The Byron Report

 Tanya Byron reports on media child protection



29th October
2008
  

Update: My Traffic Lights are Better than Yours...


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Elspa proposes its own age ratings in traffic light colours

Elspa ratings The video games trade organisation, Elspa, has proposed a solution to the ongoing games ratings controversy.

Elspa supports a 'traffic-light'-type system as part of its voluntary ratings code that it says is more effective.

The BBFC dismissed the effort, saying their own colour-coded approach is well-established.

A government consultation on the matter due to finish in November aims to agree a legally enforceable ratings scheme.

Elspa's proposal would maintain the Pegi procedure and age limits, but says it has taken a lead from the food industry by adding 'traffic light' colours. Higher age limits would be red, with more general audience titles tagged green.

We're offering this idea as a direct consequence of the Byron review; the system needs to remove the potential for confusion and this is what we're doing, Elspa deputy director general Michael Rawlinson told the BBC: The system provided by Pegi is very robust, but we want to make it clearer that something that's for adults only should have that warning colour with it.

Sue Clark, a spokeswoman for the BBFC, dismissed the effort, saying that colour was not the prevalent issue in the debate: Changing the colours of the Pegi symbols is not copying the food industry. There is a system in place already which people know and understand and which in fact uses the traffic light colours, and it's called the BBFC system.

The government consultation will finish on 20 November, with a final decision expected in the new year.

 

31st October
2008
  

Update: BBFC Red Lights Elspa...

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BBFC unsurprisingly unimpressed by Elspa symbols

Elspa ratings The BBFC has told Edge it is taking legal advice after observing that the newly-proposed 'traffic-light' PEGI symbols bear a striking resemblance to its own.

The BBFC believes such a system is around already. Our classification symbols have been colour-coded since 1982. They're very widely recognised, and in fact they are trademark and copyright protected, a company spokesperson told Edge.

We're happy for ELSPA to make sensible improvements, but not if they encroach on the protection of the BBFC's symbols. We have these symbols using colours, using circles and using numbers, so we are now taking legal advice.

 

21st November
2008
  

Update: Pegging On...

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PEGI to roll out new rating symbols in Europe next spring

Elspa ratings The new traffic light rating system from PEGI is to be introduced into mainland Europe this spring.

Age rating symbols are yet to be finalised, but the current imagery that includes a spider, fist and syringe, is to be expanded on to include descriptive text. This follows suggestions from the Byron report that the symbols were previously too confusing for consumers.

When settled upon, age ratings will be coloured red, orange and green, rather than the current black and white. However, they are currently being reworked from the first design to avoid copyright issues with the UK's BBFC colour-coded ratings.

PEGI has agreed those changes and they will be implemented as part of the PEGI system in the new year, probably in the spring by the time the information has been transmitted to all publishers and incorporated as part of the approvals process for the format holders, said Michael Rawlinson, managing director of ELSPA.

It's still unclear if the traffic light system will be used in the UK as the government is currently looking through information submitted following the Byron review before it decides on the way games should be rated.

The introduction of traffic light colours and changes to the descriptors have been approved, they are now being worked through with lawyers to ensure they do not infringe any existing trademarks and can be adopted smoothly.

 

25th January
2009
  

Update: Pegging for PEGI...

MEP compiles reporting backing PEGI for all member states

PEGI logoA report by a member of the European Parliament has backed the self-regulatory Pan European Game Information (PEGI) age rating system that is used by the video game industry in Europe.

Dutch politician Toine Manders, who also sits on the European Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, compiled the report with recent trends towards online gaming in mind.

As well as acknowledging the fact that video games are largely non-violent and can be valuable educational tools, Manders also suggested that parents need to be better educated about video game content.

The report goes on to state the importance of an age-verification system that pays particular attention to online games and downloadable content, claiming that European member states should all back the PEGI system.

 

4th February
2009
  

Update: Playing the Game...

Advert censors finds that game companies advertises responsibly

Stranglehold game advert The advertising censor has cleared the marketing practices of the video games industry after conducting a wide-ranging review at the behest of Dr Tanya Byron's review into child safety.

