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The 12A Certificate

Revised BBFC 12 certificate that admits accompanied children

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After a seven-week trial in Norwich at the end of 2001, which was accompanied by extensive audience research, the 12A certificate was introduced by the British Board of Film Classification on 30 August 2002, replacing the 12 certificate.

Although the guidelines remained the same as for the 12 certificate, it was now possible for children under the age of twelve to see such films, provided they were accompanied by a responsible adult guardian, who would be required to sit through the entire film with the child, not just purchase a ticket on their behalf.

The definition of "responsible adult guardian" is deliberately wide-ranging - in most cases it will be a parent, but it could equally be an uncle, aunt, older sibling, teacher, family friend or anyone else in a similar position of responsibility. Cinema staff are required to use their discretion to establish whether this is indeed the case.

The 12A certificate was introduced to bring British film censorship more in line with common practice in Europe, Australasia and North America, where many countries have age-restrictive categories similar to a 12 certificate, but in most cases these are advisory. The best known example of these is the US PG-13 rating, which permits children of any age to see the film, but which acts as a warning that it may well contain unsuitable material.

To help parents and guardians reach an informed decision, the reasons a film was given a 12A certificate are supplied in the form of a brief summary of the levels of sex, violence and bad language, to be featured on the poster and press advertisements. This practice is increasingly being applied to U and PG certificate films as well.

The 12A certificate only applies to cinema releases - with video releases, the existing 12 certificate was considered adequate.

Michael Brooke

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