Media Regulation: The BBFC


What is the BBFC?

The BBFC is the company that gives films an age classification so that they can be given a suitable rating for the audience to know what age the film can be viewed by.

  • protect  the public, and especially children, from content which might raise harm risks
  • empower the public, especially parents, to make informed viewing choices
  • recognize and respect adult freedom of choice within the law
  • respond to and reflect changing social attitudes towards media content through proactive public consultation and research
  • provide a cost-effective, efficient classification service within our statutory remit
  • work in partnership with the industry to develop innovative service models to provide content advice which support emerging media delivery systems
  • provide an effective service to enforcement agencies

What are the different classifications that a film can get?

There are seven different types of classification that can be given to a piece of media, each of these has a different meaning and restricts the audience to be of that age to view it. U means that it is suitable for all audiences of all ages to view. PG means that the film can be viewed by all ages but younger viewers need parental guidance whilst viewing it. 12A means that a cinema release is only suitable for audiences of age 12 years and over, where as 12 means that the video release is suitable for ages 12 and over. If media is classified as 15, it can only be viewed by age 15 and over, similar to the 18 classification that means that it is suitable only for adults. R18 means that the media contains restricted content containing adult themes such as sex and this should only be viewed by adults.

For example, there are many differences between films with the rating of PG to those of 15. PG rates media are mainly aimed at a young audience but not all are aimed at this age range, but still pass this classification. Most themes that are shown in this media are appropriate for this general age group PG media wont contain any themes that are appropriate for children but challenging themes such as bullying, bereavement or racism. Bad language, drug and sexual references do feature sometimes but these will either be for effect or the young audience will not understand the language and references made. Violence and threat in PG media is usually mild in these films and are nothing that a young audience will find scary, also behavior that children might copy never goes unnoticed and will always be presented as being dangerous and harmful.

On the other hand 15 rated media are able to feature more detailed themes and workings. These can be anything from strong violence, frequent strong language, sexual activity portrayal, strong sexual references, sexual nudity, brief scenes of sexual violence or references to sexual violence, discriminating language and behavior and drug taking. This is allowed as no person under the age of 15 is allowed to see a piece of 15 rated media as they are not suitable for anyone under the age.

The Criminal Law

The criminal law states that the BBFC is not allowed to pass any media that is likely to infringe any criminal law. These main criminal laws come from The Obscene Publications Act 1959 and 1964, The Cinematography Films [Animals] Act 1937, The Animal Welfare Act 2006 and The Protection Of Children Act 1978.

The Video Recordings Act

This act stated that the BBFC was required to rate a piece of media as to whether it should be allowed to be viewed in the home and what age the media can be viewed by, and where it should be distributed. This act also stated that taped, discs and packaging should be correctly labelled with the BBFC certificate rating that it has been given.

The Race Relations Act

This act places a legal obligation on public authorities to regard the need to eliminate all unlawful discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between different racial groups.

Rate A Trailer-The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1

After watching this trailer, I identified that it included issues of Weapons, Threat, Violence, Themes and Dangerous Behavior. I then gave the trailer a rating of a 12A. I chose this rating because the issues that the film shows are, all though works of fiction, strong and graphic content that younger views would find scary or upsetting and wouldn’t be suitable for them. Also the theme of war is frequently shown in the trailer and this could become upsetting for younger viewers.

The BBFC examiners spotted that the film contained issues of Threat, Violence and Themes, which is some that I identified as well. They rated this trailer a 12A as I did and gave this reasoning.

‘The main issue in the trailer is the moderate threat and intensity that pervades the content. We see a man say, “it’s the things we love the most that destroy us” at the beginning which establishes the tone of the trailer before seeing various images of war-torn locations, people crying and screaming in fear, a damn breaking and the protagonist running from bullets. The cumulative impact of these images creates a moderate tonal threat which examiners felt was too intense for the PG category. Though there are scenes of violence such as when Katniss and Gale shoot down an aeroplane or when soldiers shoot at people running towards them, these images lack any strong detail or personalisation and are relatively brief. This trailer was passed 12A.’

The Copyright Law

The Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 states that creators of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works, sound recordings, broadcasts and films have the rights to control the ways in which their material may be used. For example, when the consumer buys a product created by a creator that is covered by the copyright law, it is forbidden to give a copy to another person, making an illegal copy and selling it, using the software on a network unless the licence allows it to be used and renting the product without the permission of the copyright holder.






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