Do I Need a BBFC Age Rating?
The BBFC classifies films on behalf of the local authorities who licence cinemas under the Licensing Act 2003.
All feature films, short films and trailers which are to be shown theatrically must be submitted to the BBFC, unless permission has been granted by the local authority in the area that the content is being shown.
Advertisements for commercial products only require clearance from the Cinema Advertising Association, please see our section on Public Information/Campaigning Films for further information.
Find out more information on how to submit to us.
As Live events include content other than traditional cinema films, such as stage or sporting events, which are projected in cinemas. ‘As Live’ age ratings are a lighter touch classification method because they are based solely on information given to us about the live event.
Live transmissions sit outside the scope of the Licensing Act 2003, but any delayed exhibition (or ‘as live’ exhibition) of the live event is within scope, even if the delay is only a few minutes.
To qualify as ‘As Live’ an event must have taken place within the past seven days.
Due to the nature of an ‘As Live’ event, there is no footage to submit to us, however, a submission must be made by email and we must receive the following information about the performance:
Title of the live performance to be used when it is shown in cinemas
Date of the live performance (this could be in the future)
Link to the event’s official site
Nature of the live performance (e.g. opera, boxing match, play, pop concert, ballet, etc)
Any restrictions applying to children attending the live event, i.e. children under [x years] not admitted
Any content (as per the list in the Guidance for Distributors) that may cause the content to require an age rating higher than 12A
Once your registration is complete we will provide you with a white ‘As Live’ card to be displayed in cinemas showing the performance. The white card will include the age rating symbol (12A, 15 or 18). The ‘As Live’ white card should be shown for a minimum of five seconds prior to the screening of the ‘As Live’ event.
Download our guidance for As Live performances.
We assign age ratings to video content released on physical media (e.g. DVD/Blu-ray) under the Video Recordings Act 1984 (VRA).
Packaged Media content (films, TV programmes, VAM/bonus material, trailers, adverts, public information/campaigning films, menus and any other video content) to be released in the UK usually needs a BBFC VRA age rating.
Packaged Media distributors may claim exemption for certain video content that is 'designed to inform, educate or instruct' or is ‘concerned with sport, religion or music', as long as it doesn’t contain any of the content issues listed in the Video Recordings Act 1984 (Exempted Video Works) Regulations 2014, as each of these issues mean the content loses any exemption and needs a BBFC rating. If content is likely to be classified above PG, it is not exempt.
Distributors should assess each different version of a piece of content (in terms of different visuals and/or different sound, including audio commentaries), as each version will require its own BBFC VRA certificate unless the content is exempt. Please see our further advice regarding different audio, language and subtitle tracks.
All videos issued with an age rating under the VRA are automatically issued with a digital age rating that can be used on digital video services licensed by the BBFC.
Under the Video Recordings Act 1984 (VRA), the BBFC assigns age ratings to all video content to be supplied in the UK unless the video content, taken as a whole, is designed to inform, educate or instruct or, taken as a whole, is concerned with sport, religion or music, and as long as it doesn’t contain any of the content issues listed in the Video Recordings Act 1984 (Exempted Video Works) Regulations 2014:
it depicts or promotes violence or threats of violence;
it depicts the immediate aftermath of violence on human or animal characters;
it depicts an imitable dangerous activity without also depicting that the activity may endanger the welfare or health of a human or animal character;
it promotes an imitable dangerous activity;
it depicts or promotes activities involving illegal drugs or the misuse of drugs;
it promotes the use of alcohol or tobacco;
it depicts or promotes suicide or attempted suicide, or depicts the immediate aftermath of such an event;
it depicts or promotes any act of scarification or mutilation of a person, or of self-harm, or depicts the immediate aftermath of such an act;
it depicts techniques likely to be useful in the commission of offences or, through its depiction of criminal activity, promotes the commission of offences;
it includes words or images intended or likely to convey a sexual message (ignoring words or images depicting any mild sexual behaviour);
it depicts human sexual activity (ignoring any depictions of mild sexual activity);
it depicts or promotes acts of force or restraint associated with human sexual activity;
it depicts human genital organs or human urinary or excretory functions (unless the depiction is for a medical, scientific or educational purpose);
it includes swearing (ignoring any mild bad language); or
it includes words or images that are intended or likely (to any extent) to cause offence, whether on the grounds of race, gender, disability, religion or belief or sexual orientation, or otherwise.
