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Netflix to set its own age ratings for film and television programmes

Netflix has been given the power to set its own official age ratings for its films and television programmes, in a move that could spell the end for the traditional role of the British film censor.

Under a first-of-its-kind deal announced on Thursday, the British Board of Film Classification will allow the US streaming giant to rate its own material and then use the official British age rating symbols on all of its content.

“Because of the sheer amount of material that’s out there it’s not logistically viable for the BBFC to view everything in the traditional way,” said Craig Lapper, the BBFC’s head of compliance. “We’re going to permit them to produce BBFC ratings by applying our guidelines and standards to their content.”

At the moment only films or DVDs which have been watched and assessed by an in-house BBFC employee can carry the recognisable U, PG, 12, 15 or 18 logos.

Under the new system Netflix will essentially be allowed to mark its own homework. The BBFC will carry out a monthly audit on a selection of programmes to make sure the streaming service is meeting its side of the bargain. During the year-long pilot Netflix will use an algorithm to rank its own content in line with BBFC guidelines, based on its existing human-created database of programme content.

The BBFC has a legal duty to classify almost all video content before it is shown in cinemas or released on physical media such as DVDs or Blu-Ray, with just 15 compliance officers employed to watch all the material.

However, current legislation does not cover online video, meaning the many series released by the likes of Netflix and Amazon – not to mention the millions of hours of material on services such as

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