Government drops BBFC games ratings

16th Jun 2009 | 14:42

Government drops BBFC games ratings

Digital Britain plumps for PEGI

Lord Carter's Digital Britain report is finally published today, with the government deciding that PEGI is set to be the UK's the single games rating body, with the independent British Board of Film Classification no longer being used to evaluate videogames.

The news follows the statement in the House of Commons on Lord Carter's Digital Britain report, which can be read in full online at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's website.

Questions raised by BBFC

While many in the games industry will celebrate the news, questions will no doubt be raised as to whether or not the industry should, effectively, be allowed to regulate itself.

TechRadar expects statements from games publishers trade body ELSPA, games developers trade body TIGA on the news shortly.

The BBFC has issued the following statement, following the news:

"We have argued consistently that any games classification system needs to put child protection at its heart. It must involve consultation with the British public, command their trust, and reflect their sensibilities. It must take account of tone and context and be carried out by skilled and knowledgeable examiners. It needs to involve the provision of full, helpful and carefully weighed information to parents and the public more generally.

"It must have the power and will to reject or intervene in relation to unacceptable games or game elements. It should make a substantial contribution to media education, for example through dedicated websites and through work with pupils, students and teachers. It must be speedy and cost effective. It must have the capabilities to monitor online gameplay and to attract new members to online classification schemes. And it must be independent in substance as well as appearance, reaching its decisions and providing information on the basis of its own detailed assessments.

"The BBFC has always supported PEGI and wished it well, but it continues to believe that it satisfies these requirements better than PEGI. However, it will cooperate fully in the detailed work needed to give effect to the Government's decision. And it must be independent in substance as well as appearance, reaching its decisions and providing information on the basis of its own detailed assessments."

ELSPA and IFSE pleased

"The Government has made absolutely the right decision for child safety. By choosing PEGI as the single classification system in the UK, British children will now get the best possible protection when playing videogames either on a console or on the internet," says Mike Rawlinson, Director General of ELSPA, clearly pleased with the news.

"Parents can be assured that they will have access to clear, uniform ratings on games and an accurate understanding of game content.

"Today's decision will ensure that games ratings stay relevant and adapt to the changing nature of videogames for many years to come. Retailers will now have clear, legal backing to help them prevent access to unsuitable content by children. We will work closely with the Government, the Video Standards Council and the BBFC to ensure a smooth and rapid transition to this new ratings system."

Simon Little, MD of the International Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) adds that the "decision by the British government to adopt PEGI as the single ratings system for videogames in the UK will give British children the same protection whether they are playing at home or online, as children in 28 countries across Europe.

"PEGI meets the criteria set out by Professor Byron in her review and has also been further updated to take into account developments in new technology as game playing moves increasingly online and becomes increasingly interactive. It is a robust system which protects children online and offline. We will continue to ensure that PEGI remains the most relevant and effective system for helping parents, guardians, teachers and retailers to protect children both now and in the future."

Publishers praise government

In a rare display of support for a government initiative, a number of UK games publishers have already come forward with comments praising the decision to back PEGI over the BBFC.

"The Government has made the right decision. The PEGI age rating system is right for the protection of children as it is designed specifically for games and interactive content," said David Yarnton, UK General Manager, Nintendo. "As a global company we welcome the decision as mature and intelligent as it works across some 30 international territories."

"The adoption of PEGI as the rating system for games is a good decision," adds Rob Cooper, Managing Director, Ubisoft UK. "The PEGI system is future-proof, delivering effective child protection now and in the future. PEGI Online is a key component of the system, ensuring that the government does not have to re-assess the entire system once again in 12 months time."

Mike Hayes, President and CEO, Sega Europe, claims that the decision is important for the UK public because, in his opinion, "PEGI is the only system that has the power to prevent games publishers distributing unsuitable content to children."

Keith Ramsdale, Vice President and General Manager, EA UK, Ireland and Nordics, also welcomes the government's decision, claiming "PEGI is the right choice to protect children from inappropriate gaming content, and best suited to continue to do so in the future as interactive entertainment moves increasingly online" adding that EA "applauds this collaboration between government and industry to find the best solution for consumers and for the UK marketplace."

Finally, Neil Thompson, Senior Regional Director UK & Ireland Entertainment & Devices Division for Microsoft, says, "the most important issue to be considered is that of child safety.. in a globalised market where children can play video games online across borders, this decision will provide clarity and consistency in deciding what games are appropriate for children and in enforcing those decisions – now and in the future".

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