BBC current affairs TV show Newsnight has filmed two boys playing a ’15’-rated game in front of one of its reporters – despite the pair clearly being younger than the title’s BBFC age classification.
Last Wednesday evening’s episode of the show featured an examination of the legacy of media critic Mary Whitehouse, who regularly criticised UK broadcasters over supposed falling standards on TV.
The piece, by reporter Liz MacKean, asked what Whitehouse would have made of media in the digital age – and then showed two 13 year olds playing a 15-rated Mortal Kombat title.
"It’s two people fighting each other to death," said one of the children playing the game, when asked to describe the on-screen content.
"It sounds kind of violent – does that bother you?" asked MacKean.
"Er… not really, no," the young participant responded.
"A couple of my friends, yeah… they just get addicted to [games] – and then become really violent," his friend adds.
"Really – actually violent?" asks MacKean.
"One friend, it affected them a lot – they used to be normal and really nice, but because of a game called Grand Theft Auto they got really violent and use a lot of bad language."
You can see the whole episode here, the games report starts 20 minutes in.
MCV sister publication Develop contacted the BBC for a statement following a raft of complaints by UK games industry professionals.
Newsnight editor Peter Barron said that the item in the show merely represented the truth that children still find it easy to access games content intended for adults.
"In this item we aimed to show the reality that children are routinely playing games intended for older children or adults," he said.
"Obviously we wouldn’t try and alter that reality – we simply asked to film and talk to some young people about their game playing habits, with their parents’ permission. This was done in the same way as we would for example show the reality of under-age drinking."