Online music videos will carry an age classification from October as part of a pilot scheme by YouTube, music video service Vevo and the BBFC in the name of protecting children from graphic content , David Cameron has announced.
In a speech to the Relationships Alliance on Monday, the prime minister said the rules for online videos should be brought into line with content bought offline. Cameron said:
From October, we're going to help parents protect their children from some of the graphic content in online music videos by working with the British Board of Film Classification, Vevo and YouTube to pilot the age rating of these
We shouldn't cede the internet as some sort of lawless space where the normal rules of life shouldn't apply. So, in as far as it is possible, we should try to make sure that the rules that exist offline exist online. So if you want to
go and buy a music video offline there are age restrictions on it. We should try and recreate that system on the internet.
The Guardian seems to have been the only source that I have spotted that actually tries to explain what will be going on:
Music videos will go through the same classification system as films and other video content. The voluntary pilot will involve the big three music labels in the UK, Sony, Universal and Warner Music, as well as the BBFC, YouTube and music video
platform Vevo. The pilot will run for three months, kicking off in October.
It is presumably related that music videos sold or distributed on disc or other physical form and deemed to include 12-rated-plus material will have to go through the age-classification process also starting in October under amendments to the
Video Recording Act. The music labels will submit music videos that they consider could contain content that should be classified as for age 12 or over, using BBFC guidelines. The BBFC will then rate the videos as it does with other content, for which
the labels will pay a fee to cover the cost of rating in the same way that the film industry currently does. The rating process should take around 24 hours, according to the BBFC. A rating of 12, 15 or 18 will be assigned to the music video and passed on
to the label. Videos deemed not to include unsuitable content for children under 12 will not be classified.
The pilot scheme announced by Cameron will only cover music videos and will not be expanded to cover other video content on sites such as YouTube.
The music labels will tag the video with the age rating from the BBFC when uploading the video to hosting services. YouTube and Vevo are part of the pilot study, and will be supporting the ratings, placing a visible age rating on the video title on
the respective sites.
The visible rating will probably take the form of the BBFC's age certification logos, although that is not yet set in stone, and is intended to give parents more information about the videos their children are watching.
YouTube has a similar system for displaying BBFC ratings on films, and requires users to be at least 13 years old to have an account, although most videos are viewable without an account.
The three-month pilot is intended to finalise a system that works for rating the videos and having the data tagged to them when uploaded to say they are classified. For the initial trial it will simply be a notification on the video of an age
After the three-month trial it is expected that YouTube and Vevo, as well as other video hosting services, will look at developing parental control filters that screen out videos marked as inappropriate for children of specific age ranges.
Only new videos submitted by the music labels will be rated during the pilot, although there will be a decision at the end of the pilot as to whether videos that are already available should be retroactively classified.
The big three labels will conduct the pilot, but the BPI, which represents Sony, Universal and Warner Music and more than 300 independent music companies, expects that all music labels will adopt the system once finalised.
During the pilot the ratings will be there for information purposes only, to help parents make an informed decision. Parental controls on YouTube and others could be used to screen out videos via ratings, but their effectiveness will be determined by
how difficult it is to get around age verification.
YouTube, like most other online services, does not verify a user's age beyond the date of birth given by the user at the point of signing up for an account. Age verification issues are beyond the scope of this initial pilot scheme.
Newsbeat spoke to Gennaro Castaldo from the BPI and asked if the pilot will have any impact if music videos by American artists, known for being racier, aren't certified?
Yes it's true that a lot of music video content comes from outside the UK, but also a huge amount of music that sells well around the world does come from Britain and from British artists.
So I think, what we do in this country is followed by other territories. So I'm sure they'll be following our pilot with interest and in due course I think they'll then decide how they want to act on that.
I think this is a really good place to start, we have to start somewhere and if we can begin here in the UK, for other territories to follow, then I think that would be a really good example too.
This Friday a pilot scheme to add age ratings to online music videos starts but don't expect to see any huge 12s, 15s or 18s on videos just yet. All parties involved say people watching the videos won't see any changes until the end of the year.
YouTube says it is committed but technical change may take time and Vevo has agreed to trial the scheme.
Three of the biggest labels in the UK - Sony, Universal, and Warner Brothers - have all also agreed to take part. But it will only apply to artists signed to UK labels.
The BBFC will be awarding the age ratings.
Mercury-nominated singer FKA Twigs commented:
I think that the answer to protecting younger viewers is not to ban things, it's to show an alternative.
I guess with my videos we're talking directly about sexuality and there's nothing wrong with that.
Why shouldn't younger people learn and explore about what sexuality is as an adult? Why shouldn't they do that?
