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BBFC launches new website

Classification board also bring its Consumer Advice and Extended Classification Information under one banner of BBFCinsight.

Following a soft launch on Tuesday (Nov 27), the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has launched its new website, which brings together its previously separate sites for parents and students together with its main site.

Among the new features are the ability to watch trailers for new films, provided by MyMovies and age-rated by the BBFC, and improved search functionality. “The way our data was organised originally could have been a little better,” Mark Dawson, chief digital officer, BBFC, told Screen.

“You might type in ‘The Dark Knight’ wanting to know what certificate the film received, but you’d end up getting the trailer, the extras, anything with the words ‘Dark Knight’ in the title. The whole database was re-organised so the first search result you see is the thing that you are most likely looking for.”

As part of the new website, the BBFC has brought together its Consumer Advice and Extended Classification Information (ECI) under one banner of BBFCinsight, with the aim of making content advice (such as strength and frequency of violence and swearing) more accessible to consumers.

John Carr, key adviser on internet safety to the UK Government and executive board member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, commented: “By providing detailed information about a films’ rating before it’s released, the BBFC is equipping parents with tools that are timely, intuitive and provide information at a glance, as well as a more in-depth explanation about what their children are going to see.”

The new website follows the BBFC’s decision earlier this year to automatically issue all films classified for DVD or Blu-ray release with online classifications for use on licensed digital video platforms. “Previously if a content provider wanted to use a classification for an older work that we had classified before you would have to pay a fee to get the certificate upgraded,” explained Dawson.

“Our aim is to make the BBFC’s ratings as easily available and widespread as possible and so we have stripped away barriers like that. [It means that] everything receiving a packaged media release will also get an online rating. It also means that everything that we have ever classified is covered.”

This is the result of a scheme that has been developed since the BBFC worked with the industry in 2008 to ensure that all content distributed online was classified. Working with the British Video Association, the BBFC launched digital services to provide platforms with the ability to use BBFC classifications and advice, once they obtain a license from the BBFC. “We give them [platforms] rating tools and they can use the ones that suit their platform best,” commented Dawson.

For example, BT Vision – along with British Airways – utilises the iconic BBFC black card (code-branded with both BT Vision and BBFC branding) before a film plays, while platforms can pull in any aspect of BBFCinsight that they choose. This might be just the BBFC certificate or its full BBFCinsight content information. Currently, the BBFC works with around 15 platforms, with more set to be announced shortly.

As part of this initiative, the BBFC also operates a ‘Watch & Rate’ scheme which allows content that is only intended to be distributed online to receive a BBFC rating. “The actual classification process is the same as it would be for anything else that we do, but the price is lower because we don’t have the same legal obligations, such as providing evidence in court, that the Video Recordings Act requires,” said Dawson.

“It’s specifically designed for content that might not otherwise get a release. People can, if they want to, send content to market without classification but they need to bear in mind that some platforms won’t take it if it is unrated. And, of course, we can offer real peace of mind to platforms that they’re not carrying content that is illegal”.

Crucially, the BBFC’s move into online classification still centres on “information provision” as with their theatrical and video classifications. “The BBFC provides information to enable people to make informed decisions about what they want to see and about what their children can watch,” commented Dawson.

Upon his appointment as President in October, Patrick Swaffer highlighted BBFC’s move into online stating that “90% of parents wish to see the BBFC’s symbols on film downloads”.

While in his keynote at the BBFC’s international film classifiers conference earlier this month, Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey praised the BBFC’s online work explaining that he welcomed “the innovative work being done since 2008 by the BBFC in partnership with the home entertainment industry to bring well understood and trusted BBFC age ratings and content advice into the online space.”

Next year will also see the BBFC undertake an evaluation of their current classification guidelines.

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