Netflix to continue with BBFC age ratings after successful trial

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Netflix will continue to provide age ratings on all its content following a successful trial in collaboration with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

The streaming service and the regulator jointly announced they would continue to have a long-term partnership.

Last November, Netflix became the first UK streaming service to carry a BBFC age rating on 100% of its content.

Ratings on the platform are decided based on an algorithm.

The trial period saw Netflix staff manually tag things like violence, sex scenes and swearing in its films and TV shows.

That data was then fed into the algorithm using technology developed in collaboration with the BBFC to determine an appropriate age rating.

Netflix applies BBFC standards to content, which the regulator sets based on its existing classification guidelines. The BBFC audits the content each month to ensure that the streamer is maintaining high levels of accuracy.

The BBFC, which has traditionally set ratings such as PG, 12 and 18 itself, encouraged other streaming services to follow Netflix’s lead.

‘Informed choices’

The long-term collaboration comes after the government announced a review into whether or not to strengthen the rules on age ratings for streaming services to bring them into line with traditional broadcasters.

Networks including the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have to comply with regulator Ofcom’s code covering issues like harm, offence, accuracy and impartiality. But most streaming platforms do not.

Streaming services like Amazon Prime, Now and Disney+ could face tighter regulation in the UK in the future, the government said in June.

Culture minister Caroline Dinenage welcomed the continued collaboration of Netflix and the BBFC, adding the government wanted parents and young people “to be able to make informed choices about what content is appropriate for them to watch”.

“The BBFC’s age ratings are well trusted and widely recognised, which is why I am pleased that this long-term agreement will see their ratings continue to be used across Netflix’s content for years to come,” she said.

The BBFC said a large majority of British viewers welcomed age ratings to help them choose appropriate content for themselves and their families.


Family watching TV


Netflix said it applied BBFC standards to films and television shows, which the regulator has set based on large-scale public opinion research and auditing ratings to ensure consistency.

All films and TV series on the platform now carry a BBFC age rating, along with a line of ratings information, to indicate to viewers that the content adheres to the existing BBFC standards.

David Austin, chief executive of the BBFC, said: “Parents have been very clear that they want and expect online content to carry the same age rating it would carry offline, in the cinema or on DVD.

“Crucially for child protection, BBFC ratings guarantee that age classifications reflect UK parental and child expectations on issues such as sexual violence and drugs use.”

Jessica Stansfield, director of ratings at Netflix, said the company’s members were their “number one priority”, adding: “We are proud to be the first and only streaming service to voluntarily carry BBFC age ratings on 100% of our catalogue.”

The announcement comes amid an ongoing debate about differences in regulation between existing broadcasters and newer streaming services.

Currently, the broadcasting regulator Ofcom’s website contains a statement explaining that “Netflix is based in the Netherlands and therefore not within Ofcom’s jurisdiction”.

Despite that, Netflix announced in 2019 it would collaborate with the BBFC to assign accurate age ratings on the platform.

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