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Film classification

Film classification

What does the Licensing Act say on the showing of film in licensed premises?

Where a licensed premises intends to show films, the Licensing Act 2003 requires a mandatory condition to be placed on the Premises Licences or Club Premises Certificates which restricts the admission of children (meaning persons aged under 18) to the exhibition of any film/s in accordance with:

  • either the BBFC classification
  • OR where the film is not classified by the BBFC, any recommendation made by the Licensing Authority.

What is classed as a 'film'?

Under the Licensing Act 2003 the definition of film has been expanded to mean any exhibition of moving pictures, including feature films, adverts and trailers. This definition also now covers the showing of video and other visual image media, including non-live digital exhibitions of plays, operas, pop concerts, etc

What do I need to do if I wish to show a film(s) and my Premises Licence or Club Premises Certificate authorises it?

If you intend to show only films classified by the BBFC, then the Licensing Authority has no role in the showing of such films on your premises.

If you intend to show film/s not classified by the BBFC then you must contact the Licensing Authority to obtain a recommendation on the restriction of access of children to the film(s) at least 28 days before you intend to show them.

What do I need to do if I wish to show a film(s) and my Premises Licence or Club Premises Certificate does not authorise it?

If your licence does not authorise the showing of film you will either need to apply to the Licensing Authority for a minor variation to add this to your licence, or, send the Licensing Authority a Temporary Event Notice (if this would be suitable for your intended use).

You are advised to contact the Licensing Unit to discuss which of these two methods would best suit your particular needs and the application of this guidance.

What information do I need to send to the Licensing Authority?

In order to recommend an appropriate restriction of access for children, the Licensing Authority requires the following information to be provided by the proposed exhibitor:

  • a synopsis of the film program(s) must be sent to the Licensing Unit 28 days in advance of the proposed screening date, where possible, giving sufficiently detailed and accurate information on any potentially controversial issues such as – discrimination, drugs, horror, imitable behavior, language, nudity, sex, theme, violence and in particular anything considered over 18 – R18 for example
  • information on active and thorough child protection policies including any permission processes required to be obtained for children to appear in any film exhibition
  • information on how staff are informed on policies and matters that may be significant at the time of the exhibition
  • information on feedback and evaluation procedures
  • information as to the steps that will be taken to display notices inside and outside the premises so that persons entering can readily read them and be aware of the classification attached to the film.
  • information on the use of sufficient ushers/stewards (minimum 18 years old) to be in attendance at the entrance to the viewing room at all times, to ensure that only children who may view the film or exhibition are permitted access.

What `benchmark` does the Licensing Authority use in considering its recommendation?

The Licensing Authority considers the classification system process used by the BBFC and its guidance to be nationally understood. It will therefore use the general principles of their guidance and their processes as its benchmark for determining its recommendation on the restriction of access of children to the film(s).

The BBFC and has published this guidance on its website. The BBFC classifies films using the following symbols/logos:

  • U - Universal – suitable for audiences aged four years and over
  • PG – Parental Guidance. Some scenes may be unsuitable for young children.
  • 12A - Suitable for 12 years and over. Not recommended for children below that age. Under 12s only admitted if accompanied by an adult. Responsibility for allowing a child under 12 to view lies with the accompanying adult.
  • 15 – Passed only for viewing by persons aged 15 years and over.
  • 18/R18 – Passed only for viewing by persons aged 18 years and over.

The BBFC also provides a `consumer advice` description on the content of a film, which determined the classification of the film. The advice provides a brief comment on the content of the film such as violence, sex, language, drugs, themes, such as suicide, or contexts, such as comedy or fantasy. In the junior categories it can also warn of behaviour which may be potentially harmful if copied, or which might frighten or upset younger viewers.

The advice also indicates the strength of individual issues by using the terms ‘mild’, moderate’, strong’ and ‘very strong’, across the categories i.e. language at ‘U’ and ‘PG’ is likely to be ‘mild’ while at ‘15’ and ‘18’ language can be ‘strong’ and ‘very strong’. Where relevant, the frequency with which the issue appears in the work is also indicated.

The Licensing Authority will use the classification criteria and consumer advice guidance of the BBFC as its benchmark in considering the classification appropriate for films that are required to be classified by them. 

How will I be advised of the Licensing Authorities recommendation on the restriction of access of children to the film/s?

The Licensing Authority will write to you advising of the recommendation on the restriction on the age of access for children to the film/s. You will also be advised on the provision of any relevant notices required to be displayed inside and outside the premises along the following lines –






There is a cost for this of £30.60 per hour or part thereof.

Online payments can now be made on the payments page. You can make a payment by telephone on 020 7364 5008. Please state to the Admin Staff taking the payment; the full amount you are paying and what films they are for and their duration.

If the film is to be shown in another Borough, then that Licensing Authority will have to rate it.