The UK's adult industry trade body AITA has once again slammed VOD regulatory body ATVOD in an end of year statement highlighting its activities during 2012. The statement reads:
Like all responsible stakeholders in the adult industry AITA fully supports the goal to protect children from viewing inappropriate content and has representation on the board of IFFOR (the International Foundation For Online Responsibility).
However, the stance taken by ATVOD is, in our opinion, a short term solution that penalises UK business and individuals who trade on a global stage. ATVOD themselves have admitted that it is not a level playing field as they have no jurisdiction
over free tube sites hosted outside the UK. As we all know these sites have had a hard hitting effect on the adult industry with many companies ceasing to produce films and the consequent knock-on effect for producers and performers.
AITA has lobbied ATVOD throughout the year and will continue pursuing a considered legal option of ATVOD's alleged outreach and unfair tactics, whilst collaborating with our colleagues worldwide to provide a more fulfilling solution, which
allows all companies in this market sector to be treated equally.
Britain's major adult VOD website fined 60,000 for failing to comply with unviably restrictive age verification requirements
8th December 2012
So how can the depiction of something so basic to life, something that nearly everybody does and enjoy, something that everybody is well educated about from an early age, and something that is so commonly discussed in so many social circles, be
so 'seriously' harmful?
Ofcom and ATVOD speak of a 'precautionary' approach to age protection because of a lack of evidence or experts suggesting that porn actually 'is' seriously harmful. Undesirable maybe, but 'seriously' harmful?
Strictly Broadband, once a major British Video on Demand website has been fined £ 60,000 for breaches of the Authority for Television On Demand ( ATVOD ) Statutory Rules for Providers of Video on Demand.
ATVOD Rule 11: If an on-demand programme service contains material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen, the material must be made available in a manner which secures that
such persons will not normally see or hear it.
Thereby being supposedly in contravention of section 368E(2) of the Communications Act 2003 (the Act ).
ATVOD interprets Rule 11 as requiring an effective Content Access Control System (CAC System) verifying the user is aged 18 or over where R18 equivalent material 3 is made available. They state that confirmation of ownership
of a card where the card holder does not need to be 18 or over (such as a Debit, Solo or Electron card) would not be sufficient for this purpose. They also state that if age verification does not take place each time the user returns to the
service, further access to such R18 content when the user returns to the service should be controlled by the use of mandatory security measures such as passwords or PIN numbers.
ATVOD considered that the Service Provider had breached Rule 11 by having no CAC system in place in relation to free material on the Service, and no effective CAC system in relation to paid access material on the Service.
The Service provided R18 equivalent material without adequate measures to ensure that those under 18 would not normally see or hear it.
In particular ATVOD's investigations of the Service found:
a. R18 equivalent material available to view free without registration.
The homepage of the Service (which appeared without a warning page as to the nature of the site's content or other indication that the material was unsuitable for under 18s) included a significant quantity of free material
including a banner window showing scrolling stills, a large number of thumbnail stills constituting links to available videos and movie trailers. These depicted R18 equivalent unsimulated sexual activity in explicit detail and could be viewed
without registration or payment (i.e. there was no CAC System).
b. R18 equivalent material available to view free with registration.
On registration, users were provided with a free ticket to rent (i.e. view online) one full- length video for 14 days. Registered users could subsequently buy further tickets . Videos included material
which was clearly R18 equivalent material involving unsimulated sexual activity in explicit detail.
c. Lack of an effective Content Access Control system at point of purchase.
Purchases could be made by debit card or SMS text message, neither of which did ATVOD consider to constitute an effective CAC System. The material available to purchase was R18 equivalent and extensive.
The Service Provider replied to ATVOD on 4 October stating that the Service had been sold to an American company on 1 August 2012 and that the company Strictly Broadband Limited had been put into liquidation.
ATVOD has claimed overwhelming support for the censor's enforcement of strict rules to curb on-line providers making hardcore pornography available to under 18s.
