The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has been certifying theatrical films since 1912 (though in actual fact the ultimate power over a film’s classification in any particular cinema lies with the local authority who may, under the 2003 Licensing Act, change the certificate provided they do so in accordance with a published policy). In accordance with the Video Recordings Acts of 1984 and 2010, the BBFC is also the ultimate authority certifying most videos and DVDs and, more recently, the Video Standards Council has rated video games under the PEGI system since 2012.
However, music videos have largely slipped through the net and, while anyone who remembers Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film” or Madonna’s “Justify my Love” will know that sexual imagery and adult content in a music video is nothing new, there has been increasing concern about videos like Maroon 5’s “Animals” being freely available for children to watch without restrictions or parental guidance information.
But under a new voluntary pilot scheme, which commenced on 3 October 2014, record companies in the UK including Sony, Universal and Warner have elected to submit any music video which they think could be classified a 12 or above to the BBFC who will certify it a 12, 15 or 18 as they would a film under their Classification Guidelines. The labels can also ask the BBFC for advice relating to the content of individual scenes. It is estimated that approximately 20% of videos released by the participating companies will be rated.
Once the label has received the rating, it passes the rating and any guidance from BBFC onto Vevo and YouTube (the two digital service providers participating in the pilot) and the intention is that they will display it when they show the video, though we still need to wait for Vevo and YouTube to confirm when and how this will happen.
There are still a lot of details to be worked out and clearly the scheme will need to be obligatory in order to have real teeth, but this seems to be the first step towards regulation of music videos.