VRA are those set out in the ‘Intervention’ sectionwhose exemption is forfeited under of these Guidelines on page 32.section 2(2) because they depicthuman sexual activity, gross violenceor other matters of concern.)2
  4. 4. 7. In line with domestic administrative 9. The Guidelines, however, are notlaw principles and the requirements a legal document and should beof the Human Rights Act 1998, there interpreted in the spirit of what isis a particular need to make the intended as well as in the letter. Theyclassification criteria clear. This is cannot be a comprehensive accountfulfilled by the publication of these of everything that may at any timeGuidelines and their availability on be of concern. Should issues arisethe BBFC website ( which are not specifically coveredor directly from the BBFC. (Contact here, they will be dealt with by thedetails can be found on the back cover.) BBFC on their merits and in line with the standards expressed and implied8. The BBFC Classification Guidelines in these Guidelines.reflect all these considerations and arethe product of public consultation with 10. Responsibility for the Guidelineschildren and adults, research and the and for their interpretation rests withaccumulated experience of the BBFC the BBFC and is subject to normalover many years. The Guidelines, considerations of fairness andand the BBFC’s practice in applying reasonableness.them, have particular regard to anychanges in public taste, attitudes and 11. The BBFC undertakes to provideconcerns; changes in the law; or new guidance on the interpretation ofevidence from research or expert these Guidelines on request.sources; and will be reviewedperiodically. 12. Before allowing a child to view a work, parents are advised to consider carefully the classification, together with any accompanying Consumer Advice. 3
  5. 5. General PrinciplesThe detail of the Guidelines is caused by, for example, desensitisingcontained in the following pages. a potential viewer to the effects ofBut it is right to set out here the violence, degrading a potentialgeneral underlying grounds on viewer’s sense of empathy,which the BBFC exercises the broad encouraging a dehumanised viewdiscretion conferred on it. There are of others, suppressing pro-socialtwo guiding principles: attitudes, encouraging anti-social attitudes, reinforcing unhealthy• that works should be allowed fantasies, or eroding a sense of to reach the widest audience moral responsibility. Especially with that is appropriate for their regard to children, harm may also theme and treatment include retarding social and moral development, distorting a viewer’s• that adults should, as far as sense of right and wrong, and limiting possible, be free to choose their capacity for compassion what they see, provided that it remains within the law and is 3. whether the availability of the not potentially harmful. material, at the age group concerned, is clearly unacceptable to broadWhen applying these guiding public opinion. It is on this ground,principles, there are three main for example, that the BBFCqualifications: intervenes in respect of bad language.1. whether the material is in conflict In assessing legal issues, potentialwith the law, or has been created harm or acceptability to broad publicthrough the commission of a opinion, the BBFC takes account ofcriminal offence relevant research and expert opinion. However, such research and expert2. whether the material, either on opinion is often lacking, imperfect,its own, or in combination with other disputed, inconclusive or contradictory.content of a similar nature, may In many cases the BBFC mustcause any harm at the category therefore rely on its collectiveconcerned. This includes not just experience and expertise to make aany harm that may result from the judgement as to the suitability of abehaviour of potential viewers, but work for classification, or foralso any ‘moral harm’ that may be classification at a particular category.4
  6. 6. Legal ConsiderationsHuman Rights Act 1998 The objectives of the Licensing ActAmong the rights established under are:this Act are the right of respect forprivate and family life, and the right • the prevention of crimeto freedom of expression. When and disorderclassifying works, the BBFC will • public safetyhave regard to the impact of any • the prevention of public nuisancedecision on the rights of any relevant • the protection of childrenperson. The Act permits such from harm.restrictions on freedom of expressionas are prescribed by law and are The Video Recordings Act 1984necessary in a democratic society, Video works (including films, TVin the interests of national security, programmes and video games)territorial integrity or public safety, which are supplied on a disc, tape orfor the prevention of disorder or any other device capable of storingcrime, for the protection of health data electronically must be classifiedor morals, for the protection of the by the BBFC unless they fall withinreputation or rights of others, for the definition of an exempted work.preventing the disclosure ofinformation received in confidence, When considering whether to awardor for maintaining the authority and a classification certificate to a work,impartiality of the judiciary. or whether to classify a work at a particular category, the BBFC isThe Licensing Act 2003 required by the Act to have specialCinemas require a licence from the regard (among the other relevantlocal authority in which they operate. factors) to the likelihood of worksThe licence must include a condition being viewed in the home, and to anyrequiring the admission of children harm that may be caused to potential(under 18) to any film to be restricted viewers or, through their behaviour,in accordance with the to society by the manner in which therecommendations of the BBFC or work deals with:the licensing authority. • criminal behaviour • illegal drugs • violent behaviour or incidents • horrific behaviour or incidents • human sexual activity. 5
