BBFC Launches Download Classification Scheme

May 21st 2008: BBFC Launches Download Classification Scheme in Partnership with the Home Entertainment Industry

The BBFC’s widely recognised and trusted classification system is moving to the world of downloadable films, programmes and video games. The BBFC has worked closely with the home entertainment industry to develop this voluntary regulatory scheme that will bring the benefits of the DVD classification system to the world of downloads and the internet. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Europe, Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox have signed up and other key industry players, who have been involved in the development of, are poised to join the scheme.

Launched today, – as the new service is called – has been designed to give consumers the assurance they seek when choosing new media content. The scheme will see the BBFC’s famous ‘black card’, category symbols and Consumer Advice appearing on a wide range of ‘new media’ content, including video-on-demand and streamed video which is offered to the public through websites, set-top boxes and portable media devices.

There is currently little independent classification of downloadable or streaming video content, either on the internet or delivered by video-on-demand services and via set-top-boxes. This is in spite of independent research that indicates that 63 per cent of adults (74 per cent of parents) are concerned about downloading video material which does not come with independent content advice and labelling. In addition, 84 per cent of adults (91 per cent of parents) want to see BBFC film and DVD classification on downloadable/streaming films and other digital audiovisual content. has been developed over the last 18 months, in close partnership with the video and new media industries and the British Video Association. There are already some 700 videos with ‘online certificates’ and this is likely to rise to about 1000 by the end of the month.

The major studios as well as e-tailers and VoD suppliers, are keen to ensure that online content is accompanied by clear and independent content information and age-restrictions using a system trusted by consumers.

The scheme will also require e-tailers and VoD services to have age verification or gate-keeping systems in place for parents to monitor and control underage viewing, and the effectiveness of these protocols will be monitored by the BBFC. Major e-tailers and VoD services are poised to join as soon as their services have been updated in accordance with the requirements of the scheme.

Speaking at the launch, David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:
“We are extremely pleased to have been able to work with the video industry to develop a scheme that will give online consumers the same assurance that our symbols and content information provide for cinema films, DVDs and video games. I am particularly pleased by the support and commitment from the industry for this voluntary scheme. Consumers considering buying into the world of downloads will be able to rely on our familiar symbols and advice, to decide which films or video games are suitable for them and their children. They will also be assured that the film makers and download services in the scheme are keen to ensure their customers get genuine independent information about the digital films or games on offer.”

Culture Minister Margaret Hodge said:
“The introduction of the BBFC system for online film downloads will provide some welcome clarity for consumers, to help them gain greater confidence that their purchases are appropriate before they commit themselves. I hope to see more studios sign up to the scheme.”

Lavinia Carey, Director General of the British Video Association said:
“The online world is still an ‘open frontier’ and the industry is determined to get its own house in order with this new type of business. Our involvement and input into the development of has shown how seriously we take this. We chose to work with the BBFC because of the universal recognition of their system across the UK, and their commitment to supporting both consumers and the industry in making the most of the online world in a safe and recognisable environment.”

Anthony Peet, Managing Director of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment commented:
“WDSHE is delighted to show its support for this initiative. We believe it is important to ensure that content in the digital space is as clearly labelled and classified as that of a physical copy. This scheme offers users the reassurance on the legitimacy and appropriateness of the content they would like to enjoy. This is very positive step for the industry.”
Notes to Editors

1. The scheme includes console-style games which are supplied to the customer via download.
2. The research referred to is available on entitled Downloading Classification Study February 2007 and was carried out by TNS.
3. The BBFC’s legal advice is that works supplied by ‘non-physical’ means (eg by streaming or download) are not covered by the Video Recordings Act 1984.
4. Membership of the Scheme is voluntary and by subscription and there is no cost to consumers.
5. is ‘Platform Neutral’ – it is designed to cover all forms of digital content delivery (eg web, set top boxes, hand-held devices and mobile phones).
6. complies with the self regulatory model advocated by ATVOD.