For information
on 8 February 1999


1998 Public Opinion Survey
on the Film Classification System


This paper informs Members about the findings of the 1998 public opinion survey on the film classification system.


2. The Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority (TELA) conducts a large-scale public opinion survey on the film classification system on a biennial basis. The main objective of such a survey is to assess the community's acceptance of the existing film classification system (including film classification standards). The last survey was conducted in 1996.


3. In line with past practices, the 1998 Public Opinion Survey was commissioned to a research company, MDR Technology Ltd. The survey comprises a main survey to collect views from the general public, and two supplementary surveys on the panel of public advisers and moviegoers respectively. Field work for the survey was conducted between July and September 1998.

4. The main survey covered 611 members of the public (aged 13 to 59) of which 549 were adults. The sample was selected in close resemblance to the demographic profile of the Hong Kong population in terms of age, sex and occupation. Apart from completing a questionnaire on the film classification system, respondents were invited to give their views on the classification of 36 film segments featuring sexuality, violence, horror, offensive behaviour or triad depiction.

5. The supplementary survey on the panel of public advisers involved 130 public advisers from the 330-member panel of public advisers who are volunteers appointed by the Film Censorship Authority (FCA) to view films with censors and advise on film classification. These 130 adult respondents went through the same survey process as the main survey group.

6. As requested by the film industry, a supplementary survey on moviegoers was introduced in the 1998 survey. Some 309 moviegoers (of which 46 were young persons aged 13-17 and 263 were adults) that have viewed six selected commercial films participated in the survey. Telephone interviews were conducted to collect their views on film classification standards in general and on the selected films they have viewed.

7. Two copies of the full report of the survey have been deposited with the LegCo Secretariat for perusal by Members. The executive summary of the report is at Annex.


8. In brief, the 1998 Public Opinion Survey on the Film Classification System revealed that:

  1. there is general community support and acceptance of the existing film classification system;

  2. the existing film classification standards are generally in line with the expectations of the community; and

  3. the film classification system is generally regarded by members of public as a useful guide for selecting films for their children.

Details of the findings are elaborated in paragraphs 9 to 17 below.


Knowledge of Film Classification System

9. The survey revealed that the public had a good knowledge of the classification system. The majority of the respondents (about 84%) knew the film categories under the film classification system.

Role of Classification System in Film Selection

10. The film classification system has provided useful guidance to the public in selecting films for viewing. About two-thirds of the adult respondents would refer to the category which a film is classified when selecting films. As for respondents aged 13-17, the reliance was even higher (in the region of 79%).

Parental Guidance

11. The advisory Category IIA (i.e. not suitable for children) and Category IIB (i.e. not suitable for young persons and children) proved to be useful to parents in selecting films for viewing by their children. Some 75% of the adult respondents considered the advisory Categories IIA and IIB useful as a tool for exercising parental guidance and 77% of the parent respondents would make use of these advisory Categories when selecting films for their children.

Access to Category III Films by Young Persons

12. Some 66% of the respondents aged 13-17 had seen Category III films (i.e. for persons aged 18 or above only) either at their own homes (66%) or at their friends' homes (73%). The main reason for viewing was curiosity (63%).

Views on Film Classification Standards

13. The existing film classification standards were in general accepted by the public: 27% of the respondents considered the standards appropriate, 16% a bit strict, and 36% a bit lenient. Most respondents (75%) considered the existing classification standards governing triad depiction, offensive behaviors, objectionable language, violence, sex and nudity, and horror generally acceptable.

Views on Controversial Movie Themes

14. Respondents were asked to classify 18 different controversial or sensitive themes of films in two scenarios : namely films that endorse controversial themes, and films that only depict controversial themes. The results revealed that in general the respondents would adopt a stricter standard towards movies that endorsed controversial themes (14 out of 18 such films were classified Category III, and two banned) compared with those which only depicted controversial themes (12 out of 18 were classified as Category III, and one banned). Some 53% of the respondents classified films depicting youngsters participating in triad activities as Category IIB, 25% as Category III and 6% banned. On the other hand, 45% of the respondents classified films endorsing such themes as Category IIB, 33% as Category III and 13% banned. Respondents generally classified films depicting or endorsing different sex acts as Category III and considered themes on necrophilia and bestiality should be banned.

Views on Controversial Film Dialogues

15. The survey results confirmed that the existing classification standards on film dialogues were generally in line with the community standards. Respondents were shown ten film segments with dialogues in Cantonese, English and Mandarin covering sexual reference, foul expression and crude expression. They considered FCA's decisions appropriate in eight cases and lenient in two cases.


Survey on Public Advisers

16. The survey revealed that views of public advisers on the classification standards were largely the same as those expressed by the general public in the main survey. This suggests that the classification standards of public advisers are fairly representative of the community standards.

Survey on Moviegoers

17. Some 57% of the respondents considered the existing film classification standards were appropriate, 30% a bit lenient and 7% a bit strict. In respect of the selected films which they had watched, 81% of the respondents accepted FCA's classification.

Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority
February 1999