Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence



APPENDIX 4


Memorandum submitted by the British Video Association

  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[1] 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 media—putting 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.

BACKGROUND

  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.

February 2001


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