The UK Column have issued a press release outlining their case against ATVOD:
The UK government has finally moved to directly regulate Youtube content and internet freedom of speech.
On the 2nd February 2014, the UK Column received a letter from ATVOD, the Authority for Television On Demand. ATVOD is a
subsidiary of Ofcom, the UK government's communications regulator. The ATVOD letter gave notice to the UK Column that as the result of a Statutory Instrument amendment to the 2003 Communications Act, the UK Column was required to notify ATVOD that it was
running an on demand programme service , to pay a fee, and to submit to regulation.
ATVOD mainly chooses organisations to regulate based upon whether or not they are perceived to produce television-like programmes .
In several television conversations between the UK Column and ATVOD, an ATVOD representative admitted that there is no fixed standard for what constitutes television-like video content, and that their determinations are made on purely arbitrary
When asked by the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications Inquiry on Media Convergence and Its Public Policy Impact on the 5th February 2013 if [ATVOD] had trouble defining [television-like services], Ruth Evans
Chairman of ATVOD replied, yes. It is an evolving art.
It is on the basis of the evolving art statement that ATVOD's claims of a light regulatory burden should be seen. At present ATVOD claims to exist in order to prevent
harmful material becoming available to children and to prevent hate speech. It is clear, though, that anyone submitting to the current light regulatory framework joins a fluid and evolving regulatory framework with potentially draconian financial
penalties. The penalties allowed for through the Communications Act 2003 amount to 5% of the regulated organisation's turnover or Â£250,000, whichever is the greater amount.
Following discussion with ATVOD, the UK
Column made the decision that ATVOD's requirements would be detrimental to our freedom of speech and expression on the internet, and we would not submit to regulation by ATVOD.
ATVOD subsequently issued an enforcement notice
giving the UK Column ten working days to comply with their demands. Having carefully considered our options, we decided to cease the activity which ATVOD describes as an on demand television service, and removed all UK Column video on demand content from
UK Column co-editor Brian Gerrish says:
This represents an immediate and dangerous attack on free speech on the internet and should be of massive concern to all Youtube users, as
the government seems to be moving to censor individuals directly, putting them on the same regulatory footing as global corporations like the BBC and CNN. As a government agency, ATVOD's clearly flawed working practices and their alignment to the
corporate media pose a direct threat to our personal liberty and freedoms.
UK Column co-editor Mike Robinson says:
It used to be that to produce high quality studio based video
content, the financial barrier to entry was very high. Today, with television studios in a box costing as little as a few hundred pounds, ATVOD seems to be attempting to extend its remit to even the one man band producer operating out of his bedroom.
This is a dangerous road to tread.
An identity authentication company is suggesting the UK online pornography industry adopt its technology when regulation is inevitably brought in.
Peer-to-peer sites already use Veridu's technology to rate people as trustworthy or
not. It works by asking an individual to setup a profile using social media logins, in much the same way an app would ask you to sign up with your Twitter or Facebook details. The more logins the individual provides to Veridu, the richer and more
reliable its verification will be. The system will then ask if you recognise friends in your social network, look for friendship links mirrored across multiple social networks including LinkedIn, and compare age groups in your network. For the new age
verification model, it could also include Paypal details (more helpful if the user has signed up with a credit card) and other details from telecommunications providers.
Veridu promises it is not storing the data it analyses, nor
using it for any purpose other than to deliver a token at the end of the process that the user can then take away and show to adult content sites -- all it will say is whether that person has been verified as over 18, and how robust that conclusion is on
a specific scale.
Some Common Sense is a group dedicated to the campaign against ATVOD and the attack on British adult websites. The group posted a fascinating entry on its blog:
Guess who did not notify or pay the fee? An anonymous comment, left on
one of our posts below, caught our eye and needs more prominence.
Anonymous 1/6/14 14:18
Perhaps it may aid your case if ATVOD were questioned on why the did not register with the Information
Commisioners Office until 28th September 2013.
It would appear that they held data illegally for almost 3 1/2 years.
If so, then passing on information they held to OFCOM may too have been against the law?
