The regulation of video on-demand programme services is being brought fully within Ofcom, ending ATVOD’s role as the co-regulator for the editorial content of such services after nearly six years.
The move follows an Ofcom review to ensure regulation of broadcast and on-demand content is ‘as effective and efficient as possible for the benefit of consumers, audiences and industry’ according to the organisation. The review included the current co-regulatory arrangements for VoD services, including catch-up TV and on-demand programming on the TV and the internet. Ofcom designated ATVOD in 2010 as a co-regulator to take the lead in regulating editorial content for VoD services.
Following the review Ofcom has decided that acting as sole regulator for VoD programmes is a more effective model for the future than having two separate bodies carrying out this work. This will allow editorial content on VoD to sit alongside Ofcom's existing regulation of broadcasting.
ATVOD was originally created as a self-regulatory body with the support from the government, structured to ensure it is independent from the industry’s commercial interests and to protect consumers. More recently this has involved cracking down on porn providers, however, while ATVOD can serve on-demand service providers with notices, only Ofcom can issue fines. In addition, the quango has no powers in relation to services operated from abroad and such services are not required to have use age verification and access control systems required by ATVOD in the UK to protect children from hardcore pornography.
In March last year Sex and Censorship founder and campaigner Jerry Barnett accused the regulator of attempting to justify its existence and make more money, by calling for changes to UK law to stop children accessing pornography online. However much ATVOD was making, or whatever funds it was using, were clearly not enough to ensure its continued existence and from 1 January 2016, Ofcom will take sole responsibility for regulating VoD programme services. The Advertising Standards Authority will continue to act as a co-regulator for advertising content on VoD services.
ATVOD chair Ruth Evans assured stakeholders and consumers that the body will work to ensure its service “remains of the highest standard during the remaining months of 2015 and to work closely with Ofcom to manage a smooth and seamless transition.”