The BBFC's website for children ( cbbfc.co.uk
) has been rellaunched. The CBBFC website has been updated with a new design, making it easier to use on tablet devices as well as laptops and PC's. The new CBBFC website also includes a section adults, where parents of younger children can read about
BBFC age ratings and find answers to frequently asked questions from other parents.
Lucy Brett, Head of Education at the BBFC said:
Through our work with primary school children across the UK, we know they enjoy learning about age ratings and telling us what they think about how films they love have been age rated. The new CBBFC website lets them explore these ideas. It is based on
the most common questions we are asked by children and their parents; 'What can children see at what age?'; 'How does the 12A certificate work?' and 'What it is like to be a BBFC Examiner?' The new website also offers age ratings for recent film
releases, including our detailed information for families and filmgoers BBFCinsight, and lets children tell us what they think through opinion polls, competitions and an activity which lets them 'examine and rate' film trailers.
Everything is designed for younger audiences to help them get to grips with age ratings. We've even rewritten our Classification Guidelines for children so they can engage with our work and understand our age ratings in the context of their own viewing,
while an area for parents and teachers outlines how we work, our education programme for schools and Kids Clubs and family events.
By running the poster competition we want to encourage children to start to recognise what film ratings are suitable for what age groups and why, giving them the chance to put themselves in the picture.
The previous CBBFC website launched in 2003 and the new website retains many of its popular activities, including rate a trailer, BBFC competitions and news about the latest kids films rated U, PG and 12A.
The film is rated 12A for infrequent strong language and moderate sex references.
There are five uses of strong language ('fuck'), which occur in different comic situations and with no undue aggression. The film also contains milder bad language, including hell , shit , prick , dickhead , dick , smart arse
, arseing , bugger , screw that , screwed up , sod all , bum , Christ and bastard .
Anyway this appears to be a slight change to the guidelines as the last time it was mentioned, only 4 'fucks' were allowed in a 12A rated film.
Today the BBFC becomes the new regulator of mobile content, replacing the Independent Mobile Classification Body, which had regulated
this content since 2004. From 2 September, the BBFC will provide the UK mobile network operators EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, with a new independent Classification Framework for content accessed via their mobile networks. Mobile Operators will use this as
a basis for their code of practice for content, meaning content that would be age rated 18 by the BBFC, can be put behind access filters.
The Classification Framework designed by the BBFC allows mobile operators to classify their own commercial content and to calibrate the filters they use to restrict content accessible by children via a mobile operator's Internet access service. Such
content will include pornography and other adult sexual content, pro-ana websites and content which promotes or glorifies discrimination or real life violence.
The BBFC's new partnership will better enable EE, O2, Three and Vodafone to make consistent, evidence based and transparent decisions about the use of Internet filters and will make a significant contribution to protecting children from unsuitable and
even harmful content accessed through their mobile devices.
It seems that the BBFC have just patched up their film classification guidelines and ignored the consequences of trying to apply this to a much broader medium such as a large website.
Back in 2004 when the IMCB were in charge, the rules were envisaged to control video clips and the like provided by mobile phone companies, but David Cooke's introduction seems to suggest that the scope of this has been extended to take in internet
It makes sense to speak of 'repeated' use of the word 'cunt' for a 90 minute film or 1 5 minute video clip, but how does this apply to a massive website such as the Guardian newspaper? It will have many uses of the word 'cunt' spread thinly throughout
1000's of pages. Is it ok to use asterisked spellings such as 'c**t'?
The BBFC speak of references to porn terms being 18 rated but how would this apply to a list of R18 DVDs with titles and cuts using explicit porn terminology?
The BBFC opts out of discussing how effective age restrictions are such, as self declared age like on the BBFC website. Does such an age gate mean that the BBFC porn terms don't trigger an 18 rating (Can other websites use this same technique?)
The BBFC doesn't mention anything about links to other website. Does a link to a porn website mean that the linking website is 18 rated?
And what about pixellated nudity sex scenes.