  7. 7. In considering these issues the BBFC sexual interference with a humanhas in mind the possible effect not corpse; or involves bestiality. Worksonly on children but also on other classified by the BBFC under thevulnerable people. Video Recordings Act are excluded from the scope of the offence.The Obscene Publications Act1959 & 1964 The Protection of Children Act 1978It is illegal to publish a work which is It is illegal to make, distribute, showobscene. A work is obscene if, taken or possess indecent photographs oras a whole, it has a tendency to pseudo-photographs of a child. It isdeprave and corrupt (ie, make also illegal to make, distribute, showmorally bad) a significant proportion or possess indecent images ofof those likely to see it. However, no children which have been derivedoffence is committed if publication from a photograph or pseudo-is justified as being for the public photograph (for example, by tracing).good on the grounds that it is in the A child is defined as a person underinterests of science, art, literature the age of 18.or learning or other objects ofgeneral concern. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 It is illegal to expose oneself withCriminal Justice and intent to cause alarm or distress – thisImmigration Act 2008 offence augments the common lawIt is illegal to be in possession misdemeanour of indecent exposure.of an extreme pornographic image. The Act also prohibits a personAn extreme pornographic image is recording the private act of another,one which is pornographic and where the intention of the recordinggrossly offensive, disgusting is for the sexual gratification ofor otherwise of an obscene character, himself or a third party and where thewhich features an apparently real recorded party has not consented toperson, and which portrays, in an so being filmed.explicit and realistic way, an actwhich: threatens a person’s life; The Public Order Act 1986results, or is likely to result, in It is illegal to distribute, show orserious injury to a person’s anus, play to the public a recording ofbreasts or genitals; involves visual images or sounds which are6
  8. 8. threatening, abusive or insulting if The Tobacco Advertisingthe intention is to stir up racial hatred and Promotion Act 2002or hatred on the grounds of sexual It is illegal, in the course of aorientation, or if racial hatred or business, to publish a tobaccohatred on the grounds of sexual advertisement.orientation is likely to be stirred up.It is also illegal to distribute, show Other unlawful materialor play to the public a recording of In carrying out its responsibilities,visual images or sounds which are the BBFC will have regard to whetherthreatening if the intention is to stir the material itself appears to beup religious hatred. unlawful in the United Kingdom, or has arisen from the commissionThe Cinematograph Films of an unlawful act.(Animals) Act 1937It is illegal to show any scene‘organised or directed’ for thepurposes of the film that involvesactual cruelty to animals. This Actapplies to the exhibition of filmsin public cinemas but the BBFC alsoapplies the same test to video works.For the purposes of this legislationand The Animal Welfare Act 2006, onlyvertebrates which are domesticatedor otherwise under the control of manare defined as ‘animals’.The Animal Welfare Act 2006It is illegal to supply, publish or showor possess with intent to supply avideo recording of an ‘animal fight’that has taken place within GreatBritain since 6 April 2007. 7
  9. 9. Consumer AdviceThe BBFC’s Consumer Advice enables Consumer Advice is a briefthe public to make informed choices description of the content whichabout the films, DVDs and interactive determined the classificationworks available to them. of a film, DVD or video game. As well as noting particular issues such as violence, sex, language, drugs or any other matters likely to be of concern, it can also highlight themes, such as suicide, or contexts, such as comedy or fantasy, which can influence the strength of the material. At the junior categories Consumer Advice can also warn of behaviour which may be potentially harmful if copied, or highlight content, such as characters in dangerous situations, which might frighten or upset younger viewers. Consumer Advice indicates the strength of individual issues by using the terms ‘mild’, ‘moderate’, ‘strong’ and ‘very strong’, across the categories. For example, language at ‘U’ and ‘PG’ is likely to be ‘mild’ while at ‘15’ and ‘18’ language can be ‘strong’ and ‘very strong’. Where relevant, the frequency with which the issue appears in the work is also indicated.8
