BBFC to enforce stricter ratings on films and TV series containing racist language following new report

Changes are being made in response to ‘shift’ in attitudes

Louis Chilton
Tuesday 30 November 2021 10:31
Netflix continuing to use BBFC age ratings for all content

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has updated its guidelines to include tighter restrictions on racist language in programming.

Explaining the decision, the UK ratings body said that “attitudes had shifted” surrounding the use of offensive behaviour and language.

Programmes that include the “N-word” will not be classified lower than a “12A” rating under the new guidelines. This excludes exceptional circumstances, such as educational programming targeted at younger viewers.

The decision to apply stricter classifications to racist language comes after the BBFC commissioned a report into on-screen discrimination in films and TV series.

Various films and TV series containing offensive language or behaviour were screened for audiences who were then asked questions about their reactions.

In its report, the BBFC concluded that “of all the language considered, the N-word was the most contentious, evoking the strongest response from the community”.

An example given of the change was the 2016 Jesse Owens biopic Race, which features a scene in which the four-time Olympian gold medallist is called a racial slur by a white man.

When Race was originally released, it was awarded a “PG” (Parental Guidance) rating by the BBFC. If it were to be assessed now, it would receive a “12A” because it did not explicitly condemn the instance of racist language.

You can read the full BBFC report here, alongside further details of its findings and consequences.

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