The questions are endless and the BBFC document is woeful at answering even the most basic.
Perhaps the BBFC could provide a few illustrations such as how it classifies its own website, or how it would classify the Daily Mail website? Enquiring minds need to know.
The web inevitably makes available some content which is unsuitable or inappropriate for children to access. Some of
this will be illegal, but much more will not, or may be suitable say for over 13s or over 16s only. A traffic light system may therefore struggle to distinguish between these and runs the risk of imposing the strictest warning on masses of content
A greater concern however, is how the new system will guard against becoming a tool to enable prejudices of one kind or another to be played out. The system can only operate if it is the crowd's decision which counts - the reason this is even
being considered is because there is too much content for a regulator or platform to consider. Relying on the crowd assumes that a collective consciousness emerges from the great mass of web users and their shared values, rather than a set of
subjective reactions. This is a dangerous assumption. As a recent MIT study reported in Science suggests, the wisdom of the crowd may be a myth, its mentality more akin to that of a mob or herd.
Ministers want parents and teenagers themselves to be able to assign age-ratings (that don't seem to align with
ages) to videos and other content which has been uploaded by internet users onto websites.
The government is working with ISPS and internet censors to test how crowd sourcing such age ratings can work, The Telegraph has learnt.
David Cameron said last month that he lamented the lack of rules on age controls that apply to websites.
The government and industry has formed a working group, led by the British Board of Film Classification, to develop the new system.
Ministers accept that there is far too much material generated by users on their mobile phones or webcams for conventional censors such as the BBFC to be able to monitor.
However, a prototype has been designed, under which website users are asked to complete a simple questionnaire on the depiction of behaviour, drugs, horror, language, sex and violence for videos posted online.
The BBFC and Nicam, the Dutch media regulator, have designed a scheme which can be linked to online filters and which includes an alert feature allowing users to report content to the authorities.
A senior government source said ministers were supporting the developments, which would help protect children from potentially damaging and inappropriate material . The source said
On YouTube at the moment people put comments but there is no way of crowd sourcing, where you can say whether you think this is an appropriate clip for 12 year olds or 14 year olds.
It is a bit strange therefore that the government is supporting a scheme with no obvious differentiation between 12 and 14 year olds. One option being considered would be a traffic light system. A video could be rated as green if it is safe for
all, amber if it requires parental guidance and red if it is suitable for adults only.
Green for videos suitable for young children and red for adults only are pretty straightforward, but the large gulf between doesn't seem to make much sense. Most horror films are 15 rated and would be scary for younger children. How does one have
a combined 12 and 15 rating. It could nether be said to be either a 12 or a 15. If it is vaguely called 'parental guidance', it then does not convey enough information for parents to know whether it is suitable for their 12 year olds.
Italian viewers will soon be able to make use of this international ratings tool. Italian media giant Mediaset will shortly being trialling the rating tool for users of its 16MM website and television channel.
We will be monitoring the results of this pilot project closely. What we learn from this trial will help us as we work with other platforms to see how they might apply the tool.
Kes is a 1969 UK drama by Ken Loach.
With David Bradley, Freddie Fletcher and Lynne Perrie.
The BBFC received Ken Loach's Kes for classification in May 1969. The original examiner reports written for the classification of Kes in 1969 are unfortunately no longer available, but letters sent by Stephen Murphy (BBFC Secretary 1971-1975) in
reply to complaints made about use of bad language in the film do reveal the thinking behind the classification of Kes.
In a 1972 letter, Murphy informs the complainant that a U certificate was the most appropriate category for the film at the time - with the categorisation then available, to have given KES anything but a 'U' certificate would have been
positively immoral .
In another letter from 1972 Stephen Murphy explains the positive values of the picture were more than compensation for any irritation caused by some authentic dialogue, much of which, for example the word 'bugger, is not regarded as offensive
in the area where the film was shot (indeed it is often a term of affection).
The World's End screenwriter, Edgar Wright, asked the BBFC about how many light hearted uses of the word 'cunt' are allowed in a 15 rated film.
