Friday 25 March 2011

iPlaytime on line?

The way we are watching television is changing and many of us are now choosing to watch online; this is particularly popular with the under twenty-fives.   In this brave new world neither the watershed nor Ofcom’s broadcasting code apply.

This week the new regulator for on demand television, The Authority for Television On-Demand (ATVOD), cleared Channel 4's video on-demand service for offering a controversial episode of Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights.

The episode featured a range of derogatory ‘jokes’ about celebrities such as Jade Goody, Heather Mills, Michael Jackson, Katie Price and Susan Boyle.  Ofcom received around 50 complaints about the programme, including one from Katie Price, who accused Boyle of being a "bully" over comments made about her disabled son Harvey.

Statutory rules for VOD content are significantly less strict than those for TV broadcasts, and do not currently prohibit programming that is deemed offensive. In cases where content "might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen", providers must make efforts to prevent young people from accessing the material.

ATVOD ruled that Tramadol Nights would not seriously impair the development of under-18s and so decided not to take any further action.  ATVOD chair, Ruth Evans, said "Many viewers may regard the material as highly offensive, including to people with disabilities, and unsuitable for under-18s, but providing such content to under 18s is not a breach of the rules set by parliament if it does not fall foul of the 'might seriously impair' test."

Last year we asked for another piece of Channel 4 VOD content to be removed.  This featured violent footage – including a man having a nail hammered into the skin between his thumb and finger and then extracted – but we were told this content would not seriously impair a child either.

We have previously highlighted the fact that children are easily able to access post-watershed content online at any time of day unless their parents have set up parental controls (and Ofcom’s research shows us that most parents haven’t).  This means that little more is required to view post-watershed content than a tick in a box to confirm the user if over 18.

It is bizarre that broadcasters are, quite rightly, unable to broadcast certain material ‘on air’ until after the watershed but are quite free to broadcast the same material over the internet at any time without there being adequate protection mechanisms in place.

We submit that post-watershed material should only be available to viewers who have been subject to a more rigorous age-verification check than the current tick box system on offer.  We would like to see a PIN number which could be provided by the viewer’s internet service provider, telephone company or the TV licensing body each of which need to paid for, in the vast majority of cases, by an adult.  We believe that there are feasible steps that can and should be taken by broadcasters to control access to post-watershed material by children.

Friday 11 March 2011

Lads' Mags Banished to the Top Shelf

Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, the Co-op group and BP petrol stations have all agreed to put magazines with sexually explicit front cover images behind plain covers or banish them to the top shelf.

Frustratingly WHSmith will not be following suit.  The group’s current policy “requires men’s lifestyle magazine titles be displayed at minimum height of 1.2 metres, equivalent to the average adult chest/shoulder height” but fails to recognise that chest height for an adult is often eye-level for a primary school child.

This is great news but the display of sexually explicit covers is still an issue; A recent Mumsnet survey found that 82% of parents had seen covers displayed where children could see them, often on the lower shelves of newsprint. 

The survey found that individual newsagents, rather than the big chains, were the biggest offenders.  It’s clear that consumer pressure is having an effect so if you’ve seen a display that consider inappropriate please make your views known.  We have worked closely with the Front Page Campaign on this issue and we have come up with an easy way for you to complain if you have seen a newspaper or a magazine with a sexually explicit cover which has been inappropriately displayed.
  • If you’re not sure how to go about complaining
  • If you’re worried about speaking out.
  • If you’ve tried to complain but the response has been unsatisfactory
By filling in an online complaints form here we can raise your concern with the retailer on your behalf and we can also keep a record of how widespread this problem actually is. 

The sexually graphic material on the covers of newspapers and magazines displayed at the eye level of children is just one contributing factor to the premature sexualisation of children which we are seeing in our society. 

The Government has asked Reg Bailey to look into the sexualisation of childhood and he is seeking the views of parents, grandparents and other carers and also those who work with children in a professional capacity.  If you would like to feed your views into the consultation and you’ve not done so already you can do this here.  You have until Friday 18th March to make your views known.

Friday 4 March 2011

Porn Again

If you didn’t catch the programme by the former Home Secretary, Jackie Smith, about pornography on Thursday you can listen to it here. You’ll need a strong stomach as the programme includes some explicit material.  However it makes fascinating listening and Jackie Smith does make some very interesting points – not that we agree with all of them.