ATVOD has published a survey conducted by ICM Research on 26-27 September 2012, and involving responses from a demographically based sample of 2019 adults in Great Britain. This asked the leading questions:
Q1. Hardcore porn videos are videos featuring real sex shown in explicit detail. How easy do you think it is for children to see hardcore porn videos on the internet? 77% replied quite or very easy
Q2. The law requires UK providers of ‘hardcore porn’ videos to take steps to ensure that under 18s can't normally see such material. Those steps include restricting sales to credit card holders, or checking information against a
reliable database e.g. the electoral roll. How important do you think such steps are? 88% replied quite or very important
Q3. Inciting hatred is stronger than expressing dislike, ridicule or abuse and is not the same as discrimination . How easy do you think it is to find videos on the internet that are likely to incite hatred based on race, sex,
religion or nationality? 70% replied quite or very easy
Strangely ATVOD didn't ask such questions as:
Should adults without credit cards (debit cards not acceptable) be banned from viewing porn?
Should be British companies be effectively banned from trading in the adult business whilst foreign companies are free to continue?
Do you think Britain should develop a fair and practical system that allows adults to view porn whilst restricting children?
Do you think it causes serious harm to depict an activity that children will be able to enjoy for themselves at 16, are well prepared for by the education system, and is discussed at great lengths in nearly all social circles and media.
ATVOD has recently investigated 23 notified adult services, finding 13 to be in breach of the statutory rules because they featured hardcore porn material which could be accessed by under 18's.
Two of those found to be in breach have now closed and eight have made themselves compliant by placing all hardcore material behind an effective access control mechanism. Four services which failed to make changes according to the timetable set
by ATVOD have been referred to Ofcom. The back-stop regulator is now considering whether to impose financial penalties or restrict or suspend services. Other services have been forced to move offshore in the face of almost impossible trading
conditions under ATVOD rules.
The VOD censor has also called for more to be done to protect UK children from hardcore porn on non-UK services, and encourages policy makers to consider:
How to improve the take up and effectiveness of parental control software;
Whether more effective use could be made of the Obscene Publications Act, given Crown Prosecution Service advice that offering unrestricted access to hardcore porn is prosecutable under that legislation;
Whether a consensus might be built among EU Member States for measures to keep hardcore porn out of reach of children; and Whether action can and should be taken against UK entities involved in the provision of services from outside the EU, but
targeted at the UK, for instance, payment processors.
ATVOD Chief Executive Pete Johnson said:
Public concern about the ease with which children can access hardcore pornography online is substantial and there is widespread support for ATVOD's policy of ensuring UK websites providing such content do so only with safeguards that keep it out
of reach of children.
We have made good progress in ensuring that UK websites comply with rules designed to protect children from such harmful content, and our recent enforcement activity has sent a clear message that UK providers of hardcore pornography on demand
must take effective steps to ensure that such material is not accessible to under-18s. Asking visitors to a website to click an 'I am 18' button or enter a date of birth or use a debit card is not sufficient -- if they are going to offer
explicit sex material they must know that their customers are 18, just as they would in the 'offline' world.
But we cannot be complacent, and the views of the public can't be ignored.
ATVOD Chair, Ruth Evans said:
We believe policy makers should consider whether more should be done to protect UK children from porn websites operating from other countries. Given the importance the public clearly attaches to protecting children from exposure to hardcore porn
material, it is surely time to consider more imaginative ways to ensure that the standards ATVOD requires UK services to meet are replicated for hardcore porn websites operating from outside the UK and which are currently unregulated.
Scope Determination Service: Demand Adult Service provider: Playboy TV UK/Benelux Ltd
On 9 June 2011 Playboy TV UK/Benelux Ltd notified the above Service to ATVOD.
On 19 June 2012 Playboy TV UK/Benelux Ltd wrote to ATVOD stating that Playboy TV UK/Benelux Ltd intended to move editorial responsibility for the Service to the group's head office in Canada.
On 21 June we requested further information on the transfer of responsibility for the Service, which we received from Playboy TV UK/Benelux Ltd on 11 July 2012.
On 24 July Playboy TV UK/Benelux Ltd confirmed that the transfer of responsibility had been completed (to Playboy Plus Entertainment, Inc in Montreal) and on 9 Sept and 10 Sept provided further evidence (in the form of email correspondence).
