BBFC Film Ratings Aren’t Just For Cinema

BBFC

BBFC Film Ratings Aren’t Just For Cinema. Have you ever wondered how one film is 12 and another, a 15? What about those horror films? Cinema is one thing but what when you don’t leave your house – who is helping you at home? So many questions and BRWC got a whole day at the British Board of Film Classification to ask them a ton of questions, watch a film and hear from the compliance officer who rated the latest Disney classic Maleficent just why it is a PG and not a 12.

So what’s new at the BBFC – well they have swanky new logos for their ratings: U, PG, 12, 12A, 15, 18 and R to coincide with the fact that Netflix is using the system just without the black cards sadly. Yes, Netflix have the wording at the beginning say it may contain violence but as of 31 October, they will be using PG, 12 etc.

Who are the BBFC? They’ve been around years, 117 to be exact since 1912 and it is an independent regulator. However, they don’t just rate only films, but tv programmes, websites, music videos, films on airplanes. Back to mobile phones, noticed those pesky parental controls that tell you this website can’t load. It’s all down to parental filters that all the major mobile phone companies use. Where do they get their info from, the BBFC.



A fun fact for you is that 12A only came into existence in 1999. Every four years they consult the public, yes you and me, and show films and ask opinions of what we consider shocking etc. Views changed now people are more concerned with blocking sexual violence in films under 15 than they are about swearing. A film with Keira Knightley if it ever came up for re-release would be considered a 15 rather than a 12A.

Before 1999 films were either PG or 15 and so there are a ton of films that if they came up for rerelease would no longer be considered a PG, eg Jaws. Yes, really that is currently a PG. All those older films from the 1970s and 1980s would only get rerated if a special edition was released etc which happened to The Goonies.

Every film is watched and whilst it is for the BBFC to issue ratings, local authorities have the right to sometimes object to a film being rated in a certain way, the most recent notable example was Northern Soul which the BBFC rated as a 15 but two local authorities deemed it a 12A. In this instance, there was no famous black card but instead, a note pinned to the door saying this film is rated a 12A.

When it comes to television and rating shows like Downton Abbey etc, the compliance officers will watch those shows on a tv screen, just as they watch films in their screening room. They try and recreate the viewing experience as much as possible. Another fun fact is on a box set rating is based on the highest rated episode, so if one episode is rated 15 then the entire box set is a 15.

If it sounds like a fun job watching films all day, a compliance officer will typically watch 5 hours of films all day it is but also they have to take notes on everything they see. There’s pressure involved but with a 92% approval rating from the public, the BBFC is definitely doing something right.

So now you know next time you watch Netflix, the decision making behind the rating!


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Ros is as picky about what she watches as what she eats. She watches movies alone and dines solo too (a new trend perhaps?!). As a self confessed scaredy cat Ros doesn’t watch horror films, even Goosebumps made her jump in parts!

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