ATVOD and On Demand TV

The Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD)

ATVOD was given its regulatory powers by OFCOM for the regulation of On Demand Programme Services. Parliament enacted the Communications Act 2003 to enable ATVOD to manage the On Demand Services and provide regulatory control over On Demand TV. A key area of concern was adult content/porn and how best to protect children.

Two cases highlight its role.

Frankie Boyle and TRAMODOL NIGHTS

ATVOD ruled that while the content of Mr Boyle’s Tramadol nights would ‘likely offend’ it would not harm children and Channel 4 was therefore not in breach of the statutory rules. It is accepted that the rules for on demand services are significantly less stringent than day to day TV. The relevant rule could be found in rule 11 which states that:

“If an on-demand programme service contains material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen, the material must be made available in a manner which secures that such persons will not normally see or hear it.”

This means some form of password or code to connect to the service. ATVOD concluded that Tramadol nights would seriously impair the development of someone under the age of 18.

ATVOD’s Chair Ruth Evans said:

“Many viewers may regard the material as highly offensive, including to people with disabilities, and unsuitable for under 18s, but providing such content to under 18s is not a breach of the Rules set by Parliament if it does not fall foul of the ‘might seriously impair’ test.”

Playboy’s Climax 3

Compare this decision to the recently failed appeal by Playboy TV in connection with two of its on demand shows Adult and Climax 3 which ATVOD claimed showing these programs would cause an under 18 serious harm. Playboy argued that as these shows were so explicit in its contents then it would fall outside of the regulatory control Parliament intends.

Ruth Evans, Chair commented:

“The idea that a video on demand service should escape regulation on the grounds that its content was too extreme would make a mockery of the whole purpose of regulation in this area which, in large part, is designed to protect children from exposure to video content which poses a risk of serious harm.”

Playboy appealed but OFCOM upheld ATVOD’s decision.

Both decisions can be read here

And OFCOM’s rejection of Playboys Appeal here .

If you’re interested in Regulatory Contol and would like to find out more, please call Michael Coyle on 0800 0862 0157 or email for a free no obligation chat.

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