The Byron Report

 Tanya Byron reports on media child protection



27th January
2008
  

Update: Byron Reporting...

BBFC style ratings to be applied to all games

Tanya Byron A likely outcome of the Government commissioned Byron Report is that video games will get BBFC-style age ratings. And these will be legally enforceable.

Ministers want to make it easier for parents to protect their children from violent games by introducing a new, simpler classification system based on age ratings used by the BBFC. Under the new scheme, it would become illegal for retailers to sell any video game to a child who was younger than the age rating on the box. At present, only games with near video content are regulated.

The moves come after more than 400 children and 350 adults responded to an inquiry headed by television psychologist Dr Tanya Byron into the potential dangers to young people of the internet and video games. Her review, due to be published in March, has found that people want clearer information about the content of video games.

Under the current rules, about 10% of the 2,000 or more video games produced each year are given an age rating from the BBFC. Only games that show sex, gross violence, criminal activity or drug use have to be referred to the BBFC. Shop staff can be fined or even sent to prison if they sell a game to a child below the age rating.

The majority of games receive an age rating based on a voluntary system run by Pan-European Game Information (PEGI). PEGI ratings are not legally enforceable, however.

Eileen McCloy, who runs family rights group Not With My Child, said: Voluntary regulation rarely works, shopkeepers don't care so long as the child looks about the right age. It needs to be legally enforceable.

Gordon Brown has indicated that he is prepared to back Byron's recommendation for a single, legally backed classification system.

The Byron review has worked closely with the video games industry, which is worth more than £800m to the UK economy.

David Braben, the founder of Frontier Games, said there was already a strict regime in place which the industry went to great lengths to adhere to. He said parents and retailers must take some responsibility: The real question is how seriously do people take the existing regime. I have been in a shop when a woman was buying an '18' game for what looked like a 10-year-old and you'll find that games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas , which has an 18 rating, are being played by children.

Sue Clark, the BBFC's head of communications, said: Our research shows that the public knows and understands the BBFC system and that the age limits relate to content not to their level of difficulty.

 

1st February
2008
  

Update: Final Report...

Byron reports adds suicide websites to remit

Tanya Byron The dangers of internet sites that encourage suicide and discussion about taking your own life are to be part of an official review of child safety on the web.

The Ministry of Justice is also examining new curbs in the law to stop internet sites giving out information about different ways of committing suicide.

It has been working with internet service providers (ISPs) for more than a year to discourage them from hosting sites that may encourage suicide.

Three other Whitehall departments — health, culture and children — are all involved in trying to tackle what the Government describes as a “complex problem”.

Tanya Bryon, who is conducting an independent review of child safety on the web on behalf of the Government, is to study evidence on internet suicide as part of her investigation into the risks from exposure to harmful information, The Times has learnt.

The review is currently considering its responses to the call for evidence, including those on suicide, and will publish its final report in March, a spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said.

The work has been given renewed impetus after widespread public concern about a cluster of teenage suicides in Bridgend, South Wales. Many of the victims had posted messages on social network sites. At least seven young people, all known to each other, have killed themselves in the past year in a series of apparent copycat suicides. Police fear that the prestige of having a memorial website, where friends come to mourn and pay tribute online, may have contributed to the spate of suicides.

A statement from the Ministry of Justice said that the Government wants to encourage ISPs to direct people who are trying to access suicide sites to alternative sites that offer help and support. Among the sites they wish people to be directed to are the Samaritans, NHS Direct and Child Line.

Papyrus, a support organisation that aims to prevent young people committing suicide, is campaigning for the 1961 Suicide Act to be updated to make it illegal to use the internet to induce or advise others to take their own lives, or tell others how to kill themselves effectively. A similar law has been passed in Australia.

 

9th February
2008
  

Update: Guessing Game...


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Outcomes of the Byron Report

Tanya Byron A legally enforceable cinema-style classification system is to be introduced for video games in an effort to keep children from playing damaging games unsuitable for their age, the Guardian has learned. Under the proposals, it would be illegal for shops to sell classified games to a child below the recommended age.

Ministers are also expected to advise parents to keep computers and games consoles away from children's bedrooms as much as possible, and ask them to play games in living rooms or kitchens facing outward so carers can see what is being played.

Ministers are also expected to recommend blocking mechanisms to protect children from seeing unsuitable games, emails or internet sites. Discussions have already been held with internet service providers to see if an agreement on a standardised filter can be reached.

Tanya Byron is officially due to report next month, but education and culture ministers have a sense of the report's direction. The report's contents, which include a lengthy review of the literature on the impact of video games on children, has been discussed between the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Ministers are anxious to strike a balance between the entertainment, knowledge and pleasure children gain from highly profitable internet and computer games, as well as the dangers inherent in the unregulated world of the net and its overuse by children.

A new British Standards Institution specification proposed by Ofcom, the communications regulator, and the industry is expected to allow the developers of filtering products to test them against the standard designed to protect children and other users from illegal or unsuitable content. Companies that pass the test will be able to display a child safety online kitemark.

Ministers hope the Byron review will act as a way of calming the debate about video games which has become increasingly polarised and based on prejudice. They say they are also willing to examine proposals made by a Tory MP earlier this week for an internet standards authority to be set up to ensure that service providers offer a two-tier system with users able to pick content suitable for adults or children. Hugo Swire, a former shadow culture secretary, has suggested that the default setting for internet content would be for children, with a password or pin needed for unfiltered material.

 

19th February
2008
  

Update: Winners and Losers...


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BBFC vs PEGI

Tanya Byron The mainstream media has been pretty rife over the past week with speculation that an upcoming study into violent video games will lead to all games requiring classification from the BBFC

Last weekend, The Guardian newspaper reported the government is likely to subsequently rule all games are rated using the uniform 'cinema style' method as opposed to the current BBFC/PEGI shared system.

A PEGI spokesperson from the Interactive Software Federation of Europe has spoken out about the possible ruling, telling industry website MCV that any move to back the dropping of the PEGI ratings would be a 'mistake' and a 'backwards step' for the UK.

Director general Patrice Chazerand said the body's research shows that the current PEGI/BBFC shared system is trusted and understood by parents and also voiced concerns the UK would regret the decision if games distribution evolves online. He added: I would resent that idea of equating games to movies – it's not the same experience.

Naturally, the BBFC sees things differently. It says it would back any move that makes it responsible for rating every game and that it recognises flaws in the PEGI system. Its own research shows parents can be confused by some of PEGI's ratings. BBFC is a rating people understand from film and DVD, so it might give parents a bit more piece of mind, said spokesperson Sue Clark.

 

18th March
2008
  

Update: Game Slipping Away from the BBFC?...


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PEGI 1, BBFC 0

Tanya Byron Rockstar’s lawyer Lawrence Abramson not only feels that the BBFC's approach to video game classification is flawed, but that the appeals system is a major problem as well.

The Video Appeals Committee overturned the BBFC’s ban of Rockstart title Manhunt 2 , but Abramson still thinks the lack of game players in the process is troublesome.

He continued on the theme but later came up with an interesting snippet: I understand that Tanya Byron is expected to recommend that the regulation of games is taken outside of the BBFC/VAC procedure altogether and that instead the role of PEGI should be enhanced.

A BBFC spokesperson told TechRadar: The BBFC spent many hours examining Manhunt 2 . This involved experienced game players playing the game at every level. Both VAC decisions were by the narrow margin of 4:3. PEGI has no power to reject a game. The BBFC and PEGI co-operate closely.

The VAC decision was a close call. Of the seven members sitting on the Video Appeals, four members of Committee voted in favour of classifying the game against three that voted against Rockstar.

But who were these seven members of the Video Appeals Committee? We asked the BBFC, who informed us that the VAC in the Manhunt 2 case was made up of the following seven people:

  • John Wood, VAC president – former director of serious fraud office
  • Biddy Baxter, TV producer
  • Barry Davies, former deputy director of social services and chair of area child protection committee
  • Pauline Grey – district chairman of the tribunal service and member of the gender recognition panel
  • Prof John Last – former lay member of the press council, lay member of bar standards board, visiting professor at City University
  • Dr. Neville March-Hunnings, lawyer, author of ‘Film Censors and the Law’
  • Dr. Sara Levene, Paediatric safety consultant

 

21st March
2008
  

Diary: A Date with Tanya Byron...

Byron Review publishing date and presentation

Tanya Byron 27th March

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has told MCV that Tanya Byron’s Review into violence in modern media is to be published next Thursday, March 27th.

The paper is widely expected to recommend a 'cinema style' unified ratings system for games – which could spell the end for either the current PEGI or BBFC classifications on software.

