Enforcing the Video Recordings Act for computer downloads
The police have also been sniffing
around the concept of somehow enforcing the repressive Video Recordings Act on download material. There is an article about this in the Adult Industry trade paper, ETO. But really I cannot even guess where they are coming from to suggest that the Act
applies to computer communications.
David Cooke, the director of the BBFC, and Peter Johnson, Head of Policy had a session in the House of Commons with the Culture, Media And Sport Committee: New Media
And The Creative Industries.
Our fundamental concern is about what might happen in the future, starting right now when things could be very different and we would face not so much a loophole but possibly a bypassing of the Video
Recordings Act in quite a major way. Let me just try and explain this. Last year 17,000 titles were classified by the BBFC and 13,000 of those were DVDs, so that is very much the bulk of our business at the
moment. In principle, all of those titles could at some point in the future migrate to distribution by download rather than in physical format.
Lawyers disagree about what precisely the impact of the Video Recordings Act is in that situation, but I
think that the general view is that the Video Recordings Act probably would not bite. That has not been tested in the courts yet.
That could produce a situation in which our current, we believe, quite well respected and trusted system of age ratings
and consumer advice would cease to apply and we know from our workload at the moment that there would be some very abusive material included in that content, and we have given some examples of some of that in our evidence. Self-regulation would obviously
apply in that context but the question is really do we believe that that would be adequate or would we be in the kind of situation that we faced in the early 1980s with the concerns on video nasties.
We think that there are probably two broad
approaches to tackling this problem.
We are certainly not pitching to trespass on anybody else's patch or to rub up against other regulators and we are certainly not pitching to try and regulate all downloads, which will constitute a huge and
variegated mass of material, but we do think it would be possible to look quite carefully to seek to identify that part of the download market which would be very similar to DVD retail and DVD rental and to seek to bring that within the Video Recordings
Act. That would be one approach. We can well see that that would be controversial and would be against the tenor of some of the other discussions you have had in the Committee.
Another approach which could be considered, either in conjunction or
separately, would be to look at what kind of co-regulatory offerings were possible in this new environment. We believe that our expertise and the trust which BBFC ratings and consumer advice have and the high
recognition factor that our ratings have, are the kinds of things that would enable us to play a part.