I can’t travel down for a seminar but I would like to find out more?
Why do some video games have different ratings PEGI and BBFC?
What is the legal position of a teacher who wants to show pupils a film or video at a higher category than is suitable for their age, without first obtaining parental permission?
How do you become a Film & Video Examiner?
What is it like being a Film & Video Examiner?
What sort of person becomes an Examiner?
What is a typical day like for an Examiner?
Do Examiners watch films/DVDs/video games on their own or in a big group?
Do Examiners have to agree on a decision about a film or video?
What is the worst stuff you have to watch?
Do Examiners also have to classify pornography?
Do you treat film trailers differently from full length features?
Do you classify films in all languages?
How do you classify Bollywood films?
Do you treat DVD 'extras' or 'Value-Added Material' differently?
Why do some works get different ratings on DVD or BluRaycompared to the cinema?
Do examiners ever go to the cinema or watch DVDs in their own time?
What is the BBFC's attitude to Gay Sex in Films or DVDs?
Who signs the black card I see displayed before a film is shown at the cinema?
I am 16, how can I prove I am old enough to go to see a '15'?
Whenever possible we will attempt to accommodate requests for interviews with Examiners. We ask that you use the site first to make sure you aren’t duplicating work for them and that you have a clear list of questions first. This includes listening to the podcasts and watching the online seminar. Examiners can usually do interviews by phone or by email. Occasionally it is possible to film an interview with an examiner or a member of the education team – again we ask you to come fully prepared and to recognise that BBFC staff are professionals with a job to do and that the BBFC offices are a place of work. It is important to make sure you are punctual and prepared, your technical equipment is ready to use and that you have your questions formulated. Usually students submit questions before the interview to give Examiners time to prepare answers. Examiners are keen to answer questions about works and about the process and history of classification. Occasionally students send their essay questions to us. The Board will not write assignments for students. To request an interview with an Examiner please click here.
There is a great deal of information available on this site including an online seminar which allows you to watch a BBFC in house seminar and several podcasts in which Examiners and other members of staff discuss classification in depth. It is also worth checking our Events Calendar in case there is a public event in an area near you soon.
Under the Video Recordings Act 1984, most video games are exempt from BBFC classification. However, they may lose this exemption - and therefore require a formal BBFC classification - if they depict, to any significant extent, gross violence against humans or animals, human sexual activity, human urinary or excretory functions or genital organs, or techniques likely to be useful in the commission of offences. In the early days of video games, the quality of graphics was so low that, even when 'human' or 'animal' characters were depicted, they were unlikely to be realistic enough to be covered by the Act. However, the increasing sophistication of computer graphics means that now a number of games require classification, usually because they contain violence against realistic human figures. In some cases, games may also need to be submitted to the BBFC because they contain non-interactive video elements (eg trailers or film clips) that do not enjoy the same exemption as interactive games. Games that retain their exemption - for example because they do not feature violence or sex involving realistic human figures - are classified under the PEGI system, a voluntary pan-European rating system. In the UK the system is administered by the Video Standards Council, who also advises publishers on whether or not their game requires a formal BBFC classification. For more information on the Video Standards Council, please visit their website.
The Government has decided that games will be rated using the PEGI industry system, but as this will require primary legislation, for the present the classification of video games remains as described above. For more information about PEGI and the BBFC and the Byron report click here
The BBFC's cinema ratings legally apply only to licensed cinemas, so it is not illegal for schools to show BBFC-rated videos to its pupils. Merely showing an age restricted tape to underaged persons - or allowing them to see one - is not in itself an offence. We would however strongly discourage such a practice unless (a), the children in question are only a year or so below the age stated on the certificate, and (b), there is some kind of serious educational purpose to showing the recording (eg showing a '15' rated Macbeth to 14 year old GCSE English students). Even in those cases, we always recommend that the school should obtain permission from parents or guardians.