The effect of these Regulations is that if content is likely to be classified above PG it is not exempt. If the content does include any of the above elements then the exemption is lost and the distributor must submit the video to the BBFC for classification prior to release.
A video recording may contain a number of video works. Distributors should consider the criteria for exemption in relation to each individual element that will appear on the final product, including main features, bonus material and all other video content. Distributors should assess each different version of a piece of content (in terms of different visuals and/or different sound, including audio commentaries), as each version will require its own BBFC certificate unless the content is exempt. An individual trailer, advert or item of bonus material may require rating even if the main feature or video game it accompanies does not.
Record labels should also use these criteria to determine if a new release UK repertoire music video is eligible for classification under the terms agreed with the BPI and AIM.
It is for you, the distributor, to determine whether to submit your content to us or whether you consider it may be exempt. Trading Standards Officers enforce the VRA and can prosecute anyone supplying content they believe to be in breach of it. It is essential you make informed decisions as to what you decide to submit and what you consider may be exempt. We are here to help you make those informed decisions and help you get your product to market in a safe way.
We are always happy to advise you with regard to content issues. Although we cannot definitively, legally determine for you whether you can claim exemption for piece of content, we are always happy to discuss any concerns with you. If you are unsure as to whether to claim exemption for your content, we recommend you submit it to us for classification. Please contact us if you wish to discuss any issues relating to exemption and VRA classification.
No. We will accept submissions of material that may be exempt. Exempt content is sometimes rated because the distributor prefers a BBFC rating. Our categories and symbols are familiar and trusted by the people across the UK and enjoy the support of the law.
The VRA is enforced mainly by local Trading Standards Officers. Their role is to check that no unclassified video content is being sold or rented and that all other details of relevant legislation are being observed. They are entitled to take ‘exempt’ content from a shop if they doubt its exempt status. If, on inspecting that content, they reach the conclusion that it should have been classified, the distributor could be prosecuted.
Even if a piece of content itself is not exempt, it is possible that its supply is. The VRA defines an exempt supply as one which is neither ‘a supply for reward’ nor ‘in the course or furtherance of a business’. So, if there is no reward (e.g. exchange of money) associated in any way with the transaction, and as long as the supply is entirely unrelated to any business activity, the supply could be considered exempt. This would not be the case, for instance, if videos were being lent or given away to attract customers to a shop, even one whose actual business was unrelated to video.
There are other circumstances in which a supply can be considered exempt, such as the record of an event which is to be circulated only to those connected with the event – e.g. a wedding video.
Our Video-on Demand (VOD) ratings can be used for works exclusive to digital platforms or for online distribution prior to a DVD/Blu-ray release.
VOD & Streaming services are not currently legally required to carry age ratings. However, the use of BBFC age ratings are recommended by the UK government as part of Best Practice age labelling.
Many platforms require content to be BBFC age rated as a condition of carrying your content on their service. These services must enter into a licence with the BBFC to display those age ratings.
Yes, any BBFC age rating issued for packaged media or VOD can be used on licensed VOD & Streaming Services, regardless of which distributor submitted the content.
No additional permissions, such as a Distributor Change, are needed from the submitting company.
All we ask is that you ensure that the version you are making available is the same version that we have rated.
BBFC cinema ratings cannot be used on these services, these films must be submitted for a BBFC VOD rating.
We classify public information/campaigning films for theatrical release on behalf of local licensing authorities who licence cinemas under the Licensing Act 2003.
