Expert view

David Austin OBE

Following a career in the Diplomatic Service, David Austin obe joined the BBFC in 2003 as an examiner. He became Assistant Director for Policy and Public Affairs in 2011 and is responsible for all aspects of classification policy, as well as the BBFC’s outreach and research work.

Film ratings and the digital world 

David Austin OBE, of the British Board of Film Classification, explains how it is helping parents to make informed decisions about their family’s online viewing experiences.

Be it a trip to the cinema, a DVD from the comfort of your own sofa, or logging on to your computer, it’s never been easier to watch a film. But how can you be sure that your son or daughter’s viewing habits are appropriate for their age? How can you help them to enjoy this amazing medium and, at the same time,avoid unsuitable content?

Introducing the BBFC

Nearly everyone recognises and understands the familiar British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) symbols, which rate films based on their suitability for different age groups. Along with advice as to what a particular film contains, they help parents make informed choices about what they and their children watch.

That’s all well and good in the physical world – for visits to the cinema or for buying a DVD or Blu-ray – but what about online? What information is there to help guide parents when they and their children make viewing choices?

Independent research carried out for the BBFC in 2011 highlighted a clear demand from parents for a trusted guide to digital content – 82% of parents said that they prefer to download videos if they carry a BBFC rating.

In fact, since 2008, the BBFC and the home entertainment industry have been working in partnership to bring trusted BBFC symbols and content advice to films and other audio-visual material (such as video games and music videos) that are being offered online.

Many content providers, such as Warner, Fox, Paramount and Disney, and platforms like BT Vision, TalkTalk, Netflix and blinkbox are working with us to ensure that the material they provide online comes with a BBFC age rating and content advice to empower parents and protect children.

To date, we have classified over 200,000 items of content for distribution online, ranging from full length feature films to music videos. Although this is small in comparison with the vast amount of material available on the internet, it provides parents with reassurance in relation to some of the most popular content and the number of platforms and content providers using BBFC ratings online is growing.

Make informed decisions about your family’s online viewing experiences 

1. Look out for BBFC ratings as a matter of course. There’s no better way of ensuring that your children are watching age appropriate material. Content providers and online platforms that provide BBFC ratings include blinkbox, Disney and Netflix.

2. Check the BBFC website for further information about individual films or classification more generally. The BBFC also offers a free app for the iPhone and Android phones containing information about age ratings and content for individual films and videos, including those classified for distribution online.

3. If you are at all concerned by what you have seen in a BBFC-classified film, contact the BBFC. The BBFC is there to help you make informed choices to protect your children and ensure you have a happy family viewing experience.

Stay informed about the BBFC 

You can sign-up for regular updates from the BBFC on its classification decisions and other information it publishes for parents. You can also take part in the regular surveys of public opinion that the BBFC uses to update its Classification Guidelines.