UK film age rating rules get stricter for scenes of sexual violence

Under-15s will no longer be able to go to see films that depict rape and sexual violence under new rules set by Britain’s film ratings body.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) surveyed more than 10,000 people and found it to be among parents’ main concerns.

Any film showing sexual violence will now get at least a 15 rating rather than a 12 or a 12A.

The BBFC also wants its ratings to appear on all streaming services.

BBFC chief executive David Austin said a film like Keira Knightley’s 2008 drama The Duchess, which was classed as a 12 at the time, would be made a 15 today because it included a rape scene.

“What parents told us was, that’s too much for 12-year-olds,” he told BBC News. “It’s enough that a 12-year-old knows that a rape has taken place. They do not need to see it, no matter how discreetly it’s filmed.”

In the survey, parents said they were worried about the “sexualisation of society and what they called the pornification of society”, according to Mr Austin.

“They are worried about children growing up being exposed to too much too soon, and they want to hold onto their children’s childhood as far as they can,” he said.

“That’s another one of the reasons why from now on we will not be classifying any depiction of sexual violence at 12. We will limit it to 15.”

The BBFC also looked at other “real life” scenarios like self-harm, mental health and suicide, but said its existing rules were in line with the public’s views.

For example, viewers were happy that Netflix’s To The Bone, about a young women dealing with anorexia, was given a 15.

“Parents and children said we were right to do this because that issue is not suitable when it’s shown in that way for 12-year-olds,” Mr Austin said.

Viewers were less worried about less realistic action violence, such as that seen in James Bond or Marvel films, the survey found.

Meanwhile, 95% of teenagers surveyed said they want online streaming services to carry the same age ratings as cinemas and DVDs.

They already appear on many Netflix shows and films, but Mr Austin said they were working with Netflix to make it 100% – as well as working with other services.

He said: “We are going to be working in 2019 with some of the big platforms to fulfil what the public has asked us to do, which is to ensure those ratings are consistent when you view something at the cinema, whether you view it on DVD or whether you view it on a tablet in your bedroom.”

The new guidelines will come into effect on 28 February.


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