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ATVOD responds to Ofcom appeal decisions on two UK adult websites

News article: 14th August 2014

ATVOD RESPONDS TO OFCOM APPEAL DECISIONS ON TWO UK ADULT WEBSITES


“Frankie and Friends” website ruled subject to VOD rules while “Urban Chick Supremacy Cell” website ruled outside scope of  VOD regulation


Ofcom has today backed  a decision by the TV on demand regulator  that the adult website “Frankie and Friends” must comply with statutory rules aimed at keeping on-line hard-core porn out of the reach of children.

 

An appeal by the service operator against an ATVOD determination in August 2013 that the website was an on-demand programme service and therefore subject to regulation by ATVOD was rejected by Ofcom.

 

On-demand programme services are required to comply with a range of statutory rules designed to protect consumers, including a requirement that children are protected from material which might seriously impair their development. The ruling means that the “Frankie and Friends” website – which provided access to a range of explicit sex videos - must comply with an ATVOD Rule which requires services to keep explicit sex videos behind access controls which ensure that children do not normally see them. The website operator had been found in breach of that rule in August 2013 and had removed the videos from the service pending the outcome of the appeal.

 

In order to fall within the scope of the regulations overseen by ATVOD, a service must satisfy a number of statutory criteria, as set out in section 368A of the Communications Act 2003. One of these is that the principal purpose of the service is the provision of programmes the form and content of which are comparable to the form and content of programmes normally included in television programme services. The provider of the “Frankie and Friends” service had argued that the principal purpose of the website was to provide access to still images and that the videos on the service were ancillary to that purpose. The Ofcom decision supported ATVOD’s original ruling that the principal purpose of the website was to provide ‘tv-like’ programmes. 

 

Assessment of how “tv-like” an on-line adult services is lies at the heart of a second ruling published by Ofcom today. In a separate case, Ofcom upheld an appeal by the provider of the website “Urban Chick Supremacy Cell” - which included audiovisual content featuring bondage, domination and sado-masochism - against an ATVOD determination in January 2014 that it was an on-demand programme service and therefore subject to regulation by ATVOD.

 

Ofcom concluded that the form and content of audiovisual media material on the "Urban Chick Supremacy Cell" site was not comparable to the form and content of linear television programme services. Therefore, the website did not meet the statutory definition of an On-Demand programme service and was outside of the remit of the statutory rules.

 

Commenting on the decision, ATVOD Chief Executive Pete Johnson said:


“The two appeal decisions demonstrate that there is sometimes a fine line separating adult services which are subject to the statutory rules from those which are not. UK services which feature the most extreme material are not subject to the video on demand regulations – which protect children from material which might cause them serious harm - unless they are considered ‘tv-like’. Websites operated from outside the UK are also not subject to the ATVOD Rules.


ATVOD will continue to discuss with policy makers further options for reducing the exposure of children to pornography and other potentially harmful VOD material on websites based both inside and outside the UK. We strongly support initiatives designed to improve the take up of parental control software and have worked with the Department for Culture Media and Sport on the drafting of legislation which will prohibit on UK based, tv-like VOD services any material which would not be classified for sale on a DVD.”


The full text of the Ofcom appeal decisions can be found at:

 

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/enforcement/video-on-demand-services/

 

The original ATVOD determinations can be found at:

 

http://www.atvod.co.uk/uploads/files/Frankie_and_Friends_Rule_1__4_Determination_SUMMARY_FOR_PUBLICATION.pdf

 

http://www.atvod.co.uk/uploads/files/Rule_14_Determination_UC-SC_FOR_PUBLICATION.pdf