Student FAQs

Here are some of the questions we're asked most often about our work and our resources for students.

We understand some students, especially those doing degrees or further study, are keen to interview members of BBFC staff to learn more about our work and history. 

We try to accommodate this but due to staff availability, it might not always be possible. This website has a wealth of information about film classification and our history. You can check out our podcasts, case studies, history pages and timelines. We also have old examiner reports, and other historic documents, available in our archive section. If you still have questions after looking through our online resources, please get in touch.

Sometimes teachers and lecturers chose to study our work and ask whole classes to contact us. We cannot field multiple similar requests from one group. However, if you do want your class to study our work please contact our education team.

This website has a wealth of information about film classification and our history. You can check out our podcasts, case studies, history pages and timelines. We also have old examiner reports, and other historic documents, available in our archive section. We also publish short and long ratings info for every film we classify, all you have to do is search for a film.

From 30 July 2012, and with a few exceptions, the responsibility for age rating video games moved to the Video Standards Council Rating Board (VSC), applying the PEGI system. We age rate all games featuring strong pornographic (R18 level) content and ancillary games attached to a wider, primarily linear submission. We also age rate all non-game linear content on a game disc, such as trailers and featurettes. We rate all video games eligible for classification under our guidelines.

You do not need a specific qualification to be a Compliance Officer. We do require experience in relevant areas such as media regulation, law, the film or related industries, and child development - and many Compliance Officers over the years have had very different backgrounds. Once hired, Compliance Officers receive detailed and extensive training. Some Compliance Officers have linguistic skills (especially languages such as Hindi and Tamil) which is particularly valuable as we regularly receive content in these languages.

Compliance Officers are full-time. They view content and write reports and ratings info for up to seven hours a day, making recommendations based on our guidelines, relevant legislation and policies.

Compliance Officers come from a wide variety of backgrounds. They tend to be graduates but this is not always the case. To be a Compliance Officer, you do not need specific qualifications, however experience in relevant areas such as media regulation, law and child development is important. A broad knowledge of film is required, as well as an ability to grasp age rating issues such as violence and drugs. Like most of the people who work at the BBFC, they have a strong knowledge of contemporary and historical film and a passion for films.

Compliance Officers watch material and write reports and ratings info for around seven hours a day, but there is not really a typical day as what we watch completely depends on what is submitted by distributors. Viewing is allocated randomly, so someone could be watching anything from the latest blockbuster, to episodes of 1960s or 1970s TV series on DVD, to the new Netflix Original release. 

Once we have finished watching the day’s viewing, the compliance officer logs their views and recommends a category (after re-watching or discussing any more contentious moments) in a concise report highlighting the key issues. They also write the short ratings info - which can be seen on the Black Card in front of a film in the cinema - and the long ratings info - which can be found on our website

That depends on the material. Cinema films, more contentious content and some adult material are all viewed in pairs - all other content is viewed alone. However, a lot of content is viewed more than once internally, with additional teams or more senior members of staff viewing them before a final decision on the age rating is reached.

Usually a team will agree on the rating because we base all recommendations on our guidelines. However, if a team disagrees, or believes a film would benefit from additional consideration, it is sent to another team (of two or three depending on the issue raised). Sometimes key scenes or shorter clips are brought to the weekly Compliance meeting for further discussion or sent to our Chief Executive or Presidential team. Really contentious content, like former 'Video Nasties' which are having cuts reinstated, or cinema releases likely to provoke comment, will often be seen again even if the first team agrees on a decision.

That depends - all individual Compliance Officers have things that they find difficult to watch, and this can be affected by a huge number of variables. Some of the strongest content we watch is what we would term 'extreme reality' products, which is content showing things like real life death or injury.

Yes. Pornography accounts for less than 10% of what Compliance Officers watch. We are very strict with material that is in contravention of the law so we cut elements like underage references and abusive sex (under the Video Recordings Act 1984) and material which is likely to be prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.

Yes and no. When classifying trailers, Compliance Officers use the same Classification Guidelines, as they do when viewing full length feature films. The guidelines, clearly lay out what is acceptable at each category for issues such as theme, sex, violence, drugs, etc, and help the Compliance Officers make an informed decision on the right category for each trailer.

But we pay special attention to trailers because while the audience may have chosen to watch a particular film, they have no choice about the accompanying trailers or advertisements which may be very different in tone. Any content that has a high potential for giving offence, or causing concern to parents and guardians, are unlikely to be rated U, PG or 12A.

We receive submissions in 52 different languages, from Afghan Pashtu to Yoruba. When an unsubtitled film or DVD is received in a language that is not spoken by one of the Compliance Officers, we bring in an interpreter.

In the case of South Asian films (which, in 2008, constituted approximately 20% of our film submissions), we try to meet the specific sensibilities of South Asian audiences by ensuring that every Bollywood film classification team includes at least one Compliance Officer with a thorough understanding of South Asian culture and cinema. This is to achieve not merely language interpretation, but also to assess receptivity of the audiences the film is intended for. Additionally, all Compliance Officers are trained in the history and issues specific to South Asian cinema.

No, these items are viewed by solo Compliance Officers who bear in mind that material such as DVD trailers and moving menus sometimes come to viewers unbidden.

There are two reasons. Sometimes the extras can affect a classification, so a 12A feature may be pushed to 15 on DVD if, for example, the blooper reel or commentary contains strong language. This is because the DVD rating is based on the highest rating of any extra included with it. Additional deleted scenes sometimes contain category defining issues, and of course longer cuts of a film or director's cuts may contain new material, which needs to be classified. 

Very occasionally though, the same content can be rated differently. At home, there is a possibility of much younger children watching content, so we have to consider any issues of potential harm. Occasionally, we have rated content more restrictively, or cut it for DVD or Blu-ray, on these grounds. For example, removing methods of drug preparation or details of suicide which experts have assured us are not well known.

Yes! Most people here still love going to the cinema, watching DVDs and Blu-rays or the latest show on a streaming service. It is an important part of the job, and is the best way of keeping up to date and gauging audience responses to films.

We apply our guidelines to the same standard, regardless of sexual orientation.

The BBFC Chief Executive and the BBFC President's signatures are seen on the certificate which is projected before a film. Also known as the Black Card, this is an official document and each card is unique, carrying the film's registration number and the rating it has been given.

When we rate a film 15 this means no one younger can see the film in a cinema, even if accompanied by an adult or with parental permission. The cinema will be violating the terms of its license (issued by the local authority) if it admits under-aged children to age-restricted films.

Box office staff are within their rights to request proof of age of customers if they believe a child to be under age. Likewise, they can refuse to admit a customer if age cannot be proven, or ID is unsatisfactory. 

The responsibility for complying with license conditions rests solely with the cinema. All cinemas will have terms of admittance, and these will be available on the cinema’s website. We recommend that you check the film’s age rating on our latest releases pages before you go to the cinema, so you are not disappointed.