Press release

Government commits to child protection in video-on-demand services in light of Ofcom report

Government commits to child protection in video-on-demand services in light of Ofcom report

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The strict controls to prevent children from accessing hard-core pornographic material through video-on-demand (VoD) services will be secured as part of the comprehensive review of communications legislation currently being undertaken, Communications Minister Ed Vaizey announced today.

Rules are already in place which mean that video which the BBFC would classify as R18 - pornography which is explicit and sold in licensed sex shops, but not illegal - can be made available through VoD services only if controls are in place to prevent children from accessing it.

The Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) is the independent regulator for VoD services and enforces regulations which ensure that any material which might seriously impair children’s physical, mental or moral development must not be freely available. Access controls such as pin protection must be put in place if R18-type content is to be made available on anytime television services or TV-like services over the internet.

But, in the light of an Ofcom report which recommended a precautionary approach to protecting children and new legislation, the Government has today committed to securing the present controls and looking at whether the legal position should be bolstered further by future-proofing legislation as part of the current review of communications policy.
Mr Vaizey said:

“The Government is clear that children must be protected from harmful content, on television or online. We have made it a priority to address the concerns of parents that their kids are being exposed to material that’s not appropriate for them to see. 

“Without a doubt we want to make sure that video-on-demand services carrying adult material cannot be seen by children and it’s already a legal requirement that any such content has access controls.

“But the communications review gives us an opportunity to consider whether there’s more we should do to ensure children remain protected and to limit access to potentially harmful material, such as introducing unclassified material into the statutory framework.”

A starting point is Ofcom’s report to Government, “Sexually Explicit Material and Video On Demand Services” which is published today.

The review will look at the availability of both R18-type material, and video content which is stronger than that classified as R18 by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) but still might be made available to adults.

Ensuring the effectiveness of strict controls on VoD services will also complement the recommendations made by Reg Bailey in his independent review of the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, Letting Children Be Children.

Notes to editors

  1. Ofcom’s report Sexually Explicit Material and Video On Demand Services (External PDF)

  2. Ed Vaizey’s response to Ofcom (PDF 180kb)

  3. The British Board of Film Classification’s R18 classification is primarily for explicit works of consenting sex or strong fetish material involving adults. It may be shown only in specially licensed cinemas or supplied in licensed sex shops to adults aged 18 years or older. More information is available at the BBFC website.

  4. The Audio-Visual Media Services Directive states that: “If an on-demand programme service contains material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of 18, the material must be made available in a manner which secures that such persons will not normally see or hear it”. This has been introduced to UK law.

  5. The Government is undertaking a wide-scale review of the regulatory framework supporting the UK communications sector. There is a commitment to legislate during this Parliament. More information available at the DCMS website

  6. The Government has welcomed the analysis made by Reg Bailey in his report _Letting Children Be Children _and the thrust of all the recommendations he has made. More information available at the Department for Education’s website.

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Published 28 June 2012