Taking all the relevant considerations into account, including the evidence you have provided, ATVOD, as the appropriate regulatory authority, has determined in accordance with section s368A(1) of the Communications Act 2003 that as at 14
September 2012, Playboy TV UK/Benelux Ltd is the provider of the On-Demand Programme Service named above.
The email evidence provided by Playboy UK (Annexes 1 to 3 - REDACTED) does suggest that a process of transfer has been in operation, with correspondence discussing redundancies of staff in the UK and information on access to various sites
(including the Service) requested by the head office in Montreal (although the emails refer to www.demandadult.com, this appears to redirect to the notified service at www.demandadult.co.uk).
However, it is ATVOD's view that the evidence suggests transfer of editorial responsibility for the Service has not yet been completed.
Written information on the site itself (Annex 4 - REDACTED) as at 14 September 2012 refers to PlayboyTV UK / Benelux Ltd and the associated UK address, and refers to the Terms and Conditions as being government by English law. Domain registration
data suggests that Demand Adult is registered not to the Canadian entity but to the US address of Playboy Enterprises International Inc (Annex 5 - REDACTED). Furthermore, the email correspondence from David Cooke of 10 September 2012 (included in
Annex 1 above) states that [s]ince Montreal took over, we in the UK have been updating the sites as per the previous editorial plan, which was simply uploading content as it becomes available from the content department....we're only
refreshing with new episodes when they have been transcoded. Montreal...[have] not got around to taking a look at how they might change things more drastically in terms of presentation or sale yet . This strongly suggests that PlayboyTV UK /
Benelux Ltd retains editorial responsibility for the Service as defined by s368A(4) of the Act, ie. That PlayboyTV UK / Benelux Ltd still exercises general control over selection and organisation of the programmes constituting the Service. This
is further supported by the fact that the overall design and layout of the Service does not appear to have changed in any significant details (Annex 6 - REDACTED).
Should circumstances change, with a full transfer of editorial responsibility to an entity outside the UK, then ATVOD will of course consider any evidence relevant to a new request to withdraw notification of the Service.
ATVOD asked to justify their 'just in case there's serious harm' interpretation of European law requiring protection against 'serious harm'
31st October 2012
AITA is seeking deeper levels of clarity on the position of ATVOD. Whilst we fully support the issue of protecting minors from viewing inappropriate content, the stance taken by ATVOD is, in our opinion, a short term solution that penalizes UK
business and individuals who trade on a global stage. ATVOD continue to exercise what appears to be a broader jurisdiction than was intended and as a result, lack clarity and competence when dealing with specific matters relating to Rule 11 in
Adult Entertainment and content is mostly promoted and provided by utilizing the global internet. ATVOD remain of the view that a local solution, by forcing Age Verified Services for any UK based or managed business, will be sufficient and we
have proven on many occasions, with the proliferation of content available outside the UK, that their current remit fails to achieve anything, other than unfairly bias and harm UK individuals and businesses who have always conformed to rules and
AITA will continue perusing a considered legal option of ATVOD's alleged outreach and unfair tactics, whilst collaborating with our colleague's world wide to provide a more fulfilling solution, which allows all companies in this market sector to
be treated equally.
The Erotic Networks parent company New Frontier Media has struck a $33 million deal to be acquired by Larry Flynt's LFP Broadcasting, which distributes Hustler TV in cable and satellite TV homes.
New Frontier said that its board is recommending that shareholders approve the offer from Flynt. If the deal is approved, the U.S. adult programming business will be dominated by two key players--Flynt's LFP Broadcasting and Luxembourg-based
Manwin Enterprises, which closed a deal to buy Playboy TV parent Playboy Enterprises last year.