  10. 10. With the co-operation of the film and Extendedvideo industry, Consumer Advice is Classification Informationroutinely displayed on both film For cinema films classifiedadvertising, including posters, on after July 2007, and video gamesprint media and television, and on classified after September 2007, thepackaging for video works. BBFC website also carries Extended Classification Information (ECI).On film posters, the ConsumerAdvice should be found in a box ECI provides, over severalnear the film’s title, alongside the paragraphs, a more detailedclassification, for example: explanation of the classification issues that defined the work’s category. It also notes any12A CONTAINS MODERATE HORROR AND COMIC ACTION-ADVENTURE VIOLENCE additional content which did not determine the classification but may be of interest to the likely audience.On DVDs or video gamesclassified by the BBFC, Consumer The Parents BBFC website alsoAdvice should be found on the back provides detailed content informationof the packaging, alongside the tailored specifically for parentsclassification symbol, for example: and guardians. It is designed for adults who want a more detailed understanding of the issues they are CONTAINS FREQUENT STRONG likely to find in a film, DVD or video BLOODY VIOLENCE AND VERY game before they allow a child to see STRONG LANGUAGE or play it. Parents BBFC can be found at Suitable for persons of 18 years and over. Not to be supplied to any person below that ageConsumer Advice is alsoavailable on the BBFC websites, 9
  11. 11. Overarching FactorsThere are certain overarching Contextfactors that may influence a The context in which an issueclassification decision at any level (such as sex, language or violence)and in connection with any issue. is presented is central to the questionThese factors are of particular of its acceptability.importance when a work lies on theborderline between two categories. When considering context,The guidance set out under ‘The the following factors, amongstCategories’ should therefore others, may be taken into account:be read in the light of the moregeneral advice offered here • the expectations of the publicand under ‘Main Issues’ and in general and the work’s‘General Principles’. audience in particular • the work’s genre. For example, a realistic or contemporary approach may intensify the effect. By contrast a historical or fantasy setting, or comic presentation, may soften the effect • the manner in which an issue is presented. For example, language used aggressively may be dealt with more stringently than the same terms used in a comic way • the apparent intention of the film maker, as reflected in its effect. For example, whether the work is intended to be educational10
  12. 12. • the original production date of Release format the work. For example, outdated Classification decisions may be attitudes which might be stricter on video works than on film. considered offensive in a This is on account of the increased contemporary work may be possibility of under-age viewing or treated more leniently in a much game playing recognised in the Video older, and obviously dated, work Recordings Act, and of works being replayed or viewed out of context.• any special merits of the work. Accordingly, a video work may occasionally receive a higherTone and impact classification than on film, orThe overall tone of a work may also require new or different cuts.affect the classification decision.While the presentation of specificissues, such as sex and violence, maynot be problematic at a particularcategory, if the work has a generallydark or unsettling tone that maydisturb the audience at that category,then it may receive a more restrictiveclassification. At the junior categories,and on the borderline betweencategories, such considerations asthe degree of fantasy; the level ofconnection to the real world; and theextent to which the work presents adespairing view of the world or lacksa clear moral perspective may beimportant factors. The impact of awork (ie, how it makes the audiencefeel) is also taken into account, forexample in relation to horror filmswhere threat may be more significantthan violence. 11
  13. 13. Main IssuesThis section of the Guidelines Discriminationidentifies some concerns which apply, Potentially offensive content, relatingto a greater or a lesser degree, at all to such matters as race, gender,classification levels. It sets out the religion, disability or sexuality, maygeneral approach taken with regard arise in a wide range of works, andto such concerns, given the general the classification decision willprinciples set out earlier. take account of the strength or impact of its inclusion. The context in whichThe pages following this section such content may appear also has aprovide specific guidance for ‘U’ bearing on the classification. Worksthrough to ‘18’ under the heading with such content may receive a‘The Categories’. The guidance there less restrictive category whereshould be read in the light of the more discriminatory language andgeneral advice offered here and under behaviour is implicitly or explicitly‘Overarching Factors’ and ‘General criticised; or the work as a wholePrinciples’. seeks to challenge such attitudes, or is obviously dated. Drugs No work taken as a whole may promote the misuse of drugs and any detailed portrayal of drug misuse likely to promote or glamorise the activity may be cut. Works which show drug misuse while emphasising the dangers may receive less restrictive classifications than works that present drug misuse in a neutral manner. Where smoking, alcohol abuse or substance misuse feature to a significant extent in works which appeal to children, this will normally be indicated in the Consumer Advice and/or Extended Classification Information.12