See full article from Spong

April 3rd, BAFTA, Piccadilly, London

Dr Tanya Byron, who leads the review process, will be speaking about it at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) headquarters in London's Piccadilly on April 3rd.

According to BAFTA: Dr Byron will be coming to BAFTA to present the thinking behind her report and take questions.

The evening is co-presented by BAFTA and Showcomotion Children’s Media Conference, reflecting the conference's role in exploring the creative, business and regulatory issues facing the entire children’s media and entertainment industry. The moderator for the evening will be Marc Goodchild, Head of Children’s Interactive and On-Demand at BBC Children's.

 

23rd March
2008
  

Update: Censors Lose the Game?...

Independent previews Byron Report and suggests more censors

Tanya Byron The Byron report, to be unveiled on Thursday, will call for action to close the "digital divide" that is exposing children to the dangers of explicit content, internet grooming by paedophiles and "cyber-bullying", without the protection of their parents. Dr Byron said: "Kids know more about the technologies than adults. They are using them more and they understand how to use them."

She will recommend that both parents and children should receive lessons in internet safety, including the use of security software, and advice on limiting the amount of personal information released. Her first simple suggestion will be that computers are positioned in shared areas of homes, such as living rooms, so that parents can keep an eye on what their children are viewing.

The classification of video games quickly emerged as a central concern among parents. The majority of new games are given a rating under a voluntary system maintained by Pan-European Game Information (PEGI). Manufacturers have to apply for a statutory BBFC rating only if their product depicts sex, gross violence, criminal activity or drug use.

Dr Byron told representatives of the gaming industry that restructuring the classification system was a fundamental "housekeeping issue".

The review is expected to recommend that all computer games are given the BBFC movie-style classification, with the possibility that the task of rating and regulating the products should be handed to a new organisation with tougher powers to prosecute offenders.

 

27th March
2008
  

Update: Byron Endgame...

Keeping parents informed and in control

Safer Children in a Digital World report The first national strategy for child internet safety, including a streamlined system for classifying computer video games and codes of practice for social networking sites, will be set out today in a ground-breaking report for government.

The six-month study prepared by the child psychologist Dr Tanya Byron, reflects her concern that parents and children are struggling with the impact of the internet and computer games.

Her report will argue that industry and government must do more to provide information to parents on how to set timers on computers, video games and console games. She will propose:

  • New codes of practice to regulate social networking sites, such as Bebo and Facebook, including clear standards on privacy and harmful content
     
  • A gold standard for the use of console games, including clear set-up guidance for parents on issues such as pin codes and locks
     
  • Better information for parents on how to block children accessing some websites. Byron has been struck that the technology exists to impose timers and filters, but there has been little take-up, knowledge or development of the technology
     
  • A new law based on a 2006 Law Commission recommendation making it unlawful to assist suicide on the internet
     
  • A national council to implement her strategy, with a fixed timetable for industry experts; a parents' panel and child development experts to implement her recommendations.

She will also concede that academic research on the impact of the net on children and their lifestyles is inadequate.

The debate about the internet had, however, been hampered by excessive anxiety, she said, and the issue now placed great challenges before government to do more to protect and educate.

Her research has shown that parents are most worried by predators and children are most concerned by cyberbullying.

Another of her proposals is an overhaul of the video game classification system. Classifications are likely to be refined on the basis that what may be deemed appropriate for someone approaching 18 may well not be appropriate for someone of nine or 10.

The new classification system will be clearer, with one set of logos and much more explicit descriptions of content and context on the packaging. She is also likely to propose a clearer law stating when games cannot be sold under that age. The BBFC system gives no indication about contents of games or detail of why an age rating has been given.

Although social network sites have community guidelines or acceptable use policies, these are not always properly enforced. The most popular video on the website Pure Street Fight was called Girl Beat Up In Street and had been viewed 1,349,046 times.

Byron said she wanted these self-generated and hugely profitable sites to be asked to agree codes of practice on harmful content, and for an independent body to evaluate whether the site is meeting the standards it has set for itself.

 

28th March
2008
  

Update: Games R Us...

BBFC welcome Byron report but game companies aren't so sure

BBFC logo Responding to the Byron Report, David Cooke, Director of the BBFC, said in a press release:

I warmly welcome Dr Byron’s report. She has listened very carefully to all the arguments, and exercised her independent and expert judgement.

It is clear from Dr Byron’s report that games classification is less well understood that that for films and DVDs. We all need to work hard to bring understanding up to the same level, and help parents and children make informed choices. Games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas are for adults, and should be treated in the same way as ‘18’ rated films and DVDs.

Dr Byron says that when it comes to content, parents want better information on which to base their decisions. I welcome the film-style classification system and greater role for the BBFC which she recommends in paragraph 7.47 of her report.

At the BBFC we provide symbols which are trusted and understood; thorough, independent examination by skilled games players; individually tailored health warnings, and also the full reasoning for the classification covering all the key issues; a cutting edge approach to online film and games content, including independent monitoring.

We co-operate closely with the Pan European Games Information Systems (PEGI) and will continue to do so. Unlike PEGI, the BBFC has the power, in exceptional cases, to reject films, DVDs and games which have the potential to pose real harm risk. We reject an average of two to three works a year (mostly DVDs) and will continue to do so where it is necessary to protect the public. At the adult level, we respect the public expectation that adults should be free to choose except where there are real harm risks. But we do not think it would be right to remove the reserve rejection power and we are pleased that Dr Byron agrees with this.

The BBFC has been able to handle a major expansion of the DVD market over the last few years, and we are ready and able to take on the extra work envisaged by Dr Byron. We attach great importance to providing a speedy and effective service, primarily to the public, but also to the creative industries who produce films, DVDs and games. We will be talking to the Government, PEGI and the games industry about how to implement Dr Byron’s recommendations.

We are also studying very carefully Dr Byron’s recommendations on the risks children face from the internet, and believe we have a significant contribution to make in this area too.

Games Companies not so Impressed

See full article from the Financial Times

Safer Children in a Digital World report Computer games companies have warned the government that the proposed overhaul of the classification system could impose an unfair economic burden on the industry.

The industry is concerned that the BBFC would not be able to cope with rating games fast enough, slowing production and putting the country at a disadvantage.

We are concerned about whether the BBFC could do the job. We hope this wouldn't result in a slow and costly accreditation process, said Richard Wilson, chief executive of Tiga, the body representing independent games developers.

It may increase the layers of bureaucracy and expense for the industry, which has already invested time and effort in creating something they think works, said Robert Bond, games law specialist at Speechly Bircham.

Tiga is concerned that the cost of promoting a new rating system will fall solely on the shoulders of games companies, adding an extra cost they can ill afford.

The government must not burden the games industry alone with the cost of executing an information campaign about the ratings system for games. Games developers already face intense competition from government-subsidised Canadian games developers. The last thing the games industry needs is for the UK government to impose additional costs on it, Wilson said.

Jason Kingsley, chief executive of Rebellion, a games developer, said: It could be the straw that breaks the camel's back for some of the smaller, more marginal UK developers.

The games industry is calling for the government to retain the existing PEGIi system used across Europe.

The director general of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association, Paul Jackson, said the proposals needed more work: We have a concern about the detail of the classification system she's outlined. Games publishers believe PEGI is better placed to deliver a "future-proof" system.

 

28th March
2008
  

Update: Byron Reports...

Safer Children in a Digital World

Safer Children in a Digital World report Tanya Byron's report entitled Safer Children in a Digital World has been published

Dr Tanya Byron said in the press release that while new technologies bring incredible opportunities to children and young people, parents general lack of confidence and awareness is leaving children vulnerable to risks within their digital worlds. Many parents seem to believe that when their child is online it is similar to watching television. Dr Byron is keen to emphasise that in fact it is more like opening the front door and letting a child go outside to play, unsupervised. Digital world risks are similar to real world risks but can be enhanced by the anonymity and ubiquity that the online space brings.

In order to improve children’s online safety, Dr Byron makes a number of groundbreaking recommendations including:

  • The creation of a new UK Council for Child Internet Safety, established by and reporting to the Prime Minister, and including representation from across Government, industry, children’s charities and other key stakeholders including children, young people and parent panels.
     
  • Challenging industry to take greater responsibility in supporting families through: establishing transparent and independently monitored codes of practice on areas such as user generated content; improving access to parental control software and safe search features; and better regulation of online advertising.
     
  • Kick starting a comprehensive public information and awareness campaign on child internet safety across Government and industry, which includes an authoritative ‘one stop shop’ on child internet safety.
     
  • Setting in place sustainable education and initiatives in children’s services and education to improve the skills of children and their parents around e-safety.