Senior Examiner Craig Lapper provided an interesting and detailed reply about current BBFC policy.
The BBFC's Guidelines at 15 state:
The strongest terms (for example, 'cunt') may be acceptable if justified by the context. Aggressive or repeated use of the strongest language is unlikely to be acceptable .
As a general rule, it is highly unusual for the BBFC to permit more than three or four uses of very strong language at 15 in a feature length work. In terms of context, it is more likely that we would pass throwaway, matter-of-fact, or comic
uses than uses that are aggressive, personally directed, or accompanied by complicating factors such as violence, threat, racism, or a power imbalance (for example, male to female uses are more of a problem than the other way around). In an
extreme case, even a single aggressive use can push a film to 18 (for example, if a man were hitting a woman and calling her a cunt, or a man of one race hitting a person of a different race and using very strong language in combination with
racist terms). Similarly, putting several uses together in a very short space of time may breach the 'repeated section of our Guidelines and cause problems at 15. It is generally better if uses are spread out somewhat.
As you say, we passed a single use in SHAUN OF THE DEAD because the use in question was throwaway, unthreatening, and essentially a term of endearment amongst friends ("Can I get any of you cunts a drink?"). In the case of HOT FUZZ we
actually permitted two uses, one spoken and one written. First of all, we see the word 'cunt' on the list of prohibited terms on the swearbox in the police station and then we hear 'What a cunt' when a man tells his friend about a man who sold
drugs to kids. In the first case, the use was written (which reduces its impact) and of course lacked any aggression. In the second case, the use was not aggressive and was not personally directed but instead uttered about a person who is not
present at the time.
So, the answer to your question is that it is possible to receive a 15 with three or four uses, provided they are not aggressive or threatening or complicated by any kind of power imbalance. However, it's best not to concentrate them together
into a short outburst and we'd certainly caution against more than three or four uses.
As ever the BBFC Annual Report makes for an interesting read.
The BBFC has clearly being doing well in online world where competing commercial censorship regimes are generally arbitrary, cheap and shoddy. Whether it be website blocking algorithms as implemented by ISPs or the censorship of user content by Facebook,
YouTube and the likes, they are characterised by arbitrary decisions based on vague, non-transparent, and unchallengeable rules.
In the commercial world censorship is enforced to keep people off internet company's backs as cheaply as possible rather than for ethical reasons. So the BBFC with its background of transparency, accountability and consideration for both consumers and
content providers have a lot to offer. Except of course, that careful consideration by real people costs big money.
Anyway the BBFC is going very aggressively for a slice of the internet censorship market. There's lots of self congratulation
of current successes, and a massive corporate sell that the BBFC is aligned with the future.
President Patrick Swaffer writes:
What I found was an organisation with 100 years of experience and expertise. But what I did not ? nd was an organisation hidebound by the past. The BBFC I found was forward looking, considering issues such as how it can best protect children and empower
consumers in the digital age when access to all forms of audio visual content is easier than ever. The BBFC's activities in its centenary year perfectly encapsulate this mix of expertise and looking to the future.
With ever greater amounts of audio visual content being consumed online both the public and home entertainment industries continued to make it clear that they valued BBFC age ratings and content advice.
As evidence of this, during 2012, we welcomed eleven new platforms to join the growing band of VOD platforms licensed to use BBFC ratings and insight on films and videos they supply online. These new members include Netflix, Microsoft Xbox, Sony
Networks, Sainsburys, BA and Dixons KnowHow Movies. This voluntary, best practice, self regulation of online content applies trusted BBFC symbols and content advice to content being distributed online and 90% of parents say they value it.
Swaffer speaks also of the interesting BBFC podcasts that give an insight into BBFC work; the development of apps which present users with a database of BBFC classifications and InSight advice; and of course the comprehensive set of BBFC websites. He
also notes that 2012 saw the initiation of a large scale public consultation about BBFC guidelines.