  14. 14. Classification decisions will also a whole, actively promote illegaltake into account any promotion or behaviour will be cut or rejected.glamorisation of such activities. Portrayals of potentially dangerousHorror behaviour (especially relating toThe use of frightening elements hanging, suicide and self-harm)which might scare or unsettle an which children and young peopleaudience is part of a long tradition of are likely to copy, will be cut if astory telling and film making. Many more restrictive classification ischildren enjoy the excitement of not appropriate.scary sequences, but, where filmsare targeted at a younger audience, Languageclassification decisions will take into Many people are offended, some ofaccount such factors as the frequency, them deeply, by bad language. Thislength and detail of scary scenes as may include the use of expletiveswell as horror effects, including with a sexual, religious or racialmusic and sound, and whether there association, offensive language aboutis a swift and reassuring outcome. minority groups and commonly understood rude gestures. The extentOlder audiences often pay to see of that offence may vary according tohorror films because they like being age, gender, race, background,frightened or shocked and such works beliefs and expectations brought byare classified at an appropriate viewers to the work, as well as thecategory to ensure that the young context in which the word, expressionand vulnerable are protected from or gesture is used.too intense an experience. For these reasons, it is impossible toImitable behaviour set out comprehensive lists of words,Classification decisions will take into expressions or gestures which areaccount any detailed portrayal of acceptable at each category. Thecriminal and violent techniques, and advice at different classificationany glamorisation of easily accessible levels, therefore, provides generalweapons, such as knives. Works which guidance taking account of the viewsportray anti-social behaviour (for expressed in public consultationexample, bullying) uncritically are exercises.likely to receive a more restrictiveclassification. Works which, taken as 13
  15. 15. Nudity ‘R18’films may be shown only inNatural nudity with no sexual context specially licensed acceptable at all classificationlevels, but will not occur more than These Guidelines will be applied tooccasionally in the lowest category. the same standard regardless of sexual orientation.Nudity with a sexual contextwill receive a more restrictive Themeclassification and strong detail in Classification decisions will takesuch a context will only be passed into account the theme of a work,in the adult categories. but will depend significantly on the treatment of that theme, andSex especially the sensitivity of itsThe portrayal of sexual activity can presentation. However, the mostrange from kissing and verbal problematic themes (for example,references to ‘making love’, to detail drug abuse, sexual violence,of real sex. This is reflected in the paedophilia, incitement to racialclassification system, in which hatred or violence) are unlikely to beprogressively stronger portrayals appropriate at the most junior levelsare allowed as the categories rise. of classification. Correspondingly, there is no reason in principle whySex works (works whose primary most themes, however difficult, couldpurpose is sexual arousal or not be presented in a manner whichstimulation) are likely to be passed allowed classification at ‘18’ oronly in the adult categories. Sex works even ‘15’.containing only material which maybe simulated are generally passed Violence‘18’. Sex works containing clear Violence has always been a feature ofimages of real sex, strong fetish entertainment for children and adults.material, sexually explicit animated Classification decisions will takeimages, or other very strong sexual account of the degree and nature ofimages will be confined to the ‘R18’ any violence in a work.category. ‘R18’ video works may besupplied only in licensed sex shopswhich no one under 18 may enter.14
  16. 16. Works which feature the following If the title of a work is likely to causeare likely to receive more restrictive significant offence to a significantclassifications: portrayal of violence number of people if displayed in aas a normal solution to problems, public place, the distributor will beheroes who inflict pain and injury, advised to consider carefully thecallousness towards victims, the places in which it is likely to be seenencouragement of aggressive and to take appropriate action,attitudes, and content which depicts for example by obscuring certaincharacters taking pleasure in pain words on packaging or marketingor humiliation. materials. (This advice is not given in relation to works classified ‘R18’Sexualised violence or works which as such works can only be suppliedglorify or glamorise violence will or offered for supply in a licensed sexreceive a more restrictive shop.) In extreme cases, assurancesclassification and may even be cut. on public display of the full title, or changes to the title, may be requiredA strict policy on sexual violence and as a condition of classification.rape is applied. Content which mighteroticise or endorse sexual violence Photo or pattern sensitivity, motionmay require cuts at any classification sickness and reactions to lowlevel. This is more likely with video frequency soundworks than film because of the A small number of viewers arepotential for replaying scenes out sensitive to flashing and flickeringof context. Any association of sex with light, or some shapes and patterns,non-consensual restraint, pain or and may experience seizures or otherhumiliation may be cut. serious physical effects. In addition, some viewers experience feelings ofTitles motion sickness or other symptomsIf the title of a work incites hatred on when viewing works which featuregrounds of race, religion or sexual hand held or otherwise movingorientation, or incites other criminal camerawork, or which feature verybehaviour; or encourages an interest low frequency abusive or illegal sexual activity,changes will be required as a It is the responsibility of film makerscondition of classification. and distributors to identify works in 15
