All films to be shown to children under the age of 15 at a public screening must be classified by the Swedish Media Council.
The age ratings relate only to the risk of harm to children’s well-being according to the “Swedish Lag (2010:1882) om åldersgränser för film som ska visas offentligt”. The ratings do not reflect wether the film is suitable for a certain age group.
The age ratings of the Swedish Media Council only apply to the public screening of films. Private parties, for example film clubs, schools, associations etc, do not need to apply for classification.
The object of the classification process is to decide whether the film could harm the well-being of children. Religious, political or moral attitudes are not taken into account when deciding the age ratings. Every film is classified in its own unique context and the age ratings are based on expertise and experience.
Only a very limited amount of violence is allowed in films for very young children. The classification process also includes assessments of film sequences that may cause feelings of terror, including films and sequences that are difficult for children to understand and liable to cause confusion and fear. Since cinema films in most cases are subtitled and not dubbed in Sweden, the possibility for children to read the subtitles is sometimes an issue.
Films do not have to be submitted for classification if they are screened for audiences over the age of 15.
The age ratings are “all ages”, 7, 11 and “not approved”, the latter resulting in a 15 rating.
Children under the age of 7, who are accompanied by an adult (a person aged 18 or over), are admitted to films that have been passed for children from the age of 7; children over the age of 7, who are accompanied by an adult, are admitted to films that have been passed for children from the age of 11.
When a film distributor submits a film for classification s/he must apply for a specific age rating. This has to do with his right to appeal the rating decisions of the Swedish Media Council.
If a distributor is dissatisfied with a rating decision, s/he can appeal to the administrative court of appeal. When such cases are heard two special members must take part, one of whom has expert knowledge of film matters and the other of behavioural sciences. If still dissatisfied with the outcome, the distributor can appeal this decision also to the highest administrative court of appeal in Sweden.
However, appeals are made first to the Swedish Media Council itself, which then decides whether there are reasons for reviewing the decision.
All documents relating to the classification of films are available to the public.
The Film Database
All films that have been classified since January 1st 1956 are searchable in agency's film database. Go to the film database here.
The History of the Former National Board of Film Classification
Film classification in Sweden was carried out by the Statens biografbyrå, National Board of Film Classification in English, between 1911 and 2010. Since 2011 the Swedish Media Council handles this task.
Since the Swedish first film screenings in 1896, the local police authorities granted permission for performances and also examined the content of the films. As might be expected, the personal views of individual police officers carried disproportionate weight and a growing public opinion came out in favour of uniform rules for the showing of films. Then, as now, the debate centered on the potential bad influence of the new medium, particularly on the young.
A milestone in this respect was the issue in 1905 by the Office of the Governor of Stockholm of the following provisions:
"Exhibitions of films shall not include any material that is offensive to public decency or disrespectful to the authorities or private individuals, nor pictures depicting the commission of murders, robberies or other serious crimes, and exhibitions that are open to children shall not include pictures depicting events or situations that are liable to arouse emotions of terror or horror in the audience or for other reasons be considered unsuitable for children to look at."
It was proposed that a central body be set up to examine film and this led to the drafting of a Government bill. The first bill contained a provision concerning "cinematic pictures, the showing of which is liable to give offence for religious or political reasons". This, however, was excluded from the final draft on the grounds that it gave too much scope for subjective interpretations.
The official name given to the film censorship body was Statens biografbyrå, (called SBB in the following) and the operative section of the new law, the Cinema Ordinance, then read as follows:
"Examiners shall not approve cinematic pictures, the showing of which is contrary to law or morality or is otherwise liable to have a brutalizing or agitating effect or to cast doubt on the concept of legality. Therefore, pictures depicting scenes of horror, suicide or serious crimes in such a manner and in such a context as to have such an effect shall not be approved.
Furthermore, pictures that are liable perversely to excite children's imagination or otherwise to have an adverse effect on their mental development or well-being shall not be passed for exhibition at performances to which children under the age of 15 are admitted. Examiners must not deny approval for pictures other than those referred above."
Society as a whole, the institution of film censorship and, above all, the films themselves, have changed a great deal since 1911, as have also the central legal provisions.
Yet one of the fundamental concepts has stood the test of time: films or scenes must not be approved if they are liable to have a brutalizing effect on audiences over the age of 15 (the only restriction that still applies to this category) or to cause children under the age of 15 mental harm.
Two new age limits have been introduced in addition to the 15-year limit: one of 11 years (1960) and one of 7 years (1978).
The rules laid down in 1914, at the time of the outbreak of World War I, relating to military secrets and foreign policy considerations have been abolished, as has the Act prohibiting offences against morality and decency (1971). The repeal of that Act signified the legalization of pornography in the cinema.
At the beginning of the 1990's two of SBB's previous criteria for not approving films or scenes for adult audiences - "perversely exciting" and "liable to encourage crime", as well as the notion that the showing of a film "might in other respects be contrary to law" - were abolished.
Provisions making child pornography a criminal offence have been enacted and are taken into account in the assessments of SBB.
Commercials are no longer classified, but trailers for films are still classified.
About the Swedish Media Council
2011-08-11 | 16:17 | Ämnen: In English
The Swedish Media Council is a government agency whose primary task is to promote the empowering of minors as conscious media users and to protect them from harmful media influences.
2011-07-28 | 21:49 | Ämnen: In English
All films that have been classified since January 1st 1956 can be searched for in our film database.
Publications in English
2008-11-13 | 10:34 | Ämnen: In English
Here you can find publications that are available in English. The Media Council regularly publishes reports and other material on developments in the media, media effects and the media situation of children and young people. The Council also monitors relevant research in this field.