Archive for the ‘BBFC’ Category

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bbfc 2019 T he BBFC has released its annual report, which shows a steady growth in both online and film classifications throughout 2019.

In 2019, the BBFC rated 6,506 pieces of content for online distribution, which is a 13% increase from 2018. Compared to just five years ago, online classifications have increased by a staggering 462% (1,158 in 2014).

The most popular age rating for online content is 15, with the BBFC rating 2,976 pieces of content with the classification.

Although content for Video on Demand (VoD) platforms remains the majority of the content classified by the BBFC, film classification has also seen an increase of 6% in the last year, up to 1,103. This marks a 99% increase over the last decade (555 in 2009).

The most popular age rating for film remains 15, with the BBFC rating 368 films for UK cinema goers with the classification.

David Austin, Chief Executive of the BBFC, said:

It’s clear that online platforms continue to thrive in the current media climate, and that they are increasingly using well-understood and trusted BBFC age ratings. Our mission is to help everybody choose content well, whenever, wherever, and however they view it, and people continue to tell us that they benefit from having age ratings and ratings in place, including online.

Over the last year we’ve continued to keep our finger on the pulse of what people really think, and we continue to make sure our age ratings are where people need them. Our innovative partnership with Netflix saw the streaming platform begin to rate its own content to produce BBFC ratings using a tagging system and algorithms that match the standards British families expect and want to see. We continue to look at new ways we can work with platforms to get families the information we know they need, and want.

Every film classified by the BBFC comes with long ratings info, available on the BBFC website and free app, so families can choose content well.

Passed 12 uncut for sexual threat, language, self-harm, sexual violence references and over 20 instances of the word ‘fuck’

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Poster Lost Girls 2020 Liz Garbus Lost Girls is a 2020 USA mystery thriller by Liz Garbus.
Starring Amy Ryan, Thomasin McKenzie and Gabriel Byrne. BBFC link IMDb

When Mari Gilbert’s (Academy Award® nominee Amy Ryan) daughter disappears, police inaction drives her own investigation into the gated Long Island community where Shannan was last seen. Her search brings attention to over a dozen murdered sex workers Mari will not let the world forget. From Academy Award® nominated filmmaker Liz Garbus, LOST GIRLS is inspired by true events detailed in Robert Kolker’s “Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery.”

Lost Girls is major offering from Netflix that demonstrated a major failing at the BBFC with its automated random rating generator used for Netflix ratings.

A ludicrous 12 rating was posted on the BBFC site, and people started to question it. As described by Neil

It was originally rated 12 and a few of us flagged that the system had failed because the content was above and beyond the 12 bracket (dead prostitutes, domestic abuse, over 20 instances of the word fuck (some directed and aggressively used) along with a continual menacing tone.

Funny because they had just done a press release about their new approach to classifying domestic abuse on screen at the beginning of last week!

Anyway – first thing Monday morning, some poor BBFC examiner went and re-rated it. The original 12 rating was deleted and replace d with 15 for strong language, sex references.Here’s the thread from twitter where the BBFC confesses to how their classifying system works without a BBFC examiner.

The BBFC started the conversation rolling with an ill-judged self promotional tweet implicitly boasting about the importance of its ratings:

BBFC @BBFC · As the weekend approaches, @NetflixUK have released lots of binge-worthy content. What will you be tuning in to watch? Whatever you choose, check the age rating on our website: http:// bbfc.co.uk

  • Straight Outta Compton 36.1%

  • Love Is Blind 8.2%

  • Locke & Key 9.8%

  • A Quiet Place 45.9%

Well Scott took them at their word and checked out their ratings for Lost Girls. He wasn’t impressed:

You need to go back to actually classifying Netflix material formally, rather than getting an algorithm to do it. This is rated R Stateside for language throughout, which in your terms means frequent strong language, so definitely not a 12!:

The BBFC responded, perhaps before  realising the extent of the failing

Hi Scott, thanks for flagging, we are looking into this. Just to explain, a person at Netflix watches the content from start to end, and tags the content as they view. Everyone who is tagging content receives appropriate training so they know what to look out for.