  17. 17. which such issues may arise and For these reasons, classificationto ensure that, when required, decisions for trailers andappropriate warnings are given advertisements may be moreto viewers. restrictive than for equivalent material in a main feature, forSuch effects are therefore not normally example:taken into account when reaching aclassification decision. However, if it • strong language is not permittedis obvious during viewing that the in trailers or advertisements atwork is highly likely to affect a any category below ‘15’significant number of viewers, theBBFC may advise the distributor of • only one use of strong languagethe need to ensure that appropriate is permitted in a trailer orwarnings are in place. In extreme advertisement at ‘15’ and must becases, assurances regarding the neither threatening nor aggressive.display of appropriate warningsmay be required as a condition of Advertisements for alcohol of anyclassification. type can be passed at any category. However, these may receive a moreTrailers/advertisements restrictive classification if there areAudiences actively choose to see overt attempts to associate alcohola full length feature based on with sexual prowess and/or aexpectations of the particular genre glamorous or successful the given classification and on theConsumer Advice and Extended Advertisements for tobaccoClassification Information provided by are prohibited by law.the BBFC. In contrast, audiences haveno choice about the accompanying The BBFC is not responsible for thetrailers or advertisements which may exhibition of cinema trailers andbe very different in tone and content advertisements, including alcoholto the film the audience has chosen to advertising, and has no involvementview. In addition, because trailers and in deciding which films they appearadvertisements are short and before. This process is theself-contained, borderline material is responsibility of the cinema.less likely to be justified by contextand more likely to cause offence.16
  18. 18. Public information realistic violence, may be asadvertisements/charity important as the level of detail shown,advertisements especially where such behaviourWhere an advertisement is part of a forms a major component of thepublic information campaign or has game, and where the level ofa charitable purpose, the more interactivity is high.restrictive approach set out abovewill not normally apply. However, In a video game, the frequency withpotentially shocking or offensive which an issue occurs is also oftencontent in such advertisements must difficult to quantify, as it will dependnot go beyond what is likely to be on how the player chooses to playacceptable to the particular audience. the game, and how many times a particular level is attempted beforeVideo games completion. Where frequency is aVideo games are classified under the category defining issue (for example,same Guidelines and using the same with respect to strong language), thecategories as ‘linear’ works such as BBFC bases its judgement on anfilm or DVD. assessment of the frequency with which a player is likely to encounterThe BBFC acknowledges the difference the issue during normal gameplay.between watching a film or DVD andthe more interactive experience of Given the lack of research,playing a game but recognises that, especially in relation to harm, andto date, limited research has been given the rapid developments in thedone into whether ‘interactivity’ has sophistication of video games, theany significant effect on the potential BBFC may take a more cautiousfor harm. approach when a video game lies on the borderline between two categories,In addition, the interactivity inherent or contains material which raisesin video games may, in certain issues of acceptability at the adultcontexts, lead to a greater potential categories.for some content to be consideredunsuitable for certain age groups.The ability of a game to make ayoung player complicit in behaviourinvolving, for example, sex, drugs or 17
  19. 19. The CategoriesThe BBFC endeavours to classifysubmitted works in one of thefollowing categories:The following pages set out Because works from time toguidance on how the main time present issues in waysissues (for example, sex and which cannot be anticipated,violence) are specifically these criteria will not beapplied from ‘U’ through to applied in an over-literal way‘R18’. The criteria should be if such an interpretation wouldread in the light of the general lead to an outcome which wouldapproach set out earlier confound audience expectations.under ‘General Principles’,‘Overarching Factors’ and‘Main Issues’.18
  20. 20. 19
