Hybrid TV & OTT

ATVOD rules against porn sites, calls for changes to payment rules

UK video-on-demand regulator ATVOD has taken measures against 10 adult content services that it says failed to provide sufficient protection to children, and has announced plans for a summit with the financial industry to block payments to non-UK-based porn sites.

ATVOD’s latest judgement on breaches of statutory rules to keep online porn out of reach of children concerns 10 adult on-demand sites: Absolute Cruelty, Belted by Beauty, Bitch Slapped, CFNM, CMNM, Frankie and Friends, Jessica Pressley, The British Institution, The Casting Room and Young Dommes.

According to the regulator, the services breached statutory rules by allowing free, unrestricted access to hardcore video promos and trailers and by giving access to full-length videos to any visitor who paid a fee via methods such as debit cards that are available to under-18s. ATVOD also ruled that the sites had failed to put in place effective access controls to the full-length videos.

Five of the services have subsequently taken steps to put their material out of reach to children, while Jessica Pressley has been referred to Ofcom for consideration of a sanction.

Control over the remaining four services is claimed to have been transferred to a Dutch company, putting them out of reach of ATVOD’s jurisdiction. The regulator said it is investigating this claim.

ATVOD said it is holding a summit with bodies that facilitate online payments – the UK Cards Association, the Payments Council, the British Bankers’ Association, and leading payment scheme operators – on October 10 to press for restrictions on payments to non-UK based sites whose services can be accessed in the UK.

According to the regulator, Crown Prosecution Service guidance on the Obscene Publications Act makes clear that non-UK websites which offer unrestricted access to hardcore pornography and which can be accessed from the UK are likely to be considered to be operating in breach of UK law.

“We believe more should be done to protect UK children from porn websites operating from other countries, which may be unregulated. It is surely time to think about more imaginative ways of ensuring that the  safeguards ATVOD  institutes around  UK services are replicated for hard-core porn websites accessible  in the UK, but operated overseas,” said ATVOD chair Ruth Evans. “For example, given that many such services appear to be operating in breach of the Obscene Publications Act, can it be right that they are part-financed by payments made from UK bank accounts? We will be discussing this issue with the financial industry at a summit early next month and welcome the recent Government statement of support for the initiative.”

Home Office minister Damian Green meanwhile has said the government supports the work ATVOD has undertaken on whether banks can decline to process payments to “websites operating outside the European Union”.