Scott noted that the BBFC explanation rather makes for a self proving mistruth as there was obviously at least a step in the process that didn’t have a human in the driving seat, He tweeted:

Yeah, the BBFC and the OFLC in Aus now use an automated programme for Netflix content – nobody actually sits and watches it. I get that there’s lots of material to go through, but this obviously isn’t the best idea. Age ratings you trust is the BBFC’s tagline – the irony.

Neil adds:

This film needs reviewing with your new guidance about domestic abuse & triggers in mind. Over 20 uses of f***, some very aggressive and directed. Descriptions of violent domestic abuse (titanium plates, etc) and dead sex workers, sustained threatening tone. Certainly not a 12.

At this point it looks as if the BBFC hasn’t quite grasped that their system has clearly spewed bollox and tried to justify that the system as infallible even when it is clearly badly wrong:

These tags are then processed by an algorithm that sets out the same high standards as our classification guidelines. Then, this automatically produces a BBFC age rating for the UK, which is consistent with other BBFC rated content.

Scott adds

Ah, I stand corrected – didn’t realise there was a middle man who watches the content. Nevertheless, there’s still nobody at the BBFC watching it, which I think is an oversight – this film in particular is a perfect example.

Next thing spotted was the erroneous 12 rating deleted and replaced by a human crafted 15 rating.

And one has to revisit he BBFC statement: processed by an algorithm that sets out the same high standards as our classification guidelines. Perhaps we should read the BBFC statement at face value and conclude that the BBFC’s high standards are the same standard as the bollox 12 rating awarded to Lost Girls.

Death Ship age rating increased from 15 to a rather excessive 18.

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Death Ship DVD Death Ship is a 1980 UK / Canada / USA horror mystery adventure by Alvin Rakoff.
Starring George Kennedy, Richard Crenna and Nick Mancuso. BBFC link IMDb

Survivors of a tragic shipping collision are rescued by a mysterious black ship which appears out of the fog. Little do they realize that the ship is actually a Nazi torture ship which has sailed the seas for years, luring unsuspecting sailors aboard and killing them off one by one.

The 1980 cinema release was X rated followed by 18 rated VHS in 1987. But the film was reduced to 15 for 2007 DVD with the consumer advice:

Contains infrequent strong nudity, moderate bloody violence and horror

The film has just been resubmitted for video release late in the year but the age rating has been raised back up to 18 for:

strong nudity, bloody images

There are variant versions of the film but I don’t the differences are relevant to the age rating. The age defining scene seems to be where a naked and busty woman is showering only, for the water to turn to blood, (not her blood). The woman gets stuck in the shower by a jammed door and she is eventually killed off screen by the ghostly ship’s captain.The 15 rating surely fits the bill, and the 2007 consumer advice seems accurate. So why has it been bumped up to 18, and why has the BBFC changed the consumer advice so as to no longer mention the ‘moderate’ violence? It seems that the consumer advice has been phrased to justify the over exaggerated age rating rather than to provide informative advice to viewers.

It seems that the BBFC is virtue signalling its concerns about social issues that may generate a bit of an outrage storm on Twitter. I rather predict that we may be in for a bit of surge in silly 18 ratings.

The trouble with using PC terminology is that the primary message conveyed is that the speaker is virtue signalling PC credentials. Then the intended message is of secondary interest and needs scaling down to counter the inherent PC exaggeration

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BBFC logo The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is changing the way it highlights domestic abuse in ratings info for films and episodic content, after working with Women’s Aid and Respect on new research.

The research – which focused on both female and male survivors of domestic abuse, experts and the general public – showed that the BBFC is getting it right when it comes to classification decisions in both films and episodic content featuring domestic abuse. The regulator already takes domestic abuse portrayals seriously, and the respondents agreed that the BBFC rightly classifies these issues at a higher category.

The research showed that less is more, and going into too much detail in the ratings info is a minefield as people’s sensitivities and triggers are complex – this is already taken into account in the classification decision. It was highlighted that the widely understood catch-all term of domestic abuse was much better placed to describe such scenes, as it is considered broad enough to include psychological and economic abuse, gaslighting and non sexual abuse of children.