  21. 21. U Universal – Discrimination No discriminatory language or behaviour unlessSuitable for all clearly disapproved of. DrugsIt is impossible to predict what No references to illegal drugs or drug misuse unlessmight upset any particular they are infrequent and innocuous, or there is a clear educational purpose or anti-drug message suitablechild. But a ‘U’ film should be for young children.suitable for audiences aged four Horroryears and over. ‘U’ films should Scary sequences should be mild, brief and unlikely tobe set within a positive moral cause undue anxiety to young children. The outcome should be reassuring.framework and should offerreassuring counterbalances to Imitable behaviourany violence, threat or horror. No potentially dangerous behaviour which young children are likely to copy. No emphasis on realistic or easily accessible weapons.If a work is particularly suitable Languagefor a pre-school child to view Infrequent use only of very mild bad language.alone, this will be indicated in Nuditythe Consumer Advice. Occasional natural nudity, with no sexual context. Sex Mild sexual behaviour (for example, kissing) and references only (for example, to ‘making love’). Theme While problematic themes may be present, their treatment must be sensitive and appropriate for young children. Violence Mild violence only. Occasional mild threat or menace only. 21
  22. 22. PG Parental Guidance – Discrimination Discriminatory language or behaviour is unlikely toGeneral viewing, but some be acceptable unless clearly disapproved of or in anscenes may be unsuitable educational or historical context. Discrimination by a character with which children can readily identifyfor young children is unlikely to be acceptable. DrugsUnaccompanied children of References to illegal drugs or drug misuse must beany age may watch. A ‘PG’ innocuous or carry a suitable anti-drug should not disturb a child Horroraged around eight or older. Frightening sequences should not be prolonged or intense. Fantasy settings may be a mitigating factor.However, parents are advisedto consider whether the content Imitable behaviourmay upset younger or more No detail of potentially dangerous behaviour which young children are likely to copy. No glamorisationsensitive children. of realistic or easily accessible weapons. Language Mild bad language only. Nudity Natural nudity, with no sexual context. Sex Sexual activity may be implied, but should be discreet and infrequent. Mild sex references and innuendo only. Theme Where more serious issues are featured (for example, domestic violence) nothing in their treatment should condone unacceptable behaviour. Violence Moderate violence, without detail, may be allowed, if justified by its context (for example, history, comedy or fantasy). 23
  23. 23. 12A/12 – Discrimination Discriminatory language or behaviour must not beSuitable for 12 years and over endorsed by the work as a whole. Aggressive discriminatory language or behaviour is unlikely to be acceptable unless clearly condemned.Exactly the same criteria areused to classify works at ‘12A’ Drugs Any misuse of drugs must be infrequent and shouldand ‘12’. These categories are not be glamorised or give instructional detail.awarded where the material is Horrorsuitable, in general, only for Moderate physical and psychological threat may bethose aged 12 and over. Works permitted, provided disturbing sequences are not frequent or sustained.classified at these categoriesmay upset children under 12 Imitable behaviouror contain material which many Dangerous behaviour (for example, hanging, suicide and self-harming) should not dwell on detail which could beparents will find unsuitable copied, or appear pain or harm free. Easily accessiblefor them. weapons should not be glamorised. LanguageThe ‘12A’ category exists only Moderate language is allowed. The use of strong language (for example, ‘fuck’) must be infrequent.for cinema films. No one youngerthan 12 may see a ‘12A’ film in a Nudity Nudity is allowed, but in a sexual context must be briefcinema unless accompanied by and adult, and films classified Sex‘12A’ are not recommended for a Sexual activity may be briefly and discreetly portrayed.child below 12. An adult may take Sex references should not go beyond what is suitable fora younger child if, in their young teenagers. Frequent crude references are unlikely to be acceptable.judgement, the film is suitablefor that particular child. In such Theme Mature themes are acceptable, but their treatment mustcircumstances, responsibility for be suitable for young teenagers.allowing a child under 12 to view Violencelies with the accompanying adult. Moderate violence is allowed but should not dwell on detail. There should be no emphasis on injuries or blood, but occasional gory moments may be permitted ifThe ‘12’ category exists only for justified by the works. No one younger than Sexual violence may only be implied or briefly and discreetly indicated, and must have a strong contextual12 may rent or buy a ‘12’ rated work. 25
  24. 24. 15 – Discrimination The work as a whole must not endorse discriminatorySuitable only for 15 years language or behaviour.and over Drugs Drug taking may be shown but the film as a whole must notNo one younger than 15 may promote or encourage drug misuse. The misuse of easily accessible and highly dangerous substances (for example,see a ‘15’ film in a cinema. aerosols or solvents) is unlikely to be acceptable.No one younger than 15 may Horrorrent or buy a ‘15’ rated Strong threat and menace are permitted unless sadisticvideo work. or sexualised. Imitable behaviour Dangerous behaviour (for example, hanging, suicide and self-harming) should not dwell on detail which could be copied. Easily accessible weapons should not be glamorised. Language There may be frequent use of strong language (for example, ‘fuck’). The strongest terms (for