Games ratings: Byron review consultation

BBFC versus PEGI: the latest chapter in the ongoing games ratings saga
BBFC versus PEGI: the latest chapter in the ongoing games ratings saga

The games ratings row between the UK games industry and the BBFC rumbles on this week, with latest salvos fired from both sides of the fence.

On the one side, we have the European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) that issued a press release today clearly headed, "Computer Games Industry Tells Margaret Hodge There Is Consensus On Age Ratings."

"The computer games industry has today responded to calls from Culture Minister, Margaret Hodge, for the need to work together to find the best solution to computer games age ratings," reads the release.

Government wants consensus

The ELSPA release adds: "While discussing the findings of the Byron report during an interview in the latest issue of In Stock Magazine, the Minister, said: "What I would love to get to is a consensus from the industry as to how best we protect the interests of children.""

Mike Rawlinson, managing director, ELSPA, adds: "The computer games industry takes its responsibility to protect children and educate parents very seriously and we hope that the Minister will recognise this and agree to support PEGI as the primary ratings system in the UK."

Nintendo, Codemasters and Mastertronic bosses are quoted in the ELSPA release all backing the PEGI system.

Give PEGI 'legal teeth'

Andy Payne, chairman of Mastertonic, notes: "But such a system must be legally enforceable. To that end, PEGI fits the bill in terms of its approach and delivery, it just needs some legal teeth in the UK to make it the obvious choice over and above all other options."

ELSPA's so-called consensus, it seems, doesn't extend to the independent ratings board, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), which is currently the only organisation with the 'legal teeth' Payne refers to (ie the ability to fine renegade retailers that flout the law and sell 18-rated games to minors).

BBFC hits back

In response to ELSPA's press announcement, a BBFC rep told TechRadar

"Like the Government, the BBFC accepts Dr Byron's recommendations in full. Dr Byron spent several months listening to evidence from many people, including consumers as well as games publishers. The BBFC believes that her recommendations are based on a very sound analysis. If implemented, they will be effective in protecting children without putting a disproportionate regulatory burden on the industry."

The rep added: "The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee also looked at who should classify video games, and took evidence from the games industry and ELSPA and came out in favour of the BBFC having a greater involvement with the classification of video games because the PEGI system was not up to it.

"If, following the present consultation, the Government chooses to accept Dr Byron's recommendations, then the BBFC, with 24 years experience of classifying games, looks forward to working with all those involved – games publishers, developers, retailers, PEGI, Government, and most importantly gamers and parents, to ensure an effective classification system, which protects children from harmful or otherwise inappropriate content both online and offline; and which meets the requirements of the video game industry."

The Byron review consultation continues, so stay tuned for further news updates as we get them.

Adam Hartley