How the FPB gives movies and games their age restrictions

When you distribute media in South Africa – like a movie – you must register with the FPB and get your content classified.

Internet content providers must also register with the board.

If you register online, the fee is R1,121, and the online renewal of distribution certificates is R152 per year.

Once registered, you submit your content for classification – which also attracts a fee.

To get a new English-language movie rated, you will pay the FPB R2,243. Film trailers are then R22 to classify.

For series, the price is R2,243 for the first three hours of a foreign production. If your show runs for four or more hours, the tariff is R3,577.

South African series get a discount – R2,243 for the first five hours, and R3,250 for five or more hours.

These tariffs are currently under review, however, as the FPB has proposed price increases for classifying content and an annual license fee for online distributors.

Classification committee

Once you have registered and paid, the FPB will classify your content.

Films are classified by a committee, which usually consists of two examiners and a chief examiner – who are appointed from a panel of examiners.

Classification committees examine films against the Constitution, the relevant Act, and the FPB’s classification guidelines.

Video games are classified similarly, although classifiers are not required to play a whole game.

They are sent videos of gameplay and game distributors also complete a matrix used for self-regulation.

If they indicate a classifiable element that is not visible in the supplied footage, the FPB may request additional gameplay footage.

Classification guidelines

According to the FPB, the classification guidelines its committees work from are based on national and international research on child development, and the effects of the media on children.

It also incorporates the levels of tolerance of certain materials generally accepted by the South African community through public consultation.

Like the FPB’s tariff structure, these guidelines are currently under review.

The guidelines identify attributes the FPB refers to as “classifiable elements”.

Classifiable elements are depictions of:

  • Violence (V)
  • Sex (S)
  • Nudity (N)
  • Prejudice (P)
  • Substance abuse (D)
  • Language (L)
  • Blasphemy (B)
  • Horror (H)
  • Sexual violence (SV)
  • Criminal techniques (CT)
  • Imitative acts and techniques (IAT)

Games use a similar set of classification guidelines and include the additional classifiable element “competitive intensity” (CI).

This relates to the rewards and incentives given, especially with respect to the violence in the title.

The FPB said that the more frequent and intense a classifiable element is in content, the higher the age rating imposed.

Classifiers must also take into account the release format, considering factors such as the ability to replay scenes, and interactivity. A classifier must also look at whether scenes will be viewed out of context.

The impact of classifiable elements are then assessed according to the following categories: None, Low, Mild, Moderate, Strong, Very Strong, and Presumptively Harmful.

These categories then correspond to the age restrictions we commonly see on content.

No impact – All ages, PG

FPB alert - All Ages

Low impact – 7-9 PG

FPB alert - Ages 7-9 with Parental Guidance

Mild impact – 10, PG 10-12

FPB alert - 10 FPB alert - 10

Moderate impact – 13

FPB alert - 13

Strong impact – 16

FPB alert - 16

Very strong impact – 18

FPB alert - 18

Presumptively harmful – X18, XX

FPB alert - X18FPB XX rating age restriction

Now read: Age restrictions in South Africa are too lenient – FPB

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How the FPB gives movies and games their age restrictions