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ATVOD: use OPA rather than new regulation to combat porn

It would not be appropriate to put in place “a rigid new regulatory structure” to tackle the problem of access to harmful content, including access to pornography by children, being made easier by “media convergence”, according to UK video-on-demand regulator ATVOD.

In a report submitted in evidence to the House of Lords communications committee’s investigation into media convergence, ATVOD said that “the nascent state of the converged media world…and the relatively undeveloped state of the public response to the implications of convergence for content regulation, mean that it is premature to attempt to put in place a rigid new regulatory structure which would seek to address in a comprehensive way all the issues thrown up by convergence”.

The regulator recommended that public policy should focus instead on specific areas where current arrangements were failing to address a clearly identified public concern, including access by children to hardcore pornography. In addition to support for media education initiatives and the use of parental control software, ATVOD said there was a need for more active enforcement of existing laws, including the Obscene Publications Act (OPA).

ATVOD noted that there was no “silver bullet” to the problem of chidren’s access to porn given, for example, that access to non-UK sites is unregulated. It said that it may be necessary to look closely at the impact of convergence as internet services became more easily available on TVs.

In a separate submission to a consultation by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety on the parental controls, ATVOD said that current parental control systems offered limited protection, but noted that there was scope to use the Obscene Publications Act more effectively. It noted that, despite the Crown Prosecution Service’s guidance on the use of the act, convictions under the Obscene Publications Act declined from 81 in 2000 to just seven in 2010.

Tags: ATVOD, UK