The BBFC has today published its new guidelines, a result of extensive public research undertaken last year. These will come into force from 24 February.
Among other things, the guidelines include changes to the R18, or 'restricted' certificate, which means films can only be shown in specially licensed cinemas or sold by sex shops, and cannot be sold by mail order. This focuses primarily on restricting material involving sexual violence, with the BBFC having previously identified public concern over the comparatively casual way depictions of rape have been treated in film in comparison to other forms of violence, especially in light of the effect such depictions can have on survivors. The tightening up is likely to be conntroversial, however, as it could potentially cover anti-rape films like The Accused, while the extension of the rule to cover activity involving the infliction of pain and acts which may cause physical harm could impact films like Blue Velvet or Matador!
The BBFC has stressed that it will pay more attention to the theme and tone of films which may mitigate the above problems, but this is likely to have its most noticeable effect around the boundary between 12 and 15 films. Meanwhile, in response to public demand, the regulator is relaxing its rules about strong language in 15 films but is going to apply a blanket ban on potentially offensive words at U certificate level.
When classifying films, the psychological impact of horror is to be given more consideration, as some quite intense horror films have previously been given low age ratings because they did not score highly on factors like violence or gore.