Train2Game News Age Ratings for Games and Netflix to be Improved

Today the BBFC has launched an innovative new industry collaboration with Netflix to move towards classifying all content on the service using BBFC age ratings.

Netflix will produce BBFC age ratings for content using a manual tagging system along with an automated rating algorithm, with the BBFC taking up an auditing role. Netflix and the BBFC will work together to make sure Netflix’s classification process produces ratings which are consistent with the BBFC’s Classification Guidelines for the UK.

It comes as new research by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the Video Standards Council Rating Board (VSC) has revealed that almost 80% of parents are concerned about children seeing inappropriate content on video on demand or online games platforms.

The BBFC and the VSC have joined forces to respond to calls from parents and are publishing a joint set of Best Practice Guidelines to help online services deliver what UK consumers want.

The Best Practice Guidelines will help online platforms work towards greater and more consistent use of trusted age ratings online. The move is supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as part of the Government’s strategy to make the UK the safest place to be online.

This includes recommending the use of consistent and more comprehensive use of BBFC age labelling symbols across all Video On Demand (VOD) services, and PEGI symbols across online games services, including additional ratings info and mapping parental controls to BBFC age ratings and PEGI ratings.

The voluntary Guidelines are aimed at VOD services offering video content to UK consumers via subscription, purchase and rental, but exclude pure catch-up TV services like iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, My 5 and UKTV Player.

The research also shows that 90% of parents believe that it is important to display age ratings when downloading or streaming a film online, and 92% of parents think it’s important for video on demand platforms to show the same type of age ratings they would expect at the cinema or on DVD and Blu-ray – confirmed by 94% of parents saying it’s important to have consistent ratings across all video on demand platforms, rather than a variety of bespoke ratings systems.

With nine in 10 (94%) parents believing it is important to have consistent ratings across all online game platforms rather than a variety of bespoke systems, the VSC is encouraging services to join the likes of Microsoft, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo and Google in providing consumers with the nationally recognised PEGI ratings on games – bringing consistency between the offline and online worlds.

The Video Recordings Act requires that the majority of video works and video games released on physical media must be classified by the BBFC or the VSC prior to release. While there is no equivalent legal requirement that online releases must be classified, the BBFC has been working with VOD services since 2008, and the VSC has been working with online games platforms since 2003. The Best Practice Guidelines aim to build on the good work that is already happening, and both authorities are now calling for the online industry to work with them in 2019 and beyond to better protect children.

David Austin, Chief Executive of the BBFC, said: “Our research clearly shows a desire from the public to see the same trusted ratings they expect at the cinema, on DVD and on Blu-ray when they choose to watch material online. We know that it’s not just parents who want age ratings, teenagers want them too. We want to work with the industry to ensure that families are able to make the right decisions for them when watching content online.”

Ian Rice, Director General of the VSC, said: “We have always believed that consumers wanted a clear, consistent and readily recognisable rating system for online video games and this research has certainly confirmed that view. While the vast majority of online game providers are compliant and apply PEGI ratings to their product, it is clear that more can be done to help consumers make an informed purchasing decision. To this end, the best practice recommendations will certainly make a valuable contribution in achieving this aim.”

Digital Minister Margot James said: “Our ambition is for the UK to be the safest place to be online, which means having age ratings parents know and trust applied to all online films and video games. I welcome the innovative collaboration announced today by Netflix and the BBFC, but more needs to be done.

“It is important that more of the industry takes this opportunity for voluntary action, and I encourage all video on demand and games platforms to adopt the new best practice standards set out by the BBFC and Video Standards Council.”

The BBFC is looking at innovative ways to open up access to its classifications to ensure that more online video content goes live with a trusted age rating. Today the BBFC and Netflix announce a year-long self-ratings pilot which will see the online streaming service move towards in-house classification using BBFC age ratings, under licence.

Netflix will use an algorithm to apply BBFC Guideline standards to their own content, with the BBFC setting those standards and auditing ratings to ensure consistency. The goal is to work towards 100% coverage of BBFC age ratings across the platform.

Mike Hastings, Director of Editorial Creative at Netflix, said: “The BBFC is a trusted resource in the UK for providing classification information to parents and consumers and we are excited to expand our partnership with them. Our work with the BBFC allows us to ensure our members always press play on content that is right for them and their families.”

David Austin added: “We are fully committed to helping families chose content that is right for them, and this partnership with Netflix will help us in our goal to do just that. By partnering with the biggest streaming service, we hope that others will follow Netflix’s lead and provide comprehensive, trusted, well understood age ratings and ratings info, consistent with film and DVD, on their UK platforms. The partnership shows how the industry are working with us to find new and innovative ways to deliver 100% age ratings for families.”

Train2Game News PEGI rating comes to mobile

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PEGI announced today the expansion of its rating system to mobile and digital storefronts in Europe, as part of a global initiative with other classification authorities from around the world.

The International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) was recently established to streamline the process for assigning age and content ratings to the high volume of digitally delivered games and mobile apps coming into the market today. The IARC.system is currently adopted for use in Google Play and Firefox Marketplace, and Microsoft’s Xbox Live Store, Nintendo eShop and the Sony PlayStation Store are expected to do so at a later date. 

Founded in late 2013, the IARC system represents the first time international ratings organisations have joined forces to agree on a unified process that simultaneously generates ratings for multiple territories while preserving each of their distinct cultural standards. Currently, the IARC process assigns the familiar and trusted content rating icons from PEGI (Europe), ESRB (North America), ClassInd (Brazil), USK (Germany) and the Classification Board in Australia, with more rating authorities expected to join in the future. All publishers on the participating platforms will be required to use the IARC procedure during the on-boarding process. There is no cost to publishers to obtain ratings via IARC and the process is designed to be fast and easy.

“I really applaud this responsible move”, says Robert Madelin, Director General of DG CONNECT, European Commission. “Age-rating apps in a way that is generally applicable, transparent, and consistent and that is familiar and understandable to users is an important step in making the internet a better place for children.”

“The market for digital games and mobile apps is exploding across the globe.  With a single click, developers can publish their games and apps on digital storefronts reaching a worldwide audience. These realities have created regulatory and cultural challenges that call for an innovative solution like IARC to help developers and storefronts provide consumers with culturally relevant, legally compliant and reliable guidance about the age appropriateness of the content in games and apps they may be considering for download,” said Dirk Bosmans, Communication Manager of PEGI S.A.. “It is encouraging that digital storefronts recognise the benefits of this groundbreaking initiative.”

The IARC system assigns age ratings, content descriptors and interactive elements for digitally delivered games and apps.  Developers can only access the system and use IARC ratings on digital storefronts that have licensed and integrated the system into their on-boarding process.  There is no cost for developers to use the system, which features a single questionnaire that once completed immediately assigns different ratings for various territories around the world.  Those IARC-certified ratings are then ingested by the storefront and mapped to their respective regions.  IARC and its participating rating authorities are responsible for monitoring and ensuring the accuracy of ratings assigned by the system. The fundamental goal is to enable digital consumers, especially parents, to have broad access to established, credible and locally relevant ratings for interactive entertainment products, regardless of the device on which they consume them. 

The initial five IARC rating authority participants, which collectively represent regions serving approximately 1.5 billion people, include:

    Pan European Game Information (PEGI) – Europe
    Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK) – Germany
    Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) – North America
    Classificação Indicativa (ClassInd) – Brazil
    Classification Board – Australia

For more information about IARC, please visit www.globalratings.com