INTERVIEW – Tanya Byron

Do you have any fear that continuing with two ratings systems has the potential to confuse parents?

No – because I’ve made some changes to the statutory bits, but also to the consumer-facing element. That’s the bit that stops parents making the right decision at the moment. As far as I’m concerned, the two classification systems working together up until now has been brilliant and the relationship between the BBFC and PEGI is great. I could see it when I was working with both organisations.

But I felt really concerned by the fact the Review had brought up the classification system so early. It literally fell into my lap within days. I wanted the process to happen in a way that didn’t cause problems for these two organisations. I know there had been a collaborative relationship that has worked well, but that’s not all I was hearing – particularly from some parts of industry. I was lobbied very strongly from some parts of the industry for PEGI, but I can tell you that other sectors felt very strongly for the BBFC.

To set the record straight: what exactly will be changing when it comes to age ratings?

I’ve asked the Prime Minister to change legislation so the statutory age goes down to 12. BBFC will rate 12, 15 and 18 – they’ll have to, it’s the law. Under 12, PEGI should rate, because content for under-12s is less important for the consumer. And the consumer-facing element will be BBFC logos – they’ll be on the front of the box.

I’ve asked for BBFC ratings like ‘U’ and ‘PG’ on the PEGI-rated stuff, but the BBFC has agreed that PEGI ratings should also be on the back of all their boxes – even the ‘12′, ‘15′ and ‘18′-rated stuff. That’s quite a big thing for the BBFC to agree to.

Child safety is the remit that I was given, but there were other imperatives – not least the impact on industry. That’s why PEGI is still involved in non-statutory classification. The BBFC agree with that, and will put their logos on these PEGI-rated titles.

MCVUK.COM EXCLUSIVE: Do you have any knowledge of whether this is going to increase the time it takes to get a game to market?

I have no knowledge. But what I do know is that when I was looking to make these recommendations, it’s something I thought about really carefully. Capacity has to be built – that’s why there’s public consultation. I’m honestly not trying to avoid your questions, but some of them go beyond my recommendations. I’ve delivered them now – there is now a process that has to happen. The best way to influence that is by putting assertive timelines around it, which I’ve done.

MCVUK.COM EXCLUSIVE: What was the thinking behind the introduction of the ‘12′ certificate?

I found there is a distinction between content in a way that takes it out of the ubiquitous, family-friendly domain, with slightly realistic violence and sexual innuendo. That’s the point when people want to start making decisions about: Is this right for my child?” All the evidence I have, including information about a child’s cortex development and how children learn at a neural level in early childhood, showed that kind of content needed to be checked.

Are you a fan of PEGI?

I didn’t want this to cause the collapse of PEGI in Europe and I also feel that with online gaming there needs to be a multi-national feel, as well as a national feel. I want to support the existence of PEGI, because it’s very important. If it collapsed it would have a profound impact across Europe. PEGI ratings exist on many, many products already. If children buy online, they buy a product with a PEGI rating on it. For me, it was very important the PEGI rating itself was visible. Everyone needs to know what the symbols are. PEGI is a good system which will still rate 50 per cent of the market – for the under 12s.

What about online games?

When it comes to the internet, we don’t want to have the same confusion, where suddenly we’ve got two different things happening. I’ve not made specific recommendations there, because it’s too early in the day. I think this needs to be thought about by the industry – along with internet providers.

I’m asking the Prime Minister to establish the UK Child Internet Safety Council, which will be chaired by the home office and the DCSF (Department for Children, Schools and Families). When policy is debated there, online gaming will be discussed.

How will communication work – will PEGI recommend an under-12 rating to the BBFC?

Yes, in principal. But it’s up to the BBFC how they manage that. This is going to take time, particularly with the change in statutory legislation – that’s going to take a period of primary consultation. For me, managing the press has been such a challenge. Press still has the mindset ‘all games bad’ or ‘games industry equals bad’.

Funny you should say that. Our favourite one this week was…

Anne Diamond

in The Daily Mail. Unbelievable.

Surely they could have afforded Fern Britton?

She would have been great, actually. Fern’s a pretty level-headed woman.

Some concerns have been raised about the BBFC’s capacity to handle the extra workload. Do you have confidence in it?

I know ELSPA had a thing or two to say about that. I’ve told the press that in the period of public consultation we are now in, the industry needs the opportunity to have its voice heard very clearly. There are concerns about the BBFC’s capacity and capacity building – and that needs to be part of the process. The BBFC are aware of that.

I wanted to give a balanced and fair hearing, and I wanted to touch on all the polarisation and emotion that’s been around. I’ve enjoyed working with your industry. I’m very clear that the games industry makes adult games for adults; it doesn’t make adult games for children. They want to support the UK public to make the right choice for their child. I’ve also made strong recommendations to Government about the educational benefits of gaming, which have been hugely welcomed.

Some people still don’t understand that the word ‘game’ doesn’t necessarily mean anything is right for kids.

MCV asked you at last week’s press conference about how public information would be funded…

Yes – there was certainly a tricky moment there, wasn’t there…?

MP Andy Burnham said it was principally up to industry”. Would you like to see the Government get involved – and if they don’t, is there a danger it won’t happen?

That was outside the remit of my Review. What I will say is certainly, in consultations I’ve had with industry, you were saying, we will be prepared to fund the public information campaign”. I’m wondering whether that was made on the basis that I’d make the recommendations they wanted. I’ll feel very disappointed if there were certain sections of industry that felt they didn’t get what they wanted, so therefore they wouldn’t follow through with that.

This seems like a really good opportunity for the industry to position itself much more positively in the social mindset. I’m not saying I expect the industry to fund it. But that has to be worked out. Everyone has to be grown up about it, and ask what we’re really trying to achieve.

Do you think that the media exposure the Review has achieved will help with that?

I should put that to you. Do you think it’s helped?

It’s not been perfect – but it’s been a good indication that there’s been a

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