    On video games, Dr Byron recommends a range of high profile and targeted efforts to help inform parents what games are right for their children, such as:
     
  • Reforming the classification system for rating video games with one set of symbols on the front of all boxes which are the same as those for film.
     
  • Lowering the statutory requirement to classify video games to 12+, so that it is the same as film classification and easier for parents to understand.
     
  • Clear and consistent guidance for industry on how games should be advertised.
     
  • Challenging industry to provide sustained and high profile efforts to increase parent’s understanding of age ratings and improved parental controls.

 

30th March
2008
  

The Beyer Byron Report...

Mediawatch welcome Byron Report

Safer Children in a Digital World report John Beyer director of mediawatch-uk joined the long line of groups welcoming the Byron report and said:

  • Firstly, we welcome the fact that the Prime Minister set up the review at all which we believe indicates that violence and pornography it is a matter to be taken seriously
     
  • Secondly, we welcome proposals for a uniform system of rating games and the requirement that all games involving weaponry and combat are certified
     
  • Thirdly, we welcome the tough new sanctions proposed against retailers who disregard the age classifications on games.
     
  • Fourthly, we welcome the proposals to raise awareness of game and internet content among parents and guardians and the proposals to improve information on blocking inappropriate website content.
     
  • Fifthly, we welcome the important proposal to establish a UK Council on Child Internet Safety and the recommended objectives. This could provide a forum where any aggrieved person could seek relief.
     
  • Finally, we welcome the criticism of some social network sites and the proposals for improved management and oversight of them.

In conclusion Mr Beyer said: We cannot help but wonder how these important proposals will work out in practice and how quickly any new legislation needed can be enacted. The critical thing will be the Government's response to Dr Byron's Review and how long it takes to implement the proposals. Their effectiveness must be monitored carefully and we will do our best to highlight the successes and any failings.

Comment: Has Beyer gone soft?

Thanks to Dan

John Beyer Generally Beyer believes that age ratings and giving parents more information over violent/sexual content is not enough and there should be tougher legislation to stop such content being released in the first place.

But he here is welcoming age ratings and more content information for children. Has Beyer gone soft? Maybe he might change his mind about locking up porn viewers next?

Don't bank on it though Still it's a suitable plug for Mediawatch UK's Children and the Media Booklet (to advise parents.... That the media is a toxic corrupting spawn of the devil destroying our children with violence, sex and perversions and needs to be stopped now!)

Daily Mail logo Meanwhile the Daily Mail with Anne Diamond put a suitably Ban these sick games for the sake of our children spin on the story:

See her article from the Daily Mail

According to Ms Diamond some games such as Resident Evil 4 shouldn't be allowed to be sold even to adults. Does her role as a Mum of 4 give her the authority to tell us adults what games we should and should not be allowed to play? No! And I reckon she is a worthy candidate to be included in your Hall Of Shame.

 

1st April
2008
  

Update: Advertising Responsibility...

Byron recommends research about advertising for video games

Safer Children in a Digital World report The advertising and video game industries are set to work closely with the government to assess the impact of marketing to children following recommendations in The Byron Review.

The report recommends that new research is needed to examine if video games are being advertised responsibly, and also to look at marketing's role in stimulating children's desire to play video games not appropriate for their age.

According to Tanya Byron, an irresponsible video game ad has the potential to be a piece of inappropriate content itself, and can also be part of a process that encourages children to play unsuitable products.

Efforts to ensure the responsible advertising of video games should be seen as one of the key mechanisms to minimise and manage potential risks to children and young people from playing video games that are not appropriate for their age.

Byron suggests the research is completed in time for the government to take stock of the evidence and act accordingly by spring 2009.

 

1st April
2008
  

Update: Press Games...

Newspapers playing games with video games

Tanya Byron Dr. Tanya Byron has said that press reports that the Byron Review recommended stiff prison sentences for retailers who sell games to underage gamers is "plain wrong."

Early reports on the content of the Review by the Times Online and other media outlets claimed it would recommend retailers who sell videogames to anyone under the age rating on the box... face a hefty fine or up to five years in prison. But the author of the report has told MCV that current penalties for selling games to underage customers are adequate, and that no such recommendation exists.

That's nowhere in the Review. Nowhere. I haven't recommended any scary new legal threats to retailers. That's plain wrong. I've read that elsewhere and I'd like to be really clear about that. The law as it stands says you can't sell games to anyone under the statutory age of a BBFC-rated product. I didn't make that up. It's the law, and retailers already know it. All that's changed is that "12" will now join "15" and "18" as a statutory rating.

See full article from Game Politics

An unnamed British newspaper is soliciting tales of those who turned to a life of crime, thanks to playing video games.

A message posted on Star Now, a UK website for aspiring entertainers, reads:

A national newspaper wants your story and will pay hundreds of pounds to the right person.

Write a few lines about how computer games turned you to crime and if it's something we like, we'll call you straight back…

Newspaper request answered by IanG on the Melon Farmers Forum

Dear Sir,

As a criminal I have no moral obligation to tell the truth, indeed, I like to lie and deceive in order to con people out of lots of money. Therefore I have decided to answer your advert for people who`ve been afflicted by game-induced criminal tendencies. As you appear more than willing to believe such nonsense and pay good cash to people like me for such stories I dare say you will be flooded with responses. So let me make my position clear - I`ll say ANYTHING you want to hear - how I raped and murdered wholy ficticious women and children, battered old grannies, burned down public buildings - I`ll say ANYTHING AT ALL as long as the money`s right.

Yours
A. Dodger

See also Anne Diamond article from the Daily Mail

Daily Mail logo And also a reminder of the Daily Mail story with Anne Diamond and a Ban these sick games for the sake of our children story:

According to Ms Diamond some games such as Resident Evil 4 shouldn't be allowed to be sold even to adults. Does her role as a Mum of 4 give her the authority to tell us adults what games we should and should not be allowed to play? No!

 

2nd April
2008
  

Update: The Calendar Game...

Timetable for implementing Byron Review recommendations

Safer Children in a Digital World report The Byron Report suggests a timetable for changes in classification

By Autumn 2008:

  • Consultation on changes to classification system underpinned by clear plans for potential legislative change
  • Industry commits to develop minimum standards for parental controls
  • Campaign to raise awareness of age ratings and parental controls underway
  • Retailers make improvements to in-store information
  • UK Council for Child Internet Safety establishes sub-group on online gaming
    Industry and classification bodies commit to develop single set of standards for managing safety in online games

By Spring 2009:

  • BBFC and PEGI agree and publish standards for managing safety in online games
  • Research into role of video game advertising on underage game play completed
  • Industry guidelines on advertising of video games produced

By Summer 2010:

  • Changes to classification system in place
  • Ongoing monitoring and enforcement of sales of age-rated video games.
  • Government identifies ways for game based learning to be evaluated in different educational environments

 

4th April
2008
  

Update: Retailers Sold on BBFC...

But games producers not so sure

Safer Children in a Digital World report Dr Tanya Byron has told the biggest names in UK video games publishing that retailers persuaded her to give more power to the BBFC over PEGI.

Addressing ELSPA members in Portman Square, London at a closed meeting this morning, also attended by specially selected press, Byron said that retailers very strongly backed BBFC logos on the front of all games boxes to assist the with parental confusion at the point of sale.

However, publisher bosses such as EA UK general manager Keith Ramsdale, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe president David Reeves and SCE UK boss Ray Maguire showed their disagreement with the decision during a show of hands.

Despite largely positive soundings on the Review in general, when asked if they would prefer the current hybrid of BBFC and PEGI classification or one single ratings system, around 90% of ELSPA members opted for the latter.

Byron used the opportunity to praise the UK publishing sector and the manner in which it self-regulated prior to the Review and once again, Byron took the time to dismiss inaccurate reports that she recommended stricter penalties for retailers.

See full article from Mad

Retailers and wholesalers of video games in the UK have pledged to offer their support in implementing an age rating system for games, as recommended by Tanya Byron.

Speaking at a meeting today,The Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) said its 200 members will adopt the main conclusions of the government-led study.

The ERA's members account for around 90% of packaged entertainment sales in the UK, a market it values at £5.3 billon which includes Game, HMV, Zavvi, Woolworths, WH Smith, Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys as well as many independents.

 

11th April
2008
  

Offsite: Concerns About Political Games...

Byron on Vaz and a concern about her review being hijacked for political games

Tanya Byron Tanya Byron was speaking to Paul Jackson of ELSPA:

I met Mr. Vaz and Giselle Pakeerah as part of the process and it was a difficult meeting that had to be handled sensitively and carefully. IT was, after all, the mother of a child who had been murdered.

I felt it was an important meeting, as I know Mr. Vaz has many criticisms of the games industry - and these are often reported widely and can be quite damaging for the industry. I talked to him about my positive experience of the industry – and my experience of ELSPA members in this room.