It seems that ATVOD, who go about collecting personal data on individuals and publishing it along with their determinations that someone has failed to notify them or paid them a fee, had themselves failed to
notify the Information Commissioner of its personal data processing. Neither had it paid the fee to be registered. What's more, when ATVOD belatedly registered in September last year, following complaints, they completely failed to provide the
information they are obliged to. ATVOD's listing states that the purpose of their collecting private data about you is, to enable us to promote our goods and services . They must mean their exciting new range of ATVOD blindfolds and earplugs,
specially crafted to protect teenagers from discovering that they weren't found in the gooseberry patch or brought by the stork.
We look forward to the Information Commissioner's Office taking decisive action. But don't hold your
breath. When we asked for confirmation that last September was the date of ATVOD's first registration, we were told that the ICO cannot comment because that would break the Data Protection Act.
The television on demand censor ATVOD has frozen its censorship fees for the period 2014- 2015. The decision to freeze fees follows three consecutive years in which average fees have fallen.
The fees paid by a the wide range of video websites goes
towards the censors' salaries and their campaign against UK adult businesses. The censor receives very few complaints that are relevant to mainstream video on demand, so the mainstream industry has to pay dear to enable ATVOD to campaign against British
The fees are currently paid by 116 UK operators of on-demand TV. ATVOD has promised to devote more resources to investigating potential breaches of statutory rules.
ATVOD fees will remain at:
Concessionary rates of £91 - £96 for non-commercial service providers
Concessionary rates of £137- £145 and £183 - £193 for commercial service providers with turnover below £50,000 and £100,000
A three band standard tariff based on the turnover of the service provider, with rates set at £732 - £771, £4,740 - £6,151, and £9,480 - £12,302
A cap of £25,000 on the total fees
paid by any single provider
As someone who believes that censorship causes more harm than good. I get very concerned at some of your decisions and wonder if it's to the benefit of the British public if the decisions
you make are justified.
Are the aims and objectives of the ATVOD to destroy the UK Adult Industry online by means of draconian measures to ensure that those who have a credit card can access pornography and no-one else. I understand it's for Age
Verification but a lot of adults cannot get access to one for reasons such as a Low Credit rating. Are you proposing an alternative method?
Shouldn't the parents and not state-run organisations such as
yourselves and Ofcom not interfere with what legal adults choose to view in the home. I need to ask this as this may conflict with the EU Human Rights act and need to know if that's not the case.
Who are your
sponsors/funders. I read a recent article that as ATVOD is not answerable to the Freedom of Information act. It concerns many of us that lobbying by far-right and extremist religious organizations may engineer many of the decisions you make. Do you have
those who are Left Wing or Liberal to assist with the process?
ATVOD's action in relation to adult websites is based on its responsibilities relating to the Communications Act 2003 (as amended by the AVMS Regulations of 2009 and 2010). The Act places an obligation on on-demand service
providers to ensure that material which might seriously impair the development of children is presented in a manner such that they won't normally see or hear it. Access via credit card is not the only way to ensure this -- ATVOD's Rules and
Guidance make clear that providers can use a reputable personal digital identity management service, using checks against an independent database such as the electoral roll, or any other comparable proof of account ownership. See ATVOD Rule and
As above, ATVOD has certain designated duties in relation to the Communications Act and its enforcement. ATVOD's regulatory powers in relation to adult sites concern access by children,
not prohibition of adults from viewing lawful content.
Of course ATVOD's imposition of censorship only applies if hardcore seriously impairs children. Given that millions of kids seem to be watching porn anyway, one has to wonder if this contention is sustainable. I wonder if the parents of kids
who see porn agree with the fact that their kids are seriously impaired? It would seem likely that the legal underpinning of ATVOD rules is a gigantic bluff.
With respect to checking identity via official record checks, surely the kids know the
basic details about their parents, and so can sail through such checks.
There must be large numbers of people without credit cards that are in fact adults who ARE prohibited from accessing lawful content
ATVOD publishes determinations that 6 adult video on demand services operating across 29 websites had breached onerous censorship rules applying to UK video on demand providers.
