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BBFC Age Rating Research

In order to protect children from unsuitable and even harmful content in films and videos and to give consumers information they might need about a particular film or video before deciding whether to view it or not, the BBFC examines and age rates films and videos before they are released. This independent scrutiny prior to release ensures the highest possible level of protection. They watch films and videos all the way through and award an age rating and insight to each one. They reach an age rating by applying the standards and criteria contained in our Classification Guidelines. Typically, two examiners view a film for theatrical release. In most cases a Senior Examiner will confirm the examiners’ recommendation. But if the Examiners are in any doubt or fail to agree, or if important policy issues are involved, the work may be seen by other members of the Board up to, and including, the Director and Presidential team. The same process exists for DVDs and Blu-rays. BBFC look at issues such as discrimination, drugs, horror, dangerous and easily imitable behaviour, language, nudity, sex, and violence when making decisions. The theme of the work is also an important consideration. They also consider context, the tone and likely impact of a work on the potential audience. The release format of a work has an impact on classification. The decisions on the age rating of DVDs and Blu-rays can occasionally be stricter than at the cinema because there is a higher risk of underage viewing in the home and a greater potential for watching scenes out of context.

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No-one under 15 is allowed to see a 15 film at the cinema or buy/rent a ‘15’ rated DVD. 15 rated works are not suitable for children under 15 years of age. No theme is prohibited, provided the treatment is appropriate for 15 year olds. 15 works are stronger than 12 or 12A rated works and could include any of the following: Strong violence Frequent strong language (eg 'f***'). Portrayals of sexual activity Strong verbal references to sex Sexual nudity Brief scenes of sexual violence or verbal references to sexual violence Discriminatory language or behaviour Drug taking There could potentially be a great deal. At 15 there is no upper limit on the number of uses of strong language (eg f***). Occasionally there may be uses of the strongest terms (eg 'c***'), although continued or aggressive use will not normally be passed 15. There may be racist, homophobic or other discriminatory language, and the work could explore themes relating to this. However, at 15 the work as a whole must not endorse discriminatory language or behaviour. At 15 sexual activities can be portrayed, as long as there is no strong or graphic detail. Some sex scenes can be quite long at this category and may involve some nudity and movement. Though nudity may be allowed in a sexual context there should be no strong detail. But, there are no constraints on nudity in a non-sexual or educational context. There can be strong references to sex and sexual behaviour, but especially strong or crude references are unlikely to be acceptable unless justified by context. Heterosexual and homosexual sex and sex references are treated the same. Yes, at 15 violence may be strong. It should not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury, however, and the strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable. Strong sadistic or sexualised violence is also unlikely to be acceptable. Easily accessible weapons may not be glamorised. There may be detailed verbal references to sexual violence such as descriptions of rape or sexual assault in a courtroom scene or in victim testimony. But any portrayal of sexual violence must be discreet and have a strong contextual justification.

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Many horror films are rated 15. At 15 there can be strong threat and menace as long as it is not sadistic or sexualised, although the strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable. At 15 drug taking may be shown but the work as a whole must not promote or encourage drug misuse. The misuse of easily accessible and highly dangerous substances like aerosols or solvents is unlikely to be acceptable at 15. We consider the risk of potential harm to impressionable teenagers. For example, dangerous behaviour such as hanging, suicide and self-harming should not dwell on detail which could be copied.

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Films rated 18 are for adults. No-one under 18 is allowed to see an 18 film at the cinema or buy/rent an 18 rated DVD. No 18 rated works are suitable for children. No theme is prohibited at 18. Adults are free to pick their own entertainment within the law, so it is possible some themes tackled at 18 may be offensive even to some adult viewers. 18 works are for adults and can contain strong issues such as: - Very strong violence - Frequent strong language (eg 'f***') and very strong language (eg ‘c***’) - Strong portrayals of sexual activity - Scenes of sexual violence - Strong horror - Strong blood and gore - Real sex (in some circumstances) - Discriminatory language and behaviour There is no limit on the number of uses of strong or even very strong language which can be passed at 18. Uses could be aggressive, directed, frequent or accompanied by strong violence. There may be racist, homophobic or other discriminatory language at 18, and the work could explore themes relating to this. Though a work as a whole must not be in breach of any relevant legislation, it is possible for discriminatory language or themes to be the main focus of the work, and for main characters to engage in discriminatory behaviour. There can be strong and detailed portrayals of sex at 18, including full nudity. There are no constraints on nudity in a non-sexual or educational context. Very strong, crude and explicit sex references are permitted at 18. An 18 film or DVD might also contain depictions of real sex if it is justified by context, as long as the film or DVD is not a sex work. Sex works are works whose primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation. Sex works containing only material which may be simulated are generally passed 18. Those containing clear images of real sex, strong fetish material, sexually explicit animated images, or other very strong sexual images will be confined to the R18 category. Material which is unacceptable in a sex work at R18 is also unacceptable in a sex work at 18. Where sex material genuinely seeks to inform and educate in matters such as human sexuality, safer sex and health, explicit images of sexual activity may be permitted. Violence can be strong and be portrayed with strong detail. There may even be dwelling on the infliction of pain or injury, or scenes of strong sadistic or sexual violence. The strongest gory images are permitted at this category. The strongest horror works are passed at 18, they may contain strong horror, gore or sustained threat and menace which exceeds the boundaries of 15.

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Drug taking may be shown but the work as a whole must not promote or encourage drug misuse. Though 18 films and DVDs may cover difficult and strong subjects and themes, harm is still a consideration. Very dangerous or criminal behaviour for example, behaviour which if copied poses a credible harm risk to viewers may be cut. In line with the consistent findings of the BBFC’s public consultations and The Human Rights Act 1998, the BBFC will not normally override the principle that adults should be free to choose their own entertainment. Cuts are occasionally made to 18 rated films and DVDs. Intervention is most likely in the following areas: - Where the material is in breach of the criminal law, or has been created through the commission of a criminal offence - Where material risks harm to individuals or, through their behaviour, to society – for example, any detailed portrayal of violent or dangerous acts, or of illegal drug use, which may cause harm to public health or morals. This may include portrayals of sexual violence which might, for example, make rape look appealing - Where there are more explicit images of sexual activity which cannot be justified by context. Such images may be appropriate in R18 works and, in ‘sex works’ , would normally be confined to that category. In the case of video works, which may be more accessible to younger viewers, intervention may be more frequent than for cinema films.