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Ontario Film Authority

Movie­goers

Consumer FAQs

1. Why do we need a film classification board?

A film classification board helps consumers make informed choices about the films they see. Movie viewers have asked for information on age-suitability (the classification) and content (advisories such as Coarse Language, Violence, Nudity, etc.) of films. This information assists them in deciding whether a particular movie is appropriate for their children, or for themselves.

Many countries, including the United States, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Norway, Denmark and Sweden have film classification boards that provide equivalent services to the public.

2. Why does Canada have provincial classification boards? Why not have one board for all of Canada?

The provinces of Canada have been responsible for regulating film exhibitions for almost 100 years. Canada's diverse population is spread across a huge geographic expanse so community standards may differ across the land. Film boards reflect the community standards which are mirrored in their composition. This forms part of the basis for their decisions on classifying film and video.

Within Ontario, OFRB members are appointed by the Ontario Film Authority from different parts of the province and from different age groups and backgrounds to ensure that there is collective input respecting community standards.

3. Why does the Ontario Film Review Board have the power to refuse to approve films?

Film boards are responsible for applying community standards to regulate the boundary between films that cause harm and films that are suitable for public display and consumption. The Ontario Film Review Board has the discretion - and the responsibility - to refuse to approve films that contain depictions of explicit sexual assault, degrading and dehumanizing activities, sexual activities with minors, and so on.

Most societies have value systems that are created to allow their members to live in relative peace and security. The checks and balances that prevent seriously harmful activities from becoming prevalent and undermining these value systems are usually enshrined in the laws of the land. The ability to limit public exposure to degrading and dehumanizing sexual images is one of the safeguards that helps to prevent seriously harmful activities from becoming the normative values of society. The marketplace is also not a good safeguard as there will always be a minority of citizens that will create a market for these portrayals.

4. How does the Ontario Film Review Board develop its decision making guidelines?

Community standards are at the forefront whenever the Ontario Film Review Board revises its guidelines. The OFRB Board uses many avenues to gauge the standards of the community it serves.

The OFRB is structured specifically to address issues relating to the community’s perceptions of appropriate viewing. The public Board consists of ordinary people, from all over the province, which work part-time for the Board. Members include men and women of all ages, with diverse work histories, different ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations. The OFRB is structured this way so that its decisions will reflect Ontario's diverse communities.

The full OFRB Board usually meets two times a year to discuss any changes in policy, procedure or guidelines. All changes are discussed, debated, and voted on by the full Board before any changes are made. The OFRB hears from a wide variety of speakers including child psychologists, members of public interest groups concerned about areas such as media violence, representatives from the movie industry and so on.

The OFRB also hears directly from the media, from public interest groups, and from members of the general public via letter, telephone, fax, e-mail and this web site.

The OFRB responsibility is to understand and reflect the thinking of the diverse composition of the Ontario public.

5. Who looks after classification for television?

Television is a federal responsibility - specifically the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

The following site is also a useful resource to explain the TV rating system: Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.