Abuse of Film Ratings

June 1, 2017

Activities which provide wholesome entertainment are key to many people’s busy and stressful lives as it can give them much needed relaxation and enjoyment. Also, indulging in such activities from time to time is necessary to handle stress on a daily basis.

One growing form of entertainment which people enjoy watching is films, particularly in the cinema halls and multiplexes. From children to teenagers to adults and senior citizens, all love to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars on the silver screen time and again as the thrills and joy felt in the cinemas is a totally different experience compared to watching the same film on a DVD at the comfort of one’s home.

Luckily, to fulfil consumers’ desires, there are a number of cinema houses in Fiji with plans to open some new ones as well.

However, not many people pay attention to the fact that all films screened in the cinemas come with a “Rating”. Films are rated based on its content, language and action amongst other sensitive factors. So what does the ratings mean?

“G” Rated movies are for General Audiences where all ages are admitted. “PG” Rated movies require Parental Guidance where some material may not be suitable for children whereas PG- 13 Rated movies strongly cautions parents that some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. ‘R’ Rated movies means Restricted viewing.

Some films are rated strictly R13 or R16 which simply means children below these ages are not allowed to view the film at all.

Regrettably, some parents seem to overlook movie ratings with their excitement to watch films and similarly the traders tend to take advantage of such circumstances by charging adult ticket prices to children who wish to go and watch the ‘R16’ rated movies with their parents or friends.

In a recent incident which came to the Council’s attention through Consumer Helpline, was a case of prominent cinema company caught selling tickets of a R16 rated movie to children under 16 years of age at the adult price.

When parents visited the ticket window to purchase tickets for all their family members, they were told that the film is R16, however, if they wished to take their children aged under 16 years they had to pay adult price. While some parents opted to pay the adult price and take their children into the cinemas, some concerned parents who saw this act as purely unethical and irresponsible by traders and consumers, reported the matter to the Council.

The Council immediately sought clarification from the Fiji Censor Board. There is a ‘Cinematographic Films Act’ in place and it is clear from the regulations that it is a breach to allow under-age children to watch R16 movies, and is considered an offence under Section 20 of the Act which states “Any person who (a) exhibits or causes or permits or suffers to be exhibited, any film in contravention of any of the provisions of this Part shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of two hundred dollars in respect of each offence”. Now it is up to Fiji Censor Board to take action.

Taking this into consideration, the cinema company was advised by the Council that what they were doing was wrong. They should not have allowed children under 16 years into the cinemas as the particular film was censored R16. However, given that the fine, as stated in the Act, seems to be insignificant for traders therefore they allow children to watch R16 movies at adult ticket price.

Discussions with the management of the cinema company resulted in putting up of notice at their ticket windows stating that they follow the “ratings and procedures given by the Fiji Censor Board as movies are rated by them. Further, no child will be permitted to purchase tickets or view R-rated movie”.

While they managed to rectify their position in terms to conforming to the laws, the Council would like to call on consumers to act responsibly and follow the movie rating when it comes to children wanting to watch movies. If films are rated R13 or R16, then consumers should adhere to the ratings and immediately note that the film is not viewable with children under that age.