News article: 15 November 2013
PORNOGRAPHER BARRED FROM PROVIDING VIDEO ON DEMAND SERVICE
Breach of ATVOD rule designed to protect children from hardcore porn results in first ever use of power to bar a provider from making available a video on demand service
An internet porn supplier has been barred from operating any television on demand service in the latest move by regulators seeking to protect children from hardcore porn on-line.
This is the first time the regulatory sanction has been used against any on-demand operator, who become liable to criminal prosecution if they defy the order.
J P Media were operating the website “Jessica Pressley”, an internet service offering hardcore porn.
A second porn supplier, S Hilder, operator of the website “Pleasuring Herself” has also been the subject of enforcement action.
Both services have closed following action by the Authority for Television On Demand (“ATVOD”). The video on demand regulator found the services were in breach of its rules in failing to keep explicit videos or still images beyond the reach of children. The services offered access to explicit hardcore porn videos which could be viewed on-demand. Yet the content of the videos was equivalent to that which could be sold only to adults in licensed sex shops if supplied on DVD.
The services each broke the statutory rules in two ways. Firstly, they allowed any visitor free, unrestricted access to hardcore pornographic video promos/trailers or still images featuring real sex or masturbation in explicit detail. Secondly, access to the full videos was open to any visitor who paid a fee. As the services accepted payment methods – such as debit cards – which can be used by under 18’s, ATVOD ruled that each service had also failed to put in place effective access controls in relation to the full videos.
The Pleasuring Herself service closed after receiving an enforcement notification from ATVOD requiring the provider of the service to either restrict access to explicit images to those who were know to be at least 18, or remove such images from the service.
However, the Jessica Pressley service did not comply with a similar enforcement notice and was closed only after ATVOD asked Ofcom to impose a statutory penalty. Ofcom examined the service and agreed with ATVOD’s findings, concluding that this was a serious breach of statutory requirements.
Under 368K(3)(a) of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom directed J P Media that their entitlement to provide the Jessica Pressley service or any other on-demand programme service was suspended. The suspension took immediate effect and continues indefinitely. This is the first time such a direction has been used in regard to a video on demand service.
ATVOD Chief Executive Pete Johnson said:
“The action taken in relation to the provider of Jessica Pressley service is the first of its kind and demonstrates that the ATVOD rules that apply to UK video on demand services are backed by effective enforcement procedures. We will continue to take robust action to ensure 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 enforcement activity over the past two years 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.”
Despite this firm action, 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. In light of this, ATVOD has provided UK Government and the European Commission with detailed briefings on policy options which could be considered if children are to be better protected from hardcore pornography online.
ATVOD Chair Ruth Evans said:
“We believe more should be done to protect UK children from porn websites operating from other countries, which may be unregulated. 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. We have shared our thoughts on what might be done with policymakers within the UK and at European level.”
Ofcom’s statement on the Direction issued to J P Media can be found at:
Further details of the ATVOD’s determinations in relation to the Jessica Pressley and Pleasuring Herself services can be found at: