Netflix and BBFC agree age ratings partnership

Netflix and the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) have agreed a new age ratings partnership for content to meet what they say is demand from parents for greater consistency across video on demand and online games platforms.

The BBFC will work with Netflix to move towards classifying all content on the streaming service using BBFC age ratings.

Netflix will produce BBFC age ratings for content using a manual tagging system along with an automated rating algorithm, with the BBFC taking up an auditing role. Netflix and the BBFC will work together to make sure Netflix’s classification process produces ratings that are consistent with the BBFC’s classification guidelines for the UK.

The BBFC and the video games regulator the Video Standards Council Rating Board (VSC) have meanwhile joined forces to publish a joint set of Best Practice Guidelines for online services to work towards greater and more consistent use of trusted age ratings online, according to the BBFC. The move is supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Proposed measures include recommending the use of consistent and more comprehensive use of BBFC age labelling symbols across all VOD services, and PEGI symbols – the age rating system used in the UK and other countries for video games – across online games services, including additional ratings information and mapping parental controls to BBFC age ratings and PEGI ratings.

The voluntary guidelines are aimed at VOD services offering video content to UK consumers via subscription, purchase and rental, but exclude pure catch-up TV services like iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, My 5 and UKTV Player.

The move comes as new research by the BBFC and the VSC showed that almost 80% of parents are concerned about children seeing inappropriate content on video on demand or online games platforms.

According to the research, 90% of parents believe that it is important to display age ratings when downloading or streaming a film online, and 92% of parents think it’s important for video on demand platforms to show the same type of age ratings they would expect at the cinema or on DVD and Blu-ray. Some 94% of parents said it’s important to have consistent ratings across all video on demand platforms, rather than a variety of bespoke ratings systems, according to the BBFC.

The Video Recordings Act requires that the majority of video works and video games released on physical media must be classified by the BBFC or the VSC prior to release. While there is no equivalent legal requirement for online releases, the BBFC has been working with VOD services since 2008, and the VSC has been working with online games platforms since 2003.

David Austin, chief executive of the BBFC, said: “Our research clearly shows a desire from the public to see the same trusted ratings they expect at the cinema, on DVD and on Blu-ray when they choose to watch material online. We know that it’s not just parents who want age ratings, teenagers want them too. We want to work with the industry to ensure that families are able to make the right decisions for them when watching content online.”

Ian Rice, director-general of the VSC, said: “We have always believed that consumers wanted a clear, consistent and readily recognisable rating system for online video games and this research has certainly confirmed that view.  While the vast majority of online game providers are compliant and apply PEGI ratings to their product, it is clear that more can be done to help consumers make an informed purchasing decision.  To this end, the best practice recommendations will certainly make a valuable contribution in achieving this aim.”

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