ATVOD suggests that hardcore websites should be prosecuted under the Obscene Publication Act
21st October 2012
How can the depiction of something that is so commonplace, so central to life, so widely discussed (even amongst teenagers) and so comprehensively taught in schools, possibly deprave and corrupt? Undesirable for children maybe, but depraving and
ATVOD has published its submission to the recent consultation by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety on parental controls its submission to the call for evidence from the House of Lords Select Committee on
Communicatons on media convergence and its public policy impact
Together the documents begin to articulate ATVOD emerging public policy positions, setting out:
ATVOD role and activities, especially in relation to protecting children
The limitations of the current regulatory scheme, especially in relation to non-UK services
ATVOD's view that it would be premature to attempt to put in place a rigid new regulatory structure
ATVOD's view that public policy should focus on clearly identified areas of public concern, including the ease with which children can access hardcore porn online
ATVOD's view that parental controls and media education are part of the solution, but their efficacy should not be overstated
ATVOD's view that further consideration should be given to more active enforcement existing legislation, including the Obscene Publications Act
ATVOD reported that an Amended Designation came into force on 14 September. This followed the Ofcom's statement on the review of ATVOD's designation published on 15 August and Ofcom's publication on the same day of its procedures for dealing
with appeals and sanctions in relation to on demand programme services. It allows ATVOD to make more decisions without referring back to Ofcom
And the latest September newsletter reveals viewer 56 complaints for August 2012.
26 were referred to the VOD service provider
28 were considered by ATVOD but were ruled out of remit after an initial assessment.
2 concerned services not notified to ATVOD and which are now the subject of a scope investigation
Following Determinations in July that 13 services had been in breach of its repressive Rule 11 (which bans debit card holders from accessing VOD porn):
4 services were referred to Ofcom for consideration of a sanction in light of their failure to comply with an enforcement notice.
2 services were closed
7 services complied with the credit (not debit) card requirement before letting surfers access any hardcore material
Who's going to type in their credit card details just to get a look see at a website? And why should debit card holders be banned from viewing porn.?
After more than seven years of trading, VOD specialists Strictly Broadband and sister site Anywhere.xxx have closed their affiliate programmes as the company as an on-going business is shut down prior to being sold to the US.
Earlier this year Strictly Broadband MD Jerry Barnett warned that it would be impossible to run a UK-based VOD business and comply with regulations introduced by the UK VOD censor, ATVOD [the Authority for Television on Demand]
Following the closure, Barnett told ETO's Paul Smith:
The real story isn't what's happened to us, it's ATVOD, which has made difficult trading conditions unmanageable. It's a shame the wider industry and media has essentially ignored this. Basically there's an on-going, all-out attack on the adult
industry which, since it was launched by ATVOD, has forced several websites to close and driven others out of the UK. Strictly Broadband -- with Anywhere.xxx -- is just the latest in a series of firms to have to take this radical step.
To move forward, and continue a service for our content providers and paying customers, the business has been sold to a US start-up firm called Velvet Rose which is a real shame, not just for the me, but for the staff who've I've had to let go,
and for the UK treasury as the PAYE and VAT I was paying them now goes elsewhere.
Tough action aimed at protecting children from hardcore porn videos on line has been revealed by one of Britain's media regulators.
More than 20 UK porn video services have been investigated in recent months by The Authority for Television On Demand -- co-regulator of editorial content in UK video on demand services.
The authority's annual report details steps taken by ATVOD in the year to 31 March 2012 to protect children from hardcore porn on regulated video on demand ( VOD ) services, including action against on-line service Bootybox.tv . The
porn video site closed after ATVOD issued an enforcement notification requiring the operators to either remove the hardcore porn content from the service or put it all behind effective access controls which would ensure that only adults could see
Since the period covered by the annual report, ATVOD has launched pro-active investigations into 23 more notified adult services and found 13 to be in breach of the statutory rules because they featured hardcore porn material which could
be accessed by under 18's.
Two of those found to be in breach have now closed and seven have made themselves compliant by placing all hardcore material behind an effective access control mechanism. Four services which have failed to make changes to ensure that under-18s
cannot normally see hardcore material have been referred to Ofcom so the back-stop regulator can consider whether to impose a financial penalty or restrict or suspend the service.
ATVOD Chief Executive Pete Johnson said:
We have made good progress in ensuring that UK operators of regulated VOD services comply with rules designed to protect children from harmful content, but we are not complacent and will continue to monitor relevant services and act as
Our recent enforcement activity has sent a clear message that UK providers of hardcore pornography on demand must take effective steps to ensure that such material is not accessible to under-18s. Asking visitors to a website to click an 'I am
18' button or enter a date of birth or use a debit card is not sufficient -- if they are going to offer explicit sex material they must know that their customers are 18, just as they would in the 'offline' world.
