Memorandum submitted by the British Video
The Communications White Paper (12 December
2000) is a unique opportunity to correct a discrepancy in the
regulation of our media. However, the opportunity has not been
taken. The video industry fears this could be because the full
implications of convergence are not completely understood and
therefore it has not been appreciated how video and games on the
new carrier, DVD, fit in to the new digital media environment
and provide access to the Internet.
The White Paper reaffirms the Government's commitment
to quality, diversity and plurality in the provision of cultural
and media choices to society. It examines how digital media and
particularly broadband Internet services will deliver this in
a world of convergence. Yet in continuing to exclude video from
this picture it fails to acknowledge that DVD Video is one of
the best platforms for providing consumers with the highest available
quality of picture, sound and content, the greatest choice to
suit all tastes, providing educational opportunities with subtitling
and language options, and the ability to access unique material
on the Internet.
Household penetration of DVD is growing faster
than any other consumer electronics platform in history. In 18
months one million households have acquired a DVD Video player,
an estimated 2.5 million PCs have a DVD-Rom drive installed, the
odd half million Sony Playstation2 games console can play back
DVD Video and well over 20 million DVD Videos have been bought
in the UK. Reference is made to this medium in the White Paper
at Section 6.11, where the proposal with respect to negative content
is to consider the place of pre-classification for video and games
within the regulatory structure. Annex A
explains how the BBFC has the statutory responsibility to regulate
video and games, paying special regard to the likelihood of works
being viewed in the home and to any harm to those likely to view.
This may be the same content viewed in the home on another platform
(cable, satellite, terrestrial or web television), but instead
of responsibility for its regulation coming under the DCMS, it
falls under the auspices of the Sentencing and Offences Unit of
the Home Office.
The case for arguing that video is different
because of the ability to repeatedly view a particular scene is
now even harder to sustain since the TiVo enables viewers to record
and play back any transmission on television (including pay-per-view)
instantly and without the need for a tape. Contrary to a recent
comment from the DCMS that video is easier to access by children,
parents feel that video offers greater control over what their
children watch than television or the Internet.
The British video industry is the most strictly
controlled sector of the media and the most regulated in the western
world. In no sense could it be called "regulation with a
light touch". The only logical place for video in a major
review of this kind is under the same regulatory umbrella as all
other mediaputting the BBFC alongside OFCOM in the DCMS.
This review is a great opportunity to do some
obvious tidying up in the interests of "future proofing".
Not only does the BVA welcome the proposal for a consumer panel
to keep OFCOM in touch with public opinion in a rapidly changing
market, it would also like to see more detailed plans to promote
media literacy in primary as well as secondary schools as a priority.
The DCMS has stated that the "steady as
he goes" position is not longer appropriate because of the
speed of change. The BVA therefore urges the Government to give
serious consideration to removing this outmoded anomaly of singling
out one sector of the media for separate regulation before legislation
is drafted (particularly in view of the thinking that the final
bill should be good for 10 years) to produce a regulatory system
that informs and empowers the public to make viewing choices in
the home as censorship becomes increasingly difficult to justify
or enforce in the digital world.
The British Video Association represents rights
owners and publishers of home entertainment on video. Its members
include the video divisions of British television companies, Hollywood
studios and independent video labels, who together make up over
90 per cent of the UK market.
Our industry has grown every year since its
birth in 1980 and now has a retail value in excess of £1.5
billion, employs over 38,000 people and produces almost £1
billion in tax revenue.
The BVA launched its own media literacy teaching
resource in 1998, entitled Reel Lives. This is free to
all primary and middle schools for use with the national curriculum
at Key Stage 2.
For more information about the video industry
please visit www.bva.org.uk.
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