Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry

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FSK certification since December 1st, 2008

The Voluntary Self-Control of the Filmwirtschaft GmbH ( FSK ) is a German institution supported by the leading organization of the film industry (SPIO) based in Wiesbaden . It mainly checks the age rating of media. This information is binding in public spaces.


The German Film House of the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation , which houses the FSK, among other things.

The main task of the FSK is to check the age rating of films, DVDs, Blu-rays and other media (video cassettes, trailers , advertising films) that are intended for public screening in Germany. There is no obligation for the FSK to review, but the members of the SPIO have committed themselves to only publish productions controlled by the FSK.

The legal basis for the activities of the FSK is § 14 Paragraph 2 i. V. m. Paragraph 6 of the Youth Protection Act and the principles of the FSK. These principles are issued by a principle commission consisting of 20 representatives from the film and video industry, the public sector and public broadcasters.

The FSK is financially autonomous and finances its work through fees that are levied for each audited media carrier. It is now operated as a subsidiary of SPIO in the form of a GmbH ; the SPIO does not exert any influence on the content of the audit decisions.

Upon request, the SPIO can also check the media for criminally relevant content through its own independent legal commission. If this is not the case, the label “ SPIO / JK ” (Central Organization of the Film Industry / Legal Commission) will be given.

Types of releases

Age ratings

The FSK approvals are:

label Text on the label label Current labeling
(Section 14 (2) JuSchG)
Labeling before April 1st, 2003
(§ 6 Abs. 3 JÖSchG)
Currently / since December 2008 Old / until Dec. 2008
FSK from 0 (white) FSK released from 0 Released without age restriction Released without age restriction
FSK from 6 (yellow) FSK approved from 6 Approved for ages six and over Approved for ages six and over
FSK from 12 (green) FSK approved from 12 Approved for ages twelve and up Approved for ages twelve and up
FSK from 16 (blue) FSK approved from 16 Approved for ages sixteen and over Approved for ages sixteen and over
FSK 18 (red) FSK from 18 No youth approval No youth approval Not released under eighteen years of age

According to Section 11 JuSchG, children and young people may only be admitted to public film screenings (e.g. in cinemas) if all films, including advertising films and trailers, have been approved for them or if they are instructional or information films that are marked.

Since April 1, 2003, films that are released from the age of 12 can be viewed by children from the age of 6 accompanied by adults with custody ( Section 11 (2) JuSchG). There is no such parental privilege for films that are approved for young people aged 16 and over or for adults; the age limit is absolute here. Even with the consent of the parents (who may be present), adolescents who do not meet the age requirement are prohibited.

In the case of cinema films, an FSK mark is refused if the film is obviously seriously harmful to young people; FSK approval is only possible if there is at most “simple youth risk” and if there is any “youth impairment”. If the same film is then published on an image carrier (video cassette, DVD or Blu-ray), a label will be refused if there is a case of simple youth risk. Films that have an “FSK-18+” label can no longer be indexed by the Federal Testing Office for media harmful to minors (in contrast to the old “Not approved for under 18s” rating, where it is possible). Even if there is a suspicion of a criminal offense ( e.g. glorification of violence , § 131 StGB ), the FSK approval can be refused. In this case, the film can be submitted to the Juristenkommission (JK) of the SPIO and checked for harmlessness under criminal law . Despite the corresponding examination by the JK, a film can be indexed as well as confiscated, but the corresponding logo largely protects those involved from individual criminal prosecution.

According to Section 12 (1) JuSchG, media carriers must be approved if they are publicly accessible to children and young people (e.g. in video stores). The identification must be indicated on the image carrier and the cover with a clearly visible sign. The symbol is to be affixed to the front of the cover on the lower left on an area of ​​at least 1,200 square millimeters and the image carrier on an area of ​​at least 250 square millimeters (Section 12 (2) sentence 1 JuSchG).

Holiday release

When issuing age ratings, the FSK complies with the Youth Protection Act, but also checks the release of films for showing on the so-called silent holidays , which in some federal states enjoy special protection ("holiday-free").

According to this, only those films may be shown in public that retain their “serious character”. Films that contradict the character of these holidays to such an extent that a violation of religious or moral feelings is to be feared will not receive a holiday approval.

Structure and way of working

Around 250 examiners work on a voluntary basis for the FSK. They are appointed by the associations of the film and video industry and the public sector for a period of three years and must have experience in dealing with children or adolescents or have appropriate specialist knowledge in psychology or media studies . In addition, the auditors may not be employed in the film or video industry, in order to avoid influencing the decisions by the industry. When appointing auditors, care is therefore taken to ensure that they come from a wide variety of professional fields and social areas.

The examination of films is organized in different bodies - the working committee (which takes over the main part of the film examinations), the main committee (which acts as an appeal body) and the appeal committee for the appeal in the youth examination. In daily practice, up to five committees work in parallel.

