The FSF examines media contents prior to their transmission. The assessment procedures are monitored by a committee of independent experts. This board of trustees is responsible for selecting examiners and developing the examination regulations (Prüfordnung: PrO-FSF), both of which must be accepted by the Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Media (Kommission für Jugendmedienschutz: KJM).
More than 100 independent expert examiners are appointed for a period of two years. These include four main examiners and chairpersons. There are examining boards with one, three or five members. Decisions by the first board can be re-examined by a second board in case of an appeal. Depending on the number of members of the first board the second boards consist of three, five or seven members. Programmes are submitted to the FSF by the broadcaster with an indication of how they propose to broadcast (time, cuts – if any – etc.).
The decisions made by the FSF must be complied with and can take various forms such as:
- establishing a time after which the broadcast can proceed,
- ordering cuts, or
- denying the broadcast entirely if the broadcasting of a programme is completely forbidden (i.e. inadmissible programmes such as pornography or those infringing on human dignity).
The decision is made in accordance with the act, the examination regulations and other relevant classification guidelines. The possible dangers posed by the content's impact are:
- frightening (younger) children
- transmitting a pro violence message
- disorienting children ethically
Classifiable elements include, amongst others:
- drug abuse
- ethical values
As a basic principle the general character of the programme must be taken into account.
Age brackets and time schedules
The decisions are defined according to the following age groups:
suitable for all ages: without restriction
suitable for 6 years and above: without restriction
suitable for 12 years and above: 8.00 p.m. – 6.00 a.m.
cinema films classified with „12“ may be shown during the daytime, if they are not considered harmful to younger children
suitable for 16 years and above: 10 p.m. – 6.00 a.m.
suitable only for adults: 11 p.m. – 6.00 a.m.
Movies or series that are already classified by the Voluntary Self-regulation of Film Industry (FSK), are linked to these time schedules as well; however broadcasters can apply for an exemption and FSF examination boards can issue a special license. In these cases cuts are often made by the channels before the films are submitted to the FSF.