BBFC argues for single U.K. ratings system

Converging media bringing film, games together

LONDON -- The British Board of Film Classification hit back Monday in a war of words over which system should be used for video games ratings and classification systems here.

The BBFC's counter follows last week's submission to the U.K. government by British entertainment & leisure software publishers association ELSPA (HR 11/19) throwing its weight behind the currently non-enforceable pan European system dubbed PEGI.

But the BBFC said Monday it had the backing of the movie industry here and argues it is best placed to deal with converging media because of the body's "wealth of experience in both film and games classification."

A spokesperson for the BBFC pointed to the Film Distributor's Association submission to the British government's consultation led by Tanya Byron on the way video games aimed at children are classified, as evidence of its claim.

The movie distributor's trade body submission points to the fact the BBFC's current procedures are "attuned to the business needs of its trade clients (the film distributors), yet it remains an independent body."

The same submission also argues that "it makes full sense, in today’s increasingly converged, digital media environment, to roll out a single, consistent, robust classification system across the board."

ELSPA last week called for the PEGI system to become mandatory here.

But that would lead to headaches for distributors who are now putting games on Blu-ray movie releases alongside the films themselves.

The BBFC argues that it would double the regulation costs for distributors and require two sets of classifications on packaging "which is bound to confuse the retailers and the public."

It all counters ELSPA's assertion that the BBFC shouldn't be put in charge of classifying video gaming, despite the fact it already does here.

The BBFC also says PEGI's ratings do not take into account "U.K. notions of harm and suitability."

Unlike the BBFC -- presently consulting over 12,000 people over its 2009 Guidelines for film and video game classifications -- PEGI has not consulted the U.K. public.

The U.K. Government is expected to announce its final decision in the first quarter of 2009.