On-Screen Sex And Violence To Receive Higher Age Ratings From BBFC

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will hand higher age ratings to films that depict violence and on-screen sex and nudity in line with its latest Classification Guidelines following a new survey of the British public.

The BBFC has said it spoke with 12,000 people across the UK throughout 2023 while compiling its latest guidelines “to explore what matters most to audiences when it comes to classification.”

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Regarding sex scenes, the body said audiences were “concerned” by the level of sexual detail, nudity, and the duration of the sex scenes rated 12A/12 under their previous 2019 guidelines. Audiences now want “a more cautious approach to classifying sex scenes at the border of 12A/12 and 15,” BBFC said. As a result, “similar content is now more likely to be rated 15.”

However, the research also indicated that audiences are “happy” for classification to be more lenient towards some sex references at the 15/18 borderline, “especially in comic contexts.”

Following the 2019 guidelines, the BBFC said audiences are also now more concerned about depictions of violence on screen in “content across all age ratings.” While the body said the findings demonstrated “broad support” for how the BBFC currently classifies violence, audiences expressed concerns about how distressing or disturbing some forms of violence can be. In turn, the body said a “higher rating may be required for violence across all age-rating categories, especially when particularly intense or impactful scenes occur.”

Sexual violence remains the biggest area of concern for UK audiences, according to the BBFC. Since 2019, however, the body has said suicide and self-harm have risen to the second biggest area of concern  — ahead of sex, violence, and drugs. Audiences have now expressed a “clear desire to be warned about this type of content,” the BBFC said. The body added that it will “continue to highlight suicide and self-harm in its content advice.”

Elsewhere, the BBFC said audiences are now more accepting of cannabis misuse at the 12A/12 age rating “so long as it is not detailed, glamorized or frequent.” The BBFC will, therefore, “take a less restrictive approach to such material” but maintain its current standards on other drugs.

“At the BBFC, we’re dedicated to ensuring what we do is responsive to the ever-evolving world around us. Since we last asked people across the country what they thought about our standards, society has changed, and opinions have followed – it’s fascinating how this vast body of new research reflects this,” said BBFC President Natasha Kaplinsky.

“This is the first Classification Guidelines update I have overseen as President. Not only am I proud and thrilled to launch these findings, but as someone who has always looked to the BBFC for guidance for myself and my family, seeing first-hand the level of dedication and insight that went into this process has been eye-opening and inspiring. Without a doubt, we are truly shaped by you.”

Chief Executive, David Austin OBE added: “The effectiveness of what we do relies entirely on trust. To ensure we have that trust, and to get to the heart of what audiences think and feel, we go directly to them. Only by doing this can we ensure we are classifying content in line with the expectations of families across the UK. This is essential to maintaining the extraordinarily high levels of public trust that the BBFC is privileged to enjoy.”

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