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The Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle der Filmwirtschaft (FSK, Self-Regulatory Body of the Movie Industry) is a German motion picture rating system organization run by the Spitzenorganisation der Filmwirtschaft (SPIO, Head Organisation of the Movie Industry) based in Wiesbaden.
There is no legal obligation for approval by the FSK; however, members of the SPIO commit themselves to only releasing productions passed by the FSK. Movies not rated by the FSK may only be sold and rented to adults, regardless of their content.
The legal basis for the actions of the FSK are a youth protection law (JuSchG, Jugendschutzgesetz), the holiday regulations and basic principles of the FSK. These principles are issued by the Basic Principles Commission, consisting of 20 representatives from the film and video industry, public authorities and state-funded broadcasting stations governed by public law.
The FSK takes into account whether or not a film is shown on certain specially protected holidays mentioned in the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany. These are Good Friday, All Saints, Volkstrauertag (Memorial Day), Buß- und Bettag (Penance Day) and also Totensonntag (the German Remembrance Sunday).
The FSK is financially autonomous and funds its work through fees from every inspected media carrier. It is operated as an affiliate of the SPIO in the form of a private limited company, but the SPIO does not influence its decisions.
Current and former ratings
|Current labels||Labels from April 2003 to December 2008||Restrictions April 2003 to December 2008||Abbreviations April 2003 to December 2008||Labels before April 2003|
|Released without age restriction.||o.Al.
gemäß § 7
|Released to age 6 or older.||ab 6
ab 6 Jahren
gemäß § 7
|Released to age 12 or older and to age 6 to 11 with parental guidance.
Broadcast on TV all day with some exceptions only after 20:00, unless re-edited.
ab 12 Jahren
gemäß § 7
|Released only to age 16 or older.
Broadcast on TV only after 22:00 unless approved by special permit or re-edited to secure a "12" rating.
ab 16 Jahren
gemäß § 7
|No release to young persons (released only to age 18 or older).
Broadcast on TV only after 23:00.
unter 18 Jahren
gemäß § 7
|fsk 0, fsk 6, fsk 12, fsk 16, fsk 18|
Since December 2008 there is a new design of the labels for ratings according to § 12 Abs. 2 Satz 2 JuSchG. On the front cover, lower left side, the label must be with a size of minimum 1200 mm² (3.46 cm x 3.46 cm). On the media itself the label must be in a size of minimum 250 mm² (1.58 cm x 1.58 cm). The labels are transparent squares with rounded corners with a non-transparent lining around and a non-transparent circle inside, all three (square, lining, circle) in the same colour. The rating text is printed inside the circle in black letters.
From 1 April 2003 to December 2008 the ratings were based on § 14 JuSchG (Jugendschutzgesetz, youth protection law). Changes from the ratings before April 2003 were the welcoming of a parental guidance rule for "Freigegeben ab 12 Jahren" and the replacement of "Nicht freigegeben unter 18 Jahren" with "Keine Jugendfreigabe". The labels were usually printed on the back covers of DVDs, VHS cassettes and other media in approximately 10 mm x 10 mm with rounded corners and black border lining and letters.
Before 1 April 2003 the ratings were based on § 6 and 7 JÖSchG (Gesetz zum Schutze der Jugend in der Öffentlichkeit, law for protecting youth in public). Differences were:
- "Freigegeben ab 12 Jahren" was only released to age 12 or older. There was no parental guidance rule.
- "Nicht freigegeben unter 18 Jahren" (alternative: "Freigegeben ab 18 Jahren"): not released to under age 18, abbreviation FSK 18, since 1 April 2003 replaced with "Keine Jugendfreigabe".
The design of the rating labels was approximately 10 mm x 10 mm with rounded corners and black border lining and letters.
From 1957 to 1985 "Freigegeben ab 18 Jahren": released to age 18 or older, replaced since April 2003 by "Nicht freigegeben unter 18 Jahren", had the same restrictions.
If a movie does not comply with FSK basic principles (e.g. glorification of violence), a rating can be denied. A movie which is not rated by FSK is checked for possible violation against applicable law by a jurist agency (Juristen-Kommission, JK) of the Spitzenorganisation der Filmwirtschaft (SPIO). The JK compiles certificates for the reviewed movies. Approved movies receive one of two classifications:
- Keine schwere Jugendgefährung or no severe danger to youth. While these movies are considered by the Juristenkommission to represent a danger to youth, this danger is not perceived to be considerable. In German this is sometimes known as a leichte Jugendgefährdung or mild/slight danger to youth. Films with this certificate may still be only sold on the open market as with films rated FSK 18, but are subject to indexing.
