The BBFC and the law
The BBFC is required to consider whether content submitted for classifying is against the law or has been created by committing a criminal offence.
Licensing legislation is what gives the BBFC the power to regulate film in the UK: the Video Recordings Act (VRA) 1984 empowers us to apply the test of whether content is suitable for watching at home - taking into account the potential for under-age viewing.
In tandem with this, we also consider the potential for harm - to the viewer, user or to society- including through the viewer or user's behaviour. And under the ‘harm test’, we pay particular attention to content showing illegal drugs, sexual activity, and criminal, violent or horrific behaviour.
Other legal considerations include indecent images of children, animal cruelty, obscenity, racial hatred and human rights. BBFC Compliance Officers analyse and make recommendations on the legality of content, unless a specific legal question requires a more sophisticated or professional analysis, when we’ll take external expert advice.
If individual elements of content are found to break UK law, they will be cut. If the whole of the content breaks the law, it may be refused an age rating and rejected.
All digital works submitted to the BBFC for classifying are subject to the same level of scrutiny as DVDs and Blu-rays.
Explore legislation and the BBFC
At the cinema, the ultimate power lies with the local authorities, who can decide to ignore the BBFC’s decisions at any time.
The Video Recordings Act
The arrival of videos in the UK, including 'video nasties', and the Video Recordings Act 1984.