Film Classification FAQs
Consumer Protection BC is a not-for-profit corporation that protects consumers and encourages a fair marketplace in British Columbia.
Consumer Protection BC has a broad mandate to investigate complaints related to all legislation administered by Consumer Protection BC, and to license, inspect and perform financial audits of all regulated business sectors, including debt collection agencies, debt collectors, bailiffs and debt poolers, funeral service providers, funeral directors, embalmers, cemeteries and crematoria, travel agencies and travel wholesalers, telemarketers, motion picture retailers and distributors, theatres, home inspectors and payday lenders.
Through an administrative agreement with the government of British Columbia, Consumer Protection BC is responsible for all film classification activities conducted under the Motion Picture Act of BC.
What gives you the authority to classify films and regulate the motion picture industry?
The administration of the Motion Picture Act and Regulations. This legislation safeguards the public interest, and creates an even playing field for the industry by regulating the public exhibition, rental and distribution of films and adult videos in British Columbia.
What are the classification categories in BC and what can a viewer expect from each?
The Motion Picture Act defines six classification categories for use in British Columbia:
General – The General category is determined to be suitable for viewing by persons of all ages, though it may contain limited coarse language, violence and the most innocent sexually suggestive scenes and nudity.
Parental Guidance (PG) – Films in this category are advised to be viewed with parental guidance, though it is not required. Some thematic elements or content may not be suitable for everyone. Some coarse language, violence, sexually suggestive scenes and nudity may occur.
14 Accompaniment (14A) – Persons under the age of 14 must view these motion pictures accompanied by an adult. Films in this category may contain coarse language, violence, sexually suggestive scenes and nudity more often than those in the PG category.
18 Accompaniment (18A) – Persons under the age of 18 must view these motion pictures accompanied by an adult. Films in this category will contain horror, explicit violence, frequent coarse language or scenes that are more sexually suggestive than in the 14A category. They may also contain nudity or other strong content elements.
Restricted – Restricted to all persons under the age of 18. These films are “adult motion pictures” as defined by the Motion Picture Act and may contain explicit sexual scenes. The director will assign the Restricted classification if the theme, subject matter or plot is artistic, historic, political, educational or scientific in nature.
Adult – Restricted to all persons under the age of 18. These motion pictures are “adult motion pictures” as defined by the Motion Picture Act and may contain explicit sexual scenes or scenes of brutality or torture to persons or animals.
As Film Classification is administered at the provincial level, categories and standards may differ between the provinces and the classification body in the United States.
What is the Restricted category and how does it differ from the Restricted category in the United States?
The Restricted category is restricted to persons 18 years of age and over. Persons under 18 years of age are not permitted to attend under any circumstances. These motion pictures are “adult motion pictures,” as defined in the Act, and will most often contain explicit sexual scenes. The director will assign this classification to an adult motion picture if the director considers that the theme, subject matter or plot is artistic, historical, political, educational or scientific.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) also utilizes a category called Restricted, in addition to PG and PG-13 categories. You may recognize these from film advertisements. The classification criteria utilized by the MPAA is vastly different from that used by Consumer Protection BC and as such, there is no correlation between the two.
Who classifies the films?
Consumer Protection BC employs a permanent staff of full-time classifiers to review the more than 1,000 submissions we receive every year. These classifiers come from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds and utilize their skills and experience to evaluate each submission against the criteria defined in the Motion Picture Act and Regulations.
What does the classification process entail?
Distributors are responsible for arranging to have a film classified before it can be exhibited in BC theatres. As a motion picture is screened, each classifier takes detailed notes, paying careful attention to all aspects of content, from language and tone to the intensity and detail of imagery. When screening is completed, classifiers discuss all aspects of the film. Using the criteria outlined in the legislation, classifiers assign the film to a particular category and create an appropriate advisory.
What can I do if I don’t agree with a classification?
Community standards are at the heart of film classification. In order to fully understand the needs of the community, Consumer Protection BC appreciates any and all feedback received from the public. All comments are placed on file and are referenced in classification decisions and policy development.
What does the ‘A’ stand for in the 14A and 18A categories?
Persons under the minimum age required to attend motion pictures classified 14A or 18A may do so only if escorted by an adult at least 18 years of age or older. Theatres are required by law to enforce these age restrictions. The adult must accompany all the children in his/her care for the full duration of the screening.
Adult accompaniment empowers parents with an effective tool to regulate the films their children may wish to view outside of the home. Without these rules, parents would be deprived of control and children could be exposed to inappropriate or even harmful material. By attending films with adult accompaniment, children do so under the best of circumstances, as parents are able to respond to any questions or concerns their children may have.
What do the terms following a classification indicate? (ex: PG: violence; coarse language)
Classifications are often followed by advisories, such as violence and coarse language. Advisories are included based on their degree of relevancy to the film’s classification. For example, a film classified PG: violence, will have been classified PG on the basis of the level of violence in the film. There may be elements other than those listed in the advisory present in the film. Consumers are encouraged to consult our online decisions summaries that list all of the films’ content. A list of advisories recently employed can be accessed here: link
Do you censor films?
Consumer Protection BC has moved away from government’s original mandate of censorship. Our primary focus is to inform people and let them make viewing decisions based on content. We assign films into classification categories and provide detailed classification information to the public to allow consumers to make educated choices.
What about general release home videos?
The Motion Picture Act does not mandate Consumer Protection BC to regulate home video, outside of Adult home video. Instead the Motion Picture Association – Canada provides classification information for general release videos and DVDs. The MPA-C aggregates classification information from participating provincial jurisdictions to create an average rating. Further information can be accessed at www.mpa-canada.org.