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Video on Demand: Children

Question for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

UIN 172847, tabled on 22 March 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment the Government has made of the risk of children being exposed to inappropriate content on streaming services in the event that the age ratings applied by those companies do not reflect the British Board of Film Classification’s standards.

Answered on

25 March 2021

The British Board of Film Classification’s (BBFC) age ratings are currently used by a number of video on demand providers and, although adoption is voluntary, we welcome their use. We were particularly pleased to see Netflix announce on 1 December 2020 that they have become the first platform to achieve complete coverage of their content under the BBFC’s ratings. We will continue to engage with industry to encourage platforms to use age ratings, and will keep the evidence for legislation in this area under review.

The video sharing platform regime, for which Ofcom is the regulator, came into force on 1 November 2020. UK-established video sharing platforms must now take appropriate measures to protect the public, including minors, from illegal and harmful material. Video sharing platforms are not currently mandated to adopt BBFC ratings, nor is it expected that they will be mandated to do so under Ofcom’s regulatory regime for video sharing platforms. In order to comply with the video sharing platform regime, age assurance measures may be adopted by video sharing platforms along with other measures such as age ratings and parental controls. Age assurance measures comprise a broad range of technical measures which can be used by a service to establish the age of their users. Under the video sharing platform regime, services must take into account freedom of expression and should consider what measures are most appropriate and proportionate prior to introducing them.

Ofcom and the BBFC have a strong collaborative relationship when working on audience protection issues. The BBFC is engaging actively with both Ofcom and video sharing platforms to share their expertise on emerging technologies and the applicability of content ratings.

Protecting children is at the heart of our online harms agenda, and wider government priorities. Where sites host user-generated content or facilitate online user interaction such as video and image sharing, commenting and live streaming, then that content will be subject to the new duty of care. The government is working at pace to prepare online safety legislation, which will be ready this year.

Named day
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