Therefore, the BBFC will now use domestic abuse instead of domestic violence in the ratings info it issues to accompany its ratings. The BBFC will also stop using the term themes of, which the research showed people felt trivialised the issue.

The research flagged that survivors can be triggered by scenes of domestic abuse, especially if it is unexpected. This can be traumatising, and can lead to people avoiding certain types of content. Responding to these findings, the BBFC will now flag domestic abuse in every case, even if the scenes are not category defining.

David Austin, Chief Executive of the BBFC, said:

This timely and important research is shining a light on people’s attitudes towards domestic abuse, and it’s important that our classifications reflect what people think. It’s very encouraging to see that we’re getting our classification decisions right when it comes to domestic abuse, which already can be category defining. But what it has shown, is that we should bring our ratings info more in line with what people expect and understand, which is exactly what we’re going to be doing. These changes will give people the information they need to choose content well. Most particularly in this case, the ratings info will highlight the issues to those that have been personally affected by domestic abuse, so they are forewarned of content which could trigger distress.

While there were few factors that would reduce the impact of watching a scene of domestic abuse, a series of aggravating factors among survivors were flagged, including: the sound of a key turning in a lock; the silence before an attack; the sound of a slap or a punch; and seeing fear in someone’s face or eyes.

Adina Claire, Acting co-Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:

This research has given an important insight into what survivors, experts and the general public think about depictions of domestic abuse in films and episodic content. We’re pleased that the BBFC have responded to the report, and have reflected the attitudes in their classification policies – meaning that anyone affected by domestic abuse will now have the clear and consistent information they need about what triggers content may contain.

The research also found that the term child abuse was widely associated with sexual abuse, rather than domestic abuse, and having a child present in a scene depicting domestic abuse often meant that the scene was more triggering for audiences. Therefore, the BBFC will limit the use of child abuse to scenes where child sexual abuse is depicted only, with non sexual child abuse also described as domestic abuse.

People agreed it’s very important to educate audiences about the issue and to encourage awareness and discussion. As such, the research strongly underpins the BBFC’s policy of being less restrictive on public information campaigns than on commercial trailers and ads, rating them at the lowest reasonable classification.

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Poster Birds of Prey and the Fantabulo 2020 Cathy Yan Birds of Prey is a 2020 USA action crime adventure by Cathy Yan.
Starring Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ewan McGregor. BBFC link IMDb The upcoming cinema release was passed 15 uncut for strong violence, injury detail, language, sexual threat.

The BBFC noted that this was the first film rated using new technology at the BBFC, explaining:

The first film to be classified using the BBFC’s brand new, world leading classification platform has officially received its age rating certificate.

Birds of Prey is the first cinema release to be submitted and classified using the BBFC’s new client portal and tagging platform. The BBFC has been classifying content since 1912, and this is the biggest technology transformation the organisation has seen.

The transformation project, known as Project Horizon is cloud based, and has been developed by a group of cutting edge technology partners including Amazon Web Services, Vidispine, Guidesmiths, NMR Consultancy Ltd and 100 Shapes.

Dave Barrett, Deputy CEO of the BBFC, said:

This is a radical shift in the way that we work with our clients to classify content. Along with our consultants, Remodus, who worked with us on the development of the platform, we have been working in close partnership with the film and home entertainment industries and our technology partners to design and build a flexible system that makes our classification process even more efficient and much easier for everyone involved.

Everything submitted to the BBFC will still be seen by our highly trained team of compliance officers, it’s simply the tools that we use as a business which are changing. This is a move towards greater transparency between regulator and client – and we’re looking forward to migrating all our clients to the new system by summer 2020

The key differences between the old system and the new platform include; a flexible and intuitive client portal for all submissions; a content tagging and data enrichment platform where classification is carried out; and reduces risk.

The new client portal offers all clients choice over dates and price structure, and greater control over their account management.

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letter price rises 88 Films has tweeted an image of a BBFC letter detailing a price rise of 1.4% on 1st January 2020.The BBFC provides examples of the cost of classifying an average length cinema film (104m) will now be £1074 + VAT.

