If DVDs are classified 12, 15 or 18, it is an offence under the Video Recordings Act to supply them to anyone under the appropriate age. So is there a special exemption for DVDs given away with newspapers or do careless newsagents face fines?
Who: The British Board of Film Classification
When: February 2006
The British Board of Film Classification ("BBFC") warned that the sale of newspapers including free DVDs might in many cases involve the commission of an offence under the Video Recordings Act 1984.
The risk arises, the BBFC points out, where DVDs carry anything other than a U Certificate.
Section 11 of the Video Recordings Act 1984 states:
"(1) Where a classification certificate issued in respect of a video work states that no video recording containing that work is to be supplied to any person who has not attained the age specified in the certificate, a person who supplies or offers to supply a video recording containing that work to a person who has not attained the age so specified is guilty of an offence."
Examples of where risks might have been run in this regard include the recent giving away of 15 rated films "Highlander" and "Conan The Destroyer".
A further concern is whether it is sufficient for the sleeve containing the DVD to carry the "15" or other classification. Should this also appear on the cover of the newspaper as part of the promotional flash mentioning the DVD is "Free inside"?
Section 8 of the 1984 Act empowers the Secretary of State to publish regulations in relation to appropriately labelling the video work in respect of which the Certificate was issued "or any spool, case or other thing on or in which such a video recording is kept".
The ensuing Video Recordings (Labelling) Regulations 1985, SI195/911 as amended by SI1995/2550, SI1998/852 suggest that where the DVD and case are tucked well inside the newspaper and definitely not visible at point of display/sale it may well be a requirement that the rating appears on the front cover.
Why this matters:
The BBFC has pointed out that offences under the 1984 Video Recordings Act are serious and those convicted will as a result have criminal records. Trading Standards Officers are responsible for policing the statute and the local authority regulatory body, Lacors, has made representations to newsagents, stores and garages, trade bodies and newspapers demanding that they tighten their procedures.
The National Federation of Retail Newsagents says that "it is working with the whole publishing industry to make sure that if there are age restricted items inside newspapers or magazines, they are clearly marked."
Clearly there is an issue here and it may only be a matter of time before the first prosecution occurs. Unless of course the current fad for giveaway DVDs dies away.