The subject of sexual violence usually gets a mention in these reports and this year Swaffer reports on the rather naff 'research' commissioned by the BBFC involving a very small number of people being asked leading questions about banned and censored
movies that they were asked to watch. The BBFC concluded from the 'research', that more factors should be taken into account when classifying controversially violent movies. Nothing new, but it looks better summarised in a couple of paragraphs in the
annual report, than it does if you read the full research document.
David Cooke spoke of the BBFC exhibition and rather good season of banned films that celebrated the BBFC's 100 years of film
censorship. There was also the interesting book that followed the progress of the film censors through those 100 years.
Cooke also recalls the special award from the film industry via the British Video Association. It is always worth remembering that the BBFC also serve the industry who pay for their services. They are not just a one sided body who only care about the
kids, and couldn't give a shit about the businesses making the films (unlike some other British censors).
In fact the BBFC outlined several improvements in the technical side of making things quick and easy for film distributors. (But cheap will have to wait).
And on the state of the economy Cooke reports that the number of cinema films classified is the highest since 1965 and that the decline of DVDs has slowed. Of course if the BBFC and the government really cared about the economy then they would scrap the
massive economic and creative burden of mandatory film censorship altogether.
Cooke wraps up by noting that 2012 saw the end of most BBFC involvement in computer game classification.
And of course a little more upbeat congratulation:
2012's centenary was a perfect time draw breath and look critically at how we have changed over the last century to become what film critic Mark Kermode described as the most open and accountable film regulation body anywhere in the world . We
intend to build on this accolade as we work with our industry partners and international colleagues -- and most importantly with the British public -- to ensure the best possible child protection and consumer empowerment when it comes to consuming film
and video, whether in cinemas or at home; and whether on a physical disc or online.
Of course the BBFC will not be judged by efficiency, transparency, fairness, nor by the thoughts of film viewers or the film industry. No they will be judged by the handful of complaints from a tiny amount of moaning minnies and their supposed 'outrage'
and easy offence. And so the complaints list will inevitably make up the bulk of newspaper reports of 2012 at the BBFC.
Something that the BBFC PR department obviously know well, so the complaints section of the Annual Report has been boosted by the usual jokes to ensure that newspaper coverage is fun and upbeat.
The film generating the majority of public feedback in 2012 was The Woman in Black starring Daniel Radcliffe. The film generated £21m in UK cinemas in 2012, making it the second most popular British film of 2012 after Skyfall. 134 of these cinema-goers complained
that the film was too dark and unsettling for a 12A certificate. Some said the sense of threat, coupled with the theme of supernatural deaths of children in the film, was too disturbing for young audiences.
The Hunger Games is an adaptation of the first book in a fantasy trilogy in which children and teenagers are forced to fight to the death in televised gladiatorial contests in a dystopian future. The books are very popular with young people. The
BBFC classified the film 12A following edits to remove some violent detail.The film generated 43 complaints about its violence and theme. The violence in The Hunger Games is generally restrained and undetailed. It is a moral film,
critiquing violence rather than glorifying it. The lead characters do not relish killing and survive and defeat the unfair and evil adult system through bravery, teamwork and resourcefulness. There were a small number of complaints criticising the
decision to cut the film for 12A.
Men in Black 3 , the second sequel in the popular comedy Sci-Fi action series, received 50 complaints for its language, violence, horror and sexual innuendo. The film was classified PG, as were the earlier two films in the franchise, and
contained similar comic misadventures of Agents K and J. However, some parents found the figure of the villain, Boris the Animal, to be too frightening and the opening prison break sequence too violent for young audiences. The scene in which Boris and
his girlfriend French kiss with sight of his unfeasibly long alien tongue was also criticised; parents felt this gross out moment was too overtly sexual for a PG audience. The language used in the film also attracted complaints. Parents felt terms
such as bullshit and arsehole , although permitted at PG under the BBFC's Classification Guidelines, were not appropriate for eight year olds to hear.