I think different people will pick up different elements of the report and that's fine – I've been surprised that it's met so many needs for so many people. But my biggest fear is that it will be used for currency – whether that's political or currency within the industry. I don't want that to happen.

...

That's not to say, however, that it's as simple as violent games making people violent. I've never said that, and would be sure to disagree with anyone who inferred that from the Review.

...Read full article

 

24th May
2008
  

Update: Byron Implementation Officer...

Games publishers not keen on rushing into bed with the BBFC

ELSPA logoThe Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association has instructed its members to ignore any request from the BBFC to change the current age ratings process.

The UK industry representative has requested that leading publishers hold fire on implementing any changes to classification of their games until the Government has officially executed proposals influenced by the Byron Review.

The industry is now in an 18-month period of consultation with Government following Dr Tanya Byron'
s recommendations – which included BBFC ratings on all video games boxes and a statutory ‘12'
 classification.

However, ELSPA believes that rival European ratings body PEGI – which seems to have the support of publishers – may be able to make a strong claim to hold greater power, possibly in contradiction to Dr. Byron'
s proposals.

ELSPA told MCV:

You may have heard that the BBFC has appointed a ‘BBFC Byron Implementation Officer'
. Apparently his brief is to contact PEGI and interested trade bodies as well as the country'
s games companies ‘with a view to implementing the Byron recommendations'
.


Our view is that this appointment at the BBFC – along with the brief itself – is somewhat hasty since we still await actual details of the full consultation promised in the Byron Review.

 

31st May
2008
  

Update: British Board of Byron Officers...

Up to the BBFC how they organise their staff

BBFC logoThe BBFC has responded to ELSPA'
s decision to ‘warn off'
 publishers to its advances – stating that its relationship with UK games firms is a private matter.

ELSPA had requested that leading publishers hold fire on implementing any changes to classification of their games until the Government has officially executed proposals influenced by Dr. Tanya Byron'
s Review of the industry.

The statement was sparked by the BBFC appointing a Byron Implementation Officer to oversee relationships with publishers – something ELSPA sees as a premature move.

However, BBFC director David Cooke told MCV: We have made clear that we welcome Byron'
s findings and it is a matter for us how we organise our resources over the coming period.
Dr Byron made clear that she expects the cooperation between the BBFC and PEGI to continue.

 

19th June
2008
  

Update: Cross Border Games...

ELSPA commission survey to back their case to adopt PEGI

YouGov logo A YouGov survey reveals strong UK support for pan-European games rating system, PEGI. This was carried out on behalf of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers’ Association (ELSPA).

The survey found that a majority of British adults (67%) believe it is important to have a single age-ratings system which would be consistent across Europe.

ELSPA has been lobbying for a pan-European system, PEGI, as the consistent age-rating system across the continent.

MEP Michael Cashman welcomed the latest YouGov findings. A senior member of the European Parliament’s Justice, Home Affairs and Civil Liberties Committee, he said: I am not surprised that most Brits believe it is vital that we are signed-up to a pan-European rating system. Many buy their games when they are away, and others download content from European games companies. These are trends which will inevitably continue. PEGI and PEGI Online offer security when UK residents buy games from the continent– and when visiting Europeans buy games from us during their visits.

Total sample size of YouGov research was 1990 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th and 9th June. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Update: Euro Pressure

20th June 2008

In a written response regarding a recent meeting of the Education, Youth and Culture Council, The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport - Margaret Hodge - has reported strong backing for the PEGI video game rating system.

Hodge states, The Commission summarised their communication on video games and pushed member states to implement the voluntary Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system for age rating of video games.

 

25th June
2008
  

Update: Child Regulation Action Plan...

Government publish action plan for Byron proposals

Action Plan cover A comprehensive plan for how the Government intends to make the internet and video games safer for children and young people was published today by Children’s Minister Kevin Brennan, Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker and Culture Minister Margaret Hodge.

The Byron Review Action Plan sets out key milestones and deadlines to deliver all of Dr Tanya Byron’s recommendations as set out in her landmark report Safer Children in a Digital World.

The Action Plan outlines the Government’s proposals for appointing the Executive Board of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. The Executive Board will be chaired by Department for Children, Schools and Families and Home Office Ministers and will include representatives from industry, the third sector, law enforcement and the devolved administrations. It will be responsible for driving the Council’s agenda.

The Action Plan sets out detailed actions and milestones including:

  • how the new UK Council for Child Internet Safety will be set up
  • the development of a self regulatory approach by industry which will make the internet safer for children
  • plans to raise awareness of e-safety issues among children, young people, parents and other adults through a public information and awareness campaign which will begin in summer 2008 as part of a £9m investment by Government in communications to the public about child safety
  • the role of schools and other services for children and families that can help equip and empower children and their parents to stay safe online.
  • reforming the classification system for video games, including plans to launch a consultation to consider all necessary evidence around current and future video games classification
  • how Government will work with industry to improve information and support to parents on video games

 

26th June
2008
  

Update: Delayed Reaction...

Games trade really doesn't want to deal with multiple censors

EA logo Games company Electronic Arts has stepped into the fray over videogame ratings in the U.K., saying that proposed changes to the current system will result in release delays for new titles.

The proposals, initially raised by the Byron Review, recommend the BBFC begin rating games that earn a 12+ rating from PEGI, rather than the 15+ minimum currently used. As a result, according to Eurogamer, the number of games demanding the attention of the BBFC would increase significantly, resulting in delays of ratings across all games.

The government's proposed changes to the existing age rating systems will create further delays in getting hit games to the U.K., said Electronic Arts U.K. Vice President Keith Ramsdale in an interview with GamesIndustry. An extra and unnecessary layer of administration beyond a single system slows the process, and that delay will get passed on to the players themselves.

Every time you add a new standard, game developers have to guess what the censors are looking for. If there's more than one standard in the U.K., and across Europe, that can only equal delays in getting games to market and into the hands of British players."

 

28th June
2008
  

Update: Dual Ratings Duel...

Microsoft really doesn't want to deal with multiple censors

XBOX logo Microsoft exec Neil Thompson has warned the introduction of a new dual ratings system could make games more expensive in the UK.

We're in the business of providing great games to a broad audience of gamers, and we need to be able to fulfil that role by getting products to consumers quickly and at a good price, he told GamesIndustry.biz.

We're concerned with any measures that would mean this process is made more unwieldy, or incurs additional costs which have to be shared with the consumer.

We want a steady stream of product to consumers via retail and therefore support PEGI as the single ratings system in the UK. That way, we're able to ensure the right content goes to the right audience, as efficiently as possible.

 

1st July
2008
  

Update: The Battle of Milton Keynes...

BBFC reply to opposition from the games industry

BBFC logo The BBFC have issued a press releases in response to recent criticism from the the games industry.

It is has also been noted that Tanya Byron's position may have changed. The Times reported Dr Tanya Byron stating that, ...her wish to have the BBFC rate all games 'may be changed slightly as a result of the consultation.'

The BBFC press release reads:

The BBFC's Director, David Cooke, today rejected criticisms from some quarters of the games industry of the Byron Report proposals for games classification. He said:

“We are disappointed and concerned about attempts by one or two video games publishers to pre-empt, through recent press statements, the forthcoming public consultation on video games classification. Their statements are misleading in several respects:

The BBFC's current average turnaround time for games classifications is eight calendar days. In terms of international comparisons, this is notably quick. There is no reason why the increased role for the BBFC envisaged by Dr Byron should lead to delays.

BBFC classifications are already cheaper for many games than those under the Pan European Games Information System (PEGI). Because the BBFC currently deals mainly with the most problematic games, BBFC costs will fall if, as Dr Byron recommended, we take on all games, physical and online, rated ‘12' and above.

It is absurd to imply that the BBFC could not cope, or would need “a building the size of Milton Keynes”. The BBFC is a larger and better resourced organisation than PEGI, and is well used to gearing up, and to providing fast-track services where appropriate.

We reject any suggestions that the Byron proposals for dealing with online games are not future-proof. Countries such as the USA and Germany already classify such games in a way which reflects national cultural sensibilities. The BBFC has made clear that we are prepared to work through PEGI Online, which already recognizes BBFC symbols. But, with online games, the real need is not a pan-national grouping of markets, but rather soundly based and independent initial classification, full information provision, and responsible self-regulation of online game-play backed by properly resourced independent monitoring and complaints mechanisms.