We're not living in Victorian Britain, do we want to be repressed? Do we want to have these kids doing weird things behind closed doors or should this be a country that is leading by example in explaining to people?
The BPI and BBFC, in partnership with Vevo and You Tube, and UK record companies Sony Music UK, Universal Music UK and Warner Music UK, can announce that age ratings are now being displayed on the music videos they upload to digital service providers
Vevo and YouTube.
The age ratings are part of a government-backed pilot by the UK recorded music industry, the BBFC and digital service providers designed to test how age ratings can be applied to music videos released online in the UK, so that family
audiences can make more informed viewing decisions.
The pilot has been running since 3 October 2014. The first phase, which has been successful, saw the three major UK record companies (Sony Music UK, Universal Music UK and Warner Music UK) submit to the BBFC for age rating, any music
videos for release online in the UK for which they would expect to be given at least a 12-rating (videos deemed not to contain content that would attract at least a 12 rating are not submitted*).
If appropriate, the BBFC then issues either a 12, 15 or 18 rating -- in line with the BBFC Classification Guidelines. As part of the ratings process the BBFC also includes bespoke content advice, called BBFC insight, which explains in
more detail why an age rating has been given: for example, that scenes include sexual imagery or other content deemed inappropriate for younger viewers. Once given an age rating, the labels pass on the rating and guidance when releasing their videos to
the two digital service providers -- Vevo and YouTube, who, in turn, will display it when the videos are broadcast online.
The pilot will be evaluated later this year based on consumer research, when consideration will also be given to how the scheme can be applied more widely.
Geoff Taylor, BPI Chief Executive, comments:
We want to empower consumers by giving them useful, advance guidance as to the suitability of the music videos they watch, whilst leaving artists the freedom to fully express themselves. The introduction of age ratings on top of the
existing parental advisory warnings is a key next step by the UK's record labels, working with BBFC, Vevo and YouTube, that will enable families to make more informed viewing decisions.
David Austin, Assistant Director, BBFC comments:
We are very pleased to see YouTube and Vevo displaying BBFC age ratings and BBFC insight for online music videos submitted to the BBFC for classification as part of this pilot. Parents taking part in our most recent review of the BBFC
Classification Guidelines in 2013, expressed their concerns about the content of music videos online, in particular their role in the sexualisation of girls and portrayals of self-harm, drug use and violence in some music video content. We hope this
pilot will provide consumers with information to help guide them and their families when accessing music videos online.
Nic Jones, EVP International, Vevo, comments:
Music videos give bands and artists their best opportunity to express personality and individuality to their fans. At Vevo we fully support their right to freedom of expression in the videos they create. We also recognise our role in
being able to assist music fans, and their families in particular, to be comfortable with their choice of viewing material and its suitability. In turn age ratings will help Vevo become even more valuable to brands, helping them to connect to their
Candice Morrissey, Music Partnerships, YouTube EMEA, comments:
Over the last few months, we have been working with the UK's music industry to help them display the BBFC's age ratings on their music videos on YouTube. These are in addition to the controls we already provide on YouTube including
the ability for uploaders to add age warnings to videos and a safety mode to help parents screen out content they do not feel is suitable for their children.
* It is estimated that around 20% of music videos released within the pilot are likely to be subject to a rating -- the large majority are unlikely to contain content that would be rated 12 or greater. This estimate is based on a
previous video catalogue audit of one of the companies taking part in the pilot.
The Government is working with the UK music industry, BBFC and digital service providers like Vevo and YouTube to take further action to protect children from viewing inappropriate videos on the internet.
Many children have easy access to music videos online and some parents are rightly concerned that some of these contain imagery or lyrics not appropriate for a young audience.
In October 2014 a Government-backed pilot to introduce age ratings for online music videos was launched by the BBFC and BPI in conjunction with Vevo and YouTube, working with major UK music labels to introduce a new ratings system
that would allow digital service providers to clearly display an easily recognisable age rating on videos posted on the web.
UK labels supply videos ahead of release to the BBFC, and then pass on the rating and guidance given by the BBFC when releasing their videos to the two digital service providers involved -- Vevo and YouTube - who display it when the
videos are broadcast online.
Building on the pilot, the Government has now as part of its manifesto commitment agreed with the UK music industry and with the digital service providers that the measures trialled will be now be made permanent for videos produced in
the UK by artists who are represented by major labels.
As well as working with Sony Music UK, Universal Music UK and Warner Music UK, the Government is also encouraging independent UK music labels to follow suit so that the digital service providers can display appropriate age ratings on
their videos too. We can announce today that independent UK music labels will now take part in a six month pilot phase.