- Strafrechtlich unbedenklich or not in violation of applicable criminal law – Movies given this certificate are usually considered to be a severe danger to youth but do not violate criminal law. A failure to achieve such a certificate is usually attributable to an expected violation of 131b of the German Criminal Code, but may also be in violation of child pornography legislation or the display and promotion of symbols, songs or political ideologies in violation of the constitution (e.g. National Socialism). The awarding of this certificate does not constitute a legal decree. The movie in question may still be confiscated at a later date if decreed by a court of law, as demonstrated with Hostel 2. These films may not be sold openly, even if the film in question has not yet been indexed. Due to their not being certified by the FSK, these movies are also subject to indexing.
While not obligatory, it is common to display a rectangular, black and white logo with "SPIO/JK geprüft" and the JK certificate granted. These movies may be additionally indexed (blacklisted) by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons. JK/SPIO certified films are usually indexed within a month or two of publication with only a few exceptions, e.g. Virtuosity.
Structure and mode of operation of the FSK
Over 190 inspectors work for the FSK on a voluntary, unpaid basis. They are appointed by the movie and video industry and the public authorities for three years, and must have experience in dealing with children and minors or have similar factual knowledge of psychology or media studies. The inspectors may not be employed by the movie or video industry, to avoid biased decisions. Therefore, when appointing inspectors, importance is attached to the fact that these inspectors should come from different occupational fields and social classes.
The rating of movies is carried out by various committees. These are the Working Committee, which does most of the inspections, the Main Committee, acting as a court of appeal, and the Appeals Committee, for appeals to the youth inspection. In practice, the three committees work in parallel.
The working committees are the first ones in the FSK to inspect each film that is registered. Normally each consists of seven inspectors – three from the movie industry and four named by the public authorities – as well as a representative of the country's youth authorities.
After World War II Erich Pommer, the former UFA film producer and then Film Officer in the American occupation zone, was in charge of rebuilding and reorganizing the German movie industry. Together with film directors Curt Oertel and Horst von Hartlieb, the director of the movie distribution association in Wiesbaden, Pommer developed a voluntary self inspection system for the movie industry modeled on the Hays Code in the United States. The goal of this institution was to avoid governmental regulation of the movie industry and to replace the effective military censoring: And here was our first thought, because we had a bad experience in the Third Reich: to build a self-organized film inspection system, because a federal film inspection system is always in danger of starting to control political attitude (Horst von Hartlieb).
Moreover, youth protection played no role in admission to movies of the occupying powers, so children and minors had unrestricted access to movies. Because of this, at the start of 1948 the German secretary of education of the western occupied zones set up a commission to answer the question of whether young people were endangered by movies. It was intended to develop suggestions for nationwide youth protection connected to films. The work of this agency began in the Hessian ministry for culture in Wiesbaden. As well as the representatives of the other countries' secretaries of education, representatives of the movie industry, the churches and the Katholische Jugend Bayern (Catholic Youth of Bavaria) were also invited to the hearing.
The result of the hearings was the establishment of the fully self-governed entity known as the FSK. The first film was handed over for inspection on 18 July 1949. On 28 September the allied military agencies officially transferred the inspection authority to the FSK.
The countries of the Soviet occupational zone did not take part in the FSK, since the film inspection there was taken on by the government of the GDR, formed in the same year.
When the German Youth Protection Law was amended in 1985, the mandatory rating was broadened to include new media (video films and comparable picture media). The German Association Video e.V. (e.V = membership corporation) followed the FSK, to inspect all released video films. In the same year, the rating "Freigabe ohne Altersbeschränkung" (Universal) was added.
During German unification the new federal states followed the FSK and sent their representatives to the board of inspectors.
Since 1995, any digital media containing film sequences have been inspected for their rating as well.
The movie Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage was the 100,000th film inspected by the FSK on 9 December 2004.
- Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle, the equivalent rating system for video games
- Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien
- Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Fernsehen
- MPAA film rating system
- OFLC, the New Zealand media rating system
- Hays Code