BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary's media regulator published guidelines for broadcasters to comply with new LGBT laws on Wednesday, relegating some films portraying homosexuality or gender identity issues to the same age group restrictions as gory horror movies.
Publication of the guidelines follows the June adoption of a law banning the "display and promotion of homosexuality" among under-18s despite criticism from rights groups and the European Union.
The new guidelines do not ban the portrayal of homosexuality or gender issues outright and do not affect the age classification of films in which these subjects are not considered a "defining feature".
But programmes depicting what the regulator called the virtues, uniqueness of benefits of homosexuality or change of gender would deserve a higher age rating, it said.
"The protection of minors does not mean that certain issues are a taboo. Rather, it assesses the entire context and message with regard to the age-appropriate intellectual and processing capabilities of minors," the regulator, NMHH, said.
Under the revised guidelines, Oscar-winning Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's "All About My Mother" or "The L Word" series fall under the same age classification as the horror series "Saw" or "The Exorcist", the regulator said.
German media group RTL's Hungarian unit, the country's top broadcaster by audience, HBO and Netflix did not immediately respond to emailed questions on how the new guidelines would affect their programming.
Facing a tough election next year, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has grown increasingly radical on social policy to protect what he says are traditional Christian values from Western liberalism.
Orban says the law is aimed at the protection of children, while EU leaders say the reforms discriminate against gay and transgender people and go against EU values.
"Programmes that portray sexuality for its own sake, or promote homosexuality or gender change fall under the fifth (not recommended to under-18s) age classification," the NMHH said in its updated publication.
"General gestures expressing tenderness, like a kiss on the cheeks, a hug, holding hands while walking, or a kiss cannot be considered problematic, unless they are portrayed for their own sake or constitute a central element of the programme," it said.
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Nick Macfie)