Wednesday 25 July 2012

Protecting children online: Have your say

 The Government recently launched its consultation into how best to protect children from harmful content online.  The Government wants to know what the country thinks about this so that it can formulate a new online safety policy.

This represents an enormous opportunity for real change and we hope that people across the country will let the Government know their views on the importance of protecting the next generation.

To help you do this we have developed this website which will enable you to respond with your views quickly and easily. is a one-stop-shop website where you can find facts about the issues, links to key resources and a response form to enable you to have your say. 

The consultation closes on 6th September so it’s vital that we let as many people know about this as soon as possible. 
Please consider emailing it to your friends and contacts and linking to us via Facebook and Twitter.

 We have a briefing paper on the consultation for those who are not online and would like to respond.  Please contact us for a copy.

Friday 13 July 2012

Responsible broadcasting for the 21st Century

Last week the BBC announced that the new Director General would be the current head of BBC Vision, George Entwistle.  He will take up his new role as head of the world’s largest broadcaster in the autumn.

It has been said that the BBC’s output can shape the values of a generation and, whilst this may be less true today than in the past, the corporation’s output has a huge impact on society. 

In 2009 Ofcom found that the BBC controlled 70% of national and international news on British television and the institution employs more journalists than any other in the world save for Chinese State TV.

Mr Entwistle probably has the most powerful job in British media – if not the world.

As soon as the news broke commentators and observers were quick to weigh in with what they thought Mr Entwistle’s priorities should be.  John Simpson said he would like the new Director General to improve staff morale whilst The Times counselled that he should ‘remember his job is chiefly about content’.  Lord Patten, the Chairman of the BBC’s regulatory body, the BBC Trust, said that he and Mr Entwistle believed the BBC ‘can and should be 10% or 20% better than it is’ despite the six year licence fee freeze.

George Entwistle could do worse than consider the words of the first Director General, Lord Reith, who said the role of the BBC was to ‘inform, educate and entertain.’ 

Today ‘Reithian’ is used describe certain principles of broadcasting including an equal consideration of all viewpoints, probity and universality.  These are easily distinguishable from the free-market approach in which programming aims to attract the largest audiences or advertising revenues, ahead of - and, in practice, often contrary to - any artistic merit, impartiality, educative or entertainment values that a programme may have.

Hqpefully George Entwistle will ponder the words of his predecessor and consider the inevitable effect that a broadcast diet of degrading behaviour models, inappropriate sexual content and graphic depictions of brutality and violence will have on society.  Wouldn’t it be a great legacy if we could look back on his tenure as Director General and see a renewed commitment to responsible broadcasting.

Thursday 5 July 2012

Lads' Mags: Normalising Porn

Delegates at an education conference were recently told that the front cover of Zoo magazine sums up all that is wrong with Western society.  Dr Helen Wright of St Mary’s Calne school in Wiltshire told the The Institute of Development Professionals in Education that the magazine was complicit in prematurely sexualising young people and objectifying women.

“Is this what we want our young people to aim for?  Is this what success should mean to them?”  she asked.

Dr Wright is not the only person to have shared her unease.  Men’s magazines have been making the news over the past few weeks; not because of their insightful journalism or witty editorials but because of the effect they have had on our culture.

Terri White was part of the team that launched Nuts magazine and she recently wrote about her experience for The Guardian.  She concluded that, whilst these magazines didn't create our sexualised culture, they responded to it, reinforced it and normalised it.

“We did too much damage” she wrote.  “We told a generation of young men that a woman's value lay in the pertness of her breasts and willingness to flash in a public place… we told a generation of young women that it wasn't necessary to get an education or build a career to improve your life. Just be willing to bare your breasts.”

Ms White is not the only former lads’ mag journalist to express her concerns.  Loaded is the most notorious of the ‘lads’ mags’ which came to define the ‘lad culture’ of the 90s and noughties.  The magazine’s former editor, Martin Daubney, wrote of his concerns over what he had created.

He said that initially endless pictures of topless women seemed like ‘harmless fun, dictated by market forces’ but he ‘never stopped to consider issues like the crass sexualisation of women.’  Looking back he now wonders whether Loaded was, in fact, a gateway to harder pornographic magazines. 

“We were normalising soft porn, and in so doing we must have made it more acceptable for young men to dive into the murky waters of harder stuff on the internet. And, for that, I have a haunting sense of regret… maybe Loaded was part of the problem. Was it an ‘enabler’ to young teenage boys who’d consume harder porn later, in the same way dabbling with cannabis might lead to stronger addictions to cocaine or heroin?”

As things stand magazines such as Zoo and Loaded have no age rating and can be bought quite legally by children.  Despite their sexually explicit covers there are only voluntary codes governing the way in which they are displayed.

Much progress has already been made to protect children from publications like this – not least last year’s announcement that the UK’s major supermarkets will now be covering up or banishing magazines with sexually explicit covers.  However, there is still a long way to go and we look forward to making an impact in the future.

Government launches consultation into online child protection

The impact of online sexual content on children is of great concern and yet research suggests that as many as one in three under-tens have seen online pornography.  Protecting them from potentially harmful content must be a priority.

The Department for Education has now launched the promised consultation on how best to protect children from harmful online content.  Ministers are now suggesting that users should automatically be barred from accessing adult material online unless they choose to view it.

This is just one of a number of options that are being consulted upon:

The Opt-in System in which harmful content - not just pornography but other harmful material such as suicide, violent, self harm and pro-anorexia sites – is blocked as a default unless users contact their ISPs and ask for this to be reversed.

Active Choice in which new customers buying new devices or broadband services are asked whether they would like open access to all content at the point of purchase.  However it is unlikely that this would provide widespread protection across the UK until the end of this decade by which time a further generation of children will have been exposed to degrading and damaging material.

Active Choice-plus is aimed at reaching a compromise and would see adult content automatically blocked unless users choose to unblock using a simple action such as removing a tick from a box.  This is based on the idea that most people are likely to accept the suggested option.

This consultation marks a huge step forward in our campaign to protect children from harmful media and I hope that you will take the opportunity to have your say in how best to protect the next generation.

You can view the consultation document here.  The consultation will remain open until 6th September and Ministers will respond with their favoured option later in the autumn.  Watch this space over the next few weeks for an initiative which will make it easier for you to have your say.