Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Video Standards Council


  Please find attached details of the games rated for UK release during 2007. These details give figures and percentages (see Appendix).

  I would make the following comments which I hope answer your various questions:

  As you can see 101 games went to the BBFC for classification (8.2%). Of these 101 games 50 (4.06%) went to the BBFC because of adult content (sometimes for sexual content but usually for gross violence content) and because they had been rated 18+ under the PEGI system. In 2004 the industry agreed with the DCMS that all games with a PEGI 18+ would be submitted to the BBFC regardless of whether they had to be submitted by law.

  The remaining 51 games (4.14%) went to the BBFC not because they contained adult content (they were not controversial games) but because they contained video footage that was not an integral part of the game (the law requires such games to go to the BBFC).

  As regards the 50 games that went to the BBFC because of adult content (rated PEGI 18+ for the rest of Europe) the BBFC classified 29 with an 18 classification, 19 with a 15 classification and 2 with a 12 classification.

  As regards games for children it depends on what definition you use for "children".You will see that 604 games (49.1%) had a 3+ rating which is the PEGI equivalent of being suitable for all ages. However if you take "children" to mean those aged 12 and under you will see that 1029 games (83.6%) were rated 12 or less.

  A hybrid system will rely upon one regulator or the other being able to freely use the logos of the other without the need for two separate rating processes. PEGI cannot put a PEGI rating on a UK product which is different to that being used in the other 27 countries to which it applies. At the moment if a game receives a BBFC classification all the other packaging around Europe should bear the words "not for supply in the UK". This is possible as it warns suppliers that it is a criminal offence to supply in the UK without the BBFC logo.

  For this to done the opposite way round could not be justified as it would be legal to supply it in France for example, as there is no law preventing it. To prevent the package with the lower rating being sold outside the UK may be constraint of lawful trade. Therefore the only way that we can see a hybrid system being able to operate is that PEGI carries out the rating and that for a period of time for education of the consumer, described as desirable by Dr Byron, the BBFC and the PEGI labels are seen on the box. The BBFC symbol would be the one that matches the PEGI age rating and it would be there purely to avoid any misunderstanding by parents.

  Hopefully over a short number of years consumer awareness will be sufficiently high as to allow PEGI only symbols which is what will be seen on the Internet in relation to downloadable or online games. The consultation period built in by Dr Byron would be made good use of in determining placement and sizes etc, the period of time required for public assimilation of the PEGI labels and of course an appropriate course to follow for the BBFC to legally verify those games that may require scrutiny because of national sensitivities (those given a PEGI 18+).

  The VSC has had a close working relationship with the BBFC for a number of years and the BBFC have made it perfectly clear that they will not allow their logos to be used without them having carried out a classification process. This means that any system using two logos will result in confusion as there will be two different age ratings on some products. It should be remembered that it was the industry that agreed to increase the size of the BBFC logos to match the size of the PEGI logos and it was the industry that agreed with the BBFC that it would not carry two logos on the packaging. This was all done in order to reduce confusion showing that PEGI and the industry are both very concerned about the protection of minors.


  Regulation of online gaming has two elements. The first element is the rating of the game itself which is done by using the classic PEGI rating system whereby, the publisher, who knows most about the game, fills in a questionnaire. This system is very transparent and the publisher is given a provisonal rating allowing him to continue with anticipated marketing. This questionnaire is then examined by the PEGI administrator along with supplied video material of relevant elements of the game. The publisher then provides either a copy of the game or, if it is playable on line only, access to the game with the ability to have one of the developers available to play against if necessary. This allows a more thorough examination of each of the elements as the presence of a developer allows play to develop along lines asked for by the examiner. Having examined all of this the administrator either agrees the provisional rating previously allocated by the questionnaire or tells the publisher what the correct rating should be and changes the answers on the questionnaire. Misleading the administrator at this stage can lead to serious monetary sanctions against the publisher, generally much higher than most legal fine levels (maximum €500,000).

  The second element is checking the website that is going to host the game. The website operator, usually the publisher, must first sign a contract agreeing to abide by the PEGI Online Safety Code. This code is the backbone of the PEGI Online system as it contains details of the elements that must be on the website to be able to offer a minimum safety standard for users of the site. These elements include, amongst other, the presence of a privacy policy and a complaints procedure. However, one of the most important aspects is that the site must not host any game that has not been subject to a proper rating or classification. Once the publisher has signed the agreement to the code they can submit details of the sites that they wish to register to PEGI administrators. A sample of these are checked by the administrator to verify compliance with the code and if all appears in order a personalised PEGI Online label is issued to the publisher but only for use on the sites registered. This must be renewed annually. Other sites are randomly checked throughout that year. Any breaches of the code are also subject to large financial sanctions and removal of the label. The PEGI Online label contains a hyperlink to the PEGI Online website where general information regarding the hazards of online gaming are outlined.

  One of the companies looking at filtering sofware is Net Nanny. At the moment their system is a blunt instrument that blocks out all gaming sites if this is the parental input. The work is revolving around PEGI opening its database to the filtering companies such that the software is able to check the PEGI Online discreet label number and verify the site is contained in the PEGI Online database. If the site is listed access to the site is allowed but the software would then be able to interrogate the database containing the age ratings of the games contained on the site and only allow access to those that fit into the age categories input by the parent into the filtering software.

  There are still many teething problems, such as dealing with the many thousands of "small casual games" that are put onto most of the online gaming sites as "teasers" but are not charged for and are too small to warrant the cost of a classification. A solution to this particular problem is currently being discussed by the administrators and the owners of the system and a solution is anticipated within a few weeks. PEGI Online is not perfect but because it is self-regulation with teeth it is most certainly the best there is at the moment to offer any form of safety for minors online.

  It is fully endorsed by the EC Commissioner Vivian Reding and is currently being used by the Council of Europe and the UNHCR on sites they have developed that use games to put their message across.

May 2008


Age Categories3 712 1618 BBFCTotal
Final Games604175 250974 1011,231
Percentages49.114.2 8.2100
Progressive49.163.3 83.691.591.8 100100

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