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IRIS Plus 2003-5: Horizontal Rating of Audiovisual Content in Europe. An Alternative to Multi-level Classification?

Author: Carmen Palzer, Institute of European Media Law (EMR), Saarbr├╝cken / Brussels

Published: 01/10/2003

Imagine that the latest Harry Potter blockbuster is being filmed. For anyone who doesn't know Harry Potter: Harry is an unusual little boy who is being trained in wizardry at Hogwarts School, where he has all kinds of adventures. He is immersed in the world of magicians, and meets people involved in black magic, trolls, ghosts, dragons, werewolves and many other loathsome, dangerous creatures. It is not only exciting, but also extremely spine-chilling, as Harry Potter's path is strewn with dead bodies. All of which is sufficient reason to consider who should be allowed to watch this film - in other words, how would it be rated according to rules on the protection of young people?

There is no clear answer to this question; this edition of IRIS plus explains why not. Firstly, the rating depends on the audiovisual medium involved: a film is shown first in the cinema before being sold on DVD and finally shown on television. At some point, it might even be turned into a video game. The format has an influence on the rating. The same is true of the country in which the film is shown. Different cultures and traditions of youth protection affect the rating of the film.

You can read about the problems that are created for a society that is becoming increasingly global and for ever-converging media when the same product is given different ratings. However, attempts have been made to counter these problems, such as the examples of horizontal classification described in this IRIS plus. You will therefore see how cross-sectoral classification at European level might be established.

This fascinating article rounds off our series on various aspects of "horizontal regulation". Before Christmas, you will be able to order this series, including reports on communications law, copyright law, international trade law, advertising law and the classification of audiovisual content, in IRIS plus Collection, available from the Observatory and its distribution partners.