“The games industry really does have nothing to fear from a set of proposals which would provide more robust, and fully independent, decisions, and detailed content advice, for the British public, and especially parents. The Byron proposals, far from envisaging the collapse of PEGI, specifically provide for a continuing PEGI presence in UK games classification. They also provide significant opportunities to reduce duplication of effort and costs. And they would make wider use of a system, the BBFC's, which British parents recognize, trust and have confidence in.”

 

4th July
2008
  

Offsite: Siding with the BBFC...

The Times on the BBFC battle with the games industry

BBFC logo The debate is whether Mr Cooke's BBFC powers should be extended, making it compulsory for him to rate 12 and 15 games - and so help to stop children spending hours in front of the screen absorbing unsuitable images. But he faces opposition from the games industry, which believes existing self-regulation is enough.

...Read the full article

 

9th July
2008
  

Update: Games Industry vs BBFC...

BBFC doesn't seem to have many friends in the trade...I wonder why?

Manhunt 2 game cover A quartet of leading publishers have come out in favor of the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) rating system for the UK market.

The game industry there, including publishers association ELSPA, does not look favorably upon the BBFC, which itself hopes to claim a bigger piece of the UK's video game content rating pie.

The BBFC is probably best known to gamers for its 2007 ban on Manhunt 2 which was later overturned on appeal.

As reported by Next Generation, ELSPA head Paul Jackson minced no words in remarks to British government officials at a media forum in Whitehall: PEGI is the solution for today, and the solution for tomorrow.

Execs from Nintendo, EA, Ubisoft and Sega also weighed in, with Sega Europe CEO Mike Hayes adding: If you look at the PEGI system against the film ratings board in the UK, you will see that PEGI is the only system that has the power to prevent games publishers distributing unsuitable content to children. It can ban a publisher's entire output, rather than just a single title. This power is backed by the entire industry.

See full article from the BBC

BBFC logo Margaret Hodge, minister for culture, creative industries and tourism, speaking at the Westminster Media Forum, encouraged the two sides to work together: Please try and prevent this from becoming a battle between two regulatory frameworks.

The BBFC's Peter Johnson said: Our view is that Dr Byron spent six months looking at all the evidence and all the arguments, including those of Elspa, and her conclusion was that the BBFC and Pegi should work together to achieve the best possible outcome. She placed the BBFC as the senior partner in that arrangement.

Johnson said the BBFC was "disappointed that Elspa is trying to unpick Dr Byron's careful analysis".

Johnson said the BBFC had tried to engage Elspa in dialogue ahead of government consultation so that any new system could "hit the ground running". He added: Unfortunately, Elspa have said they don't want to talk to us about that until after consultation. They have also encouraged some of their members not to talk to us.

Update: ESA

29th July 2008

Michael Gallagher of the US games trade organisation, ESA has Backed PEGI Over BBFC System

Speaking in regards to the PEGI or BBFC debate, he said: The success of the ESRB rating system only goes to prove that industry self-regulation is the best way forward.

 

30th July
2008
  

Update: BBFC to win the Battle of Milton Keynes...

BBFC to win the Battle of Milton Keynes

BBFC logo Ministers will tomorrow give the go-ahead to the first strict and legally binding classification system for video games.

Culture Minister Margaret Hodge is understood to be ready to accept recommendations from television psychologist Dr Tanya Byron, who conducted a review for the Government.

The proposed changes would mean all games coming under a system of statutory labelling, backed up by heavy penalties for underage sale.

Mrs Hodge is expected to give the go-ahead to a compulsory age classification system set down in law, expected to include 18, 15, 12, PG (parental guidance) and U (universal), the same as the system used for films.

The BBFC is likely to have to certify all games attracting a 12 certificate and above. The ratings will have to be displayed prominently on the front of the games.

Retailers who sell video games to underage children in defiance of the new ratings are likely to face heavy fines or up to five years in prison.

Tory MP John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said: 'Computer games, like films, provide entertainment, but some content is quite plainly unsuitable for children.

A report from Whittingdale's committee is tomorrow expected to back moves to give
the BBFC responsibility for legally-enforceable ratings for video games.

It will also point to risks to children from the Internet, particularly from social networking sites.

The moves to enforce cinema- style ratings are likely to anger games manufacturers.

The world's largest games developer, Electronic Arts, said the new scheme would be confusing for parents and would lead to games being released later in Britain than in the rest of the world.

 

1st August
2008
  

Update: The Never Ending Consultation Game...

Margaret Hodge announces another consultation on BBFC vs PEGI

DCMS logo Culture Minister Margaret Hodge has announced a consultation on whether the ratings for games should replicate the system for movies.

Dr Tanya Byron recommended that the rating system for games be reformed to make it easier for parents to work out if a video game was appropriate for their children. Dr Byron suggested a hybrid scheme putting BBFC ratings on the front of boxes and PEGI ratings on the rear.

Announcing its response to the Byron Review recommendations, culture minister Margaret Hodge, said: The current system of classification comes from a time when video games were in their infancy.

She added: The games market has simply outgrown the classification system, so today we are consulting on options that will make games classification useful and relevant again.

Over the next few months the government is seeking responses to find out the favoured method of changing ratings and giving them legal backing.

The four options are:

  • A hybrid BBFC/Pegi system
  • Pegi ratings only
  • BBFC ratings only
  • No change except for the introduction of a scheme to ensure shops and suppliers comply.

But a report published by MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has backed the BBFC to be the body to oversee games ratings.

For its part the Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers Association (Elspa) said it would prefer that the industry-backed Pegi scheme became the only rating system.

What we are asking for is the government to empower Pegi with legal backing, said Michael Rawlinson, managing director of Elspa.

 

23rd September
2008
  

Update: Rubbish Arguments...

ELSPA spouts censorial bollox to the Labour Conference

ELSPA The video game producers' trade body as been lobbying the labour party supporting pan-European PEGI ratings over the BBFC.

ELSPA's Paul Jackson has told the Labour Party that the BBFC is not fit for purpose as a ratings system for videogames in the UK.

The latest in ELSPA's efforts to rubbish the BBFC as a credible ratings board came at a Labour Party Conference fringe event, where Jackson once again claimed the Pan-European Game Information system is better suited to rating games.

Jackson claimed the BBFC is too lenient when it comes to rating games, and that PEGI better understands the growing games business as it incorporates online play and downloadable content: The film ratings board continually downgrades games classified 18 by PEGI. They go to BBFC 15 or even BBFC 12. History shows us that BBFC ratings – and the UK – would regularly be out of step with our European neighbours .

[What bollox, there is no merit in over rating games 'just to be sure', it would lead to parents concluding that ratings are over cautious and hence ignorable]

 

25th September
2008
  

Update: Playing PR Games...Badly...

PEGI piss off the video games press

PEGI logo Major gaming website,  Kotaku commissioned a freelance reporter to follow the BBFC vs PEGI tussle.

After an interview with the BBFC the writer reached out to PEGI for a similar interview, only to be asked to hand over the transcript of the BBFC interview and questioned on Kotaku's support of PEGI.

It seems that the PR agency handling PEGI is willing to set up an interview, but only if Kotaku side with them.

 

29th September
2008
  

Update: The UK Council for Child Internet Safety...

New censors start work today

Byron Report Social networking websites and major technology companies are joining the government in an organisation designed to improve children's safety online.

The UK Council for Child Internet Safety is to be launched by Schools Secretary Ed Balls and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

The council will promote responsible online advertising and will seek to shut down "harmful" websites. It will also develop a code for websites featuring users' content.

The creation of the council is the latest stage in the development of the government's safety strategy for children using the internet.

It follows a government-commissioned report by psychologist Tanya Byron earlier this year, which called for the setting up of a child safety council, as part of a drive to protect children using the internet and digital technologies.

The council, which will report to the prime minister, will have a membership of over 100 organisations, including technology companies such as Microsoft and Google, websites such as Facebook and mobile phone companies such as O2.

Speaking ahead of the council's launch on Monday, Dr Byron said: Every parent will know that video games and the internet are a part of childhood like never before.

This is extremely positive; giving kids the opportunities to learn to have fun and communicate in ways that previous generations could only dream of. But it can also present a huge challenge to parents and other adults involved in the welfare of children.

 

30th September
2008
  

Update: UK Council for Nutter Internet Demands...

Beyer dreams about the new UK Council for Child Internet Safety
John Beyer

John Beyer
Seeing harm everywhere
he looks

Speaking today John Beyer, director of mediawatch-uk said:

We very much welcome the new Council and wish it every success in its endeavours. Many parents are very worried and concerned about the offensive and harmful material so easily accessible on the Internet. We hope that the Council will provide a much needed forum where these issues can be raised and properly considered. The highest priority for the Council is the protection of children and the Prime Minister was right to set it up. We hope that other countries will follow the example we have set in the UK and we hope it will lead directly to an International Treaty on content that will effectively require the plethora of pornographic and violent imagery currently available to be taken down and the stopping of new offensive and harmful imagery being uploaded.

