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New guidelines in pipeline for classifying films, publications

The Council of the Films and Publications board has called for comments on its proposed guidelines to be used in the classification of films, games and certain publications. The Guidelines indicate that the purpose of classification of films, games and publications is, inter alia, to protect children from exposure to disturbing and harmful materials and from premature exposure to adult experiences.

Comments are to be submitted in writing by the end of May 2012 to: The Project Leader, FPB, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Film and Publications Act requires all films, games and publications to be classified, including all films exhibited at cinemas, DVDs, Blu Rays, videos, mobile content and the internet and all publications that are not bona fide newspapers.

The purpose of the guidelines is to, inter alia, provide guidelines for balancing content against constitutionally protected rights to freedom of expression, access to information, protection of children from materials that pose a risk of harm to equality and human dignity in accordance with the constitutionally permitted limitations.

The guiding principles include the determination of classification based on context, impact and the release format of the material. The impact can fall into one of a number of graded categories – ranging from no impact to extreme impact where the material may for example include verbal or visual references to sexual activity, sexual violence and/or violence.

In addition to the restriction of material that includes violence, blasphemy, prejudice, drug use and a range of other themes, the guidelines completely outlaw the release of any material that advocates hate speech – in other words, that advocates hatred based on any identifiable group characteristic and that constitutes incitement to cause harm – and which constitutes child pornography.

The guidelines provide guidance on the different themes and content that must be classified on a sliding scale as either XX, X18, PG, etc. For example, material that depicts explicit sexual conduct which violates or shows disrespect for the right to human dignity must be classified XX; materials that, judged within context is a bona fide documentary or is of scientific, dramatic or artistic merit may be classified as X18.

In addition, the guidelines make provision for a range of classifications based on different ages of children, ranging from X18 (not for use or viewing by any children); Parental Guidance required for children of all ages; “10” classification prohibits children under the age of 10 years from having access to the material; “13PG” material may be accessed by children over the age of 13 and by children younger than 13 if in the care of a parent or caregiver; “13” material may not be accessed by any child younger than 13 years; similar classifications apply for children aged younger than 16 years.