As of 31 March 2016 age rating theatrical advertisements that are paid-for messages for commercial goods or services is delegated to the Cinema Advertising Association (CAA). We define a public information/campaigning film as content that is not a paid-for message for a commercial good or service.
All theatrical public information/campaigning films must be submitted for classification, unless permission is granted by the licensing authority in the area for the film to be shown without a BBFC age rating.
All public information/campaigning films submitted to us must be the full, final edit in the correct screen ratio with final sound mix.
All theatrical public information/campaigning films should be uploaded directly to us in Horizon, we can also accept streaming links. We do not accept download links.
Any film to be distributed in both 2D and 3D may require separate submissions as the different formats may raise differing classification issues. In some cases we offer a concessionary rate.
Please see our technical requirements for submissions.
The public information / campaigning film should display the appropriate BBFC age rating symbol on screen for a minimum of five seconds, before the film begins or appear in the bottom left- or right-hand corner of the film itself.
Please contact us to get access to high resolution copies of the BBFC rating symbols.
We also provide an advice service to help you establish what rating an unfinished work may receive. If you wish to submit your Public Information/Campaigning Film for advice, please create a submission for a Cinema/Trailer Advice Viewing.
Will the CAA be applying the BBFC’s age ratings to advertisements?
No, the CAA will continue to apply the terms of the CAP Code to advertisements. Where a public information / campaigning film also has a BBFC age rating, this should be displayed on screen in cinemas.
I have a public information / campaigning film that I would like to show in cinemas. To whom do I send it?
Please submit it to the BBFC and the CAA. We will consider it for classification under our Classification Guidelines and the CAA will consider it in line with the CAP Code.
How do I submit a public information / campaigning film to the BBFC?
Please submit it in exactly the same way you submit cinema advertisements to the BBFC. The only difference will be that, rather than completing the “advertisement” submission form, please use the “public information / campaigning film” submission form on the BBFC extranet.
What do I do if I am unsure if my film is an advertisement or a public information / campaigning film?
Please contact the BBFC Helpline and we will be happy to advise you. Our premises are closed until further notice, but we're still working. Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org as this phone line is not currently in use.
I have an advertisement that includes clips from a film/TV show, will this need classification?
Any content that would normally be classified by the BBFC for cinema, DVD/Blu-ray, or Video-On-Demand should be submitted to the BBFC as a Public Information/Campaigning Film and to the CAA. This includes any advertisement for tie-in film content and content for a television programme/series for a streaming service.
Does an advertisement for public sector information / awareness count as a public service film (e.g. police federation advertisements, drink / drive advertisements)?
Yes. You should submit it to the BBFC and the CAA.
How will advertisements for schools or higher education be categorised?
These are categorised as advertisements and classified by the CAA only.
How will charity campaigns be categorised (e.g. the RNLI, Guide Dogs For The Blind)?
These are categorised as public campaigning films, and are classified by the BBFC. You should submit it to the BBFC and the CAA.
Will the likes of public service and charity campaigns require the use of the BBFC symbol in the bottom corner of the screen?
Yes, as the BBFC still classifies this content.
If my advertisement has only been assessed and classified by the CAA, does this mean that when it goes out in cinemas there won’t be an age rating displayed on screen for it?
Yes. The CAA will issue you with a confirmation of the age suitability of your advert, so you can place it within the programme of a suitable film.
Do advertisements for video games still have to adhere to BBFC rules regarding PEGI logos?
No, since the BBFC no longer classifies these advertisements, there is no risk that the cinema audience will mistake the rating of the game for the rating of the advertisement.
Sony Music UK, Universal Music UK and Warner Music UK have agreed to submit any music videos that they think might be unsuitable for children under 12 to the BBFC for classification.
This agreement covers all new release music videos made available online by artists signed to their UK labels
We classify the videos with the appropriate age rating, based on our published guidelines, which are displayed in the content information when published on YouTube.