Published: 15th June 2023

BBFC announces collaboration with Amazon Web Services on AI project

  • Groundbreaking project exploring the power of AI solutions in content classification. 
  • Combining over 110 years of the BBFC’s classification experience with AI technology. 
  • Building scalable solutions to support the film industry, with human expertise at the centre. 
  • In line with the BBFC’s core mission of helping UK audiences choose the content that’s right for them. 
  • Funding grant received from Innovate UK, the Government’s national innovation agency. 

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has today announced the first phase of its development project to explore the power of AI solutions in content classification. Driven by the BBFC’s vast dataset and unparalleled human insight from over a century of viewing content, and harnessing the power of AWS cloud services that support AI technologies, the project will complement the BBFC’s existing classification and compliance processes. 

Building on the BBFC’s significant and long-standing classification expertise, the AI solutions are designed to bring efficiencies to the end-to-end human viewing process. With the recent recruitment of four new Compliance Officers, the expanded team will continue to be at the centre of classification for years to come. Their expertise will always remain essential in ensuring the BBFC’s classification practices remain in step with the expectations of UK audiences.

Partly funded by Innovate UK, the BBFC is developing a prototype for a bespoke AI tool that will identify and tag content issues, and is working in close collaboration with the AWS Machine Learning Solutions Lab and AWS Professional Services teams. AWS have provided their machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) technologies to develop this multimodal tool. 

The alpha testing phase is currently underway and demonstrates promising initial figures, with the tool achieving 80% accuracy when identifying content issues. Initial statistics also highlight the potential for this tool to bring large-scale efficiencies to compliance teams by delivering possible time-savings of 60%. The project is further supported by the University of Bath’s Department of Computer Science to maintain the highest levels of data ethics and to mitigate data and algorithmic bias. 

Additionally, the BBFC is building a separate tool to determine and assign international age ratings, which can be used in conjunction with the tagging tool. This scalable solution aims to enable distributors and streaming services to obtain age ratings and content advice for multiple territories in a streamlined and cost-effective way. Both of these tools share the ultimate goal of driving down the cost of classification in the future.

With the BBFC’s expertly-trained Compliance Officers as the drivers of these AI tools now and into the future, the project is another mark of the BBFC’s ongoing commitment to deliver for its customers, and to explore innovative classification methods to meet the changing ways people watch and consume content. 

The BBFC’s classification standards are underpinned by published Classification Guidelines, which set the foundation for all classification decisions and are informed through research with more than 10,000 people across the UK to ensure classification decisions reflect current UK societal standards. The guidelines are updated every 4-5 years and the BBFC is consulting on its guidelines this year, with any changes required by the research coming into effect in early 2024.

Natasha Kaplinksy OBE, President of the BBFC said: “This announcement marks an incredibly exciting transition for the BBFC, as we continue to embrace new technology to help us achieve our core mission of supporting people and families across the UK to make informed viewing decisions about the content they consume. We recognise that in the coming years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is likely to play a part in a blended approach to classification. Through this project, we are exploring ways in which AI might support and enhance the BBFC’s classification work, including online. I’m proud to be leading such a cultural institution of over 110 years into the future of classification.”

David Austin OBE, Chief Executive of the BBFC said: “With the exponential growth of online content over the last few years, we’re investing in these new products and the development of scalable solutions to improve our service by making the guidance we provide even more useful to families. Although in its infancy, we’re confident that this project will bring added value to the wider industry by bringing down the cost of classification in the future. We’re pleased to be working with AWS to help make this a reality.”

He added: “The BBFC has been classifying content for over a century, helping people across the UK make informed decisions about the content they watch. These products will continue to enable audiences to choose well by increasing coverage of trusted age ratings and content advice that reflect local standards to ensure safer viewing experiences for parents and families. Our industry-leading Compliance Officers – who are the well-established experts when it comes to content and classification both offline and online – will be at the very heart of this new classification technology now and in years to come.” 

Chris Hayman, Director of UK Public Sector at AWS said: “We’re delighted to be collaborating with the BBFC as they continue to adopt new digital technologies and drive down the cost of film classification. The BBFC’s work helps people to make responsible and informed decisions about what they watch, and we’re proud of the work we are doing with the BBFC to explore how the AWS Cloud and AI technologies can be used to help classify high volumes of content in a scalable way.”

Esra Kasapoglu, Director of AI and Data Economy at Innovate UK said: “The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) plays a significant role in helping UK audiences choose the content that’s right for them and ensuring classification decisions reflect UK societal standards. The announcement of this ground-breaking AI project is a major milestone that we are delighted to see achieved through industry collaboration. Pioneered by the BBFC, this innovative technology will be complementary to the human expertise honed by viewing content for more than a century. As part of UK Research and Innovation, Innovate UK is proud to be supporting this new project at a pivotal time for the industry, as well as assisting other creatives and innovators across the country.”

Julian Padget, Department of Computer Science at the University of Bath said: “As a Department, we are delighted to be supporting the team on this exciting project. What is particularly timely about this is the opportunity it provides to put into practice the principles set out in the emerging standards at ISO and IEEE. The formation of the BBFC’s AI Ethics Committee is a clear step in the BBFC’s ongoing commitment to establish policies and procedures concerning AI ethics, and we are pleased to contribute to those activities. We look forward to continuing to share our expertise to ensure that the project’s processes and outputs are benefiting from the latest thinking on the consideration of bias in data-driven systems.”

About the tools:

Tagging tool: A software solution produced in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), this tool aims to identify and tag content issues in line with the BBFC's published Classification Guidelines, which are reviewed by BBFC Compliance Officers and used to generate BBFC age ratings.

Age rating tool: Designed to be used in conjunction with the tagging tool, this patented scalable software solution uses AI to learn the correlation between classification issues in accordance with the BBFC's Classification Guidelines, as well as classification issues in other territories. Over time, the AI collects a list of rules which it uses to generate accurate, localised age ratings for territories across the globe. These rules will be continually updated as new content and classification standards become available.

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The BBFC is independent and not-for-profit, and here to help everyone in the UK – especially children and families – choose age-appropriate films, videos and websites, wherever and however they watch or use them. Now, as well as classifying films released in UK cinemas and on DVD and Blu-ray, it’s providing age-ratings for Video On Demand and music videos online, and helping Mobile Network Operators set parental controls at the right level. Please visit for further information.

Innovate UK inspires, involves and invests in businesses developing life-changing innovations to create a better future. Providing sectors with expertise, facilities and funding, Innovate UK helps test, demonstrate and evolve ideas, driving UK productivity and economic growth. Innovate UK’s network and communities of innovators realise the potential of ideas and accelerate business growth. For more information visit

The Department of Computer Science at the University of Bath is highly-ranked (Top 10 for Computer Science In The Complete University Guide 2024), and offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees covering a range of computer science specialisms. They offer excellent graduate prospects and enjoy strong links to industry.

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