In its report the authority also welcomed Ofcom's decision to confirm the TV on demand regulator's designation until 2020, and to give ATVOD more operating freedom, including removal of the need to seek prior approval from Ofcom before publishing
Commenting on the decision, ATVOD Chair Ruth Evans said:
ATVOD has developed and matured as a regulator over its first two years and we warmly welcome Ofcom's decision to reflect this not just by confirming that the Designation will run until at least 2020 but also by giving ATVOD greater autonomy
The 2012 Annual Report also highlights:
A rise in the number of regulated VOD services: from 154 at the end of 2010-11 to 184 at the end of 2011-12
A tenfold rise in the number of complaints to ATVOD about VOD services: to more than 50 per month in 2011-12
ATVOD's analysis that regulatory protections may not be wholly in tune with the needs of viewers, especially their desire to protect children from inappropriate content, as TV, VOD and the internet increasingly come together on the main family
TV screen in more and more households, providing a single and simple point of access to services subject to different regulatory regimes and to services which are unregulated.
The consolidation of ATVOD, and its Industry Forum, in its second year of operation, and the introduction of a more robust and equitable fee structure with concessionary rates for non-commercial and small scale service providers
Update: A Cushy Number
27th August 2012.
ATVOD reported on viewer complaints received in the period under report. ATVOD received 602 complaints for the period 1st April 2011 to 31st March 2012. This compares with 30 for the year before.
396 were referred to the VOD service provider
204 were considered by ATVOD but were ruled out of remit after an initial assessment, either because the service which was the subject of the complaint was not an VOD service or because the complaint did not raise an issue which is a potential
breach of the statutory requirements.
1 complaint was investigated but not upheld
1 complaint about Bootybox.tv was investigated and upheld over supposedly inadequate child protection measures
So for all the thousands of pounds of fees paid to ATVOD, only two complaints were investigated.
And the latest August newsletter reveals 55 complaints for July 2012.
31 were referred to the VOD service provider
21 were considered by ATVOD but were ruled out of remit after an initial assessment.
3 concerned services not notified to ATVOD and which are now the subject of a scope investigation
Leading US porn studio Vivid Entertainment is creating VividTV, a new division, VividTV, which will launch later this month.
It will use the company's vast library, including its Vivid Celeb line of celebrity sex tapes (Kim Kardashian, Pamela Anderson & Tommy Lee, etc.) to start a branded video-on-demand service and a linear pay TV channel.
The company says that it has secured distribution deals that would put the channel in more than 20 million homes combined.
A couple of year's ago Ofcom delegated the role of Video on Demand censor to ATVOD.
Ofcom recently announced the required progress review of ATVOD's work and have now announced the result that ATVOD will continue to be the delegated VOD censor. In fact Ofcom changed the rules a bit to allow ATVOD to make some decisions without
referring back to Ofcom for confirmation.
On the subject of R18s on VOD the review comments on ATVOD's decision against Bootybox.t:
Bootybox.TV was a website providing adult on-demand programmes. A complaint was received on 26 June 2011 that the service had ....no parental control on.... , and that the content was ....far too strong to be
allowed even under UK law... . ATVOD conducted a full investigation of the service and established that the principal purpose of the service was to provide content that was R18 or stronger. In its view, the content met the statutory test of
material which might seriously impair a minor and that accordingly an effective Content Access Control System was essential.
How can the depiction of sex, something that is so central to human life, and experienced by nearly everyone, many from the age of 16, be somehow 'seriously' impairing. The kids know all about it, as sex education is mandatory in schools. Not to
mention that it is one of the major topics of conversation for teenagers. It is understandable that parents would prefer their kids not see it, but that is not the same as claims of 'serious' impairment.
ATVOD also got in a whinge about foreign tube sites:
ATVOD explored the concern over the ease with which children can access harmful material especially through a small number of so- called 'Tube' sites operating from the USA, and therefore outside ATVOD's jurisdiction . ATVOD has said that
it will take a precautionary approach to implementing the Rule about material harmful to under eighteens when it is within its jurisdiction. Hence, it has made clear that ....material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral
development of minors when provided as part of an on-demand programme service may include content that has been classified R18 by the British Board of Film Classification, or material equivalent to content classified in that category.
