Film classification and the law
Film classifications were introduced in order to give guidance to parents as to the nature of the content of a certain film. Film classifications have not merely been used to advise parents and protect children over the years, but have also been a way of informing the public in general and indeed a way of banning certain films from being shown at all.
Types of classification
There are six different types of film classification currently used in the UK, they are as follows:
- U – The “U” rating indicates the film in question is suitable for all, or is universal. Despite this name, it is generally used as mere guidance and suggests that the film may still be unsuitable for children younger than four as it is extremely difficult to ascertain or predict how they may react. A U-rated film will have a positive message and be generally upbeat.
- PG – A film rated a PG (parental guidance) may be seen by all, including children without their parents. Parents are advised that some scenes may be unsuitable for children below the age of eight and it is therefore a judgement call for them to make as to how their child will react. Although a PG may be seen by all, it is perhaps unlikely a child of less than eight years old will be allowed to see a film without an adult.
- 12 or 12A – There is no appreciable difference between a film marked 12 or 12a and they are thus treated as one group of film classification. Anybody wanting to see a film marked with this classification must be either over 12 years old or be accompanied by an adult. Therefore, if in the parent’s judgement the film would not be unsuitable for their child then they may take their child to watch it with them.
- 15 – If you wish to see a film marked 15 you must be at least that age. Even if you go to see the film with your parents, by law you should not be able to see the film if you are not yet 15.
- 18 – The 18 category is simply that, you must be 18 or over or you will not be allowed to watch the film. You cannot therefore simply go in with someone who is 18 and expect to be let in with them.
- R18 – This category of films will only be shown in certain licensed cinemas and will not be available at your local video shop. They generally contain explicit sexual content and there is therefore far stricter regulation of the supply of this category of film.
Whilst we have referred to the above classifications using reference to entry at the cinema the classifications also apply when purchasing or renting a film.
Film classifications are there for a reason and strict rules are applied by the regulators when assessing what classification is going to be given to a film. Often there will be heavy dialogue between a film company and the British Film Board since if a production company is making a film aimed at the children’s market they will obviously want to take great care to ensure the film is not classified a 15.
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