According to ATVOD, hardcore porn ranging from explicit real sex to BDSM
could be accessed by children on the internet services.
The six online video on demand services - Bra Busters of Britain, Hardglam, Madame Caramel, Miss Jessica Wood, One Stop Porno Shop and Speedy Bee were held to be in breach of a
statutory rule which requires that material which might seriously impair under 18's can only be made available to fee paying adults with credit cards (not the more commonly held debit cards).
The services each broke the statutory rules in two
ways. Firstly, they allowed any visitor free, unrestricted access to hardcore pornographic or bondage, domination and sado-masochism (BDSM) video promos/trailers or still images featuring real sex in explicit detail or strong BDSM activity. Secondly,
access to the full videos was open to any visitor who paid a fee. As the services accepted payment methods such as debit cards which theoretically can be used by under 18's, ATVOD ruled that each service had also failed to put in place effective
access controls in relation to the full videos.
ATVOD have never presented any evidence suggesting the unlikely occurrence of children actually paying for porn with a debit card.
Four services, Hardglam, Madame Caramel, One Stop Porno Shop
and Speedy Bee, which failed to make their services fully compliant in accordance with a timetable set by ATVOD have been referred to Ofcom for consideration of a sanction. Under this sanctions procedure, operators who fail to comply may be fined -
Playboy TV was fined £100,000 for similar breaches in 2013 - or have their right to provide a service suspended, as happened in relation to the service Jessica Pressley last year.
Given that most websites which allow UK children to access
hardcore pornography operate from outside the UK and therefore fall outside ATVOD's remit, then it seems highly unlikely that ATVOD's commercially unviable rules have done anything to prevent under 18's watching porn.
ATVOD Chair Ruth Evans said:
ATVOD has no power to require services based outside the UK to protect children from hardcore pornography. We will continue to work with policy makers and other stakeholders to investigate ways in which UK children
might be better protected from porn websites operating from other countries, which may be unregulated.
Such websites often offer free content as a shop window to attract subscription payments. Over the past year, ATVOD has
worked with the UK payments industry -- including MasterCard, Visa Europe, PayPal, UK Cards Association, the Payments Council and the British Bankers' Association -- to design a process which would enable payments to be prevented to foreign services
which allow children to view hardcore pornography.
The payments industry has now made clear that to put such a process into place there would need to be clarity that foreign websites which allow children to view hardcore porn are acting in breach
of UK law. The payments industry has therefore proposed a licensing scheme -- similar to that being introduced for foreign gambling websites -- as the best way of providing the necessary clarity. ATVOD and representatives of the UK payments industry
discussed the initiative with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) earlier this month and DCMS is currently considering the feasibility of the licensing proposal. An Opposition amendment which would introduce such a licensing regime has
been tabled to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, currently at Report stage.
ATVOD have published minutes from a board meeting on 25th March 2015. This includes a few snippets about various strands of internet censorship.
The censorship of hardcore porn on the internet has previously been included under the following heading.
New rules include mandatory age verification and the banning of porn beyond R18, eg fisting and golden showers.
DCMS Strategy Paper
The Board NOTED that DCMS had confirmed the intention
to legislate in relation to UK services through secondary legislation. The details will be discussed with ATVOD on 3 April 2014.
The Board NOTED the action taken by DCMS and Ofcom with media regulators to create a common framework
for media standards.
Restricting payments to non-UK websites
The Board NOTED the report of the third summit meeting on 6 February with representatives of the payments industry. The decisions reached
at a further meeting on 25 March were reported; the preferred mechanism for the payments industry would be a licensing regime for providers of websites, similar to that to be used for the gambling industry.
Presumably the IWF don't
want to jeopardise their 100% support for action against child porn by taking on the unpopular job of being a good for nothing internet censor. It seems that ATVOD are greedily looking forward to taking on the dirty work.
It was noted that the IWF had published a report recommending that it give up its work in relation to adult obscene content. It was possible that ATVOD might be approached in relation
any such move. It was AGREED that ATVOD would take no action until and unless an approach was made.