Ofcom allude to further Government thoughts on the matter in the next round of TV legislation:
Ofcom notes the views expressed by ATVOD and other stakeholders about the growing concerns around the availability of content that might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of under-eighteens, and expects to explore these
issues further. Ofcom addressed this issue in its report on report on Sexually Explicit Material and Video-On-Demand Services39 . In its response40 to the report, the Government stated that it intended to address this issue comprehensively in
its review of the current regulatory framework for the communications sector. Ofcom will take account of any conclusions reached.
Some Smart TV makers are a bit coy about allowing hardcore porn to come onboard their official line up of available channels.
However there are ways to work around this control freakery.
Viewers now have the chance to access adult apps through the Woomi app for smart TVs. Woomi is our non adult app that offers TV viewers the ability to watch a wide range of videos covering sports, news, short and long film and music. The app also
features an adult button in the top left hand corner that allows customers through Woomi to access Forno. Once a customer clicks this Forno button they go through some age verification before gaining access.
Thanks to its integrated Forno app, woomi currently offers over 100,000 videos in 200 categories. They claim to have the world's largest erotica offering for smart TV.
Users must first register for this service and verify their age via a credit card or further country-specific age verification systems. A personal user ID and a secret PIN must also be entered.
The Woomi service is available on TechniSat connected TV devices and a number of other brands.
Samsung, LG and Sony do not wish to work with the adult business, according to one provider of such entertainment.
Marc Dorcel launched the first adult smart TV app last summer with Panasonic. The company will now be working with Phillips and Toshiba from this August.
Meanwhile Philips has recently announced the arrival of adult apps from Hustler and Private.
There is also the issue of national laws. For instance, the two apps on the Philips smart TV sets will not become available in Germany and Turkey. But apparently, they will be accessible in the UK, opening the door for hardcore content on UK TVs.
Currently in the UK, the two major TV platforms, Virgin and Sky, only offer very softcore adult content.
By signing deals with CE manufacturers, hard porn channels could legally become available in the UK, both in linear and on-demand form.
The question is bound to be asked, come the Communications Green Paper, whether ATVOD should now be given a decent burial. What purpose is served by an extra layer of content regulation - whether ATVOD-style co-regulation or a full-blown
statutory regulator -- over and above the general law, especially when funded by imposing substantial costs on a small section of industry?
Are there alternatives? The UK government does have to comply with the AVMS Directive, which lays down content requirements specific to TV-like audiovisual services. However those can be enshrined in a few paragraphs of statute, with a sanction
such as the ability for a person affected to apply to court for an injunction. That, in conjunction with a voluntary code of conduct, is how the Irish government has implemented the AVMS Directive.
Subjecting on-demand audiovisual services to an appropriately crafted statute would remove the need for a funded regulatory or co-regulatory body and provide a regime much closer to that applicable to most other speech and content, both generally
and on the internet.
France based Marc Dorcel is the first adult channel provider to go connected with TV's with built in Internet TV capabilities.
None of the parties wants to go on record, but behind the scenes talks are going on with all the major consumer electronics manufacturers to bring adult apps to their smart TV sets. Broadband TV News understands that at least one more provider
wants to go connected.
The question remains if the new services will also become available in countries where access to hard porn channels is limited due to local censorship.
In the UK, the two major platforms, Virgin and Sky, only offer soft adult content, although legally they could distribute and sells more explicit channels that are licensed in another European country such as the Netherlands.
By signing deals with TV manufacturers, hard porn channels could sidestep the censorship associated with cable/satellite and legally become available in the UK, both in linear and on-demand form, but this requires active participation of the
consumer electronics industry.
So far, the industry has been careful. The Marc Dorcel on-demand content is available on Panasonic connected TV sets with Philips, Samsung and Sony to follow soon -- but only in a limited number of territories. Now other providers of hard adult
content might be more adventurous by starting to offer access to streaming channels.
I'm writing both as Managing Director of Strictly Broadband Ltd., a notified ATVOD ODPS provider, and Chairman of AITA, the UK's Adult Industry Trade Association.
