Published: 3rd June 2010

BBFC Publishes 2009 Annual Review

A year of declining submissions for cinema and DVD but increased online certification via the scheme is marked in the BBFC Annual Report for 2009, published today.

While the Board saw 'traditional' media submissions fall for the third year running, the voluntary classification scheme for video content being supplied by downloading and streaming continues to draw new content providers and suppliers*. 2009 was the first full calendar year of operation and saw online certificates reach over 8,000, covering film and television content.  The scheme was developed in the knowledge that the EU Audiovisual Services Directive would require the UK to introduce,  by the end of 2009,  a form of statutory regulation for certain video-on- demand services operating from within the UK. This EU Directive requires all member states to introduce certain basic rules for video-on-demand services which offer 'TV-like' content to the public.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:

"While we continue to see a decline in traditional submissions we are looking to an online future. Considering that is a voluntary scheme, we have chalked up an impressive membership list, reflecting the importance the digital industry places on effective content labelling. The industry recognises the trust which the public places in BBFC classifications and the well recognised and understood category symbols and black card. We see widespread use of BBFC classifications through this scheme as the best way of signalling to consumers, and in particular parents, the nature of the video-on-demand content being offered and its suitability for different age groups. "That a BBFC classification offers something of value to the industry, beyond a legal obligation, was also clear from the fact that the vast majority of distributors continued to submit their works for classification during the hiatus in the enforcement of the Video Recordings Act between August 2009 and January this year. Entertainment retailers also continued to restrict sales according to BBFC classifications. "As far as the public is concerned, 2009 saw the roll out of the latest set of classification Guidelines, based on the extensive consultation exercise carried out in 2008/9, which ensures that we are in touch with current public attitudes. The provision of Consumer Advice and Extended Classification Information on both our main website and our website for Parents - - means that anyone trying to decide which film they, or their family, should see has access to as much information as possible to enable them to make informed decisions."

In 2009 the BBFC rejected three works because they were considered to be potentially harmful; eleven cinema films were cut, but these were cuts made by distributors to obtain a lower category; and 341 DVD submissions were cut, the vast majority of which (208) were in the 'R18' category and were to remove illegal or potentially harmful material.

A number of older films were resubmitted with a view to having previous cut material reinstated or changes overturned for a modern classification. When the video version of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction came in for classification in 1994 a heroine injection scene was reframed to remove what was considered at the time to be instructional detail. In 2009 it came in again and the scene was passed uncut, based on up to date advice.

The House by the Cemetery, a 'video nasty' made in 1981, was passed uncut for the first time last year. The producer's cut of L'Empire des Sens - In the Realm of the Senses, the Nagisa Oshima classic 1976 study of sexual obsession, sadomasochism, madness and murder was submitted for a modern classification and passed '18' uncut.

2009 saw a reduction in the number of complaints to the BBFC and no one classification decision dominated the feedback from the public. Not everyone who complained to the Board had actually seen the film. The Board regularly receives complaints if a film is the subject of critical press coverage. Top end classification decisions regularly bring complaints from under age viewers who resent having their viewing or game playing restricted by our decisions. And some correspondents think the BBFC is responsible for everything from the historical accuracy of a film to the cost of the popcorn at the cinema.

Notes for Editors

The BBFC Annual Report is available online and from the BBFC direct.

* members

Content Providers:

  • Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Europe
  • 20th Century Fox
  • Warner Brothers
  • Paramount Pictures
  • Universal Pictures
  • 2 Entertain
  • BFI Video
  • Contender Home Entertainment
  • Lions Gate
  • Momentum Pictures
  • Revolver
  • Network (Sound & Vision)
  • 2K Games
  • Darker Enterprises
  • Harmony Video
  • Optimum Releasing
  • Hit Entertainment

Aggregators / E-tailers and Back Office Solution Providers:

  • LoveFilm
  • BT Vision
  • Coolroom
  • Tibboh Internet Services
  • Technicolor