BBFC director says there is “a political shift” taking place in relation to classification of online content; 2013 sees small number of complaints.

BBFC director David Cooke has said there is a “paradigm shift” taking place in relation to the classification of online content.

While the Video Recordings Act currently doesn’t apply to downloads, the number of online-only classifications rose by 40% last year. 

Cooke, speaking at the launch of the BBFC annual report, said that there is currently “a paradigm shift” and “a political shift taking place in relation to [the classification of] online content…It is becoming clearer what our role is, and that both politicians and the public want us to play a role in online classification.”

The number of companies using the BBFC’s Watch & Rate service for online only content doubled, with 11 new platforms licensed to use BBFC ratings online, including Netflix, Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, Sainsbury’s, BA and Virgin Atlantic.

2012, the BBFC’s centenary year, also saw the organisation achieve its goal of an amendment to the Video Recordings Act, meaning it will be able to scrutinise previously ‘exempt video’ content potentially harmful to children.

BBFC Director David Cooke said: “In 2012 the BBFC worked with both Government and the home entertainment industry to maximise the impact of our expertise in tracking public opinion and protecting children from potentially harmful content through both digital age ratings and informing the DCMS consultation on exempt videos.”

The organisation also carried out research into the depictions of sexual and sadistic violence.

Cooke said the BBFC has received a “strikingly small” number of complaints so far in 2013. Jack Reacher is among the most complained about films to date in 2013, with 17 complaints.

As previously reported, The Woman in Black generated the most complaints from the public in 2012, largely on account of the film’s 12A certificate, which complainants deemed too low. Other films to receive double digit number of complaints in 2012 were Men in Black 3, Rock of Ages and Chronicle.

In an unlikely submission, 42 years after its initial release, children’s classic The Railway Children drew one complaint.

The board has yet to classify occasionally explicit Palme d’Or winner La Vie d’Adele Chapitres 1&2 (aka Blue is the Warmest Colour), Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire or Kick-Ass 2, though one BBFC source told Screen they would be ‘highly surprised’ if the film didn’t get the same 15 certificate as the original.

Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, with violent scenes that had some critics squirming during Cannes, has been passed uncut with an 18 certificate.

No films have been banned to date in 2013 and controversy has been thin on the ground compared to previous years when the likes of The Human Centipede, A Serbian Film and, The Dark Knight - largely thanks to certain press campaigning - caused a stir in the media.

Among the films from 2012 passed 18 after cuts were UK horror Deadtime and US horror Dear God No!