The BBFC provide a rather meaningless average home video submission off 77m (half way between a TV episode and a feature film, but neither representative of one or the other). The price for that will be £752 + VAT. Which probably means closed to a grand for a 90m film.

Now of course one may say that such commercial information is not really relevant to film censorship, but it is. The higher the cost of censorship the less likely it is that small market film will get a commercial release at all.

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symbols october 2019 300 Don’t call us boring: ‘Generation Conscious’ want to make better decisions than ever before

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is launching new age rating symbols which, for the first time, are designed for digital streaming platforms – a move which will give young people better and consistent guidance about film and TV content, enabling them to make conscious decisions about what they watch.

New research from the BBFC reveals, given their access to more media, nine in 10 (87%) 12-19 year olds want to make better decisions than ever before. Two thirds (66%) of young people resent the idea of being perceived as ‘boring’ or ‘sensible’ – something three quarters (74%) of adults admit to having thought.

Instead, almost all teens (97%) want more credit for being conscious decision makers, making informed and positive choices throughout all aspects of their life. The BBFC’s own research showed 95% of teenagers want consistent age ratings that they recognise from the cinema and DVD to apply to content accessed through streaming services.

A majority (56%) of teens are concerned about watching content without knowing what it contains – and say they want clear age ratings to guide them. A third of teens (32%) say they see content they’d rather avoid on a weekly basis, leaving them feeling uncomfortable or anxious (46%), and one in twenty (5%) saying it had a negative impact on their mental health.

The BBFC’s new digital classification symbols, launching on Thursday 31 October, will help young people to make conscious decisions when it comes to film and content on video on demand platforms. Netflix has welcomed the new symbols, and will begin rolling them out on the platform starting from Thursday 31 October. This builds on the ongoing partnership between the BBFC and Netflix, which will see the streaming service classify content using BBFC guidelines, with the aim that 100% of content on the platform will carry a BBFC age rating.

David Austin, Chief Executive of the BBFC, said: “It’s inspiring to see young people determined to make conscious and thoughtful decisions. We want all young people to be empowered and confident in their film and TV choices. As the landscape of viewing content changes, so do we. We’re proud to be launching digital symbols for a digital audience, to help them choose content well.”

The move empowers young people to confidently engage with TV and film content in the right way. Half (50%) of young people say having access to online content and the internet helps them have tough conversations or navigate tricky subjects, like mental health and sexuality, when talking to parents.

Jack, 12, from Peterborough said: “It’s difficult to choose what to watch online as there is so much choice out there. I like to think about things before I watch them. Sometimes my friends watch stuff I don’t think is appropriate or I might find scary or it just isn’t for me. I could definitely make better decisions and avoid uncomfortable situations if age ratings were more clearly signposted.”

The BBFC is calling for streaming services to clearly label content with age ratings – and has this month launched its first set of VOD User Guidelines , developed in conjunction with video on demand platforms. These user guidelines outline how streaming services can help people by offering clearer, more consistent and comprehensive use of trusted, well understood, BBFC age ratings to support ‘Generation Conscious’.

The BBFC commissioned Studio AKA to produce a short animation , showcasing the new age rating symbols, to help families help view what’s right for them. The film is currently being played nationwide in cinemas until Sunday 3 November.

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DCMS logoMore than £2m of taxpayers’ money was spent preparing for the age verification for porn censorship regime before the policy was dropped in early October, the government has revealed.

The bulk of the spending, £2.2m, was paid to the BBFC to do the detailed work on the policy from 2016 onwards. Before then, additional costs were borne by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, where civil servants were tasked with developing the proposals as part of their normal work.

Answering a written question fromthe shadow DCMS secretary, Tom Watson, Matt Warman for the government added: Building on that work, we are now establishing how the objectives of part three of the Digital Economy Act can be delivered through our online harms regime.

It is not just government funds that were wasted on the abortive scheme. Multiple private companies had developed systems that they were hoping to provide age verification services.

The bizarre thing was all this money was spent when the government knew that it wouldn’t even prevent determined viewers from getting access to porn. It was only was only considered as effective from blocking kids from stumbling on porn.