The much-loved children's film The Railway Children , first classified U in 1970, received its first complaint 42 years later. The correspondent was concerned that children may be encouraged to play on railway tracks as a result of seeing the
film. While aware of the real dangers of such behaviour, the BBFC judged that it was very unlikely that The Railway Children would promote such dangerous activity. The Railway Children is set in the Edwardian period and trains and access to railway
property are very different today. The film also demonstrates the potential harm to children if proper care is not taken.
Thanks to Alan who lamented: Shit! When I heard there'd been a complaint, I was hoping somebody had discovered hardcore scenes of the fragrant Misses Agutter and Thomsett! (Or Dinah Sheridan as a MILF!)
One final observation. The BBFC spoke of complaints received via ParentPort. This was a single point of contact to UK censors inspired by the Reg Bailey anti-sexualisation report. He claimed that parents were to dim to know which censor to complain to
when they had a beef, so they needed a single point of contact. The BBFC wrote:
The BBFC was involved in setting up ParentPort. This website makes it easier for parents to raise concerns about media content. The BBFC is one of seven UK regulators involved in the website since it launched in 2011. As a result of our involvement with
this project we received emails from parents covering a range of films and issues, including language and sex in films, the display of certain DVDs in shops and the nature of some cinema trailers, during 2012.
The number of complaints is notably missing from the BBFC spiel, presumably as the figure is embarrassingly low. So perhaps we can infer that the BBFC listed all the complaints that it received via ParentPort, a grand total of 3 or 4.
In its centenary year the BBFC worked to achieve greater protection for children from harmful content both online and in videos exempt from classification under the Video Recordings Act.
In 2012 the BBFC responded to a DCMS consultation on exempt video. The BBFC, British Video Association, British Phonographic Industry, the Video Standards Council and the Entertainment Retailers Association all supported a technical adjustment to the
Video Recordings Act whereby content in exempt videos which is potentially harmful to children should lose the video its exemption. In May 2013 the Government announced that a change would be made to the Video Recordings Act to ensure that content which
is potentially harmful to children will in future be scrutinised by the BBFC to keep it from impressionable and vulnerable children.
Online was an area where the BBFC saw the greatest changes in 2012. The number of online only classifications rose by 40%. The number of companies using the BBFC's Watch & Rate service for online only content more than doubled, with 11 new platforms
licensed to use BBFC ratings online, including Netflix, Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox and Sainsbury's, BA and Virgin Atlantic.
On the back of a number of films submitted to the BBFC in 2011 which contained extreme violence, generally against women, we carried out a major piece of research into depictions of sexual and sadistic violence in film in 2012. The BBFC has consistently
maintained a strict policy in relation to classifying depictions of such violence and will continue to intervene in relation to any depiction of sexual or sadistic violence which is likely to pose a non trivial harm risk through, for example: making
sexual or sadistic violence look appealing; reinforcing the suggestion that victims enjoy rape; or inviting viewer complicity in rape or other harmful violent activities.
BBFC Director David Cooke said:
In 2012 the BBFC worked with both Government and the home entertainment industry to maximise the impact of our expertise in tracking public opinion and protecting children from potentially harmful content through both digital age ratings and informing
the DCMS consultation on exempt videos.
At the adult 18 level we took extra steps to ensure our policy on depictions of sexual and sadistic violence are in line with public opinion. Research carried out in 2012 reaffirmed views that adults should be able to choose what they see, but
highlighted a public concern about certain depictions of sexual and sadistic violence. This concern was particularly acute in relation to young men without much life experience, and other vulnerable viewers, accessing sadistic and sexually violent
content, which could serve to normalise rape and other forms of violence, and offer a distorted view of women. The decision as to whether and how to intervene in scenes of sexual and sadistic violence is complex, but by carrying out detailed research and
highlighting aggravating and mitigating factors, the BBFC is better equipped to arrive at a decision which balances freedom of expression against public protection.