To be an examiner, you do not need 'qualifications' as such. We do require however that you have experience in relevant areas such as media regulation, law and child development. Many examiners have backgrounds in areas such as teaching, law, social work and journalism and once you are hired as an examiner, you then receive all the requisite training that you need. Examiners often have linguistic skills as well, languages such as Hindi and Tamil are particularly valuable as we regularly receive works in these languages. We advertise examiners' positions in the national newspapers.
The job of an examiner is a full-time post. We receive months of intensive in-house training before we start as proper examiners. Apart from classifying films, videos and some digital media games most days, we also visit primary and secondary schools, universities and other organisations to give presentations about the work that we do. There are many research projects that we work on, including maintaining this website and cbbfc - our children's website, and pbbfc our website for parents.
Examiners at the BBFC come from a wide variety of backgrounds. They tend to be graduates but this is not always the case. The current examining team includes educationalists, academics, doctors, lawyers, a video games designer, journalists, published authors, social workers, an actor, a cinema manager, a diplomat and several people who have worked in film, television and video. Like most of the people who work at the BBFC, they have a strong knowledge of contemporary and historical film and a passion for the film, video and games industries.
Examiners view 5 hours and 40 minutes of material a day, but there is not really a typical day as what we watch completely depends on what is submitted by distributors. Our work is allocated randomly so we could be viewing anything from the latest blockbuster or high profile video game to episodes of 1960s or 1970s TV series due for DVD release.
Once we have finished watching the day’s viewing we will discuss the classification, re-watch contentious moments, read up on similar works and write reports explaining how and why we made our recommendations. We will also write Consumer Advice - a concise line of information which gives the public a clear idea of the reason a work has received a particular rating. For cinema works and video games extended information known as ECI is also written - this is a longer explanation of the decision published on the main BBFC website www.bbfc.co.uk
That depends on the material. Cinema films, video games, contentious works and some adult material is viewed in pairs - all other works are viewed alone. However, many works are viewed more than once internally, with additional teams or more senior members of staff viewing works before a decision is reached. For example some controversial material that requires a second viewing might be seen by three Examiners and representatives of senior management and the policy department.
Well, usually a team will agree on the rating because we base all our classification decisions on the BBFC’s published guidelines, but if we do not, the work is sent to another team (of two or three depending on the issue raised). If they still disagree, works are brought to the weekly examining meeting for further discussion or sent to the BBFC’s Director or Presidential team. Really contentious works, like former 'Video Nasties' which are having cuts reinstated, or cinema releases likely to provoke comment, will often be seen again even if the first team agrees a decision.
That depends - all individual examiners have their own foibles and things that they find difficult to watch, and this can be affected by a huge number of variables such as what is happening in an examiner's personal life, or even what he or she has watched earlier that day or that week. Some of the strongest stuff we watch is what we would term 'extreme reality' products, which are works that show things like real life death or injury.
Yes. Pornography accounts for less than 10 per cent of what examiners watch, but when it is aggressive or violent it can be upsetting. The BBFC is very strict with material that is in contravention of the law so we cut elements like underage references and abusive sex (under the Video Recordings Act 1984) and material which is likely to be prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.
Yes and No. When classifying trailers examiners use the same Classification Guidelines, as they do when viewing full length feature films. These Guidelines, clearly lay out what is acceptable at each category for issues such as theme, sex, violence, drugs etc and help the examiners make an informed decision on the right category for each trailer.
However, the BBFC also pays special attention to film and video trailers on the basis that these works come 'unbidden' to the audience. While that audience may have chosen to watch a particular full length feature they have no choice about the accompanying trailers or advertisements which may be very different in tone and content to the film and the BBFC is aware that the potential for these trailers to cause offence is higher. So any images or dialogue that have a high potential for giving offence or causing concern to parents and guardians are unlikely to be acceptable in the lower categories (ie 'U', 'PG' or '12'/'12A').