So all that expense, and all that potential danger for adults stupidly submitting to age verification, and all for what?

Well at least next time round the  government may consider that they should put a least a modicum of thought about people’s privacy.

It’s not ALL about the kids. Surely the government has a duty of care for adults too. We need a Government Harms bill requiring a duty of care for ALL citizens. Now that would be a first!

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nicky morgan Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, issued a written statement cancelling the government’s current plans to require age verification for porn. She wrote:

The government published the Online Harms White Paper in April this year. It proposed the establishment of a duty of care on companies to improve online safety, overseen by an independent regulator with strong enforcement powers to deal with non-compliance. Since the White Paper’s publication, the government’s proposals have continued to develop at pace. The government announced as part of the Queen’s Speech that we will publish draft legislation for pre-legislative scrutiny. It is important that our policy aims and our overall policy on protecting children from online harms are developed coherently in view of these developments with the aim of bringing forward the most comprehensive approach possible to protecting children.

The government has concluded that this objective of coherence will be best achieved through our wider online harms proposals and, as a consequence, will not be commencing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 concerning age verification for online pornography. The Digital Economy Act objectives will therefore be delivered through our proposed online harms regulatory regime. This course of action will give the regulator discretion on the most effective means for companies to meet their duty of care. As currently drafted, the Digital Economy Act does not cover social media platforms.

The government’s commitment to protecting children online is unwavering. Adult content is too easily accessed online and more needs to be done to protect children from harm. We want to deliver the most comprehensive approach to keeping children safe online and recognised in the Online Harms White Paper the role that technology can play in keeping all users, particularly children, safe. We are committed to the UK becoming a world-leader in the development of online safety technology and to ensure companies of all sizes have access to, and adopt, innovative solutions to improve the safety of their users. This includes age verification tools and we expect them to continue to play a key role in protecting children online.

The BBFC sounded a bit miffed about losing the internet censor gig. The BBFC posted on its website:

BBFC logo The introduction of age-verification on pornographic websites in the UK is a necessary and important child protection measure. The BBFC was designated as the Age-verification Regulator under the Digital Economy Act 2017 (DEA) in February 2018, and has since worked on the implementation of age-verification, developing a robust standard of age-verification designed to stop children from stumbling across or accessing pornography online. The BBFC had all systems in place to undertake the role of AV Regulator, to ensure that all commercial pornographic websites accessible from the UK would have age gates in place or face swift enforcement action.

The BBFC understands the Government’s decision, announced today, to implement age-verification as part of the broader online harms strategy. We will bring our expertise and work closely with government to ensure that the child protection goals of the DEA are achieved.

I don suppose we will ever hear the real reasons why the law was ditched, but I suspect that there were serious problems with it. The amount of time and effort put into this, and the serious ramifications for the BBFC and age verification companies that must now be facing hard times must surely make this cancelling a big decision.

It is my guess that a very troublesome issue for the authorities is how both age verification and website blocking would have encouraged a significant number of people to work around government surveillance of the internet. It is probably more important to keep tabs on terrorists and child abusers rather than to lose this capability for the sake of a kids stumbling on porn.

Although the news of the cancellation was reported today, Rowland Manthorpe, a reporter for Sky News suggested on Twitter that maybe the idea had already been shelved back in the summer. He tweeted:

When @AJMartinSky and I broke the news that the porn block was being delayed again, we reported that it was on hold indefinitely. It was. Then our story broke. Inside DCMS a sudden panic ensued. Quickly, they drafted a statement saying it was delayed for 6 months

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womens aid logo The campaign group Women’s Aid is working with the BBFC on a consultation with victims of domestic abuse about how scenes of domestic abuse are classified and the warnings we see before we watch scenes of domestic abuse.The BBFC will be working with a research company and Women’s Aid to set up focus groups in London and Manchester to discuss the issues raised by a variety of film and media content. Participants will be asked to view three or four feature films, in advance of attending the focus groups, and will then discuss those films as well as some supplementary clips.

The research will be conducted by an independent market research company called Goldstone Perl Research. The focus groups will take place in January.