New Youtube ratings – are they worth it?
By Simon Lerner
New Youtube ratings – are they worth it?
21 Aug 2015 - Age Ratings

Age ratings will feature on UK produced music videos on the big streaming services – YouTube and Vevo.  The deal is part of a voluntary agreement between the British Board of Film Classification and the famous studios –  Sony, Universal and Warner.

It works as follows – the industry giants will send videos to BBFC to be classificated before they hit the public domain. Companies will then voluntarily pass on the ratings to the streamers.  Users will see a rating bottom left (YouTube) or top right (Vevo). Videos rated 18 wont’ load automatically on YouTube.

The new system is the culmination in a pilot scheme launched in October following the cries of outrage at videos by Miley Cyrus and Rihanna. It’s the brainchild of Baroness Joanna Shields, minister for Internet safety and security, who says she wants to make our online world match the offline. Ratings will be just like in the Film Stores (U, PG, 12,15,18).

Critics haven’t been pulling their punches though and some think the solution to be somewhat analogue.

Proponents of protection say what’s the point? The age ratings are small and you can just click on and lie about your age anyway. More to the point, the system doesn’t apply to videos produced outside the UK, and so it won’t catch the likes of Miley Cyrus or Rihanna.

For Tech led online publication The Memo, this isn’t just a bit Mary Whitehouse, it is an outright attack on the open web. Offline solutions simply cannot apply to an online world and we should be very wary of falling down the slippery slope to restricted walled gardens, whether well intentioned or otherwise. The UK Internet must be free and uninhibited – period.

That the use of voluntary online ratings is a one stop shop to Iranian style internet restriction does feel a little far fetched but the opinion piece does raise an important point as to whether the proposal is grounded in realism.  Do people remember their own childhood? We all know that prohibitions can have the opposite of their intended effect on young people.

Do music videos really represent the worst of the web?  Perspectives are predictably polarised between censors and anti-censors.  However, all seem agreed that a UK centered agreement on a particular silo of the internet for a small group of mainstream companies content probably doesn’t hold the answer as to how we grapple with the difficult problem of young people’s exposure to the darker corners of the web. Perhaps we are all being a bit unfair to expect it to have done so.

Photo Credit: British Board of Film Classification

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