Tuesday 14 January 2014

New BBFC Guidelines Published

The report and consultation document can be found here:

Press release:
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is publishing new Classification Guidelines today alongside the results of the large-scale public consultation which underpins them. The new Classification Guidelines will come into force on 24 February 2014.
Speaking to more than 10,000 members of the public from across the UK from December 2012 and throughout 2013 has highlighted public trust in the film classification system. 95% of parents with children under 15 say they check the BBFC classification before watching a film and 89% of film viewers consider classification as important. 92% of film viewers agreed with the classification of films and videos they had seen recently, with even the most complained about film of the past four years, The Woman in Black, receiving 89% support for its 12A rating.  Only 11% thought it should have received a higher rating.
Specific changes to the Classification Guidelines as a result of the public consultation include:
• Greater weight will be given to the theme and tone of a film or video, particularly around the 12A/12 and 15 level;
• Particular attention will be given to the psychological impact of horror, as well as strong visual detail such as gore;
• Regarding language, the public wants the BBFC to be stricter with the language allowed at U and more flexible about allowing very strong language at 15. Context, not just frequency, is the most important factor in how language in films is perceived by the public.
A specific issue highlighted by the consultation is in relation to sexual content, where the public is particularly concerned about the sexualisation of girls, and pornography.  The content of music videos and the ease of accessibility of online porn are special worries.
Parents are also concerned about risks to vulnerable adolescents including self-harm, suicide, drug misuse and premature access to sexual content, including what some describe as the ‘normalisation’ in films and videos of behaviours which parents consider inappropriate.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC, says: “Regular public consultation is crucial to continued public trust in what we do.  Our new Classification Guidelines reflect explicitly concerns raised by the public during the 2013 consultation and will, I believe, ensure that we continue to be in step with what the public wants and expects in order to make sensible and informed viewing decisions.
“There is also room for continued improvement. Although it is 12 years old this year, the 12A rating remains confusing for a significant minority, with up to 27% of consumers unable to describe accurately what 12A means.  We and the film industry will work during 2014 to improve understanding of this very important rating as well as raise awareness of BBFCinsight information, which is vital in helping parents decide if a 12A film is suitable for their child.” 
The new Classification Guidelines are now available online and will come into force in six weeks time, on Monday 24 February 2014. The consultation exercise, which began in December 2012 and was completed in 2013, involved more than 10,000 members of the public from across the UK, and for the first time involved teenagers as well as their parents. The consultation process issued hundreds of films and videos to households across the UK and asked for their views on the classification of this material.  The research continued through the spring of 2013 with focus groups in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland looking at how the public thinks specific issues, such as sex, violence and language, in films and videos should be handled.  Over the summer several thousand members of the public completed questionnaires about classification generally and about 60 specific films and videos, including some of the most controversial films of the past four years.
Large-scale public consultation is used to revise the BBFC Classification Guidelines every four to five years and is supplemented with additional in-depth research on specific issues.

A couple of my colleagues (Johnny Walker and Lee Barron) were interviewed about this today on BBC Radio Newcastle.Unfortunately, the broadcasts were mainly confined to the sensationalist position that the public are concerned about gore but do not mind if children say 'motherf***er', which is not what the consultation document says. In fact, I'm less than convinced that the interviewers read beyond the press release since much of the consultation document proposes that restrictions at '12a' and below should be tightened.

Below is an audio clip of Johnny valiantly trying to get his point across to host Jonathan Miles who has a clearly already settled on a position about horror. In Jonathan Miles' own own words, he 'just do[es]n't get it'.

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