We hope it will lead directly to an International Treaty on content that will effectively require the plethora of pornographic and violent imagery currently available to be taken down and the stopping of new offensive and harmful imagery being uploaded.

Comment: Ban it All

From Dan

So as usual, this does not go far enough for Beyer. He wants an all powerful International Treaty that will ban and remove all porn from the internet.

As we all know nothing will satisfy Beyer when it comes to protecting children other than the government agreeing to ban everything Beyer and his cohorts disapprove of.

Those responsible for protecting children online have come up with all sorts of workable recommendations (such as giving parents more information as to the content of websites) but no recommendations other than BAN THE LOT will do for Beyer and his chums.

Beyer and Mediawatch UK see protecting children as a chance to impose their views on everyone else.

 

2nd October
2008
  

Update: The 12 Years Old War...

ELSPA will continue to fight ratings battle

ELSPA ELSPA's Paul Jackson has told GamesIndustry.biz that the trade body will continue to fight the ratings battle in the UK, even if the government brings in a new act of Parliament to enforce videogame ratings.

The government is currently in a consultation period, gathering evidence from ELSPA, European board PEGI and movie classification experts the BBFC, on how best to protect children from adult videogame content.

So far, UK MPs back Dr Tanya Byron's report that the BBFC should rate videogames aimed at adults in the UK, while ELSPA has put all its weight behind PEGI.

Let me be clear - we will argue coherently our case, stated Jackson. Nobody is saying for a second that if government brings in a regulation for a videogames act of parliament that our members won't fight it. Of course they will.

At the end of the day we're a very law-abiding industry and we'll fight our corner right the way through. If there's a legislative process we'll fight that as well.


Jackson believes he's helping to turn government on to the idea of PEGI taking control of game ratings, after meeting with MPs at the Labour Party Conference, including Shaun Woodward, Anne Keen and Michael Cashman.

I think they're listening now. I have a real sense that the arguments we're making are so well-founded in fact that they're impossible to not listen to, said Jackson.

 

9th October
2008
  

Offsite: On the Edge of a Spat...

BBFC Director David Cooke writes about spat with ESLPA and PEGI

David Cooke I have been reading recently that there's a spat between the BBFC and ESLPA or the BBFC and PEGI. I don't recognize this so-called spat. I have great respect for ELSPA and for PEGI and for the games industry.

Something else that doesn't get said often enough is that I have a great respect for gamers. The people at the BBFC who actually do the games examination are gamers themselves.

We're enthusiasts for games. We're not in any sense hostile to the gaming world and I don't recognize the sort of coverage that suggests otherwise.

...Read full article

 

29th October
2008
  

Update: My Traffic Lights are Better than Yours...

Elspa proposes its own age ratings in traffic light colours

Elspa ratings The video games trade organisation, Elspa, has proposed a solution to the ongoing games ratings controversy.

Elspa supports a 'traffic-light'-type system as part of its voluntary ratings code that it says is more effective.

The BBFC dismissed the effort, saying their own colour-coded approach is well-established.

A government consultation on the matter due to finish in November aims to agree a legally enforceable ratings scheme.

Elspa's proposal would maintain the Pegi procedure and age limits, but says it has taken a lead from the food industry by adding 'traffic light' colours. Higher age limits would be red, with more general audience titles tagged green.

We're offering this idea as a direct consequence of the Byron review; the system needs to remove the potential for confusion and this is what we're doing, Elspa deputy director general Michael Rawlinson told the BBC: The system provided by Pegi is very robust, but we want to make it clearer that something that's for adults only should have that warning colour with it.

Sue Clark, a spokeswoman for the BBFC, dismissed the effort, saying that colour was not the prevalent issue in the debate: Changing the colours of the Pegi symbols is not copying the food industry. There is a system in place already which people know and understand and which in fact uses the traffic light colours, and it's called the BBFC system.

The government consultation will finish on 20 November, with a final decision expected in the new year.

 

31st October
2008
  

Update: BBFC Red Lights Elspa...

BBFC unsurprisingly unimpressed by Elspa symbols

Elspa ratings The BBFC has told Edge it is taking legal advice after observing that the newly-proposed 'traffic-light' PEGI symbols bear a striking resemblance to its own.

The BBFC believes such a system is around already. Our classification symbols have been colour-coded since 1982. They're very widely recognised, and in fact they are trademark and copyright protected, a company spokesperson told Edge.

We're happy for ELSPA to make sensible improvements, but not if they encroach on the protection of the BBFC's symbols. We have these symbols using colours, using circles and using numbers, so we are now taking legal advice.

 

21st November
2008
  

Update: Pegging On...

PEGI to roll out new rating symbols in Europe next spring

Elspa ratings The new traffic light rating system from PEGI is to be introduced into mainland Europe this spring.

Age rating symbols are yet to be finalised, but the current imagery that includes a spider, fist and syringe, is to be expanded on to include descriptive text. This follows suggestions from the Byron report that the symbols were previously too confusing for consumers.

When settled upon, age ratings will be coloured red, orange and green, rather than the current black and white. However, they are currently being reworked from the first design to avoid copyright issues with the UK's BBFC colour-coded ratings.

PEGI has agreed those changes and they will be implemented as part of the PEGI system in the new year, probably in the spring by the time the information has been transmitted to all publishers and incorporated as part of the approvals process for the format holders, said Michael Rawlinson, managing director of ELSPA.

It's still unclear if the traffic light system will be used in the UK as the government is currently looking through information submitted following the Byron review before it decides on the way games should be rated.

The introduction of traffic light colours and changes to the descriptors have been approved, they are now being worked through with lawyers to ensure they do not infringe any existing trademarks and can be adopted smoothly.

 

22nd November
2008
  

Update: PEGI Overrated...

ELSPA arrogance belittles their case against the BBFC

ELSPA ELSPA has released details of their key findings submitted to the government following the Byron Review consultancy period.

It claims that ratings rival, the BBFC, downgraded 22 adult titles already given an 18 rating by PEGI.

The BBFCs downgrading of games opens up the potential of unnecessary risk for UK children and teenagers when playing games against other non-UK players online, said ELSPA.

Last year, of the 50 games that PEGI rated 18+ and passed to the BBFC for classification, the film rating board downgraded 22 of them – almost 50%.

However, the BBFC claims that it takes into account cultural factors when rating games, something that PEGI's Europe-wide system is incapable of doing.

 

25th January
2009
  

Update: Pegging for PEGI...

MEP compiles reporting backing PEGI for all member states

PEGI logoA report by a member of the European Parliament has backed the self-regulatory Pan European Game Information (PEGI) age rating system that is used by the video game industry in Europe.

Dutch politician Toine Manders, who also sits on the European Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, compiled the report with recent trends towards online gaming in mind.

As well as acknowledging the fact that video games are largely non-violent and can be valuable educational tools, Manders also suggested that parents need to be better educated about video game content.

The report goes on to state the importance of an age-verification system that pays particular attention to online games and downloadable content, claiming that European member states should all back the PEGI system.

 

4th February
2009
  

Update: Playing the Game...

Advert censors finds that game companies advertises responsibly

Stranglehold game advert The advertising censor has cleared the marketing practices of the video games industry after conducting a wide-ranging review at the behest of Dr Tanya Byron's review into child safety.

The compliance report, carried out by the Advertising Standards Authority, monitored 241 video game adverts on TV, cinema, online and posters from April to June last year.

The compliance survey found that the majority of the ads monitored did not breach the advertising code. Just one ad was found to be in breach.

The ASA said most of the ads, apart from radio, made a clear reference to the age-rating of the game.

In addition it found that the content of the ads mostly reflected the age-rating of the game with more graphic imagery appearing for video games rated 15 or 18.

Depiction of violence was a strong theme, but it was often stylised, fantasy-like and clearly separated from reality, said the ASA. Appropriate scheduling and placement of the ads meant they were not considered to be problematic.

The advertising watchdog conducted the survey following recommendations raised in Dr Byron's report Safer Children in a Digital World published last year. Byron's review questioned the level to which violent and inappropriate imagery is targeted at children and recommended a survey to look at whether video game ads are advertised and targeted appropriately and in line with their age restrictions.

Our survey is encouraging as it suggests that video games are being advertised responsibly and in line with the [advertising] codes, said Christopher Graham, director general of the ASA.

 

27th February
2009
  

Update: BBFC Leading the Game...

BBFC survey reveals that parents want games regulated by the likes of the BBFC

BBFC logoThree quarters of British parents want to see video games granted cinema-style age classifications, ratified by an independent body, according to a new survey commissioned by the BBFC.

