Ofcom Fines Strictly Broadband Ltd. £60,000

Rhett Pardon

LONDON — Strictly Broadband Ltd., which was sold several months ago to a U.S. company after its U.K.-based operator said he couldn't comply with strict new rules over age verification in the country, has been fined £60,000 by British regulators.

Strictly Broadband was penalized by regulator Ofcom after failing to restrict access to explicit material on StrictlyBroadband.com for several months this past summer, between May 31-Aug. 1.

Ofcom decided on the £60,000 fine based on recommendations by ATVOD, which regulates web and TV video on demand in the country.

ATVOD issued a ruling in July that said Strictly Broadband had committed two breaches of Rule 11, which requires that U.K.-based VOD operators ensure that those under 18 cannot access hardcore porn. ATVOD said that it found hardcore content available without registering. Further material also was available free after a registration process, leaving it open to access by those under 18 without access to credit cards.

"The home page of the service (which appeared without a warning page as to the nature of the site's content or other indication that the material was unsuitable for under 18s) included a significant quantity of free material, including a banner window showing scrolling stills, a large number of thumbnail stills constituting links to available videos and movie trailers," regulators said.

Strictly Broadband Ltd.'s former operator, Jerry Barnett, said he's baffled by the fine because it was instituted retroactively after he was issued a "notice-to-comply." Barnett sold the company in September to U.S.-based Velvet Rose LLC, which now manages and publishes its content and runs its affiliate program.

"This is mysterious," Barnett told XBIZ. "The regulator instructed Strictly Broadband to comply with their age-verification requirement by Aug. 2.

"The site was transferred to a U.S. owner prior to that, but the fine then covers a breach during the period May to July, prior to the notice-to-comply. I'm somewhat in the dark, as Ofcom has only communicated with the liquidator of Strictly Broadband and has refused to meet with me."