Thursday, 22 March 2012

Children deserve a clean view on Freeview

In the past we have highlighted the fact that some ‘adult channels’ broadcasting on Freeview show sexually explicit material without encryption.  Channels such as Babestation and Smile TV show naked women simulating sex to entice viewers to call premium-rate numbers for more hardcore content.

Some 77% of UK households have Freeview which means that the majority of the nation’s children are able to access the shocking images with relative ease.

When we took this up with Ofcom they told us that these channels were licensed in the Netherlands and regulated by the rather more permissive Sommissariaat voor de Media.

EU legislation requires TV companies to be regulated by their home country and not the countries in which they air.  Although much of the content on Babestation and Smile TV would fall foul of Ofcom’s Code it is not in breach of the Dutch regulations and so can be broadcast in the UK.

Ofcom told us that we should take our complaint up with the Dutch regulator.  However I’m happy to report that they have now begun ‘active discussions’ with their Dutch equivalent to ask that the channels involved comply voluntarily with UK rules.  This follows a complaint from the UK regional broadcaster Six TV which was unhappy that its potential viewers had to flick through listings for adult broadcasts in order to reach its channels.

Ofcom said: “we take the protection of UK viewers, especially children, very seriously”.  In 2010 they did withdraw the licences of four adult pay-TV channels in 2010 for ‘serious and repeated’ breaches of their Code.

This matter is just as serious in its impact on society.  Earlier this week a man was convicted of exposing himself to women.  He explained his behaviour as the result of ‘confusion’ likening what he’d done to ‘harmless flirting, like the women on Babestation do every night’.

Caroline Dineage MP, on of the members of the Parliamentary Enquiry into Online Child Protection summed up the situation saying: “we need to urgently address TV content that could be harming our children.  It is simply not acceptable to place private profit before the protection of children.”

Freeview have announced that they are reviewing their programme listings and plans are underway to move all adult channels to the end of the programme guide.  If you have a Freeview device it should be possible for you to delete channels you don’t want to see.  But beware; Freeview automatically updates its service periodically to scan for new channels which can mean that any channels you have previously blocked are reinstated.

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