Music video age ratings trialled
Age ratings for raunchy pop videos - such as Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke - shown online in the UK are to move a step closer this week as movie classification chiefs launch a pilot scheme.
From Friday, major record companies will begin to submit promos which may potentially cause concerns about content to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).
The move comes in the wake of growing concerns about sexual content in music videos. Last year's chart-topping Blurred Lines is one of many tracks which have raised eyebrows and prompted a backlash, not only for its apparently sexist lyrics but the accompanying promo which featured naked models dancing.
Videos by Miley Cyrus and Rihanna have also drawn criticism, and artists such as Annie Lennox have condemned the "pornographic" content of some material presented to younger fans.
"I'm all for freedom of expression, but this is clearly one step beyond, and it's clearly into the realm of porn," Lennox said in an interview last year.
The first phase of the new scheme, run in conjunction with music industry body the BPI, will see participating major labels - Sony, Universal and Warner - seeking age ratings from the BBFC, before the videos are passed on to Vevo and YouTube to be made available online.
Once the process is running smoothly in the near future, the two digital service providers will begin to display the appropriate guidance on screen.
It has been estimated that around 20% of music videos released within the pilot period - of at least three months - are likely to be subject to a rating.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced in August that an age-ratings pilot to protect children from unsuitable content and also give guidance to parents was in the offing.
If a label believes a video it is to release would be given a 12 rating, it will submit it to the BBFC and if appropriate it will be given a 12, 15 or 18 certificate as well as content advice for viewers.
The BPI - which already has a parental advisory scheme for music releases and for videos - has worked alongside the BBFC to develop the online video rating scheme. The bodies will then look at how to take the scheme further at the conclusion of the pilot.
David Austin, assistant director of the BBFC, said: "Our most recent large scale research, carried out in 2013 and involving more than 10,000 people, highlighted access to music videos containing sexualised imagery, self-harm, drug use and violence as a key concern for parents.
"Parents are eager to have more input over the types of content their children access, particularly online. By applying understood and trusted BBFC age ratings to online music videos this pilot is a vital step in meeting this demand for choice and child protection."
Geoff Taylor, the BPI's chief executive, said: "We want to give parents the information they need to make more informed decisions about the music videos they are happy for their children to see. That's why we introduced the Parental Advisory Scheme almost 20 years ago and why we are now working with the BBFC and with video platforms to pilot age ratings for UK music videos.
"We hope that if the pilot is successful, video services will consider introducing parental filters as a key next step."