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Ontario to change movie rating system and abolish PG and R classifications

The Ontario government is taking steps to completely change the way the film rating system in the province works by getting rid of age-based movie ratings altogether.

Earlier this month, the province introduced legislation to repeal the Film Classification Act, 2005, which requires that every movie shown in Ontario be classified as either General, Parental Guidance, 14 Accompaniment, 18 Accompaniment or Restricted.

Instead, Ontario has introduced the new Film Content Information Act, 2020, and it no longer mandates that movies be given these age-based ratings. 

"We have taken steps towards updating the province's film classification framework to reduce regulatory burden on businesses and better reflect today's digital marketplace," reads a statement from Ontario's Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. 

"We are doing this by proposing to eliminate film classification requirements and licensing requirements for film exhibitors, retailers and distributors."

If passed, the act will require that exhibitors provide publicly available information to consumers about the film's content that is more descriptive than just the standard age-based rating, including violence, nudity, coarse langugae, substance use and more. 

Films could also include a message stating that a movie was intended for audiences of a certain age, but this will only serve as a suggestion and not a rule.

"Exhibitors must also provide consumers with contact information for any questions or in case there are complaints," reads the ministry's statement. "In addition, if exhibitors do not comply with the requirements of the Act, the ministry will be able to look into the matter further."

While this new act would change the rules for feature films shown in the province, it would maintain existing provisions related to adult sex films and video games.

This move comes after Premier Doug Ford scrapped the Ontario Film Authority (OFA), a not-for-profit corporation that oversaw the classification and approval of films within the province, in September of 2019.

The provincial government then assumed responsibility of overseeing the review and approval of all films, as well as licensing film distributors, exhibitors and retailers within the province.

"These changes recognize changing consumer behaviour related to media consumption," reads the statement. 

"We know that viewers are consuming media content very differently today (i.e. popular streaming services such as Netflix, Crave and Apple+, fall outside provincial jurisdiction and are not subject to the same film classification requirements). Extensive information is readily available to consumers about a film's content that again, is more descriptive than just the standard age-based rating."

Lead photo by

Ronald Quitoriano

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