U.K. Rule on Explicit Content Fees Could Alter Delivery

Rhett Pardon

LONDON — Operators in the U.K. are facing a new levy that is certain to alter the landscape of online adult in the country, perhaps putting smaller content producers out of business or making some flee to other countries for hosting and billing.

Ofcom, the rule-making body that regulates communication in the U.K., says that companies must pay a £2,900 fee to ATVOD — the authority for video on demand —  in relation to each on-demand service they provide. Legislation over the fee was imposed as of March 2010.

ATVOD, formally known as the Authority for Television On Demand, enforces rules designed to protect children from video material which might cause them serious harm.

The issue has come to surface after Playboy TV challenged rulings by ATVOD, which found that two adult websites — Demand Adult and Climax 3 — fall within the scope of regulation.

The new rules, ATVOD says, don't apply if the videos are not "TV-like." Playboy TV argued, in essence, that the videos were too explicit to be regulated.

Playboy TV argued that because the video content on Demand Adult and Climax 3 features explicit sexual images and was too explicit to be broadcast on U.K. television, it was not TV-like and not subject to the new ATVOD rules designed to protect children from video-on-demand content which might cause them serious harm.  

The appeals rested on whether the form and content of the videos made available on the websites should be considered “comparable to the form and content of programs normally included in television program services,” key to the new rules.

In rulings made last year, ATVOD ruled that while more explicit than adult programs shown on U.K. TV services, the videos were comparable to such programs and were essentially the same as adult programs that are frequently broadcast on linear TV channels in other EU jurisdictions, and were subject to rules designed to protect children.

Playboy TV appealed ATVOD's ruling, but the appeals so far have been rejected by Ofcom.