Today sees the launch of a pilot scheme to introduce film-style age ratings for music videos to help protect children from unsuitable content. This has come in response to huge public concern that what has become mainstream in music videos in recent years is now barely inches away from pornography.
Recent videos from Britney Spears, Rhianna and Miley Cyrus have included nudity, highly sexualised dancing and imagery and visual references to prostitution. What is particularly disturbing about this is that the fan base of all these performers is so young. Watching them, one could be forgiven for thinking that these videos have been produced to appeal to an adult male audience but, in reality, they are far more likely to be viewed by school children.
Parents who responded to the government’s Bailey Review in 2011 cited music videos as a major concern. The report subsequently recommended that age restrictions should be applied to music videos to prevent children buying sexually explicit videos and guide broadcasters over when to show them. Ministers called on the industry to develop solutions so that more online videos, particularly those that are likely to be sought out by children and young people, carry advice about their age suitability in future. This new scheme is a response to that call.
The new measures will see websites YouTube and Vevo and three of the UK's top music labels - Warner, Universal and Sony – working with the BBFC to apply age ratings to videos before they are made available online.
Presently this classification will be limited to the UK, so it will not apply to some of the most explicit videos by the likes of US stars Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Lopez but the Chief Executive of the music industry body, the BPI, is hopeful that "other countries might see we're taking a lead, and if it works they might follow suit."
This is a welcome move and we will be watching with interest to see how it works in action. However, the scheme is a voluntary one but for maximum impact it needs to be mandatory across the industry. It will not be the ‘silver bullet’ which guarantees protection to children watching music online but it does offer parents another useful tool to help them safeguard their children and it is an important first step in establishing very clear boundaries on acceptable standards in videos.