Do Ofcom want a 9pm "internet watershed"?

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Ofcom, the body responsible for regulating “communications” (TV, mobile and broadband companies, mostly) has put out an ominous press release, that might suggest that it wants to impose a 9pm “watershed” on on-demand and internet content. (Yes, it would never work).

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The watershed, of course, kicks in at 9pm every night and relaxes what restrictions TV broadcasters have on what can be shown: which is why things get a lot more sweary and violent late at night.

According to Ofcom research, viewer support for the watershed is actually increasing: With 80% of adults apparently agreeing the Watershed is at “about the right time”, compared to 72% in 2008. Though attitudes have also liberalised: with adults now less likely to agree that there is too much violence/sex/swearing on TV than there was six years ago – and people who have been offended something are almost four times as likely to continue watching than switch off than in 2008. I guess you couldn’t quite so effectively live tweet your rage for cheap Twitter kudos back then.

Ominously, the regulator also mentions in the same press release about expanding its authority to the internet:

“With over a third (37%) of children aged 5-15 with internet at home now watching ‘on-demand’ content, Ofcom is working with Government and industry to examine how TV protections will continue to apply in a digital world.”

“We’re working on ways to help ensure that the protections viewers expect from the watershed apply beyond broadcast TV.”

Presumably any such “ways” will be in the form of a voluntary code of conduct – lest the regulator attempt to enter a minefield of remit and awkward line drawing over how to regulate the internet. We’d hope so, anyway. They wouldn’t actually be mad enough to try to impose an internet watershed, right?

James O’Malley

2 comments

  • I presume that providers will simply be asked to PIN-protect any on-demand content that ankle biters shouldn’t be watching, as TV recorder boxes do now with post-watershed recorded programmes.

  • I presume that providers will simply be asked to PIN-protect any on-demand content that ankle biters shouldn't be watching, as TV recorder boxes do now with post-watershed recorded programmes.

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