Compliance with the Age Limits


The age limits must be observed when audiovisual programmes are provided.

Age limits are mandatory and their purpose is to protect children 

The age limits are mandatory under the Act on Audiovisual Programmes. They are not recommendations as they must be observed when audiovisual programmes are provided.

  • The public showing of films or television programmes, the sales of film recordings in DVD or Blu-ray formats, and the sales or transfer of digital games for play in public places or in public spaces are examples of providing audiovisual programmes.
  • Making gaming equipment or gaming facilities available to players, gaming coaching or watching films and television programmes at home are not considered means of providing audiovisual programmes. 

The age limits for audiovisual programmes are the key instrument of the Act on Audiovisual Programmes to protect the development of children. For this reason, the underlying principle in the Act on Audiovisual Programmes is that the audiovisual programmes provided in Finland (audiovisual programmes publicly shown, distributed, sold or made available to an audience by other means) must be classified with an age limit applicable in Finland and contain labels indicating the age limit. This rule does not apply to the audiovisual programmes that are exempted from classification under sections 9–11 of the Act on Audiovisual Programmes on the basis of content, purpose of production or an authorisation to show audiovisual programmes granted by the National Audiovisual Institute.

The age limits for digital games set in the PEGI scheme also apply in Finland, which means that it is not necessary to classify PEGI-classified games. However, the age limits set for them must be observed. If no PEGI age limit has been set for a digital game, it must be classified and labelled. 

Audiovisual programmes prohibited for persons aged under 18 may only be provided to minors as part of television broadcasting and providing them to minors is also punishable under the Criminal Code. With the exception of television broadcasting, the age of the viewers must always be checked when programmes with an age limit of 18 are provided.  

Audiovisual programme providers must ensure that audiovisual programmes with an age limit of 7, 12 or 16 years are not viewed by children younger than that. Compliance with this obligation can, for example, be ensured by checking the child’s age when audiovisual programmes are provided.

The audiovisual programme provider must provide information on the age limits and other instruments to protect children when providing audiovisual programmes. 

If the audiovisual programme provider neglects its obligations concerning compliance with the age limits or its obligation to provide information on the retransmission of foreign television broadcasts, the National Audiovisual Institute may advise the provider to meet its obligations and impose a conditional fine to enforce its advice. The National Audiovisual Institute may act in the same manner if the provider of a video-sharing platform service fails to meet its obligations to protect children against harmful audiovisual programmes in its video-sharing platform service or its obligation to provide information. 

Observing the age limits in television broadcasting 

Television companies have concluded a mutual code of conduct agreement (‘watershed agreement’) on common practices and measures to meet the requirements set out in the Act on Audiovisual Programmes and on ensuring the protection of children. For example, the companies have agreed that audiovisual programmes with an age limit of 16 are not shown before 21.00. Audiovisual programmes with an age limit of 18 are not shown before 23.00. Audiovisual programmes with an age limit of S, 7 or 12 can be shown without restrictions.

Audiovisual programmes exempted from classification 

Under the Act on Audiovisual Programmes, certain audiovisual programmes are exempted from classification, which means that they do not have age limits or content labels. 

The exemption applies to audiovisual programmes that only contain the material described in the Act.

As a rule, no particular genre, such as documents or real TV programmes, is exempted from classification.

The following audiovisual programmes are exempted from classification on the basis of content: 

1) audiovisual programmes that only contain educational or cultural material 

2) audiovisual programmes that only contain music, sports or replays of physical exercise, cultural or spiritual events or other similar events and gatherings

3) audiovisual programmes that only contain hobby crafts, wellbeing, discussion, games and play, fashion, gardening, construction, cooking, interior decoration, quizzes and quiz shows, or other similar topics provided to people of all ages

4) audiovisual programmes that only contain marketing material for goods or services (marketing material for audiovisual programmes, such as trailers, and commercials for television programmes and digital games must be classified)

5) audiovisual programmes that only contain informative material about ideological or political activities

6) audiovisual programmes containing topical news material

7) live broadcasts 

An audiovisual programme is also exempted from the classification and labelling obligation on the basis of the purpose of production if:

1) it is made accessible in an online publication referred to in the Act on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Mass Media (460/2003) and has been produced or acquired in connection with the editing of the publication 

2) it is made accessible in a service providing programmes produced by private individuals and has been produced as a hobby by a private individual 

3) it is provided as a part of educational or other cultural activities and has been produced in connection with such activities 

4) it is a game made accessible in a service that provides games, and the service provider complies with the codes of conduct that it has drawn up for this service and that have been inspected in accordance with section 8 of the Act on Audiovisual Programmes. 

Discretion concerning age limits 

In discretion concerning the age limits, exemptions can be made from the general provision of the Act (mandatory nature of the age limits).

An audiovisual programme can be publicly shown, distributed, sold or made available to a child by other means if the child in question is no more than three years younger than what is specified for the programme if the age limit is 7, 12 or 16 and the child is accompanied by a person aged over 18. The discretion may only be applied if the child is accompanied by an adult knowing the child well for the whole duration of the provision of the audiovisual programme. For example, a child aged at least 9 may watch a film with an age limit of 12 or a child aged at least 13 may play a game with an age limit of 16 when accompanied by an adult. No discretion can be applied to the age limit of 18. 

According to the long-standing interpretation of the National Audiovisual Institute, an adult who knows the child well usually means the child’s parent or guardian who knows the child well enough to determine whether the discretion can be applied on the basis of the development of the child in question. When assessing the situation, the adult should take into account the child’s level of development and the quality of the programme content classified as harmful. 

The option of allowing a child to watch or play an audiovisual programme even if the child is younger than what is specified for the programme should be used with caution. The idea is that an adult who knows the child well is able to assess the child’s sensitivity to different contents and knows what media content the child has seen in the past and how strongly the child is likely to experience them. If necessary, this adult is able to calm down the child and can help in processing the audiovisual programme experience. 

As the purpose of the age limits is to protect children and the age limit classification is the key legal instrument to protect children, the discretion should be used with caution.

The audiovisual programme provider is responsible for ensuring that the discretion concerning the age limits is applied in accordance with the law. 

Every child has a right to be protected against harmful audiovisual programmes. When discretion concerning the age limits for a film is applied, the child must be accompanied by a person aged over 18 who knows the child well, which in most cases means the child’s parent or guardian. For this reason, the discretion should not be applied to children attending game camps, game events or youth services activities, or to school classes or daycare centre groups. Groups of children should therefore view or play audiovisual programmes with age limits suited for the participants or audiovisual programmes allowed for all ages. 

Download brochure on age limit discretion in Finnish (PDF), or in Swedish (PDF) 

Instructions for applying discretion to age limits (The content is in Finnish) (PDF) 

Answers to questions on age limit discretion (The content is in Finnish) (PDF) 

Taking a baby to a cinema 

The age limits also apply to babies. For this reason, when in a cinema with a baby, you can only watch films allowed for all ages (S). Only films allowed for all ages may be shown in baby-friendly screenings. 

Even if babies or toddlers are unable to follow the plot of a film, they may still be impacted by the strong scenes of films. Strong scenes and sounds penetrate the child’s mind and cannot be shared with the parent through speech. Small children are not able to process violent, sexual or distressing film contents.