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The Association for Television on Demand
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ATVOD ACTS TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM HARDCORE PORN ON UK VOD SERVICES AND  PROPOSES BLOCK ON PAYMENTS TO NON-UK PORN SERVICES

News article: 18 July 2013


ATVOD ACTS TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM HARDCORE PORN ON UK VOD SERVICES AND  PROPOSES BLOCK ON PAYMENTS TO NON-UK PORN SERVICES


Annual Report details how non-UK porn services which allow children to access hardcore pornography could be disrupted by a block on payments from the UK

 

Tough action aimed at protecting children from hardcore porn videos on line has been revealed by one of Britain’s media regulators.

 

The Authority for Television On Demand – co-regulator of editorial content in UK video on demand services – has today published its annual report detailing steps taken by ATVOD in the year to 31 March 2013 to protect children from hardcore porn on regulated video on demand (“VOD”) services. This included action against two services run by Playboy TV which resulted in fines totalling £100,000. The porn video sites operated by Playboy TV had failed to ensure that under 18s could not access hardcore porn content on the UK operated websites. 

 

The Playboy TV services were among 16 services – operating across 26 websites - found to be in breach of the statutory rules in 2012-13 because they featured hardcore porn material which could be accessed by under 18’s.

 

Of the 16 services, ten acted to make changes to bring the service into compliance and three promptly closed. The remaining three – including the two Playboy TV services – were referred to back-stop regulator Ofcom who imposed financial penalties ranging from £35,000 to £65,000.

 

However, ATVOD counsels against complacency as most websites which allow UK children to access hardcore pornography operate from outside the UK and therefore fall outside ATVOD’s remit.

 

The annual report points out that Crown Prosecution Service guidance on the Obscene Publications Act makes clear that non-UK websites which offer unrestricted access to hardcore pornography and which can be accessed from the UK are likely to be considered to be operating in breach of UK law. Such websites offer free content as a “shop window” to attract subscriptions mainly paid by credit and debit card. ATVOD has therefore questioned whether it  can be right for businesses which are likely to be operating illegally to draw revenues  from UK bank and credit card accounts.

 

ATVOD has raised this issue directly with those involved in facilitating such payments and hopes to see real progress during the coming year.

 

ATVOD has also provided government with a detailed briefing on policy options which could be considered if children are to be better protected from hardcore pornography online.

 

ATVOD Chief Executive Pete Johnson said:


“We have made good progress in ensuring that UK operators of regulated VOD services comply with rules designed to protect children from harmful content, but we are not complacent and will continue to monitor relevant services and act as required.


“Our recent enforcement activity has sent a clear message that UK providers of hardcore pornography on demand must take effective steps to ensure that such material is not accessible to under-18’s. Asking visitors to a website to click an ‘I am 18’ button or enter a date of birth or use a debit card is not sufficient – if they are going to offer explicit sex material they must know that their customers are 18, just as they would in the ‘offline’ world.”


ATVOD Chair Ruth Evans said:

 

“We believe government should consider whether more should be done to protect UK children from porn websites operating from other countries, which  may be unregulated.


Given the importance the public clearly attaches to protecting children from exposure to hard-core porn material, it is surely time to think about more imaginative ways of ensuring that the  safeguards ATVOD  institutes around  UK services are replicated for hard-core porn websites accessible  in the UK, but operated overseas.


For example, given that many such services appear to be operating in breach of the Obscene Publications Act,  can it be right that they are part-financed by payments made from UK bank  accounts?”


In its report the authority also welcomed Ofcom’s decision to confirm the TV on demand regulator’s designation until 2020, and to give ATVOD more operating freedom, including removal of the need to seek prior approval from Ofcom before publishing guidance.

 

Commenting on the decision, ATVOD Chair Ruth Evans said:


“ATVOD has developed and matured as a regulator and we warmly welcome Ofcom’s decision to reflect this not just by confirming that the Designation will run until at least 2020 but also by giving ATVOD greater autonomy and independence.”


The 2013 Annual Report also highlights:

 

     -  A rise in the number of regulated VOD services: from 184 at the end of 2011-12 to 206 at the end of 2012-13

     -  A 15% rise in the number of complaints to ATVOD about VOD services

     -  Research showing the importance British adults attach to ensuring that hardcore porn online is kept out of reach of children,  with 88% saying such action is important

      -  Action taken to encourage service providers to make their services more accessible to people with disabilities relating to sight or hearing
     
      -  Work undertaken with industry to reduce administrative costs in regulation

 

Commenting on Ofcom’s decision to confirm  ATVOD’s designation as co-regulator of the on-demand sector, Kerry Kent, Chair of the VOD Industry Forum said:

 

“In the time since the Industry Forum came into being a lot of progress has been made towards the development of the co-regulatory relationship.  We will continue to work in partnership with ATVOD to deliver regulation that works for consumers and industry.”


ATVOD’s 2013 Annual Report is published at:

 

http://www.atvod.co.uk/about-ATVOD

 

The full text of the Ofcom Designation Review  Statement can be found at: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/on-demand/statement/statement.pdf