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Byron Review backs film-style ratings

Long-awaited government report recommends a unified format, advertising advice and more parental controls

The Byron Review, commissioned by the Prime Minister last year and led by TV child psychologist Tanya Byron, has recommended the backing of a single age ratings system with a recognisable set of symbols, similar to the film industry, has learned.

That would seem to suggest support for the BBFC, given its existing remit, and a snub for the industry-favoured PEGI system.

The recommendation comes against a backdrop of turbulence at the BBFC, which saw its decision to ban Manhunt 2, and its subsequent successful High Court appeal, overturned by its own Video Appeals Committee recently.

However, the benefits of a recognised set of symbols as well as a more objective viewpoint may have influenced Byron's decision - although it's expected the Board's resources may need significant investment to increase last year's ratings tally of 258 games.

Other recommendations made by the Review include lowering the statutory requirement for game ratings to 12 - similar again to the film industry - as well as clear and consistent guidance on how games should be advertised.

The industry should also make sustained and high profile efforts to increase parents' understanding of age ratings, and improve parental controls to enable better policing of game-playing in the home.

Additionally The Times Online is reporting that the cigarette-style health warnings have also been recommended, along with hefty fines or a possible five-year prison term for retailers selling inappropriate games to minors.

Both Microsoft and Electronic Arts previously told that they backed the PEGI ratings system, citing advantages in pan-European coverage as well as the ability to rate a far higher number of titles.

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