British Board of Film Classification
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Responsibility and power
The BBFC rates theatrically-released films, videos and some video games. Legally local authorities have the power to decide under what circumstances films are shown in cinemas, but they nearly always choose to follow the advice of the BBFC.
Under the Video Recordings Act, all video releases not exempt (music, documentary, non-fiction, etc.) under the Act must be classified by the BBFC, it being illegal to supply any recording that has not been specifically certified, even if the underlying content has been. For example, supply of non-UK version of a DVD is illegal, even if its contents are identical to the BBFC-certified UK release.
Video games with specific themes or content must also be submitted to the BBFC to receive a legally-binding rating (contrast advisory PEGI ratings) in the same way as videos. Other video games may be submitted at the publisher's discretion.
All videos and games rated by the BBFC receive a certificate, along with "consumer advice" detailing references to sex, violence and coarse language. If a certificate specifies that a film or video game is only suitable for someone over a certain age, then only those over that age may buy it.
The BBFC can also advise cuts for a less-restrictive rating. This generally occurs in borderline cases where distributors have requested a certificate and the BBFC has rated the work at a more-restrictive level. This is increasingly rare, with comparatively few cuts made nowadays. The final certificate then depends on the distributor's decision on whether or not to make the suggested cuts.