The compliance report, carried out by the Advertising Standards Authority, monitored 241 video game adverts on TV, cinema, online and posters from April to June last year.

The compliance survey found that the majority of the ads monitored did not breach the advertising code. Just one ad was found to be in breach.

The ASA said most of the ads, apart from radio, made a clear reference to the age-rating of the game.

In addition it found that the content of the ads mostly reflected the age-rating of the game with more graphic imagery appearing for video games rated 15 or 18.

Depiction of violence was a strong theme, but it was often stylised, fantasy-like and clearly separated from reality, said the ASA. Appropriate scheduling and placement of the ads meant they were not considered to be problematic.

The advertising watchdog conducted the survey following recommendations raised in Dr Byron's report Safer Children in a Digital World published last year. Byron's review questioned the level to which violent and inappropriate imagery is targeted at children and recommended a survey to look at whether video game ads are advertised and targeted appropriately and in line with their age restrictions.

Our survey is encouraging as it suggests that video games are being advertised responsibly and in line with the [advertising] codes, said Christopher Graham, director general of the ASA.

 

27th February
2009
  

Update: BBFC Leading the Game...

BBFC survey reveals that parents want games regulated by the likes of the BBFC

BBFC logoThree quarters of British parents want to see video games granted cinema-style age classifications, ratified by an independent body, according to a new survey commissioned by the BBFC.

Nearly 80% of those surveyed said they believed video games could affect the behaviour of some children, while 77% said that game ratings should reflect the concerns of British parents.

The survey, which was carried out by YouGov on behalf of the BBFC questioned 2,143 adults.

It comes as the Government considers the findings of the Byron Review, a paper written by parenting expert and psychologist, Tanya Byron, into the steps that need to be taken to safeguard children in the digital age. The Byron Review recommends that video games designed for people aged 12 and over, regardless of content, should be reviewed by the BBFC for classification prior to release.

In 2007, the BBFC alienated sections of the computer games industry by attempting to ban Manhunt 2 , a game in which players must escape an asylum using whatever weapons they can find. Following repeated appeals by the game's publishers, a cut version of Manhunt 2 was eventually granted an 18 age certificate.

The survey also found that 82% of parents believed it would be helpful if video games used the same age ratings systems as films and DVDs. At present, there are two systems of game rating in Britain: the compulsory one run by the BBFC and the competing voluntary one run by the Pan European Games Information body, known as PEGI.

This poll clearly shows parents support a regulatory system for games that is independent of the industry and UK based, reflecting UK sensibilities and sensitivities, said David Cooke, director of the BBFC said. The BBFC has been classifying games for over 20 years and our decisions reflect the views of the public. Our classification systems and symbols are known and trusted by the public and in a converging media world they want to know what their children are playing as well as watching.

 

12th June
2009
  

Update: Rated S for Suspense...

Government to announce computer game censorship scheme in Digital Britain report

Digital Britain Report Labour will announce the new industry standard age classification system on Tuesday next week (June 16th) as part of its Digital Britain report, MCV reveals.

The news comes 12 months after the publication of the Government's Byron Review, which recommended the introduction of one clear age ratings system, falling on the side of ‘cinema-style' classification.

However, a year of consultation with industry followed, in which publishers and ELSPA made their support for a PEGI-led system very clear, rather than the DVD-style BBFC ratings.

 

17th June
2009
  

Update: Game Over for the BBFC...

VSC designated as UK's game censor overseeing self rating via PEGI classifications

VSC logo An overhaul of video games classification rules will make selling a video game rated 12 or over to an underage person illegal for the first time, Creative Industries Minister Siôn Simon has announced.

The PEGI (Pan European Game Information) system, currently used in most European countries, will become the sole method of classifying video games in the UK. It will replace the current hybrid system that has BBFC & PEGI ratings, either of which can appear on video games, and is sufficiently adaptable to work in the rapidly expanding online games market.

