Innovate UK with BBFC

Project: Central government, health and local authorities

Project Details


Understood, culturally relevant, trustworthy age-ratings are vital for media content audiences to enable informed viewing choices. In the UK, legislation ensures that cinema and packaged media (DVD/Blu-Ray) content are classified by the British-Board-of-Film-Classification(BBFC), however there is no statutory requirement for such provisions for Over-The-Top(OTT) content despite 92% of the UK public believing it important for them to display the same age-ratings as cinema and DVD/Blu-Ray (BBFC, 2020). OTTs are now mainstream, having evolved from aggregators of previously-released content, to creators of it themselves, producing more media content today than traditional media providers. 53% of UK households subscribe to 1+ OTT (2020). 96% of 5-15 year olds watch OTT content, with 98% of parents proactively restricting/mediating their child's use of OTT, indicating a growing need to extend efficient and trusted classification systems to online media (Ofcom,2020).

The speed at which OTTs have grown has left legislators around the World playing catch-up. In the legislative vacuum some OTT services, such as Netflix, have sought to work with regulators like the BBFC to provide their users with 100% coverage of trustworthy, culturally-relevant age ratings, others have temporarily chosen a different path. The volume of media content that makes OTTs so attractive to consumers, is a challenge for age-rating assignment. Traditional methods of classification where a human views all content in full in each territory is not viable financially or logistically. This has led some OTTs to champion self-regulation and self-assign age-ratings or seek them from a third-party, leading to a wild-west situation where the mental-health of young-people is put at risk as substandard age-ratings that are not recognised or culturally relevant are used on OTTs.

Concerned, DCMS(UKGov) launched a consultation in 2021 titled 'Audience protection standards on Video-on-Demand(VoD) Services'. However, it's clear even in territories with OTT age-rating legislation (New Zealand/Australia/Germany/France), a viable, global, scalable, cost-effective classification solution is needed. The BBFC have developed a patent-pending(2115955.3) tool that can assign accurate, localised-age-ratings to multiple territories by interpreting detailed classification data. Led by BBFC, this Innovate-UK-project will use tools, data, resources, and expertise of a qualified consortium (including University of Bath, and Inventya) and subcontractor technology partner Amazon Web Services UK, to develop AI capable of tagging classification issues to drive an 'Automated Classification Product (ACP)' providing OTTs with a low-cost, in-house solution that delivers high-quality age-ratings for multiple-territories - protecting their users and brand.
Effective start/end date1/07/2231/12/23

Collaborative partners


  • Innovate UK


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