It has recently become apparent that despite some efforts, the voice of our industry hasn't, until recently, been heard by the ATVOD board. This has recently changed with the appointment of Chris Ratcliff of Portland TV to the board, which we
welcome. This letter is intended to explain why our industry has apparently been reticent to implement ATVOD rules.
My own business has been operating since 2004, selling rentals of online streaming adult videos. I established the business in the UK, which at the time was quite unusual for an online adult business; in 2004, the online adult industry had little
idea where we stood legally, and most companies were established offshore. My aim was to track and implement UK regulation as it evolved. Initially, we worried that we may be in breach of the Video Recordings Act (VRA) -- however, the BBFC and
police came to the conclusion that the VRA didn't apply to online adult businesses, and we found ourselves in a legal grey area.
The first attempt at regulation was by the BBFC Online scheme; Strictly Broadband joined and implemented the scheme at a cost to ourselves of around £ 10,000. The scheme ultimately failed to gain official
recognition. So the first real regulation we faced came when ATVOD was formed. As with the BBFC scheme, Strictly Broadband made early contact with ATVOD, and became an early service to notify.
During this same period, the global online adult industry has been through a huge recession and shake-out as a result of the sudden availability, from late-2007, of free streaming content via the so-called tube sites . It is estimated
within the industry that a revenue decline of 80% to 90% has been experienced during the past four years. Rather than being a grass-roots movement, the tube sites are largely operated by a few big industry players, in particular Manwin, which is
a Canadian company (but owns UK businesses). The end result is that, as the ATVOD regulations are being introduced, many of the original players have gone out of business and those that remain are relatively small businesses compared to a few
years ago. Strictly Broadband has seen its revenue and staff levels fall by over 50% during this time.
As a business and an industry, we have consistently strived to operate within laws and regulations; however, the regulations now being imposed by ATVOD are so onerous that they are effectively impossible to implement. We have always age-verified
(via payment systems) before people can view our video product. However, the requirement that we age-verify before even photographic sales imagery can be seen will simply drive most of our customers to sites outside ATVOD's scope. The one company
to fully implement these rules to date, Portland TV, has seen an 80% fall in new business, and a 28% fall in overall revenue, since they complied. As I'm sure the board will appreciate, few businesses can survive such a decline, especially in the
current economic climate.
The ATVOD regulations seem to ignore a basic fact: the Internet is a global, borderless marketplace, and well over 99% of our competitors operate outside ATVOD's scope. To my knowledge, none of the top 100 adult services viewed by UK consumers
falls within ATVOD's remit. Even among UK sites, none of the top three has bothered to notify. Furthermore, thousands of non-adult services, including Google and Twitter, freely display hardcore imagery without age verification. Therefore the
ATVOD rules, particularly Rule 11, do not protect consumers in any way, but merely serve to punish those services that try to operate legally within the UK.
So far, I'm aware of one UK business that has closed down due to ATVOD's rules, and a second that has relocated outside the UK. If ATVOD pushes ahead with enforcement of Rule 11, the effect will be to decimate the UK adult industry. My own
business would not survive the implementation of Rule 11, and I'm currently in discussion with EU-based partner businesses to outsource the key business functions if necessary. Our aim, since 2004, has been to comply with UK regulation; ATVOD is
currently making that aim impossible to achieve.
Even if the entire UK industry closes down, adult content from outside the UK will be as easily accessible as it was before ATVOD. The regulations not only fail to stop adult content being accessible by children, but actually remove the few
ethical businesses that want to comply with UK laws and pay UK taxes. From an industry perspective, this seems counter-productive; surely the aim of any regulations should be to tilt the playing field towards compliant businesses, rather than
towards those who escape regulation?
AITA is looking at the possibility of creating a campaign, similar to the Drink Aware brand run by the alcohol industry, that would help educate parents on how to filter adult content from their children's Internet devices. We feel that this
would be a better way forward to a regulated industry rather than punitive measures which would simply drive the UK industry offshore.
Managing Director, Strictly Broadband Ltd.
ATVOD have announced a determination that all internet hardcore must be locked behind paywalls, that in practice can only be unlocked by credit cards, even debit cards won't do. I wonder percentage of customers are banned from watching porn
because they haven't got a credit card or else would rather not use it).