Joanna Shields, Minister for Internet Safety and Security, said:
Movies in the cinema and music DVDs are age rated to inform the viewer and help parents to make informed choices. We welcome this voluntary step from industry to bring internet services in line with the offline world.
Keeping children safe as they experience and enjoy all the benefits the Internet has to offer is a key priority for this Government's One Nation approach to help families across Britain. We will continue to work with industry to
develop ways to help parents to better protect children online from inappropriate music videos with explicit adult or violent content.
Clear age ratings are the first step but initial findings of independent research commissioned by the BBFC shows that up to 60 per cent of children aged 10 to 17 are watching music videos that they do not think their parents would
To help address this, Vevo are exploring plans to link these age ratings to additional technology on their platform that can support age controls.
On YouTube, when record labels upload a UK-produced music video rated 18 by the BBFC, they are able to age-gate access to users signed in as over 18. The new age ratings also complement YouTube's existing restricted mode which helps
parents screen out content they may not feel is right for their children. To date 132 music videos have been submitted by UK labels to the BBFC for certification and, of these, only one has been given an 18-rating -- Dizzee Rascal's 'Couple of Stacks'.
Geoff Taylor, BPI Chief Executive, said:
Britain is a world leader in making exciting and original music, in part because our artists have a freedom to express themselves that we rightly cherish. While we must continue to uphold this principle, it is equally important that
music videos are broadcast in a responsible way and that parents are given the tools to make more informed viewing decisions on behalf of their families.
UK record labels value the opportunity to work with Government to build on the pilot and, as a key next step, we encourage Vevo, YouTube and other digital service providers to look at how they can make filters available to parents so
they can use age ratings to screen out any inappropriate content.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC, said:
We welcome this agreement. Parents want to see clear and recognisable age ratings on online music videos and we look forward to building on the success of the pilot, in partnership with the industry, so that the public can have the
trusted signposting which they seek.
Nic Jones, EVP International at Vevo, said:
Vevo have been participating in the BBFC's age ratings pilot since its inception and welcome news that that scheme is to be permanently backed by UK major labels. We are very pleased that the UK independent labels -- such an important
part of the UK music landscape will now be part of this scheme. At Vevo we support artists and their creativity, however, we understand the importance and value that age ratings provide parents and music fans to help inform their viewing, enabling them
to make choices about what content they wish to watch.
Vevo will be working with the BBFC as the scheme rolls out to make sure that age ratings are displayed in the most effective way on our platform, to provide the necessary guidance for audiences in a clear way. We are also committed to
making the age ratings work as effectively as possible and will continue to explore how additional technology on the platform can support age controls to ensure that explicit content is watched only by age appropriate audiences.
Candice Morrissey, Content Partnerships Manager at YouTube EMEA, said:
We have been working with the participants in this pilot to help them display the BBFC's age ratings on their music videos on YouTube. These ratings are in addition to the controls we already provide on YouTube including the ability
for uploaders to add age warnings to videos and a restricted mode.
Government and industry are also working together to look at how lessons learned in the UK could help international partners who share our concerns to adopt a similar approach.
Offsite Article: The Telegraph recommends the top 7 outrage generating music videos
The Telegraph has run a piece that the Daily Mail would be proud of. An article seemingly bemoaning that some of the most outrageous music videos that will escape the BBFC music censors due to them not being British. And of course the Telegraph
glories in its lurid descriptions of the video with lots of illustrations of the best bits.
And for the record, the recommended music videos are:
Ed Vaizey, the Tory culture minister, has pledged to try and convince international partners to adopt the British idea of providing age ratings for music videos on the likes of YouTube.
Currently videos from foreign, and in particular American companies, are unrated on Youtube.
Online music videos from the British arms of Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music are submitted for age BBFC ratings if they meet a long list of specifications under which they would qualify for a 12, 15 or 18 rating.
The current system means that while UK-made music videos which are only suitable for adults (of which there are hardly any) are captured by online parental filters, those produced in America are not.
Mr Vaizey revealed that the government will attempt to convince Britain's global allies to adopt the ratings system when challenged in a parliamentary written question. Vaizey said:
We were pleased therefore to announce recently that the industry and the BBFC were putting their online music videos ratings scheme on a permanent footing and extending it to include videos produced in the UK by independent labels, as
well as by major UK labels.
We welcome this voluntary action by industry and will now be looking at how the lessons learned in the UK could help international partners adopt a similar approach.
Government is committed to working with labels and platforms towards seeing age rating on all online music videos.
In fact there are hardly any music video that have been rated 18. More typically videos are rated 12 or 15 for strong language. And of course such language is notably difficult to encode into international standards.
Definitely a policy more about politicking than practicality.