2012 was also a historic year for the BBFC as the organisation reached its 100th year. A series of retro BBFC black cards were designed and shown before all new UK cinema releases, and a season of controversial films, panel events and an
exhibition was held at BFI Southbank, London. The BFI published a book, Behind the Scenes at the BBFC: Film Classification from the Silver Screen to the Digital Age, with contributions from, leading film critics, historians, cultural commentators and
even BBFC staff. There were further collaborations to mark the BBFC's Centenary, including an exhibition in partnership with University of Westminster, celebrating 100 years of British Cinematic history, and events at the Hippodrome in Falkirk and
Soundtrack Festival in Cardiff.
BBFC Director David Cooke said:
In 2012 we looked back at our first 100 years, often in partnership with numerous organisations and individuals, all of whom added richness and expertise to our celebrations. But in examining the past, we also looked towards the future, where the BBFC
will continue working with current and new partners to classify and label online content, better protect children and empower consumers.
The information the BBFC provides for the public was refreshed during 2012 through the creation of a new website bring together the main BBFC website, the BBFC website for parents (PBBFC) and the BBFC education website for students (SBBFC). The new BBFC
website allows users to watch trailers for new films classified U-15 and sign up to receive regular BBFC newsletters.
There was also a revision of BBFC Consumer Advice and Extended Consumer Information (ECI) to create BBFCinsight. BBFCinsight captures both Consumer Advice and ECI, bringing both of them under a more memorable name. BBFCinsight includes both a summary
sentence (like Consumer Advice) and a longer explanation about why the film received the classification it did. It also provides other details parents have told us they like to be aware of, such as examples of mild bad language, or themes such as divorce
or bereavement that might not impact on the age rating but which might upset some children. Parents can find a short summary of BBFCinsight on DVD boxes and cinema posters and more detailed BBFCinsight on the website and the BBFC iPhone and Android Apps.
BBFCinsight is available for every film and video game classified by the BBFC since Autumn 2007.
The BBFC gets appointed to write the censorship guidelines for website blocking on mobile phones
2nd July 2013
It will be interesting to get proper guidelines about website censorship. It will give something for people to complain against when their websites are blocked by the cheap and crap overblocking algorithms used by the net censor companies.
Interestingly the internet was specifically not part of the original remit of IMCB. It was only for content supplied by the phone companies themselves. I think someone must have been using a cloudy crystal ball when the IMCB was set up.
The Mobile Broadband Group is appointing the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to take over from the Independent Mobile Classification Board (IMCB) in providing the independent framework that underpins the Mobile Operators' code of practice,
established in 2004, for the self regulation of new forms of content on mobile.
The Classification Framework enables mobile operators to restrict access to their commercial content that is unsuitable for customers under the age of 18. The Framework is applied to commercial content such as: video and audio/video material; or mobile
games. The framework is also used by the mobile operators to calibrate the internet filters that parents can use to restrict content accessible by children via a mobile operator's internet access service.
Hamish MacLeod, chair of the Mobile Broadband Group, commented:
We are very grateful for the excellent work that the IMCB has done over the last 8 years to support our code. However, with customers increasingly consuming content via mobile networks, we feel that the BBFC's unparalleled expertise will be best suited
to provide us with the independent framework and guidance for the future.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:
We are pleased to be able to use our experience and expertise, including the insight we have into public opinion about what kind of content is suitable for under 18s to help Mobile Operators to restrict access to content accessed via mobile networks by
those under 18. Parents are concerned about the content children access via mobile devices and the BBFC Framework takes into account the same issues the BBFC considers when age rating a film or DVD, such as strong language, violence, drug use,
discrimination, sex and nudity.
The BBFC works to published Classification Guidelines based on large scale public consultation exercises involving around 10,000 people. The Classification Guidelines are formally revised every 4-5 years.
The BBFC Classification Framework is a living document which will be updated regularly to reflect evolving public attitudes and societal concerns.
Premium rate voice services or premium rate SMS (text only) services are not covered by the BBFC Classification Framework and continue to operate under the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice.
Over the coming weeks, the parties involved will put in place the necessary transition arrangements and the BBFC Classification Framework will come into use on 2 September 2013.