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Culture

German Churches Criticize Proposed Film Rating

The Catholic and Protestant churches are criticizing a proposed new "parental guidance" rating for films in Germany. They say it will make it easier for children to access films intended for adults.

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Too scary for six year olds?

You know how it is. You're six years old, but the latest "Scream" you've been dying to see has a "12" rating.

You may have tough luck at the moment, but under new rules due to come into force in April, you and the rest of the prepubescent lot in Germany may be a little less gore bereft.

The new film ratings regulation is part of a wider Youth Protection Bill currently being drafted by Germany's Ministry for Families, Seniors, Women and Youth. A key component, if passed, will be the addition of a new “Parental Guidance,” or "PG," classification to the country's film rating system.

A ratings smorgasbord

Currently, German films are classified according to age. "6"-rated films can be viewed by children over six years of age; "12"-certificates by the over 12s. There are also "16" and "18" ratings. Films with a "Universal" certificate can be viewed by every age group from the "Rug Rats" to the "Golden Girls."

Britain and the United States have long had the advisory "PG" rating, which suggests parental guidance but does not require or enforce it. Under the German proposal, children would only be able to view "PG" films in the company of an adult or legal guardian.

"Under the bill, accompanied by parents means just that," Folker Hoenge of the FSK, the German film industry's voluntary self-regulation office, told DW-WORLD. "Parents will have to show identification when they buy cinema tickets for their children.” Relaxing the rules

But both the Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany say parental guidance isn't enough and they alleged last week in a joint statement that the new classification simply relaxes rules that were intended to protect children from exposure to on-screen sex and violence.

“What one has to be very clear about,” Father Werner Schneider, German Protestant Church’s representative for film issues, told DW-WORLD, “is that this new 'Parental Guidance' classification is not really a new classification at all, rather all '12' certificate films will be open to any six year old taken in by his or her parents.”

Schneider, who is responsible for organizing the Protestant volunteers at the FSK who screen new releases and help apply the ratings, says the new rating will also make his job harder.

“Every film deemed to be suitable for 12 year olds will be automatically be opened to six year olds," he said. "It puts an extreme pressure on those who decide which age certificate a film should have."

Conservatives oppose change

Germany's biggest religious organizations aren't alone in their criticism of the new rating. States led by the country's conservative opposition parties, the Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, have also said they will voice their objections. The bill requires passage by the Bundesrat, Germany's upper legislative chamber.

Film ratings have long been a delicate issue in Germany. Most recently, the distributors of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" were required to re-edit a number of scenes in order to obtain a rating suitable for the young wizard's core audience: six year olds.