It is a commonly-held belief that Europe is more permissive than the U.S. But two recent incidents demonstrated that European nations are more willing to take positive steps to protect children from harmful media content.
The British Board of Film Classification is the body in the United Kingdom responsible for assigning age-appropriateness ratings to movies, similar to our country’s Motion Picture Association of America. But while the MPAA claims parents are satisfied with the current ratings system – even as it gives PG-13 ratings to movies containing multiple f-bombs – the BBFC has recognized the need for Ratings Reform.
As reported on Deadline: Hollywood, the BBFC spent the last year polling more than 10,000 members of the British public. As a result of the widespread parental dissatisfaction with the current movie ratings regime, beginning in February the BBFC will change the way it assigns ratings, especially in films aimed at a teenage audience. The board will devote more attention to the “theme and tone” of teen-targeted movies, and on the “psychological impact of horror” in all films, especially those featuring explicit violence and gore. The board will also crack down on the use of foul language in movies rated U (equivalent to a G rating in the U.S.). Finally, the BBFC noted that parents are particularly concerned about the sexualization of girls and the “normalization of behaviors inappropriate for teens.”
And The New York Times reports that France’s Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel, the organization which regulates French electronic media content (including age-appropriateness ratings and broadcasting standards), has banned the videos for Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” and Britney Spears’s “Work Bitch” from TV before 10 p.m. “Work Bitch” was specifically cited for its “sadomasochistic universe…likely to shock many viewers.” The council even banned promotional clips of the videos. Since 2005, France has had in place a ruling that music videos which could be harmful to children can only be shown after 10 p.m. This is similar to the “safe harbor” provisions established by America’s Federal Communications Commission…with the exception that the FCC fails to regulate cable content, and is far less stringent on broadcast TV content as well.
France’s body is to be commended for protecting children from inappropriate media content, as is the BBFC for its willingness to change a system parents find inadequate. This is in marked contrast to the policies of the MPAA and the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, which are little more than phony rubber-stamp organizations. The TV ratings system has been broken for years, while the MPAA assigns movies whatever rating the film’s producer tells them to – no matter how explicit the product’s content may be.
It’s not that the British and French care more about their children than Americans do about theirs; but European countries aren’t faced with a rapacious entertainment industry that spends billions of dollars a year lobbying the government and finding ways to evade the law — or so-called “regulatory” bodies that roll over and play dead at the entertainment industry’s command.