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The PG Certificate

BBFC classification recommending parental guidance in deciding a film's suitability

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The PG certificate was introduced by the British Board of Film Censors on 1 November 1982, following an overhaul of its classifications as recommended by the Williams Committee. It was defined as follows:

General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for some children. Unaccompanied children of any age may watch. A 'PG' film should not disturb a child aged around eight or older. However, parents are advised to consider whether the content may upset younger or more sensitive children.

It replaced the old A certificate, which dated back to the BBFC's foundation in 1912 and which had undergone various mutations since then. 'A' originally stood for 'Adults', and between 1923 and 1970 children were required to be accompanied by someone over the age of sixteen.

'PG' stood for 'Parental Guidance', and was modelled after the PG rating in the US. The change in name emphasised that the BBFC wished to place responsibility in the hands of parents in determining what their children should be allowed to see, though they did not make it a requirement that parents should also attend.

In 1985, following the recommendations of the 1984 Video Recordings Act, the PG certificate was extended to cover video releases.

The BBFC permits the following within the bounds of the PG certificate:

  • Theme: More serious issues may be featured, eg crime, domestic violence, racism (providing nothing in their treatment condones them).
  • Language: Mild bad language only.
  • Nudity: Natural nudity, with no sexual context.
  • Sex: Sexual activity may be implied, but should be discreet and infrequent. Mild sexual references and innuendo only.
  • Violence: Moderate violence, without detail, may be allowed - if justified by its setting (eg historic, comedy or fantasy).
  • Imitable techniques: No glamorisation of realistic, contemporary weapons. No detail of fighting or other dangerous techniques.
  • Horror: Frightening sequences should not be prolonged or intense. Fantasy settings may be a mitigating factor.
  • Drugs: No references to illegal drugs or drug use unless entirely innocuous.

Michael Brooke

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