The Board receives submissions in 52 different languages, from Afghan Pashtu to Yoruba. When a film or DVD is received in a language that is not spoken by one of the examiners, outside interpreters are called in. However, because of the high number of submissions in certain languages, the Board attempts to maintain a reasonable level of linguistic skills in-house, mostly French, German and some Asian languages, such as Hindi, Urdu, Cantonese and Mandarin.
In the case of South Asian films (which, in 2008, constituted approximately 20 per cent of our film submissions), the Board also tries to meet the specific sensibilities of South Asian audiences by ensuring that every Bollywood film classification team always includes at least one Examiner with a thorough understanding of South Asian culture and cinema. This is to achieve, not merely language interpretation, but also to assess receptivity of the audiences the film is intended for. Additionally, all Examiners are trained in the history and issues specific to South Asian cinema. For more information about Bollywood films click here
No, these items are viewed by solo examiners who bear in mind that material such as DVD trailers and moving menus sometimes come to viewers 'unbidden'.
There are two reasons. Sometimes the extras can affect a classification, so a '12A' feature may be pushed to '15' on DVD if, for example, the blooper reel or commentary contains strong language. This is because the DVD rating is based on the highest rating of any extra included with it (the special DVD edition of Jaws had its classification raised from 'PG' to '12' because of Steven Spielberg's infrequent use of strong language in a documentary also included on the disc!). Additional deleted scenes sometimes contain issues like strong violence which were absent from the original release (for example if the distributor chose to cut a film to achieve a lower category but is happy to release it uncut on DVD).
Very occasionally though, the same work can receive a different category. This is because when examiners classify a work for video they have to incorporate the Video Recordings Act 1984 which requires them to bear in mind the possibility of younger children getting hold of material. It also requires them to pay special attention to the issue of potential harm, portrayals of criminal activity and illegal drug use and dangerous imitative techniques.
Occasionally, the BBFC has moved works up a category or cut them for video/DVD on these grounds, for example removing methods of drug preparation or very effective methods of committing suicide which experts have assured us are not well known.
Yes! Naturally there are days when an examiner or any other employees at the BBFC who watch films all the time do not fancy it but most people here still love going to the pictures, watching DVDs and playing games. What is more it is an important part of the job, as it is the best way of keeping up to date with recent decisions and audience responses to films.
The Board is committed to a policy of equality, under which sex scenes are afforded the same treatment whatever the sexual orientation of those taking part. So, quite simply, whether sex involves heterosexual or homosexual individuals, the same classification standards are applied.
The BBFC Director and the BBFC President's signatures are seen on the certificate which is projected before a film. Also known as the 'black card' this is an official document and each card is unique, carrying the film's registration number and the rating it has been given
When the BBFC awards a film a '15' classification, this indicates that no one younger than 15 years can seen the film in a cinema, even if accompanied by an adult or has obtained parental permission.
The cinema will be violating the terms of its license (issued by the local authority) if it admits under-aged children to age-restricted films. Box office staff are within their right to request proof of age of customers if they believe a child to be under age. Likewise, they can refuse to admit a customer if age cannot be proven, or ID is unsatisfactory. Cinemas can refuse to admit a 15 year old (or over) for '15'-rated films without proof of age, despite reassurances from accompanying parents or guardians. Such caution is necessary as cinemas and their staff risk heavy fines or even loss of license if caught in breach of these conditions.
The responsibility for complying with license conditions rests solely with the cinema. It is outside the remit of the BBFC to advise on how these age restrictions are enforced by cinemas. They will be a matter of company policy, or made in accordance with license conditions or the requirements of the local authority. However, all cinemas will have terms of admittance, and parents and teenage viewers are advised to consult these initially.
Often these terms will identify what forms of ID are acceptable. They can be found on cinema websites, or should be available from the box office staff. Some cinemas and chains operate their own ID card system for teenagers and students. Some local authorities offer 'proof of age' cards for public transport which may be acceptable. Some cinemas operate teenage 'film clubs'. Again, information will be available at the cinema.