BBFC launches online ratings system

BBFC ratings to be extended to downloadable movies and games
BBFC ratings to be extended to downloadable movies and games

Following our report on the British Board of Film Classification's plans for online ratings back on 2nd April, the organisation has finally launched the new voluntary online ratings scheme today, developed in conjunction with the British Video Association.

The BBFC will extend its widely-recognised age -rating labels to digital movie downloads and videogames distributed via the internet, set-top boxes, games consoles or mobiles to “bring the benefits of the DVD classification system to the world of downloads and the internet.”

“There is currently little independent classification of downloadable or streaming video content, either on the internet or delivered by video-on-demand services and via set-top-boxes,” claims the BBFC.

“This is in spite of independent research that indicates that 63 per cent of adults (74 per cent of parents) are concerned about downloading video material which does not come with independent content advice and labelling.”

Familiar symbols, sound advice

Speaking at today’s launch event, David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said: “We are extremely pleased to have been able to work with the video industry to develop a scheme that will give online consumers the same assurance that our symbols and content information provide for cinema films, DVDs and video games. I am particularly pleased by the support and commitment from the industry for this voluntary scheme.

“Consumers considering buying into the world of downloads will be able to rely on our familiar symbols and advice, to decide which films or video games are suitable for them and their children. They will also be assured that the film makers and download services in the scheme are keen to ensure their customers get genuine independent information about the digital films or games on offer.”

Culture Minister Margaret Hodge added: “The introduction of the BBFC system for online film downloads will provide some welcome clarity for consumers, to help them gain greater confidence that their purchases are appropriate before they commit themselves. I hope to see more studios sign up to the scheme.”

Warner, Disney, Fox sign up

The BBFC has confirmed that media companies that have already signed up to BBFC Online include Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Europe.

Anthony Peet, Managing Director of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment said: "WDSHE is delighted to show its support for this initiative. We believe it is important to ensure that content in the digital space is as clearly labelled and classified as that of a physical copy. This scheme offers users the reassurance on the legitimacy and appropriateness of the content they would like to enjoy. This is very positive step for the industry."

Games industry remains quiet

Over 700 videos currently have ‘online certificates’, which the BBFC estimates should rise to about 1000 by the end of the month, but what of downloadable videogames?

Interestingly, while the movie industry seems to be giving its full support to BBFC online, there is, as yet, no official response from the games industry about the initiative.

While the BBFC makes a point in its press release today that the BBFC Online initiative will extend to downloadable games, the organisation has yet to show which games companies are supporting this.

TechRadar has contacted ELSPA for a response to the BBFC Online initiative from the UK games industry.

Adam Hartley