18 sign up to content rulesApril 2008
Media companies have agreed guidelines on how to categorize the suitability of internet, television and mobile phone content for children. The 18 signatories include AOL, the BBC, Google, T-Mobile, Virgin Media, Vodafone, Yahoo! and the social networking site Bebo.
Some broadcasters and mobile phone businesses have their own codes of practice on content, but these guidelines are the first to establish industry-wide principles. Filling eight pages, they require providers to flag up audiovisual material unsuitable for particular age groups or with potentially offensive or harmful content. This would generally cover content for domestic and international markets that features violence, sex, strong language, flashing images and ‘upsetting or disturbing themes’ such as drugs and horror.
Material could be flagged with visual symbols, warning text, a classification or rating system, or even PIN protection. But whichever method is used, it must be easily understood, ‘clear and consistent’, and give ‘adequate information so the user can make an informed choice about whether or not to access content’.
The guidelines have been developed by the companies in conjunction with a UK government advisory body, the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG), which will review them next year to ‘assess their impact and effectiveness’.
However, user-generated content such as that found on YouTube or in advertisements is not covered. Anthony Walker, head of the BSG, told EP this was mainly because separate guidelines on those areas are being drawn up by other companies with the UK’s Home Office.
He said that while it was difficult to estimate what proportion of the industry had signed up to the newly-introduced guidelines, it was a ‘big chunk’, and others were likely to sign up in the next few months.
Walker added that the rules had been drawn up due to ‘clear evidence’ that consumers want better information on content ‘so they can make choices about what their families watch.’
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