Ratcliff on Age-Verification Debate at Parliament

Ratcliff on Age-Verification Debate at Parliament
Rhett Pardon

LONDON — The U.K. government sees value in the development of an industry-sponsored route for age verification and the adult business should rally behind the Digital Policy Alliance and British Standards Institution in support of this, according to Chris Ratcliff, managing director of Portland Broadcasting Ltd., which offers pay-per-view and subscription TV services.

Ratcliff was commenting on discussion in the House of Lords on Friday at the second reading of the Online Safety Bill 2015, including words spoken by Baroness Shields.

“Baroness Shields didn’t mince her words,” Ratcliff said of the newly appointed Minister for Internet Safety & Security who noted that “the free availability of online pornography is a horrific problem.”

Ratcliff, in a statement over the bill and possible future engagement with industry stakeholders, said that as far as the U.K. government is concerned, the onus for protecting children from online porn content falls to the adult entertainment business.

But, he noted, “We should be galvanized by what the minister went on to say as it validates the work of the Digital Policy Alliance and British Standards Institution in seeking to develop a ‘publicly available specification,’ ” known as PAS.

At a hearing over the Online Safety Bill 2015 (HL Bill 008), which provides for additional age-verification provisions for U.K. ISPs and mobile service providers offering adult content as well as licensing of foreign porn sites, Shields acknowledged that filtering, parental education and ATVOD all had a part to play in the Conservative manifesto pledge to protect children by requiring age verification for access to all sites containing pornographic material.

“We have already solicited feedback and advice from ATVOD, the BBFC, the Digital Policy Alliance and representatives of the adult industry in the U.K. and abroad. Much work is under way,” Shields said. “I am particularly supportive of the idea being pursued by the Digital Policy Alliance and the British Standards Institution, which was mentioned today by the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, of a federated approach to age verification.

“This is particularly promising as it offers us scope to develop a ‘verify once, use many times’ model for adult sites and also for gambling and e-commerce. As my noble friend Lady Newlove mentioned, we must ensure that this applies to all harmful content, not just to pornographic material.

“The approach put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, and the Digital Policy Alliance is a very promising development indeed.”

With the hope that a publicly available specification involving the Digital Policy Alliance and British Standards Institution could be reached, Ratcliff took note of a few important items coming up that adult industry stakeholders should be aware of.

“If you’d like to engage further and nominate yourself for the PAS Steering Committee, or sponsor the PAS, please contact Dave Wright, rapporteur for the Digital Policy Alliance’s age-verification group at davywright2@ntlworld.com,” Ratcliff said.

He also noted that the next meeting of the Digital Policy Alliance Age Verification Group is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 4:30-6:30 p.m., in Westminster. Email dpa@dpalliance.org.uk to register to attend.

A video of Friday’s proceedings over the Online Safety Bill 2015 is available here at 11:42.

XBIZ London 2015, presented by Epoch, will deliver a number of educational sessions discussing the current business climate for distributors of adult content in the U.K., as well as those who market it from abroad, in September.

The conference, set for Sept. 15-18 at the Hilton DoubleTree Tower of London Hotel, unites the U.K.’s adult industry with the European and broader international online business communities to deliver a range of exclusive business insights and executive deal-making that sets the stage for the fall show season.

Pictured: Chris Ratcliff