Since October we've seen a number of new initiatives about how we and our families navigate the internet. The Bailey Review, published in June, recommended, among other things, that it should be easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted digital material. BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media responded with a code of practice that details the means by which consumers can block online content. They also introduced a system whereby all new customers are offered a choice over whether to adopt free network or PC-based controls at point of purchase or installation.
We were involved in another recommendation made by Reg Bailey suggesting that all media regulators should come together to create a single website to act as a portal between themselves and parents. The result was ParentPort.org.uk, jointly developed by Ofcom, us (the British Board of Film Classification), the Advertising Standards Authority, the Authority for Television On Demand, the BBC Trust, the Press Complaints Commission and the Video Standards Council. The website aims to help parents make their views heard on issues relating to inappropriate programmes, games, adverts, products and services.
What we see through these initiatives is the development of the way we navigate and react to digital content whether it comes to us via the internet, television or video game. It is a move towards empowering those who were previously daunted by the huge range of material available online.
The Bailey Review recommended that 'the internet industry should ensure that customers must make an active choice over what sort of content they want to allow their children to access'The Bailey Review June 2011, page 22. This is something the BBFC has been working on since 2008, when we launched BBFC.online, a service providing the BBFC's trusted and recognised classifications, category symbols and Consumer Advice to set-top box, video-on-demand and online content providers. It allows them to use the same classification symbols and content information as those which we provide for cinema releases and for DVDs.
Although a labelling system for content delivered online isn't a legal requirement, the film and video industry recognised that their consumers understand BBFC classifications and asked us to develop a system for their digital film offerings. This echoes what parents have told us: in a resent survey we asked parents for their views and 82% said they would prefer to download films that are classified with the trusted BBFC symbols and Consumer Advice.
The service has been a success. We now have close to 30 leading distributors (including Warner Bros, Disney, Paramount, Universal, Lionsgate and Momentum) and key platforms (such as BlinkBox and Picturebox) who are members of BBFC.online. More than 200,000 online certificates have been issued since the service launched and we will be announcing key new members from the home entertainment industry in the next few months.
The benefits of the service span both our industry subscribers and parents. The content providers and platforms have the same level of protection as with equivalent theatrical or DVD works. Parents can easily recognise and interpret the classification symbols they know and trust when choosing which films to download for their children. Both parties also benefit when it comes to the issue of film piracy: BBFC symbols are licensed from us and we are quick to address illegal use. The presence of our symbols on a platform is a good indication that the digital content is legitimate.
We will continue to work with the film and content distribution industry, with parents and with Government to make it easier for consumers to make informed decisions about their online viewing. In an age where cinema really is going into the home, we want our own digital initiatives to make this transition as smooth as possible for adults and children. People want to feel in control of the types of audiovisual content they consume, and we aim to make that easier for them.
Some may say this is all very well, but isn't pre-release classification irrelevant in the age of the internet, cloud computing and internet TV? Well no, it isn't, for three reasons. First, consumers want it; 73% want the same level of regulation and labelling in place for online audio visual material as exists in the physical world and 89% of parents are checking classifications for films they and their children download, even though this isn't always easy to do. Second, there's a vast stock of decisions which the BBFC has already taken which can be re-used highly effectively when existing content is distributed again via download. Third, the home entertainment industry wants it. The BBFC has developed a number of partnerships where rapid, low-cost, non-traditional methods of classification can be applied to completely new, or otherwise previously unclassified, material, including web-pages as well as more traditional linear content. We have no statutory monopoly of regulation in this area, but we can still provide a cost-effective, high quality service kite marked by our uniquely trusted brand.