Nearly 80% of those surveyed said they believed video games could affect the behaviour of some children, while 77% said that game ratings should reflect the concerns of British parents.

The survey, which was carried out by YouGov on behalf of the BBFC questioned 2,143 adults.

It comes as the Government considers the findings of the Byron Review, a paper written by parenting expert and psychologist, Tanya Byron, into the steps that need to be taken to safeguard children in the digital age. The Byron Review recommends that video games designed for people aged 12 and over, regardless of content, should be reviewed by the BBFC for classification prior to release.

In 2007, the BBFC alienated sections of the computer games industry by attempting to ban Manhunt 2 , a game in which players must escape an asylum using whatever weapons they can find. Following repeated appeals by the game's publishers, a cut version of Manhunt 2 was eventually granted an 18 age certificate.

The survey also found that 82% of parents believed it would be helpful if video games used the same age ratings systems as films and DVDs. At present, there are two systems of game rating in Britain: the compulsory one run by the BBFC and the competing voluntary one run by the Pan European Games Information body, known as PEGI.

This poll clearly shows parents support a regulatory system for games that is independent of the industry and UK based, reflecting UK sensibilities and sensitivities, said David Cooke, director of the BBFC said. The BBFC has been classifying games for over 20 years and our decisions reflect the views of the public. Our classification systems and symbols are known and trusted by the public and in a converging media world they want to know what their children are playing as well as watching.

 

12th June
2009
  

Update: Rated S for Suspense...

Government to announce computer game censorship scheme in Digital Britain report

Digital Britain Report Labour will announce the new industry standard age classification system on Tuesday next week (June 16th) as part of its Digital Britain report, MCV reveals.

The news comes 12 months after the publication of the Government's Byron Review, which recommended the introduction of one clear age ratings system, falling on the side of ‘cinema-style' classification.

However, a year of consultation with industry followed, in which publishers and ELSPA made their support for a PEGI-led system very clear, rather than the DVD-style BBFC ratings.

 

17th June
2009
  

Update: Game Over for the BBFC...

VSC designated as UK's game censor overseeing self rating via PEGI classifications

VSC logo An overhaul of video games classification rules will make selling a video game rated 12 or over to an underage person illegal for the first time, Creative Industries Minister Siôn Simon has announced.

The PEGI (Pan European Game Information) system, currently used in most European countries, will become the sole method of classifying video games in the UK. It will replace the current hybrid system that has BBFC & PEGI ratings, either of which can appear on video games, and is sufficiently adaptable to work in the rapidly expanding online games market.

There is a new role for the Video Standards Council (VSC), an organisation which is independent from the games industry and will take a statutory role as the designated authority for videogames classification in the UK. It will have a mandate to implement the PEGI classification system for all video games.

This new system will work alongside the robust regulation of Films and DVDs carried out by the British Board of Film Classification, to ensure that consumers have the strongest possible protection across these media. There is no intention to disturb BBFC's jurisdiction in respect of linear material. The BBFC will continue to provide Blu Ray distributors with a one-stop service as at present. It is important that the BBFC and the VSC work together to share best practice in a rapidly changing and demanding media landscape.

The Government will now work closely with PEGI and the VSC on the development of a single, clear set of age-rating symbols to give parents the information they need to ensure that children are protected from unsuitable content, and help retailers to avoid breaking the law by selling games to people below the appropriate age. The new system will consist of five age categories and a series of pictorial boxes, describing content such as bad language or violence.

Professor Tanya Byron said: The PEGI system has been strengthened since my review and the Government has consulted widely on each of my suggested criteria. I support the Government's decision to combine the PEGI system with UK statutory oversight.

The new system:

  • mirrors the way games are classified in much of Europe, which is increasingly important as more games are played online and across international borders
  • is designed with child-safety as its main priority
  • is highly adaptable and works well for games distributed both on and offline
  • includes tough sanctions for manufactures who flout the rules, for example by making a false declaration about a game's content. These include fines of up to 500,000 Euros and a refusal to classify.

The new system will extend PEGI's remit so that all games are classified using its symbols. Information on the content of each game will be submitted to PEGI administrators including the Video Standards Council, which will then review each game to ensure it complies with the law. Following this evaluation, the manufacturer receives a licence to use the PEGI rating logos. The VSC, as statutory authority, will take account of UK sensibilities, and will have the power to ban games that are inappropriate for release in the UK.

PEGI's code of conduct determines which age rating is appropriate for different types of content. The PEGI Advisory Board, which includes representatives of parent and consumer groups, child psychologists, media experts and lawyers, maintains the code and recommends adjustments in line with social, technological or legal developments.

Comment: BBFC Director David Cooke Responds

See article from bbfc.co.uk

We have argued consistently that any games classification system needs to put child protection at its heart. It must involve consultation with the British public, command their trust, and reflect their sensibilities. It must take account of tone and context and be carried out by skilled and knowledgeable examiners. It needs to involve the provision of full, helpful and carefully weighed information to parents and the public more generally. It must have the power and will to reject or intervene in relation to unacceptable games or game elements. It should make a substantial contribution to media education, for example through dedicated websites and through work with pupils, students and teachers. It must be speedy and cost effective. It must have the capabilities to monitor online gameplay and to attract new members to online classification schemes. And it must be independent in substance as well as appearance, reaching its decisions and providing information on the basis of its own detailed assessments.

The BBFC has always supported PEGI and wished it well, but it continues to believe that it satisfies these requirements better than PEGI. However, it will cooperate fully in the detailed work needed to give effect to the Government's decision.

 

18th June
2009
  

Update: Old Squares...

PEGI unveil new age classification symbols

PEGI logo PEGI age rating labels appear on front and back of the packaging at one of the following age levels - 3+, 7+, 12+, 16+ and 18+. They provide a reliable indication of the suitability of the game content in terms of protection of minors. The age rating does not take into account the difficulty level or skills required to play a game.

PEGI 3 PEGI 3

The content of games given this rating is considered suitable for all age groups. Some violence in a comical context (typically Bugs Bunny or Tom & Jerry cartoon-like forms of violence) is acceptable. The child should not be able to associate the character on the screen with real life characters, they should be totally fantasy. The game should not contain any sounds or pictures that are likely to scare or frighten young children. No bad language should be heard and there should be no scenes containing nudity nor any referring to sexual activity.

PEGI 7 PEGI 7

Any game that would normally be rated at 3+ but contains some possibly frightening scenes or sounds may be considered suitable in this category. Some scenes of partial nudity may be permitted but never in a sexual context.

PEGI 12 PEGI 12

Videogames that show violence of a slightly more graphic nature towards fantasy character and/or non graphic violence towards human-looking characters or recognisable animals, as well as videogames that show nudity of a slightly more graphic nature would fall in this age category. Any bad language in this category must be mild and fall short of sexual expletives.

PEGI 16 PEGI 16

This rating is applied once the depiction of violence (or sexual activity) reaches a stage that looks the same as would be expected in real life. More extreme bad language, the concept of the use of tobacco and drugs and the depiction of criminal activities can be content of games that are rated 16+.

PEGI 18 PEGI 18

The adult classification is applied when the level of violence reaches a stage where it becomes depictions of gross violence and/or includes elements of specific types of violence. Gross violence is the most difficult to define since in a lot of cases it can be very subjective, but in general terms it can be classed as the depictions of violence that would make the viewer feel a sense of revulsion.

 

20th June
2009
  

Update: Square PEGI in a Round Hole...

Timetable for switch to PEGI ratings

PEGI logo PEGI will have to wait the best part of a year until it becomes the UK's sole classification system by law.

The proposal to implement PEGI as the UK's only games age classification model, overseen by the Video Standards Council, was put forward by Labour in its Digital Britain White Paper earlier this week.

More consultation will now take place between stakeholders PEGI, the VSC and the Department of Culture, Media And Sport to ‘fine tune' the bill, which will eventually alter the the Video Recordings Act, last tweaked back in 1994.

Following this, it will have to be approved by Parliamentary procedure, which is not likely to be completed until 2010.

However, as reported by MCV, the all-new PEGI logos WILL start appearing on boxes across Europe this summer, and are already being manufactured.

Fear of Indistinctive Symbols

Based on article from news.bbc.co.uk

Tiga logo The videogame trade association, Tiga, say the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) rating systems has room for improvement.

Tiga's chief, Dr Richard Wilson, said changes were needed to make the logos instinctively recognisable. There needs to be an advertising campaign and publicity as to what these pictograms actually mean. While the age ratings are fairly clear, there needs to be improvement to the system - especially the pictograms - because they are not instinctively recognisable.

