Web flicks threaten to stuff BBFC film classification

Internet only movies are stuffing up the film classification system because they do not have to be viewed before release and receive any ranking.

For years, the British Board of Film Classification has been ranking flicks as 18, PG, U, even if it no longer cuts them with the same vigor that it used to.

Talking to the Daily Telegraph, Mark Dawson, chief digital officer for the British Board of Film Classification said that the the judgment of the BBFC’s classifiers has been protected since 1984.

Cinema and video were covered and definitions were broad enough to cover DVDs or even films loaded on USB sticks. However it did not cover digital downloads from iTunes, or streaming from Netflix or Amazon’s LoveFilm.

At the moment Dawson is hoping that he can persuade film companies and the big digital retailers and services to pay for their creations to be classified for online consumption. He admits he has no legal back up for this.

There are some signs that the persuasion is working. Over 250,000 films have been classified for online consumption and major players such as BT Vision and Netflix are using the ratings.

One of the success stories was when Netflix submitted its hit Washington-based remake of House of Cards for classification. Made for the internet, and released as 13 episodes simultaneously last month, the BBFC gave all the episodes a 15 rating, except one, which featured a graphic suicide and got an 18.

But there could be signs that the system might get pushed very soon. Netflix will debut Hemlock Grove which was created by Eli Roth. Roth is better known as the founder of the tasteful “torture porn” genre with his sadistic 2006 horror film Hostel. Other films following the genre have been refused any classification.

The lack of rules means that if Netflix makes something so distasteful the BBFC does not award a classification, it could simply go ahead and distribute it anyway and then the whole system will break down.

Dawson does not want new powers to regulate internet firms and hopes that the online industry gets on board voluntarily.