The working committees act as the first instance; every film submitted to the FSK is first checked there. As a rule, this committee consists of five examiners. It is chaired by a permanent representative of the state youth authorities. A committee also includes a youth protection expert (e.g. an employee of a youth welfare office, the youth ministry or a teacher), a regularly changing representative of the public sector (a representative of the Catholic or Protestant Church, the Central Council of Jews or the Federal Youth Council) and two representatives of the film industry . The age rating is decided by a simple majority.


Old label for "Approved without age restriction"

Immediately after the end of World War II , Germany was divided into zones of occupation , which dealt differently with the certification of films. In the American sector of Berlin, parents were encouraged to decide for themselves. The British followed the same procedure as in their own country. In the French sector, the regulations of the "IFA" applied. The Soviets stamped every roll of film that they distributed via Sovexport with "Approved for young people" or "Not approved for young people under 14 years of age".

Erich Pommer , then the highest film officer of the US occupation forces and formerly UFA film producer , was entrusted with the reconstruction and reorganization of the German film industry . Together with the director Curt Oertel and the managing director of the Association of Film Distributors in Wiesbaden, Horst von Hartlieb , Pommer designed a voluntary self-regulation of the film industry based on the example of the US Hays Code . The aim of the institution should be to avoid state regulation of the film industry and to replace the current military censorship : “And here was our first thought, because we were burned children from the Third Reich, to set up a film control in self-administration, there is always a state film control carries the danger of leading to a politicization. "(Horst von Hartlieb)

Since the protection of minors played no role in the admission of films by the occupying powers and thus children and young people had unrestricted access to films, the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Western Occupation Zones set up a “Commission to examine the question: Danger to young people through films” at the beginning of 1948 . It should develop proposals for a transnational filmic youth protection. This commission began its work in the Hessian Ministry of Culture in Wiesbaden. In addition to delegates from the other ministries of culture, representatives from the film industry, the churches and the Catholic youth of Bavaria were invited to the negotiations.

The result of the negotiations was the establishment of a joint self-regulation organization under the name "Voluntary Self-Regulation of the Film Industry", to which the first film was submitted for review on July 18, 1949. It was Paul Martin's comedy Intimities (1944), which was forbidden during the Nazi era . The fictional film was controversial due to a kissing scene, but was nevertheless released for public screening. On September 28, 1949, the Allied military authorities officially transferred their powers of control to the FSK.

The countries of the Soviet occupation zone did not take part in the FSK, as in the GDR, founded in the same year, film control was taken over by the state. In the GDR, the age rating was preceded by a P (for example P14), the differentiation was made between 6 and 18 every two years.

With the amendment of the Youth Protection Act in 1985, the labeling requirement was extended to new media (video films and comparable image carriers). The "Bundesverband Video e. V. “then joined the FSK in order to have it review all of the video films to be published. In the same year, the approvals were expanded to include the "approval without age restriction".

In the course of reunification , the new countries joined the FSK and sent their representatives to the examination boards.

Since 1995, digital media, provided they contain cinematic sequences, have been checked for their age rating.

On December 9, 2004, the film Sophie Scholl - The last days of the 100,000. Film checked by the FSK.

The FSK logos, which are still up-to-date today, have existed since 2009 and were changed by 31 March 2010 at the latest; this was even true of stocks. The positioning is as with the USK at the bottom left; the size on the packaging is 1200 mm² and on the data carrier 250 mm². Since then, many manufacturers have been delivering their digital media with what is known as a "reversible cover", with the inner side dispensing with the FSK label and the design being unaffected by the large-area labeling.

Since October 2010, the FSK has published short release reasons for all feature films on their website on the respective release date in order to make their decisions more transparent.

Editing instructions from the distributor for the FSK 12 version of a film

Controversial decisions

Criticism of high age ratings is often articulated through accusations of censorship or prudery, criticism of low age ratings, on the other hand, raises voices that do not see the interests of youth protection adequately safeguarded or even suspect that the decision is an intentional favoring of the film industry: films with high audience appeal would judged too gently, as this is where the high sales would be achieved. For this, less promising films would have to suffer from age ratings that are too strict in order to compensate for their external presentation. As a result of this practice, German films in particular have suffered since the 1970s, which often had to accept an age rating from 16 years, while Hollywood films were released from 12 or even from 6 years.

In the opinion of critics, the trend towards FSK age restrictions (“FSK 6” or “FSK 12”) would mostly move to the lower rating in the 2000s. This reflects the selection of examples, which does not allow a judgment about the correctness of this thesis.

Individual decisions discussed in the media with approval perceived as being too generous were, for example:

  • The FSK's decision to allow Jurassic Park to be released for ages 12 and up triggered a week-long discussion in the German media.
  • The film Keinohrhasen was released from the age of 6. After a violent complaint from the federal states, the approval was changed to "approved for ages 12 and over". Even the director and main actor of the film, Til Schweiger , said in an interview that he was happy about the release from 12 years. The many sex scenes, the fecal language and the sex explanations were very controversial and a reason for the FSK to raise the clearance.