And it appears that the authorities are working out how to spin a report that presumably does not quite support ATVOD's case.
Research on underage access to adult websites
The Board considered the confidential report, together with a recent letter to DCMS, and welcomed the considerable preparatory work undertaken by
Ian McBride, Ruth Evans and Nigel Walmsley. The process for publication and anticipated coverage post-publication were discussed.
The Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) has announced the appointment of Robin Foster as Independent Board Member and Director.
An economist specialising in policy, strategy and regulation in the media and telecommunications sectors, Robin
Foster is a founder member of consultants Communications Chambers.
Robin has previous experience as a strategy partner at Ofcom, Prior to this, at the Independent Television Commission, he led the strategy and economics team. As strategy
director at the BBC, he led the development of strategy for digital TV and the internet.
He has been an adviser to the UK House of Lords Communications Committee, was a member of the UK Government's Digital Britain steering board and led the
Global Communications Consortium research programme on broadcast and telecommunications regulation at London Business School. He is also a member of the Ofcom Spectrum Advisory Board and the ComReg Expert Advisory Panel.
Robin replaces Julia
Hornle who left the Board in March.
Government censors have announced that legislation will be introduced by the end of 2014 that will require British adult websites to verify the age of visitors.
Government internet censors at the Department of Censorship, Media and Sport have
announced their intention to initiate legislation that will require age verification by credit card (not debit cards, which are used for the large majority of porn purchases). Alternatively visitors can provide highly personal details that are simply
best not provided to porn sites).
Unfortunately there is currently no other viable technology that allows viewers to conveniently and safely verify their age.
However Chris Ratcliff of TVX, speaking for the Adult Provider Network, an adult
trade group representing 30 adult companies, said that a system is being developed that will hopefully allow some level of security and privacy for viewers. It seems that age can be verified once, hopefully by a trusted party, and this will provide a
token that can be conveniently used to gain access to British adult websites.
Unfortunately this will not be available until the end of 2015.
In the meantime it looks likely that British adult websites will be hit impossibly hard, and that
British customers will be driven overseas, at least until the DCMS can come up with a practical way to try and stop this too,
Perhaps Brits would be advised to download enough porn in the next 8 months to last a lifetime...just in case.
Comment: Laughing at an Etonian Pillock
21st April 2014. From Alan
How is Cameron proposing to identify a British porn site? Many general sites use models/actors/actresses from several countries. A site based in
California that includes some pics/vids of British models is likely to laugh at the Etonian pillock.
Most sites price in US dollars and use foreign-based payment processors, most obviously CC BIll. All such processors promise
discretion, not indicating to credit card providers the nature of the service provided. One hopes they would tell Cameron to take a running jump.
The worst case scenario is that totally innocuous organizations will have payments
blocked by over-zealous twats like the idiot in Oxford who didn't know what a passion play is. Come to think of, that might actually be the BEST case scenario :-- if sanctimonious authoritarians succeed in stopping payments to a breast cancer
awareness campaign or researchers into erectile dysfunction, it would make censorship a laughing stock.
People access Pornhub and alike because they're easy to access and free, and Ratcliff admits to Portland's services taking an initial hit when it implemented age verification, largely because people don't want to pay with credit cards. Competing
with free sites had become almost impossible , he says, and that is why industry balked at the idea of adding further layers between them and customers. The UK industry used to be tiny, Barnett tells Wired.co.uk, since Atvod cashed it
out it's almost non existent.
Other studios I know have changed the settings for purchasing of their products, so that only credit cards can be accepted, Femdom site owner Itziar Urrutia Ko told Wired.co.uk. This has
in all cases I have heard of, reduced sales to as little as ten to 20 percent of the previous earnings. As a result, studios are closing down all over UK. It would stand to reason that a studio like Portland, with its many arms, can withstand this
Ratcliff reintroduced debit card transactions as soon as people were verified, and credit or electoral roll checks, driving license or passports can be used.
This brings up key issues round people's
desire to remain anonymous, though, and their reluctance to ID themselves on an adult site where there might not be that basis of trust .