U.K.'s Adult Industry Trade Association to Close

Rhett Pardon

LONDON — AITA, the U.K. trade association representing the adult industry, has announced that it is closing operations at the end of March because of declining membership revenue.

"After much deliberation the committee believes that it is no longer tenable for AITA to continue after the end of the membership year (March 31) and all committee members will resign on that date and the company closed down," the group announced. "AITA has significantly reduced it’s running costs over the last three years, however with corresponding decreasing subscriptions it has been running at a significant loss since at least 2010."

Jason Maskell, an AITA committee member, told XBIZ that the declining membership revenue may be mirroring the state of adult entertainment in the U.K., which now is more regulated that ever before.

"The U.K. [adult] industry has been going through a tough time as have many other adult business's across the globe." he said. "[U.K. video-on-demand regulatory czar] ATVOD has not helped the online U.K. adult industry by placing extra fees on these sites and making harder to do business in the U.K. boarders.

"AITA fully support the protection of children from adult material, however some current UK legislation does not allow for a level playing field."

AITA — whose tagline is "Together we are stronger!" — provides discussion on topical issues and lobbying efforts in the U.K. with its quarterly meetings.

The meetings are intended to network and help raise industry standards, including health protocols for future HIV and STI outbreaks among performers. In September, AITA and UKAP, the U.K. adult film producers organization, jointly worked on a draft report over the issue.

Annual membership rates vary at AITA: performers pay £50, small companies are asked for £100 and corporate-level companies with more than 50 employees shell out £1,000.

But the group said it had been concerned over a reduction in membership numbers after several years of decline.

AITA said it commissioned a "State of the Industry Survey" by Love Bytes Research to gauge the needs of AITA members and the UK Adult Industry late last year. The key survey areas included attitudes to the adult industry, health issues for performers and awareness and role of AITA.

"This survey was commissioned as over the last three there has been a reduction in membership numbers and we needed to have a clearer picture of what members and the industry at large want from a trade association so that we could if possible reverse the membership trend," AITA said.

The numbers showed that only 32 percent felt that AITA was "an effective voice for the industry."

As a result, the group said that it was "underperforming in its provision of key services" and that it would close shop because of slowing donations.

"It is clear that this cannot be addressed without a significant injection of cash," the group said.

"The committee would like to thank all members for their support over the years," the group said. "As individuals they will continue to work to support the U.K. adult industry where they can, offering ongoing advice in their particular area of expertise and continuing to network at adult industry events."

Fiona Patten, who leads the EROS Association, Australia's adult retail and entertainment group, as its executive officer, said it's "both disappointing and galling to see that AITA is closing its doors after more than a decade of representing the U.K. adult industry and the international industry to U.K. media and government."

 "What it means is that the U.K. media, the general public and the British government will no longer have a united industry voice to deal with. The government especially will not pick up the phone and call the Sullivan Brothers or David Gold for an industry response to censorship or ethics issues," Patten told XBIZ.

"From what I am seeing, attacks on the industry in the U.K. are increasing with continued talk about an Internet filter and campaigns to shut down adult retail outlets. They need a national association now, more than ever." 

Patten, in particular, placed blame on the "plenty of millionaires in the U.K. who have earned their fortunes from the sex industry."

"The fact that they are not prepared to kick back just a tiny percentage of those fortunes into creating identifiable Codes of Practice and Codes of Ethics, sends a very bad message to the public and to politicians. The religious right in the U.K. will be happy-clapping harder than ever," she said.

"Industry associations reflect a level of maturity and are crucial in combating our increasingly organized opponents. The U.K. industry, including the rich porn barons, need to get on the phone to each other right now and form something new out of the ashes of AITA. Failure to do so will lead to a massive erosion of civil liberty and profits." 

Maskell said that AITA will be placing up on its website a list of resources the U.K. adult industry can contact in the future for help and support once it closes.