BBFC guidelines | On-screen violence of ‘increased concern’ in classification shift

jason statham and sylvester stallone star in the expendables 4
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The BBFC have conducted their latest public consultation on their age-rating guidelines – and it’s bad news for violent 12As…

On-screen violence, suicide and self-harm and some sexual content are all of ‘increased concern’ amongst the general public, a BBFC consultation has found.

Throughout 2023, the organisation spoke with 12,000 people across the UK to determine what matters most to audiences when it comes to content classification in the BBFC’s first public consultation since 2019.

The results found that, despite broad support for the BBFC’s current categorisation of violence, audiences expressed concern about how distressing certain types of violence can be. “Going forward, a higher rating may be required for violence across all age-rating categories, especially when particularly intense or impactful scenes occur,” the organisation said in a press release.

Also on the agenda was cannabis and solvent misuse – which audiences seem to be much more relaxed about – and suicide and self-harm, which has risen to become the second-highest area of concern for UK viewers, behind sexual violence but ahead of sex, violence and drugs.

Read more: The Batman was 2022’s most complained about film to the BBFC

Speaking of sex, the findings are a mixed bag. While audiences called for a more cautious approach to categorising sex scenes at the border of 12A/15, people are also in favour of a more lenient approach to the 15/18 border – especially when the sexual context is employed for comic effect.

The changes won’t affect any films, TV shows or trailers which have already been classified unless the distributor re-submits them for approval – for a physical media or VoD release, for example.

Speaking on the guidelines change, BBFC President Natasha Kaplinsky OBE said: “At the BBFC, we’re dedicated to ensuring what we do is responsive to the ever-evolving world around us. Since we last asked people across the country what they thought about our standards, society has changed, and opinions have followed – it’s fascinating how this vast body of new research reflects this.

“This is the first Classification Guidelines update I have overseen as President. Not only am I proud and thrilled to launch these findings, but as someone who has always looked to the BBFC for guidance for myself and my family, seeing first-hand the level of dedication and insight that went into this process has been eye-opening and inspiring. Without a doubt, we are truly shaped by you.”

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