U.K. Approves Age-Based Rating System for Online Music Videos

Dizzee Rascal 2015
Courtesy Photo

Dizzee Rascal in the video for "Couple of Stacks."

After a successful pilot scheme, overtly sexual, violent and explicit music videos distributed online will carry advisory age ratings in the United Kingdom, the British Government has announced.
The trial measures were originally introduced Oct. 1 last year when the U.K. arms of Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music partnered with digital platforms Vevo and YouTube to put clearly identifiable age classifications on music videos that are deemed unsuitable for children.
Now that pilot scheme has been made permanent, with all three majors henceforth agreeing to submit content of an adult nature to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), which will, in turn, classify the videos into 12, 15 or 18 age categories. To date, the introduction of age ratings has only applied to two digital platforms -- YouTube and Vevo -- and U.K. repertoire from the three majors, although the scheme will now also extend to British independent labels.
The sort of scenes and issues which the BBFC considers in classifying music videos include: drug misuse; dangerous behaviour that is presented as safe; band language; sexual behaviour and nudity and threatening behaviour and violence.
The Department for Culture, Media & Sport says that since the introduction of age ratings over ten months ago, 132 music videos have been submitted by U.K. labels to the BBFC for certification with 56 rated 12 and 53 classified 15. Only one has been given an 18-rating -- Dizzee Rascal’s “Couple of Stacks” for what the BBFC termed “strong bloody violence, gore [and] very strong language.”
Videos that have been rated 12 include Charli XCX’S “Breaking Up” (because of “infrequent strong language”), while Calvin Harris’ “Open Wide” is rated 15 due to “strong bloody violence, sex references [and] strong language.” However, international artists whose videos frequently push the boundaries of public decency, such as Rihanna and Miley Cyrus, will not be affected by the scheme, which only applies to music videos produced in the U.K.     
“Britain is a world leader in making exciting and original music, in part because our artists have a freedom to express themselves that we rightly cherish,” commented Geoff Taylor, BPI Chief Executive following today’s announcement. “While we must continue to uphold this principle, it is equally important that music videos are broadcast in a responsible way and that parents are given the tools to make more informed viewing decisions on behalf of their families.”  
Nic Jones, evp International at Vevo, also welcomed the decision saying that age ratings help “parents and music fans to help inform their viewing, enabling them to make choices about what content they wish to watch.” 


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.