The British Board of Film Classification (“BBFC“), working in partnership with digital service providers including Vevo and Youtube, is giving movie-style age ratings to online music videos produced in the UK.  This is being done with a view to improve consumer awareness of online content and to protect children from viewing inappropriate music videos on the internet.

A Government-backed pilot scheme was launched in October 2014, to introduce a new age rating system for music videos expected to receive at least a “12” rating by artists signed to Sony Music UK, Universal Music UK and Warner Music UK. The Government has now, as part of its pilot manifesto commitment, agreed with the UK music industry and digital service providers to make the new age rating scheme permanent for videos produced in the UK by artists represented by major labels. In fact, the scheme was extended on 18 August this year, when the Government announced that independent UK music labels will take part in a further six month phase.

Under the scheme, the BBFC classifies each video submitted by record labels before release, assigns it an age rating and provides bespoke content advice based on its Classification Guidelines. In determining a rating, the BBFC will consider aspects such as strong language, sexualised content or dangerous behaviour being presented as safe.

The ratings appear on Youtube and Vevo, both online and on smart phone apps. On Vevo, the BBFC ratings symbol is located in the top left-hand corner of the video player. The rating symbol will also appear any time the cursor is moved or  when the ‘i’ icon is clicked. On YouTube, a ‘Partner Rating’ label appears on the website and on the smartphone App the applicable rating  is found in a square box under the video.

Of the 132 music videos submitted by UK labels to the BBFC so far, 56 are rated “12” and 53 are classified “15”. The only video to date that has been rated “18”, Dizzee Rascal’s “Couple of Stack”, was described by the BBFC as containing “gore“, “very strong language” and “strong bloody violence“.

The Government sees such clear age ratings as the first step to protect children from watching inappropriate music videos online. Baroness Joanna Shields, Minister for Internet Safety and Security says: “Movies in the cinema and music DVDs are age rated to inform the viewer and help parents to make informed choices. We welcome this voluntary step from industry to bring internet services in line with the offline world“.