There is a new role for the Video Standards Council (VSC), an organisation which is independent from the games industry and will take a statutory role as the designated authority for videogames classification in the UK. It will have a mandate to implement the PEGI classification system for all video games.

This new system will work alongside the robust regulation of Films and DVDs carried out by the British Board of Film Classification, to ensure that consumers have the strongest possible protection across these media. There is no intention to disturb BBFC's jurisdiction in respect of linear material. The BBFC will continue to provide Blu Ray distributors with a one-stop service as at present. It is important that the BBFC and the VSC work together to share best practice in a rapidly changing and demanding media landscape.

The Government will now work closely with PEGI and the VSC on the development of a single, clear set of age-rating symbols to give parents the information they need to ensure that children are protected from unsuitable content, and help retailers to avoid breaking the law by selling games to people below the appropriate age. The new system will consist of five age categories and a series of pictorial boxes, describing content such as bad language or violence.

Professor Tanya Byron said: The PEGI system has been strengthened since my review and the Government has consulted widely on each of my suggested criteria. I support the Government's decision to combine the PEGI system with UK statutory oversight.

The new system:

  • mirrors the way games are classified in much of Europe, which is increasingly important as more games are played online and across international borders
  • is designed with child-safety as its main priority
  • is highly adaptable and works well for games distributed both on and offline
  • includes tough sanctions for manufactures who flout the rules, for example by making a false declaration about a game's content. These include fines of up to 500,000 Euros and a refusal to classify.

The new system will extend PEGI's remit so that all games are classified using its symbols. Information on the content of each game will be submitted to PEGI administrators including the Video Standards Council, which will then review each game to ensure it complies with the law. Following this evaluation, the manufacturer receives a licence to use the PEGI rating logos. The VSC, as statutory authority, will take account of UK sensibilities, and will have the power to ban games that are inappropriate for release in the UK.

PEGI's code of conduct determines which age rating is appropriate for different types of content. The PEGI Advisory Board, which includes representatives of parent and consumer groups, child psychologists, media experts and lawyers, maintains the code and recommends adjustments in line with social, technological or legal developments.

Comment: BBFC Director David Cooke Responds

See article from bbfc.co.uk

We have argued consistently that any games classification system needs to put child protection at its heart. It must involve consultation with the British public, command their trust, and reflect their sensibilities. It must take account of tone and context and be carried out by skilled and knowledgeable examiners. It needs to involve the provision of full, helpful and carefully weighed information to parents and the public more generally. It must have the power and will to reject or intervene in relation to unacceptable games or game elements. It should make a substantial contribution to media education, for example through dedicated websites and through work with pupils, students and teachers. It must be speedy and cost effective. It must have the capabilities to monitor online gameplay and to attract new members to online classification schemes. And it must be independent in substance as well as appearance, reaching its decisions and providing information on the basis of its own detailed assessments.

The BBFC has always supported PEGI and wished it well, but it continues to believe that it satisfies these requirements better than PEGI. However, it will cooperate fully in the detailed work needed to give effect to the Government's decision.

 

18th June
2009
  

Update: Old Squares...

PEGI unveil new age classification symbols

PEGI logo PEGI age rating labels appear on front and back of the packaging at one of the following age levels - 3+, 7+, 12+, 16+ and 18+. They provide a reliable indication of the suitability of the game content in terms of protection of minors. The age rating does not take into account the difficulty level or skills required to play a game.

PEGI 3 PEGI 3

The content of games given this rating is considered suitable for all age groups. Some violence in a comical context (typically Bugs Bunny or Tom & Jerry cartoon-like forms of violence) is acceptable. The child should not be able to associate the character on the screen with real life characters, they should be totally fantasy. The game should not contain any sounds or pictures that are likely to scare or frighten young children. No bad language should be heard and there should be no scenes containing nudity nor any referring to sexual activity.

PEGI 7 PEGI 7

Any game that would normally be rated at 3+ but contains some possibly frightening scenes or sounds may be considered suitable in this category. Some scenes of partial nudity may be permitted but never in a sexual context.

