Published: 19th March 2024

On-screen violence is of increased concern for UK audiences

BBFC launches new Classification Guidelines reflecting shifts in public opinion towards violence, drug use, sex and use of language

Today, the BBFC publishes its new Classification Guidelines, informed by its largest-ever public consultation. Throughout 2023, the BBFC spoke to 12,000 people across the UK to explore what matters most to audiences when it comes to classification. 

The research found people are now more concerned about depictions of violence on screen in content across all age ratings. The findings demonstrated broad support for how the BBFC currently classifies violence, but audiences expressed concerns about how distressing or disturbing some forms of violence can be. Going forward, a higher rating may be required for violence across all age-rating categories, especially when particularly intense or impactful scenes occur. 

The last time the BBFC conducted this research was in 2019. Then, as now, sexual violence was the biggest area of concern for UK audiences. Since 2019, however, suicide and self-harm has risen to the second biggest area of concern - ahead of sex, violence and drugs. People expressed a clear desire to be warned about this type of content, and the BBFC will continue to highlight suicide and self-harm in its content advice.

Although people are largely in agreement with the BBFC’s current approach towards classifying drug content across all age categories, audiences have become more relaxed about cannabis use and solvent misuse than they were in 2019. 

The research revealed that people are now slightly more accepting of cannabis misuse at 12A/12, so long as it is not detailed, glamorised or frequent. The BBFC will therefore take a less restrictive approach to such material, but maintain its current standards on other drugs. People also felt the BBFC’s current policy towards classifying solvent misuse was overly cautious, and this finding has been supported by expert advice. Such content will now be treated less restrictively.

People are calling for a more cautious approach to classifying sex scenes at the border of 12A/12 and 15. Participants were concerned by the level of sexual detail, nudity and the duration of the sex scenes rated 12A/12 under the 2019 guidelines. Similar content is now more likely to be rated 15. However, the research also indicates that audiences are happy for classification to be more lenient towards some sex references at the 15/18 borderline, especially in comic contexts.

The new research also offers valuable insights into the evolving perspectives and expectations of parents and caregivers, grandparents, educators, and young people.

Parents are concerned about the normalisation of bad language, especially terms with sexual or misogynistic connotations. For example, terms such as 'son of a bitch', ‘bitch’, 'dick'. The worry is that young viewers may hear and repeat such language. Language such as this may now require a higher age rating.  

Audiences are comfortable with the relaxation of standards across most areas when it comes to trailers, especially in the junior categories (U, PG and 12A/12). For example, in some cases, this may include isolated use of strong language in trailers at 12A/12.

More than eight in ten (81%) people want a consistent age rating system across cinema, physical media and Video on Demand (VoD)/streaming services. Netflix, which carries BBFC age ratings across its entire UK platform, is now the third most popular source of recognition for BBFC age rating symbols (behind cinema and physical media) and the second most recognised source for content advice (behind cinema).

The findings support that the BBFC and its iconic age rating symbols are highly trusted, well recognised and valued by audiences across the UK. 

  • 99% of respondents recognise at least one BBFC age rating symbol, with 78% recognising them all
  • 97% of people see a benefit to age ratings for some or all audiences
  • 90% of parents/caregivers (a 7% increase in the last five years), 91% of teachers, and 88% of teens aged 16-19 trust BBFC age ratings all or most of the time
  • 87% of parents/caregivers agree with BBFC age ratings all or most of the time
  • 85% of respondents trust BBFC age ratings to accurately reflect the nature of the content they consume

To help parents facilitate important conversations and help increase awareness, the BBFC has created a collection of BBFC Guides that focus on various classification areas such as discrimination, drugs, and sex. Each bite-sized guide provides an overview of how the BBFC classifies different issues, what they mean at each age rating, and a collection of film case studies. 

President, Natasha Kaplinsky OBE said: “At the BBFC, we're dedicated to ensuring what we do is responsive to the ever-evolving world around us. Since we last asked people across the country what they thought about our standards, society has changed, and opinions have followed – it’s fascinating how this vast body of new research reflects this.

“This is the first Classification Guidelines update I have overseen as President. Not only am I proud and thrilled to launch these findings, but as someone who has always looked to the BBFC for guidance for myself and my family, seeing first-hand the level of dedication and insight that went into this process has been eye-opening and inspiring. Without a doubt, we are truly shaped by you.”

Chief Executive, David Austin OBE said: “The effectiveness of what we do relies entirely on trust. To ensure we have that trust, and to get to the heart of what audiences think and feel, we go directly to them. Only by doing this can we ensure we are classifying content in line with the expectations of families across the UK. This is essential to maintaining the extraordinarily high levels of public trust that the BBFC is privileged to enjoy.” 

Benjamin King, Senior Director, Public Policy - UK & Ireland, Netflix said: “Our members are our number one priority, and as the first streaming service to voluntarily carry BBFC age ratings on 100% of our catalogue, we’re proud they can choose shows safe in the knowledge that everything is rated to highly-trusted standards which reflect the expectations of UK audiences. This partnership builds on our wide range of parental controls including PIN-protected profiles, maturity filters, profile locks and viewing history, helping parents make the right viewing choices for their families.”

Notes for Editors

The latest findings set the foundation for the BBFC’s age rating decisions over the next four to five years, with the people of the UK directly shaping the future of classification for films, programmes and other content released on DVD and Blu-ray and on streaming services. 

For more information, please get in touch with Georgia Morian on +44 (0) 7946 423719 or Further information and press assets can also be found on the Media Centre.

About the BBFC

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 phone operators set parental controls at the right level. Please visit for further information.

About the BBFC’s Classification Guidelines

The BBFC classifies content in line with our published Classification Guidelines, which are the result of wide-scale consultations with thousands of people from across the UK, extensive research, and more than 112 years of experience. They are updated every four to five years to ensure that our standards continue to reflect the expectations and values of people across the country. 

About the Research

Background: A total of 12,000 people from across the UK took part in this research, the highest number of participants ever for the BBFC’s Classification Guidelines research. 

The research, conducted by We Are Family, surveyed people across the UK, using qualitative and quantitative techniques, including an online survey, a series of in-person focus groups, film screenings, and film parties for teenagers to watch content alongside their peers. In order to create a safe environment for more detailed and open conversations, the research included an online community to test content depicting sexual violence and sexually abusive behaviour. A total of 33 full-length feature films, 28 trailers and 151 clips from varying genres of film and TV content were embedded into the research as stimulus material. 

When: The BBFC’s new Classification Guidelines will officially come into force on 1 May 2024 and will be published on our website and available to download. Visit

About We Are Family

We are Family is the world’s biggest full-service agency group specialising in kids, teens, and families. The agency group offers a variety of services covering research & strategy, creative, and marketing activations.

They are the global experts in kids, teens, and families. They partner with their clients for all stages of their journey. From initial consumer research, strategy formulation, inspiring creative ideation through to the execution and delivery of marketing programmes and unique insight solutions – we offer bespoke solutions for each client nationally, regionally, and globally.

We are Family’s global footprint covers the UK, US, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Italy, and Canada as well as partners in 25 other countries giving clients access to over 800 experts in engaging kids, teens, and families around the world. The We are Family team hails from different practice backgrounds with a deep expertise in engaging kids, teens, and families.

The UK team is also home to the agency group’s global research initiatives including the Global Tween Council.