Who's Classifying? About the Ontario Film Review Board
The province's Film Classification Act, 2005 gives the Ontario Film Review Board (OFRB) the authority to review and classify film that is exhibited, rented or sold in Ontario. Several types of films are exempt from the classification requirement. These include films designed to provide information, education or instruction (such as documentaries or travelogues). Some exemptions do not apply to films that contain coarse language, graphic violence, explicit sexual activity and other types of scenes. (See Ontario Regulation 452/05 for other exemptions, and further information.)
The OFRB consists of individuals (members) who come from a variety of diverse backgrounds, and vary in age, gender, vocation, race, cultural background and sexual orientation.
Throughout its history, the Board's policies have been shaped and influenced by external social forces. It continues to adapt and mirror the tastes and standards of the various societies it serves.
How the OFRB Classifies
The OFRB Board Members, usually in one or two person screening panels review and classify film in accordance with the Act, regulation and guidelines established by the OFRB. These guidelines, which are continually reviewed and updated, allow the OFRB to be objective yet flexible. In this way, they not only maintain the integrity of community standards, but also appreciate and accommodate the product's artistic merit, or social and documentary significance.
While viewing the film, each panel member makes extensive notes on all elements that contribute to the classification. These elements include coarse language, nudity, violence, sexual activity, and psychological impact. The Classification Categories give a full description of the guidelines associated with each classification and element. Following the screening, panel members use these detailed notes in determining the classification of the film.
Each element is weighed on the basis of content and treatment, and the cumulative effect of those factors on the audience. Members consider style, tone, duration, frequency, and the amount of visual and/or verbal detail. How the elements relate to the narrative also contributes to the OFRB Board's decision.
Besides the classification, the OFRB Board may choose to include information pieces, such as Nudity, Coarse Language, or Brutal Violence. These warnings, along with the classification, must appear on all advertising to help the viewer in making informed choices.
There are three types of panel, and each serves a different purpose as follows:
- Normal: This panel usually consists of one or two members. Although the members strive to reach a consensus and final decision, a Cumulative Panel may be requested either by a member in a minority position, or by any member wishing to have a wider cross-section of opinion.
- Cumulative: Three other OFRB Board Members screen the film. The results of both the Normal and Cumulative Panels are tallied, and the majority rules. Since this process is initiated by a Member, there is no cost to the distributor.
- Appeal: This panel is requested and paid for by a submittor who disagrees with the Board's decision. It consists of a minimum of three members who have not yet seen the film in question. The panel's decision is final, subject to the right of the director to require reconsideration.
- Reconsideration: The Director under the Film Classification Act, 2005 may submit a film including a video game to the OFRB Board, or require a person who distributes, offers to distribute, exhibits or offers to exhibit a film or video game to submit it to the OFRB Board for the purpose of reconsidering the classification or approval decision, or to determine if a film is exempt. In such cases there is no additional cost to the submittor and the panel consists of a minimum of three members who have not yet seen the film in question. This panel's decision is final.
By the time a film has gone through three panels, up to ten different OFRB Board Members have viewed it.
For classification of films and videos, including all adult sex films, distributors are charged a fee of $4.20 per minute. Most films in a language other than English or French pay a flat fee of $78.75 per title. Most films wholly produced in Canada are exempt from the classification fees.
History of the OFRB
Click on a milestone above to see a brief snapshot of the OFRB at various moments in history.