Close Up: Film Classification Part Three: the Swedish Media Council
In this final part we speak with Johan Karlsson of the Swedish Media Council.
Q1. Your job title is "Film classifier and Head of film classification". Can you explain what this means on a day to day basis? E.g. Do you have a specialism?
My job title is Film classifier and Head of film classification. On a day to day basis I watch films, and also deal with more strategic concerns regarding film classification. I am a trained psychologist and have previously worked with children as a school psychologist.
Q2. Can you briefly outline the different categories that you use to classify? (All ages, 7, 11, etc.)
In Sweden there are 4 categories, All ages, 7, 11 and 15 years.
Q3. What are the most typical issues you deal with?
According to Swedish legislation, the object of the classification process is to decide whether a film can cause harm to the well-being of children. Harm to the well-being includes emotions such as fear, horror, discomfort and/or confusion. Violence, threats and bullying are examples of content in a film that might cause such emotions.
Q4. The British Board Of Film Classification classifies film for cinema going audiences, does it classify anything else?
Q5. In a landscape where audiences can subscribe to on demand film services, the increase in film piracy as well as film only channels provided by broadcasters such as Sky, is classification still necessary?
I see what you mean, but one could argue that the society has a responsibility for the protection of the well-being of children in the public environment, and that films that are shown in public therefore should be classified.
Q6. How does the classification process in the UK differ to other countries? For example are there any films that have been given a considerably different rating?
According to Swedish legislation the age ratings relate only to the risk of harm to children's well-being. The ratings do not reflect whether the film is suitable for a certain age group. Religious, political or moral attitudes are not taken into account when deciding the age ratings. A recent example of a film where the rating differs between countries is the film Pride which is shown in Sweden with a 7 rating, but in the UK it got a 15 rating by the BBFC because of "strong language, sex references". Another film with different ratings is Love is Strange.
Q7. Is the UK generally more or less strict/relaxed than other countries? Specify any cultural differences that inform classification. E.g. Recently Pride was classified in the UK (15) as and in the US as (R or NC 17)
As stated above, the ratings do not reflect whether the film is suitable for a certain age group. Religious, political or moral attitudes are not taken into account when deciding the age ratings. Strong language and nudity for example is generally not regarded as harmful to children's well-being. In other countries such content may have bigger impact on the classification.
Q8. Blockbusters are about reaching the biggest possible audience, does this ever cause tension between the classifiers and the film companies?
No, not really. If a distributor is dissatisfied with a rating decision, s/he can appeal to the administrative court of appeal. When such cases are heard two special members must take part, one of whom has expert knowledge of film matters and the other of behavioral sciences.
More from our classification series
Part One: Talking with the BBFC