example, ‘cunt’) may be acceptable if justified by the context. Aggressive or repeated use of the strongest language is unlikely to be acceptable. Nudity Nudity may be allowed in a sexual context but without strong detail. There are no constraints on nudity in a non-sexual or educational context. Sex Sexual activity may be portrayed without strong detail. There may be strong verbal references to sexual behaviour, but the strongest references are unlikely to be acceptable unless justified by context. Works whose primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation are unlikely to be acceptable. Theme No theme is prohibited, provided the treatment is appropriate for 15 year olds. Violence Violence may be strong but should not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury. The strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable. Strong sadistic or sexualised violence is also unlikely to be acceptable. There may be detailed verbal references to sexual violence but any portrayal of sexual violence must be discreet and have a strong contextual justification. 27
  25. 25. Suitable only for adults In line with the consistent findings of the BBFC’s public consultations and The Human Rights Act 1998, at ‘18’ the BBFC’s guideline concerns will not normally overrideNo-one younger than 18 may the principle that adults should be free to choose their own entertainment. Exceptions are most likely in thesee an ‘18’ film in a cinema. following areas:No-one younger than 18 may • where the material is in breach of the criminal law,rent or buy an ‘18’ rated video. or has been created through the commission of a criminal offence • where material or treatment appears to the BBFC to risk harm to individuals or, through their behaviour, to society – for example, any detailed portrayal of violent or dangerous acts, or of illegal drug use, which may cause harm to public health or morals. This may include portrayals of sexual or sexualised violence which might, for example, eroticise or endorse sexual assault • where there are more explicit images of sexual activity which cannot be justified by context. Such images may be appropriate in ‘R18’ works, and in ‘sex works’ (see below) would normally be confined to that category. In the case of video works (including video games), which may be more accessible to younger viewers, intervention may be more frequent than for cinema films. Sex education at ‘18’ Where sex material genuinely seeks to inform and educate in matters such as human sexuality, safer sex and health, explicit images of sexual activity may be permitted. Sex works at ‘18’ Sex works are works whose primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation. Sex works containing only material which may be simulated are generally passed ‘18’. Sex works containing clear images of real sex, strong fetish material, sexually explicit animated images, or other very strong sexual images will be confined to the ‘R18’ category. Material which is unacceptable in a sex work at ‘R18’ is also unacceptable in a sex work at ‘18’. 29
  26. 26. R18 - To be shown only in The following content is not acceptable:specially licensed cinemas, • any material which is in breach of the criminal law,or supplied only in licensed sex including material judged to be obscene under the current interpretation of the Obscene Publicationsshops, and to adults of not less Act 1959than 18 years • material (including dialogue) likely to encourage an interest in sexually abusive activity (for example,The ‘R18’ category is a paedophilia, incest or rape) which may include adults role-playing as non-adultsspecial and legally restrictedclassification primarily for • the portrayal of any sexual activity which involves lack of consent (whether real or simulated). Any formexplicit works of consenting of physical restraint which prevents participants fromsex or strong fetish material indicating a withdrawal of consentinvolving adults. Films may • the infliction of pain or acts which may cause lastingonly be shown to adults in physical harm, whether real or (in a sexual context)specially licensed cinemas, simulated. Some allowance may be made for moderate, non-abusive, consensual activityand video works may besupplied to adults only in • penetration by any object associated with violence or likely to cause physical harmlicensed sex shops. ‘R18’ videoworks may not be supplied by • any sexual threats, humiliation or abuse which does not form part of a clearly consenting role-playingmail order. game. Strong physical or verbal abuse, even if consensual, is unlikely to be acceptable. These Guidelines will be applied to the same standard regardless of sexual orientation. 31
  27. 27. InterventionWhere possible, the BBFC deals Cuts for categorywith any issues raised in a submitted If the submitted work is suitable forwork through classification at the classification, but only at a categoryappropriate category. In some cases, higher than that requested by thehowever, assurances, cuts or other submitting company, the BBFC willchanges (for example, the addition consider whether a lower categoryof warning captions) will be required could be achieved through relativelyas a condition of classification, or minor or simple changes. If so, theas a condition of classification at BBFC may offer the submittinga particular category. In some company a choice of accepting thecircumstances a work may be higher category or making definedrejected, ie refused a classification changes to achieve a lower any category. The General Principlesunder which such decisions are made The decision to offer such ‘cuts forare set out on page 4. Details of category’ is at the discretion of theinterventions are published on the BBFC and this option is unlikely to bemain BBFC website. available if the required changes would be extensive or complex, or if the effect of possible changes would be difficult to predict. In such circumstances, the submitting company may choose to make a new submission of a different version of the work at a later date.32