Laurie Hall - the director general of the Video Standards Council, which administers the PEGI system in the UK - agreed with Dr Wilson and told the BBC that more work needed to be done: I think people need to be made more aware. Take the spider logo: that means 'fear'. In other words, people might find the game scary, but you might not immediately jump to that conclusion looking at the box. Our plan is to have a big awareness campaign and also put consumer information about the game on the packaging, in English, which will help.

 

27th July
2009
  

Update: Playing the Advertising Game...

Advertising codes for video games updated in response to Tanya Byron's recommendations

CAP logo Dr Tanya Byron's review, Safer Children in a Digital World ,  looked at the advertising of video games, its effect on children and the clarity of guidance to the industry.

Advertising codes are the responsibility of two industry Committees independently administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA):

  • the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)
  • the Broadcast Committee of Practice (BCAP)

The Review made two recommendations to the advertising self-regulatory system, specifically on its rules and guidance:

  • …that the video games industry and the advertising industry should work together to ensure consistency of approach between advertising self-regulation and the video games classification systems
  • … that the advertising and video game industries, and those responsible for the classification of video games should work together to produce CAP and BCAP guidance on the advertising of video games.

The Review also highlighted the granularity of codes and guidance relating to ads for video games and encouraged CAP and BCAP to introduce, during the Code Review, placement and scheduling restrictions on ads for age-rated video games.

The ASA, CAP and BCAP have now actioned Byron's recommendations:

  • In 2008, the ASA conducted a Video Games Advertising Survey to assess the compliance rate of advertising for video games against the Codes.
  • In its Code Review consultation, BCAP proposed a new scheduling rule for ads for video games, which mirrors the scheduling restrictions already in place for ads for films and videos. The proposed rule would prevent video games carrying an 18+, 16+ or 15+ rating from being advertising in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 16.
  • CAP and BCAP have compiled new Guidance, which is intended to help advertisers and media owners on both broadcast and non-broadcast ads for video games. The Guidance draws together all of CAP and BCAP's existing guidance on ads for video games and films, as well as lessons from relevant ASA adjudications, to provide a useful, central source of information. The Guidance will also apply to ads for films because they too have the potential to breach the Advertising Codes through unsuitable scheduling or placement or through the content of the ad.
  • To assist the advertising industry further, CAP and BCAP will host an Advice:am seminar on video games and films ads on 15 September this year. The seminar will clarify the Codes' requirements on ads for video games and films and to provide a forum for stakeholders to ask questions about those requirements.

So, by launching new, consolidated Guidance, proposing a TV scheduling rule for video games ads based on the existing rule for ads for films, and by hosting an Advice:am seminar, CAP and BCAP are working with the industry to make sure the dos and don'ts of advertising video games and films are clear. That way, CAP and BCAP can help ensure ads for video games and films remain responsible and that children are protected from potentially harmful or distressing ad content.

 

15th September
2009
  

Update: Must Not Dawdle in the Corridors of Power...

Tanya Byron hurries along the Government's internet censors along

Tanya Byron Tanya Byron is so frustrated at the lack of effort to implement her action plan, which was published 18 months ago, that she is taking matters into her own hands and visiting schools to warn pupils and teachers of the dangers directly.

Although the UK Council for Child Internet Safety has been set up, very little of substance has emerged. Dr Byron, a child psychologist asked by the Prime Minister to draw up proposals on internet safety, said that big ideological divides remained over the scope of online regulations and who should enforce them.

Dr Byron is frustrated that a national strategy on child safety has been delayed from last spring until at least December. A safety campaign pencilled in for the summer has yet to materialise.

A move to adopt the pan-European video game classification system so parents can check if their children's video games are appropriate for their age group is under threat. This summer the Department for Culture, Media and Sport told Dr Byron that there were fears that the existing legislative framework could make it hard to adopt the EU-wide system. She wrote back immediately, asking to meet officials without delay, but has had no response.

She is particularly frustrated that the council appears still to be deadlocked over old issues: the strength of new standards and how to enforce them. Without a figure independent of both the industry, which wants a light touch, and the world of child protection, which is seeking more stringent rules, progress will not be made.

The Government has now set a date of December 8 for a meeting to produce a national strategy, having initially set the spring deadline. Dr Byron has set up her own campaign, the 21st Century Schools Project, and is visiting schools to tell pupils, teachers and parents about safety. The internet moves so much faster than policy. I realised unless I started doing something right now, my own children would be long gone from school before anything changed, she said.

 

6th December
2009
  

Update: Internet Panic...

Social networking sites to add panic buttons

Facebook logoFacebook and other social networking websites are to install panic buttons so children can alert the sites' operators if obscene or inappropriate material is posted.

The site is among 140 companies, charities and other groups who have signed up to new internet standards recommended by Tanya Byron, the government's adviser on online safety. Ed Balls, the schools secretary, and Alan Johnson, the home secretary, will announce the new voluntary code on Tuesday. Gordon Brown may also take part in the launch.

The panic button system, similar to one already announced by Bebo, requires companies to display prominently on their websites how children can report offensive or inappropriate content and to respond promptly.

Other provisions include giving parents greater control over how their children use the internet, with sites obliged to provide safe search facilities and controls with which parents can restrict access to offensive or bullying pages.

The guidelines will concentrate on websites moderated by staff, such as chatrooms, instant messaging and search websites. Details will be drawn up by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), set up following a review by Byron published in March last year. They will be published in the summer.

 

8th December
2009
  

Update: Zip It, Block It, Flag It...

Lessons in internet safety to be added to the school curriculum

Zip It, Block It, Flag ItLessons in using the internet safely are set to become a compulsory part of the curriculum for primary school children in England from 2011. Children will also be encouraged to follow an online Green Cross Code and block and report inappropriate content.

The Zip it, Block it, Flag it campaign is intended for use by schools, retailers and social networks, although it will be up to individual sites to choose how they use it.

The campaign intends to encourage children to not give out personal information on the web, block unwanted messages on social networks and report any inappropriate behaviour to the appropriate bodies, which may include the website, teachers or even police.

False pictures posted on social networking sites will have to be removed by host companies within 24 hours of a complaint under internet safety rules published today.

Companies will also be forced to apply far more effective privacy settings or lockdowns for parents to use on search engines so that young people do not stray on to pornographic or violent sites.

The two new requirements on the industry are part of the Government's long-delayed child internet safety strategy, which will be launched by Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, and Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary.

Ministers delayed their final strategy because negotiations between safety campaigners and the internet companies proved so tortuous. Companies fiercely resisted moves to burden adult internet users with cumbersome safety features that would slow down or restrict access to the web. Some were also sceptical that many parents would use features such as privacy settings or filtering software because they do not understand how it all works.

However, after months of discussions the industry has agreed to independent oversight of all the new policies so that progress can be objectively monitored. They had initially wanted to self-regulate. One of the big consultancy companies is likely to be asked to take on the oversight task.

The new strategy is called Click Clever Click Safe and was drawn up by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. The creation of the council, a coalition of government, industry and charities, was one of Dr Tanya Byron's recommendations. She said that it should be the conscience of the industry, encouraging it to take a greater responsibility for removing inappropriate content promptly, promoting and improving parental control software and regulating online advertising.

The strategy is thought to be the first of its kind and ministers hope it will be adopted around the world.

 

30th March
2010
  

Updated: Progress Report...

Tanya Byron to report on progress of Byron Report recommendations

Tanya Byron TV's Dr Tanya Byron is to meet with Gordon Brown at the end of the month to discuss progress

Two years on from the now infamous Byron Report on video games age ratings, TV presenter Dr Tanya Byron is to return to her work and review the progress that has been made since her set of proposals in 2008.

Byron is currently meeting UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) officials and industry stakeholders to assess progress, and will report to the Prime Minister at the end of March.

Update: Less talk … more action

30th March 2010. Based on article from  thescotsman.scotsman.com

Action to protect children from pornography and other online 'threats' must be accelerated to keep up with advances in technology, a Government adviser has warned. Tanya Byron called for less talk … more action on issues such as parental controls on mobile phones, and warned youngsters could now access adult sites with extraordinary ease .

The TV child psychologist said the creation of Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) and a national safety strategy had made the UK a world leader in tackling the issue. But said it must speed up to stay ahead .

In the two years since I published my first review, a lot has changed – we have a huge number of under-aged children on social networking sites; we know that there are location-based devices; we know that there is an extraordinary ease of access to pornography for children and young people.

Speeding up, we need to see a code of practice for companies and providers, we need to really think about parental controls for mobile phones that can access the internet.

Less talk and a little more action, a little more delivery would be a good thing.

She also criticised a lack of sufficient consultation with young people and parents and urged the Government to push through new rules on video game classification before the election.

 


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