One thing that surprised me when we first moved to Belgium was the apparent lack of any film ratings. It turned out that there is a very crude classification of films — suitable for under 16s and not suitable for under 16s — which doesn’t help much if you are a parent trying to navigate a trip to the cinema.
The article linked to suggests there will be seven age ratings. It’s not clear to me whether this means that Belgium will have it’s own version of the system, of if the journalist just got her facts slightly wrong.
If it’s the latter, then this will not be that much of a change. DVDs already carry Kijkwijzer ratings — in Flanders, at least — and I can’t see it being too much of a challenge for cinemas to add a couple of icons to their (digitally displayed) listings. It also appears to be an entirely voluntary system which, as I understand it, is the case with the current classifications.
I have, over the years, become quite familiar with Kijkwijzer and it does provide a clear summary of both the what and why of a film’s rating (Rated 9 for horror, for example). If you go to the website, you can also drill down a little and see what age classification was given to each of the categories, which helps if there is something you particularly want to avoid.
My only criticism is that it is very much a checklist driven approach and this can make for a bit of a blunt instrument that us unable to take full account of tone and context. Sometimes context matters and, in these cases, the (admittedly much more labour intensive) approach of the BBFC can be a lot more useful (Barbarella, for example is rated 6 on Kijkwijzer and 15 by the BBFC).
That said, the two classification systems line up a lot more often than not, and more information is always better. I shall look forward to seeing how this works in practice in the new year.