PEGI 12 PEGI 12

Videogames that show violence of a slightly more graphic nature towards fantasy character and/or non graphic violence towards human-looking characters or recognisable animals, as well as videogames that show nudity of a slightly more graphic nature would fall in this age category. Any bad language in this category must be mild and fall short of sexual expletives.

PEGI 16 PEGI 16

This rating is applied once the depiction of violence (or sexual activity) reaches a stage that looks the same as would be expected in real life. More extreme bad language, the concept of the use of tobacco and drugs and the depiction of criminal activities can be content of games that are rated 16+.

PEGI 18 PEGI 18

The adult classification is applied when the level of violence reaches a stage where it becomes depictions of gross violence and/or includes elements of specific types of violence. Gross violence is the most difficult to define since in a lot of cases it can be very subjective, but in general terms it can be classed as the depictions of violence that would make the viewer feel a sense of revulsion.

 

20th June
2009
  

Update: Square PEGI in a Round Hole...

Timetable for switch to PEGI ratings

PEGI logo PEGI will have to wait the best part of a year until it becomes the UK's sole classification system by law.

The proposal to implement PEGI as the UK's only games age classification model, overseen by the Video Standards Council, was put forward by Labour in its Digital Britain White Paper earlier this week.

More consultation will now take place between stakeholders PEGI, the VSC and the Department of Culture, Media And Sport to ‘fine tune' the bill, which will eventually alter the the Video Recordings Act, last tweaked back in 1994.

Following this, it will have to be approved by Parliamentary procedure, which is not likely to be completed until 2010.

However, as reported by MCV, the all-new PEGI logos WILL start appearing on boxes across Europe this summer, and are already being manufactured.

Fear of Indistinctive Symbols

Based on article from news.bbc.co.uk

Tiga logo The videogame trade association, Tiga, say the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) rating systems has room for improvement.

Tiga's chief, Dr Richard Wilson, said changes were needed to make the logos instinctively recognisable. There needs to be an advertising campaign and publicity as to what these pictograms actually mean. While the age ratings are fairly clear, there needs to be improvement to the system - especially the pictograms - because they are not instinctively recognisable.

Laurie Hall - the director general of the Video Standards Council, which administers the PEGI system in the UK - agreed with Dr Wilson and told the BBC that more work needed to be done: I think people need to be made more aware. Take the spider logo: that means 'fear'. In other words, people might find the game scary, but you might not immediately jump to that conclusion looking at the box. Our plan is to have a big awareness campaign and also put consumer information about the game on the packaging, in English, which will help.

 

27th July
2009
  

Update: Playing the Advertising Game...

Advertising codes for video games updated in response to Tanya Byron's recommendations

CAP logo Dr Tanya Byron's review, Safer Children in a Digital World ,  looked at the advertising of video games, its effect on children and the clarity of guidance to the industry.

Advertising codes are the responsibility of two industry Committees independently administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA):

  • the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)
  • the Broadcast Committee of Practice (BCAP)

The Review made two recommendations to the advertising self-regulatory system, specifically on its rules and guidance:

  • …that the video games industry and the advertising industry should work together to ensure consistency of approach between advertising self-regulation and the video games classification systems
  • … that the advertising and video game industries, and those responsible for the classification of video games should work together to produce CAP and BCAP guidance on the advertising of video games.

The Review also highlighted the granularity of codes and guidance relating to ads for video games and encouraged CAP and BCAP to introduce, during the Code Review, placement and scheduling restrictions on ads for age-rated video games.