Individual decisions discussed in the media with approval perceived as being too restrictive were, for example:

  • In the children's film sector , the “FSK-12” approval of Die Grüne Wolke triggered clear criticism from experts at the Goldener Spatz children's film festival .
  • The film Romeos by Sabine Bernardi , funded by ZDF and the young talent fund of the Filmstiftung NRW, was only released from the age of 16, contrary to the application for FSK 12. The feature film, which tells the story of the young transgender Lukas, who was born as a girl, and his “path to growing up”, could, according to the FSK, lead to “disorientation in sexual self-discovery” in young people; it is a "difficult topic that could be very stressful for the youngest of the age group applied for, who are in their sexual orientation phase at this age". The LSVD drew attention to the fact that the "repeated representation of supposedly normal heterosexuality for adolescent homo- or bisexual people" was a burden and criticized in particular the homophobic "rhetoric of reversal", which "is otherwise only known from circles of fundamentalist homosexual haters" .
  • The film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was not released in 2002 from 6 years, but only from 12 years. The distributor therefore released the film in Germany in a shortened form. The discussion about the German approval practice, which emerged again after this decision by the FSK, has led to the rigid classifications “from 6 years” and “from 12 years” being replaced by a new one based on the logic of the US “R” rating Approval options have been expanded, in which films that would actually only be accessible from the age of 12 can also be viewed in the cinema by children from the age of 6 if they are accompanied by a guardian.

The demand is made that the existing rules of the FSK, which date from 1951, must be overhauled. In view of a changed media literacy among today's children, the previous rules, which have been criticized as rigid, are outdated. In addition, the gradation between FSK-6 and FSK-12 film is too great because it is precisely in this age range that there are major changes in children.

Even without a change in the guidelines, however, the classification practice will already change. One example is the film City Hunter , which in 1993 was categorized as "18 and over" in abbreviated form and since 2004 has been released unabridged from 12. This trend can also be seen from a legal point of view: for example, the film Blood Court in Texas has been officially classified as "18+" since 2012 after a re-examination, while in 1982 it was confiscated nationwide in abridged form.

In an expertise from the Children's and Youth Film Center in Germany from 2011, it says: “The FSK label neither claims to be a seal of quality nor to be considered an educational recommendation. This misunderstanding occurs again and again in public. ”This also appeals to parents who, especially in the lower age groups, make the decision whether a film is suitable for the child.

The media point out that, as an alternative to the FSK rating, there are other sources of information and ratings for some films, such as the Catholic Film Service or the US website movieguide.org, on which films are "rated" according to categories.

See also


  • Michael Humberg: From the adult ban to the youth release. The film ratings of the FSK as a yardstick for the change in cultural values. Telos Verlag, Münster 2013, ISBN 978-3-933060-42-6
  • Jürgen Kniep: “No youth release!” Film censorship in West Germany 1949–1990. Wallstein-Verlag, Göttingen 2010, ISBN 978-3-8353-0638-7 ( Moderne Zeit 21), (At the same time: Freiburg, Univ., Diss., 2009: Approved for ages 18+ ).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Source: Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Kinder- und Jugendschutz e. V. ( Memento of March 10, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  2. FSK - Release of cinema films for the legally protected silent holidays. Retrieved October 28, 2018 .
  3. a b FSK - General questions about the FSK. Retrieved October 28, 2018 .
  4. a b FSK examiners. Retrieved October 28, 2018 .
  5. "How many people are involved when a film is checked?"
  6. ^ Cinema in the GDR | filmportal.de. Retrieved October 28, 2018 .
  7. The Neue Illustrierte Kunstzeitschrift Dionysos from June 18, 1948, p. 101 of Almanach 13
  8. cf. Wolfgang Huebner: The Jedi Knights of the screen morality . In: Associated Press Worldstream , August 22, 1999, 8:14 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Frankfurt am Main
  9. Transparent protection of minors! Approval reasons for feature films on the FSK homepage. In: Spio.de. Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry, October 26, 2010, accessed on January 25, 2011 .
  10. Appeal Committee marks KEINOHRHASEN on January 31, 2008 with "Approved for ages twelve and over" ( Memento of July 15, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  11. daskleinefernsehspiel.zdf.de Romeos . A feature film by Sabine Bernardi
  12. Film “Romeos” only from 16. Accessed on October 28, 2018 .
  13. FSK - Reason for labeling the film HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS with “Approved for ages 6 and up”. Retrieved October 28, 2018 .
  14. Educational age recommendation for children's films. Retrieved October 28, 2018 .
  15. Florentine Fritzen: "FSK 12" - Not for children. In: FAZ. October 3, 2010, accessed November 25, 2017 .