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What is the BBFC?

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is an independent, non-governmental body. We’ve classified cinema films since 1912, videos/DVDs and some video games since 1984.

Accountable to Parliament, our primary aims are to protect children and other vulnerable groups from harm through legally enforceable classification decisions and to empower parents and children through content information and education. 

Protecting children

The BBFC classifies films, videos/DVDs and some video games, advertisements and trailers according to its Classification Guidelines, with ratings ranging from ‘U’ for Universal to ‘R18’. Learn more about the ratings.

All classification decisions are based on our regularly updated Guidelines, which are the product of extensive public consultation, research and the accumulated experience of the BBFC over many years.

Everyone is welcome to take part in the Guidelines consultation, which takes place every four years.

In the most recent consultation, we sought the views of over 8,700 members of the public on classification – including issues such as language, discrimination, violence, sex and drugs in films, DVDs and video games, parental concerns about younger viewers and recent BBFC decisions. The Guidelines also take into account the various UK laws the BBFC must apply when making classification decisions.

The BBFC also commissions research into particular classification issues (such as the portrayal of suicide in films or the public’s attitudes to discriminatory language) which inform BBFC policy.

From 2 September 2013, the BBFC replaced the Independent Mobile Classification Board (IMCB) in providing the independent framework that underpins the Mobile Operators' code of practice, established in 2004, for the self regulation of content on mobile. You can read about this here.  

The mobile classification framework applies to still pictures, video and audio/video material and mobile (including java based) games, that are provided to Mobile Operators by commercial suppliers or partners. For other general internet content, Mobile Operators will use the BBFC classification framework to calibrate the filters they use to restrict access to internet content via mobile networks by those under 18. 

If you want to give feedback about internet content accessed via your mobile network you should first contact your Mobile Operator. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, the BBFC will review the content to determine whether it should be placed behind parental controls or internet filters. This will normally take no more than five working days. You can find a Q and A about how content on mobiles is classified here.

What information is there for parents?

We provide BBFCinsight, which begins with a short sentence listing the main issues that determined which classification the work received. The advice for cinema films appears on advertising and in listings. In the case of video/DVDs or games, it appears on the back of the packaging.

As well as highlighting issues like violence, sex, language, drugs or other matters that could cause concern, BBFCinsight can also note themes, like suicide, or context, such as comedy or fantasy, which can influence the strength of the material.

At the junior categories BBFCinsight will also warn of behaviour which may be potentially harmful if copied, or highlight content, such as characters in dangerous situations, which might frighten or upset younger viewers.

The BBFC also provides further BBFCinsight in addition to the summary sentence, which is particularly useful for parents, guardians and carers. This provides a more detailed explanation of the classification issues that define the work’s category, and notes any additional content which may be of interest to the likely audience.

What action do you take?

Our decisions are legally enforceable and the great majority of film and video distributors, cinemas and video retailers comply fully with the rules. 

However, sometimes the rules are broken and in extreme cases this can result in law enforcement agencies prosecuting those who have flouted the rules. On average the BBFC provides evidence for around 370 prosecutions a year under the Video Recordings Act 1984. These cases generally concern the supply of unclassified videos, counterfeit videos, or underage sales. 

Making a complaint

We actively monitor and respond to all complaints regarding film classification decisions.

You can lodge a complaint with us via ParentPort’s complaints section. The BBFC aims to deal with all complaints within 10 working days.

Click here to Make a Complaint.

If you don’t have a specific complaint but would like to give your feedback to the BBFC, you can do that in ParentPort’s Have Your Say section.

Want to find out more?

The BBFC website provides up to date information on recent film and DVD video releases, as well as the latest edition of the BBFC guidelines.

The BBFC app, available to download for free via iTunes and Android App stores, gives instant access to classification and BBFCinsight for film and video works.

We also have a website designed for children ( aged 5-12 and their teachers. The site explains how the BBFC classifies DVDs and films aimed at children, and features interactive games to educate them about classification.