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BBFC seeks ‘compromise’ over ratings

Michael French
The BBFC has responded to earlier ELSPA claims that it was incapable of properly working with the games industry - and said it ultimately wants to pursue a partnership with rival pan-Europe classification body PEGI.

Speaking at today’s Westminster Media Forum on the games industry, the BBFC’s head of policy and business development Peter Johnson said that his body’s classification process was “superior – it’s not done through a questionnaire, but playing a game”. However he said that ultimately the classification body wants to work with PEGI.

“We want a partnership approach, not an either/or approach,” said Johnson, referring to the similar recommendation in the Byron Review.

“Byron’s proposal is that PEGI and the BBFC work together – with the BBFC as the senior partnership,” he added.

“We don’t believe you can protect children by crying wolf,” said Johnson, adding that ELSPA suggestion that the BBFC couldn’t properly classify online experiences was a “red herring” as “no one has gotten online right yet”.

“With convergence – an industry buzzword at the moment – it is important to be able to read across from film and DVD to games and back again.” Many recent games are film-related, he added, and new formats like Blu-Ray prove his point on convergence, he said.

“So separating [the BBFC and PEGI] doesn’t make sense when everything is coming together.”

Like Jackson, he also compared BBFC and PEGI – and said that he found PEGI wanting.

“BBFC is based on extensive UK consultation – PEGI has no such process. BBFC is statutory – that’s not true of PEGI.

“We also have the power to reject a game if the risks are very serious – at the extreme. We only use that power very sparingly. ELSPA’s own research says 69 per cent of the public say a reject power is needed. But PEGI doesn’t have one.

“We also provide trusted and understood content advice. If a game contains strong bloody violence – we say so on the box. PEGI uses a pictogram, and people don’t understand them. They don’t realise three men in a box means ‘discrimination’, some think it is a multiplayer game. Our content advice is also backed up by extended classification information our website.”

He also said that using BBFC across games would be easier to understand at retail, and rebuffed suggestions that the British Board of Film Classification wouldn’t be able to cope with the volume of games that need to be rated.

The BBFC classified 15,000 films last year - “we are a well oiled machine,” said Johnson.

He added: “BBFC delaying the release of games? We classified 300 games last year and none of them were delayed. We turn around a game in eight working days – PEGI takes 12 to 14 working days. That’s a red herring.”

Ultimately, he said that the BBFC simply wants to work with Government and the games industry and help ‘beef up’ what PEGI can do, and not be excluded.

“We’re ready and willing to work with the industry to make it happen.”

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Tags: pegi , elspa , bbfc , westminster , byron review

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