ATVOD Seeks Public Input to Incorporate New Rules

LONDON — ATVOD, the U.K. video-on-demand authority charged with requiring VOD operators to make sure those under 18 can't access hardcore porn, today launched a three-month public consultation for its proposal to update its “Rules and Guidance."

The announcement for public input comes the same day the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 went into force. The new law applies to VOD services that are regulated by ATVOD, restricting the types of sexual content that U.K. providers can provide for consumers to BBFC R18 classification level.

Since September 2010, ATVOD has published a “Rules and Guidance” document setting out the statutory requirements with which providers of VOD operators must comply.

The Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 further amended the Communications Act 2003, introducing new provisions relevant to providers of VOD.

"It is therefore proposed that ATVOD’s 'Rules and Guidance' be updated to reflect these changes," ATVOD officials state on its website. "ATVOD seeks the views of stakeholders on its proposal."

Respondents are requested to use a response sheet supplied on this web page. Responses must be received by March 2 and likely will be published online. ATVOD expects to publish a statement on the proposed rules and guidance in the spring.

Meanwhile, Backlash today said it would challenge the legality of the new regulations "as a new threat to free expression." Backlash is a U.K.-based group that campaigns on matters of sexual freedom.

A Backlash spokesman told XBIZ today that the group is "keeping the details [of a campaign] close to our chests at the moment."

"British digital media producers are now subject to some of the most severe content restrictions in Europe," Backlash said in a statement today. "The regulations will shut down websites and criminalize producers of content that remains legal to produce throughout the European Union.

"This will have a chilling effect on freedom of sexual expression in the U.K. It also makes British media uncompetitive within the E.U.," the group said. "This will lead to job cuts and lost revenue for the [U.K.] Treasury."

The regulations also will have a disproportionate impact on producers of content for sexual minorities, Backlash said.

"For example, depictions of many forms of anal sex, including 'fisting,' are banned under the regulations, even though such activities are popular and practiced safely within the LGBT community. Bondage and sado-masochistic scenarios, commonly practiced by people of all sexual orientations, will also be censored."

In addition, the new rules impact the sexual choices of consenting adults and on the British media industry, Backlash said.

"The regulations have been introduced under the aegis of 'child protection,' without any evidence that the regulation will contribute to child welfare," the group said.

ATVOD today ramped up it tally on the number of British websites it has formally targeted under Rule 11 violations. Rule 11 requires an effective CAC System that verifies that the user is 18 or over at the point of registration or access by the mandatory use of technical tools for age verification.

With 34 more porn sites accused of violating Rule 11 today, ATVOD in its four-year history has fingered 170 websites in total.