  28. 28. Compulsory cuts • sex works which contain materialIf a submitted work raises issues or listed as unacceptable at ‘R18’.concerns that cannot be addressed byclassification at a particular category, When the issue relates to thecuts or other changes may be required circumstances of filming (foras a condition of classification. Such example, in relation to animal crueltyintervention is most likely with or public indecency) the submittingregard to the following: company will normally be given an opportunity to present evidence• material which may promote before a final decision is reached. illegal activity Rejects• material which is obscene or If a central concept of the work is otherwise illegal unacceptable (for example, a sex work with a rape theme); or if• material created by means of the intervention in any of the ways commission of a criminal offence noted above is not acceptable to the submitting company; or if the• portrayals of children in a changes required would be extensive sexualised or abusive context or complex; the work may be rejected, ie refused a classification• sexual violence or sexualised at any category. violence which endorses or eroticises the behaviour• sadistic violence or torture which invites the viewer to identify with the perpetrator in a way which raises a risk of harm• graphic images of real injury, violence or death presented in a salacious or sensationalist manner which risks harm by encouraging callous or sadistic attitudes 33
  29. 29. Advice viewings AppealsA distributor may submit works for The BBFC offers a formaladvice at any stage of the production ‘reconsideration’ procedure which isprocess. Advice given in such open to any distributor dissatisfiedcircumstances is not binding and the with the determination made in respectBBFC reserves the right to reach a of their work. The reconsideration isdifferent decision when the work is free of charge and will normally takesubmitted for classification in finished less than 10 working days.form. If the version of the worksubmitted for classification differs in A distributor may also appeal directlyany significant respect to that seen for to an independent authority. Such anadvice, and if the changes appear to appeal may take place following,reflect advice given by the BBFC, then or instead of, a request fordetails of the changes will be noted on reconsideration by the BBFC. In thethe main BBFC website. case of films, the distributor (or any member of the public) may address itself to the local authority which licenses cinemas in a particular area. In the case of video works (including DVDs, video games, etc) a distributor may appeal to the Video Appeals Committee which is independent of the BBFC and can be contacted by post at: VAC, PO Box 6949, London, W1A 3TZ or by email at Distributors should note that a reconsideration or an appeal involves looking at the issues afresh. This means that the outcome could, in some circumstances, be more restrictive than the original determination. The public can make its views known to the BBFC at any stage of the classification process.34
  30. 30. Websites The main BBFC website The Parents BBFC is designed to keep provides parentsthe public and the industry informed with clear, concise, specially tailoredabout the work of the organisation. information about films, video gamesIt includes up to the minute and classification, helping theminformation about classification make informed choices about whatdecisions; the policies and Guidelines is suitable for their children. Thisused by the BBFC when classifying a information includes the relevantwork; how to submit a film, DVD or Consumer Advice, a brief summaryvideo game for classification; as well of the film or video game, and severalas general information about the BBFC. paragraphs of Extended Consumer Advice. For cinema films, the siteThere is a page for each work also offers the opportunity to watchclassified by the BBFC, giving details the trailer and find out where the filmof the classification together with is showing.Consumer Advice (for most worksclassified since 1996) and ExtendedClassification Information (for mostvideo games and cinema filmsclassified since mid-2007). If a workhas been cut, or subject to some otherform of intervention as a condition ofthe classification awarded, this willbe shown. Details of works refusedclassification (‘Rejects’) are alsodisplayed. 35
  31. 31. Students’ BBFC Children’s is our educational is our fun websitewebsite for teachers and students for younger children offering games,from GCSE to postgraduate levels. puzzles, information about films andThe site contains information and video games, news, and a chance tonews about classification; timelines; classify studies on controversial, famousand historical classificationdecisions; regularly updated articles;and study guides. There is also aspecial area for teachers.36
  32. 32. bbfcBritish Board of Film Classification3 Soho SquareLondonW1D 3HDT 020 7440 1570F 020 7287 0141e-mail: