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Mixed results for ATVOD in Ofcom appeals

UK video-on-demand regulator ATVOD has welcomed a rejection by Ofcom of adult service Frankie and Friends’ appeal against its ruling that it comprises a VoD service and is therefore subject to regulation by ATVOD.

At the same time, Ofcom accepted an appeal by another adult offering, Urban Chick Supremacy Cell, against ATVOD’s ruling that it should be subject to regulation.

Ofcom backed a 2013 decision by the TV on demand regulator that Frankie and Friends was an on-demand programme service and therefore subject to regulation by ATVOD was rejected by Ofcom.

The website must comply with an ATVOD rule that requires services to keep explicit adult videos behind access controls which ensure that children do not normally see them. The website operator had been found in breach of that rule in August 2013 and had removed the videos from the service pending the outcome of the appeal.

At the same time, Ofcom upheld an appeal by the provider of Urban Chick Supremacy Cell against an ATVOD determination in January 2014 that it was an on-demand programme service and therefore subject to regulation by ATVOD. Ofcom in this case concluded that the form and content of audiovisual media material on the site was not comparable to the form and content of linear television programme services.

“The two appeal decisions demonstrate that there is sometimes a fine line separating adult services which are subject to the statutory rules from those which are not. UK services which feature the most extreme material are not subject to the video on demand regulations – which protect children from material which might cause them serious harm – unless they are considered ‘TV-like’,” said ATVOD CEO Pete Johnson.

“Websites operated from outside the UK are also not subject to the ATVOD Rules. ATVOD will continue to discuss with policy makers further options for reducing the exposure of children to pornography and other potentially harmful VOD material on websites based both inside and outside the UK.”