ATVOD Clarifies New Porn Regs; 'Face-Sitting' Is OK

LONDON — The U.K.'s new statutory rules banning the most extreme content don't ban "face-sitting," ATVOD said in a newsletter disseminated yesterday.

ATVOD, which regulates video-on-demand in Britain, revealed draconian new rules for the porn industry nearly three weeks ago.

Under the new rules — introduced through the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 — content that is refused a classification by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is prohibited on a U.K. VOD service.

U.K. communications agency Ofcom issued a revised designation allowing ATVOD the powers it needs to enforce the new rules.

Yesterday, in its newsletter, ATVOD clarified some details of what it will be focusing on while enforcing the new regs.

"Contrary to some press reports, the new regulations do not ban outright activities such as 'face-sitting’ or ‘spanking,’" ATVOD said. "However, they do mean that pornographic material which focuses on the restriction of blood or oxygen to the brain (which is potentially fatal) or on the infliction of lasting physical harm is now prohibited on U.K. VOD services, as are pornographic scenarios featuring simulated incest, rape or role playing as a child."  

"Face-sitting," of course, was one of a number of sexual acts that were brought to the forefront at last week's protest outside Parliament.  More than a dozen couples did the deed in front of several hundred protesters, as well as the local and international press.

The new regs forbid U.K.-based online adult operators from distributing content that includes acts of female ejaculation, fisting and other types of strong explicit content.

In the newsletter, ATVOD also hinted what might be next for foreign porn sites that allow access in the U.S.: A licensing regime.

The U.K. VOD regulator said that it has worked with the U.K. payments industry — including Visa Europe, MasterCard, PayPal, UK Cards Association, British Bankers’ Association and Payments Council — to design a process which would enable payments to be prevented from the U.K. to foreign porn services that allow children to access hardcore pornography.

But such foreign porn sites are currently beyond the reach of U.K. regulators, ATVOD said.

"Preventing payments from U.K. customers would disrupt the existing business model which is based on providing some content free of charge in order to attract visitors who are then encouraged to purchase premium subscription services," ATVOD said. "It would provide an incentive for foreign porn websites to introduce age-verification mechanisms in order to restart the flow of funds from the U.K.

"The payments industry has made clear that in order to put such a process into place there would need to be greater clarity that foreign websites which allow children in the U.K. to view hardcore porn are acting in breach of U.K. law.

"Representatives of the payments industry proposed that a licensing regime for foreign porn websites — similar to that recently introduced for foreign gambling websites — would be the best way of achieving such clarity."

A proposed amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill that was designed to establish such a licensing regime, however, has not moved forward.

In other announcements, ATVOD said that two new board members have joined its board: Nicola Phillips, counsel for ITV Brands, and James Tatam, a digital media director for Channel 5.

One board seat will go up for grabs early next year as ATVOD board member Gidon Freeman steps down.

ATVOD also said that it will hold another "Industry Forum" on Jan. 27. The agency says the meeting facilitates dialogue between the agency and industry "to understand those issues from the industry perspective, tap into industry expertise and gain input to draft consultations at an early stage."

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