The ASA, CAP and BCAP have now actioned Byron's recommendations:

  • In 2008, the ASA conducted a Video Games Advertising Survey to assess the compliance rate of advertising for video games against the Codes.
  • In its Code Review consultation, BCAP proposed a new scheduling rule for ads for video games, which mirrors the scheduling restrictions already in place for ads for films and videos. The proposed rule would prevent video games carrying an 18+, 16+ or 15+ rating from being advertising in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 16.
  • CAP and BCAP have compiled new Guidance, which is intended to help advertisers and media owners on both broadcast and non-broadcast ads for video games. The Guidance draws together all of CAP and BCAP's existing guidance on ads for video games and films, as well as lessons from relevant ASA adjudications, to provide a useful, central source of information. The Guidance will also apply to ads for films because they too have the potential to breach the Advertising Codes through unsuitable scheduling or placement or through the content of the ad.
  • To assist the advertising industry further, CAP and BCAP will host an Advice:am seminar on video games and films ads on 15 September this year. The seminar will clarify the Codes' requirements on ads for video games and films and to provide a forum for stakeholders to ask questions about those requirements.

So, by launching new, consolidated Guidance, proposing a TV scheduling rule for video games ads based on the existing rule for ads for films, and by hosting an Advice:am seminar, CAP and BCAP are working with the industry to make sure the dos and don'ts of advertising video games and films are clear. That way, CAP and BCAP can help ensure ads for video games and films remain responsible and that children are protected from potentially harmful or distressing ad content.

 

6th December
2009
  

Update: Internet Panic...

Social networking sites to add panic buttons

Facebook logoFacebook and other social networking websites are to install panic buttons so children can alert the sites' operators if obscene or inappropriate material is posted.

The site is among 140 companies, charities and other groups who have signed up to new internet standards recommended by Tanya Byron, the government's adviser on online safety. Ed Balls, the schools secretary, and Alan Johnson, the home secretary, will announce the new voluntary code on Tuesday. Gordon Brown may also take part in the launch.

The panic button system, similar to one already announced by Bebo, requires companies to display prominently on their websites how children can report offensive or inappropriate content and to respond promptly.

Other provisions include giving parents greater control over how their children use the internet, with sites obliged to provide safe search facilities and controls with which parents can restrict access to offensive or bullying pages.

The guidelines will concentrate on websites moderated by staff, such as chatrooms, instant messaging and search websites. Details will be drawn up by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), set up following a review by Byron published in March last year. They will be published in the summer.

 

8th December
2009
  

Update: Zip It, Block It, Flag It...

Lessons in internet safety to be added to the school curriculum

Zip It, Block It, Flag ItLessons in using the internet safely are set to become a compulsory part of the curriculum for primary school children in England from 2011. Children will also be encouraged to follow an online Green Cross Code and block and report inappropriate content.

The Zip it, Block it, Flag it campaign is intended for use by schools, retailers and social networks, although it will be up to individual sites to choose how they use it.

The campaign intends to encourage children to not give out personal information on the web, block unwanted messages on social networks and report any inappropriate behaviour to the appropriate bodies, which may include the website, teachers or even police.

False pictures posted on social networking sites will have to be removed by host companies within 24 hours of a complaint under internet safety rules published today.

Companies will also be forced to apply far more effective privacy settings or lockdowns for parents to use on search engines so that young people do not stray on to pornographic or violent sites.

The two new requirements on the industry are part of the Government's long-delayed child internet safety strategy, which will be launched by Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, and Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary.

Ministers delayed their final strategy because negotiations between safety campaigners and the internet companies proved so tortuous. Companies fiercely resisted moves to burden adult internet users with cumbersome safety features that would slow down or restrict access to the web. Some were also sceptical that many parents would use features such as privacy settings or filtering software because they do not understand how it all works.

However, after months of discussions the industry has agreed to independent oversight of all the new policies so that progress can be objectively monitored. They had initially wanted to self-regulate. One of the big consultancy companies is likely to be asked to take on the oversight task.

The new strategy is called Click Clever Click Safe and was drawn up by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. The creation of the council, a coalition of government, industry and charities, was one of Dr Tanya Byron's recommendations. She said that it should be the conscience of the industry, encouraging it to take a greater responsibility for removing inappropriate content promptly, promoting and improving parental control software and regulating online advertising.

The strategy is thought to be the first of its kind and ministers hope it will be adopted around the world.

 


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