Published: 30th June 2021

Classifying content during COVID-19: BBFC Annual Report 2020

BBFC Annual Report reveals insights into media regulation during the pandemic

  • For the first time in its 100 year history, BBFC classified theatrical content from home, as remote working became the norm for the UK

  • Organisation pivoted outreach work to support parents home learning with their children

  • The BBFC classified 4,033 video submissions; 2,310 online submissions; 619 theatrical films during 2020

  • 15 was the most popular age rating for theatrical and online submissions

Today, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has published its Annual Report for 2020, outlining how the media regulator shifted its operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For the first time in the organisation’s 100 year history, Compliance Officers watched cinema releases remotely, with the help of the BBFC’s state-of-the-art cloud based submission and classification platform, Horizon.

The BBFC classified 4,033 video submissions, 2,310 submissions for online distribution, and its innovative partnership with Netflix hit a significant milestone, with the streaming service achieving 100% coverage of BBFC age ratings and ratings info on their UK platform. 

The most common age rating for online and physical media submissions was 15, with the BBFC classifying 2,548 pieces of content with the age rating.

For the movie industry, the BBFC classified 619 theatrical films in 2020 for cinemas to play in between lockdowns.

This included the re-classification of a number of older films, as cinemas shifted their focus towards bringing family friendly classics back onto the big screen while new blockbusters faced delays. In fact, one in 23 films classified by the BBFC in 2020 was a resubmission. 

The Annual Report discusses the reclassification of films such as The Karate Kid which was reclassified 12A, previously 15, and Rocky and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which the BBFC reclassified 12A up from PG. The report also outlines the reclassification of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, which the organisation reclassified PG, previously a U.

The most popular age rating on the big screen remains 15, with the BBFC rating over a third (224) of films for UK cinema goers with the classification.

David Austin, Chief Executive of the BBFC, said: “Last year was one of the toughest years that the film and TV industry has ever seen. But, even with the challenges we have all faced, we are proud to have continued our work providing straightforward advice that helps families decide what to watch with confidence, both in the cinema and at home. 

“Despite lockdown, people’s appetite for film and episodic content has only continued to grow. We are delighted that cinemas are now opening again, production studios are back filming, and more families can once again share a special big screen experience together. The pandemic has also underlined the importance of our work in the online space - with more people watching content on streaming services than ever before, it is vital that families are provided with trusted advice, age ratings and tools that we know they need to choose content well.”

The organisation also pivoted their outreach work to focus on reaching families who were watching more content at home for entertainment and educational purposes. For the first time, the organisation published a series of home learning resources, designed specifically for parents faced with educating their children from home. This initiative was supported by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and children’s charities. 

Read the full report on the BBFC website.