British Board of Film Classification

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BBFC Tougher on Violence than US Counterpart

Date 21/05/2008

The BBFC is taking a tougher stance on violence in films aimed at young teenagers than the US film regulator, the MPAA (the Motion Picture Association of America). The differences are highlighted in the BBFC's 2007 Annual Report, published today.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:

"In 2007 a number of blockbuster Hollywood cinema films, in particular Cloverfield, Disturbia and I Am Legend came in to the BBFC for classification having received a 'PG13' classification (cautioning parents but allowing unrestricted access for children of any age) in the USA. In each case, the distributor request for a '12A' classification was refused and the films were all classified '15'. The studios were very keen to obtain a '12A' classification for them from the BBFC, but all featured extended periods of intense violent threat and moments of horror. The Board's view was that, based on the extensive public consultation exercises, the films went beyond what most members of the UK public would consider appropriate for children younger than fifteen. In each case, the Board's own judgement was that the films were likely to be disturbing to many younger children. These were not the only cases. Around ten percent of films each year which come in with a particular category request end up with a higher one than asked for.
"These decisions mark an increasing divergence between the US approach to classification for adolescents and young teenagers, and the position taken by the BBFC in the UK. While the US body, the industry led MPAA, takes a strict line on issues relating to nudity and sex, the BBFC is significantly more restrictive on violence and horror. Different, but equally significant, points of divergence can also be identified between the standards applied by the various European classification bodies: for example, French and British attitudes to children being exposed to graphic sexual representations are poles apart. Notions of harm and appropriateness remain culturally dependent: that is why all past attempts to develop a pan-European film classification system have fallen at the first hurdle. This is also why the BBFC puts so much emphasis on consultation with the UK public - BBFC decisions reflect UK public attitudes. All classification decisions are based on criteria set out in published Guidelines which are updated every few years."

The current Guidelines, published in 2005, were drafted following consultation with over 11,000 people in the UK. During 2008 the BBFC will embark on a new programme of consultation which will lead to the publication of new Guidelines in 2009. The consultation will cover the full range of categories and issues but initial qualitative research has suggested that the public would like particular attention paid to the criteria for works at '12'/'12A' (as this is the age at which children begin to have greater control over their own viewing) and to consider a number of issues in particular. These include: the importance of 'psychological impact' as well as visual detail, the treatment of issues such as racism and homophobia, and the usual concerns surrounding violence, horror and bad language.

The consultation will take place in stages. In the first stage, focus groups will discuss the issues in detail and identify any criteria which need to be added or amended. The Board will then produce a set of draft Guidelines which will be examined by reconvened groups from the first stage. After any necessary further revisions, support for the draft will then be assessed using large scale quantitative research methods. The Annual Report also focuses on the new online classification scheme for downloadable films and games, which was launched today. Details of 'BBFC.online' are available in a separate news release issued today and available on the BBFC's website. The Annual Report is available from the BBFC and is also available to download on www.bbfc.co.uk

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