Barnett: U.K. Internet Porn Enforcement Could 'Decimate' Industry

Rhett Pardon

LONDON — Jerry Barnett, the managing director of Strictly Broadband and chairman of U.K. adult entertainment business trade group AITA, says that if regulators push forward with enforcement of Rule 11, the effect will "decimate" the U.K. adult industry.

Barnett, in a letter to the ATVOD board, said that regulators need to pull back on Rule 11 for web operators. ATVOD, the U.K. regulatory agency formally known as Authority for Television On Demand, requires video-on-demand providers, including on the web, ensure that those under 18 cannot access hardcore pornographic content.

"This letter is intended to explain why our industry has apparently been reticent to implement ATVOD rules," he said.

Barnett said it's already hard enough for an adult entrepreneur to make a profit since in the past four years revenue has declined industrywide by 80-90 percent, partly because of the popularity of tube sites operated abroad. Barnett said his own business has shrunk by 50 percent 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 U.K. businesses)," he said. "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."

Barnett told the board in the letter that nearly all — 99 percent — of online adult businesses worldwide operate outside ATVOD’s scope.

"To my knowledge, none of the top 100 adult services viewed by U.K. consumers falls within ATVOD’s remit," he said. "Even among U.K. 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 U.K."

Barnett said that he's considering moving his business' operations elsewhere if ATVOD were to enforce Rule 11. Strictly Broadband operates StrictlyBroadband.com and StrictlyAnywhere.xxx, as well as the Anywhere.xxx affiliate program.

"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," Barnett said in the letter. "Our aim, since 2004, has been to comply with U.K. regulation; ATVOD is currently making that aim impossible to achieve."

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