And as far seriously impairing under 18's, I guess they will all have been seriously impaired already. And will continue to be seriously impaired to the benefit of foreign websites. The 'experts' are hardly convinced that the depiction of
anything so natural to every person's life can be considered seriously impairing anyway. And the government seems to have asked ATVOD/Ofcom to bluff it out until more specific legislation can be drawn up. (See
morally impaired plot ).
And do any of these censors ever consider the serious impairment to our children caused by poverty. They seem so keen to add the mass of expensive state control freakery and yet it is suffocating Britain's ability to earn any money.
Anyway ATVOD have release the news article:
ATVOD Rules That Adult Website Must Block Access To Children
ATVOD publishes determination that adult video on demand website Bootybox.tv had breached statutory rules requiring video on demand providers to ensure that under 18s cannot normally access hardcore pornographic content
The Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) has today published its determination that the provider of the online video on demand service Bootybox.tv was in breach of a statutory rule which requires that material which might seriously
impair under 18s can only be made available if access is blocked to children.
The Bootybox.tv website offered users access to explicit hardcore porn videos which could be viewed on-demand. The content of the videos was equivalent to that which could only be sold in licensed sex shops if supplied on DVD.
Responding to a complaint from a concerned father, who had discovered that his son had visited the site, ATVOD found that the website broke the statutory rules in two ways. Firstly, it allowed any visitor to the website unrestricted access to a
selection of hardcore pornographic video promos/trailers featuring real sex in explicit detail and featured a large still image of explicit sex on the homepage. Secondly, access to the full videos was open to any visitor who paid a fee. As the
service accepted payment methods -- such as debit cards and prepaid vouchers -- which can be used by under 18s, ATVOD ruled that the service had also failed to put in place effective access controls in relation to the full videos.
ATVOD followed up its ruling with an Enforcement Notification, requiring the provider of Bootybox.tv to either remove the hardcore porn content from the service or put it all behind effective access controls which will ensure that only adults can
see it. The service has now ceased operating.
Speaking today at a conference at the House of Lords on ATVOD's role in child and consumer protection, ATVOD Chief Executive Pete Johnson will say:
UK providers of hardcore pornography on demand must take effective steps to ensure that such material is not accessible to under 18s. Asking visitors to a website to click an 'I am 18' button or enter a date of birth or use a debit card is not
sufficient -- if they are going to offer explicit sex material they must know that their customers are 18, just as they would in the 'offline' world.
Last week, ATVOD followed up its ruling with a seminar for providers of adult content on video on demand services. The seminar was designed to ensure that such providers fully understood their obligations under the statutory rules and to make
clear that ATVOD would take action in relation to any other providers found to be in breach of the rule.
Comment: ATVOD Stitch Up
27th February 2012. From beerandbollocks.com
The previous operator of Bootybox.tv made a few interesting comments to a forum.
Firstly he said that the complaint to ATVOD was initiated about the content of one of the films, not about ease of access to the site.
Secondly he summarised one of the important issues with ATVOD regulation that will suffocate British companies trading in adult video on demand:
With all due respect, do you seriously think any UK website owner is going to only use soft 18 images on their sites to promote their hardcore content? No.
The unlocked web pages of a website are for surfers to window shop and if there's soft images then first time visitors may think that the website only offers soft content.
Ofcom has made an appeal decision that Ofcom was correct to determine that the MTV online service Viva TV Music is subject to expensive censorship as an on-demand programme service
An appeal by MTV Networks Europe against an ATVOD determination that its web- based music video service Viva TV Music is an on demand programme service and therefore subject to regulation has not been upheld by Ofcom.
The decision means that MTV is required to pay a substantial fee for its own censorship and ensure that the Viva TV Music service complies with a range of statutory requirements .
In order to fall within the scope of the censorship overseen by ATVOD, a service must satisfy a number of statutory criteria, as set out in section 368A of the Communications Act 2003. One of these is that the principal purpose of the service is
the provision of programmes the form and content of which are comparable to the form and content of programmes normally included in television programme services.
In the case of Viva TV Music, the decision turned on a number of issues, including whether the Viva TV Music section of the website constituted a service in its own right, and whether music videos are 'TV-like programmes.