Please note that Ofcom’s statement on “‘Specially restricted material’ and age verification guidance for providers of on-demand programme services” (3 December 2018) has been withdrawn.
Our statement, which followed a consultation published on 22 October 2018, explained changes we were planning to make to the on-demand rules and associated guidance on age verification to reflect changes to the law and to bring the rules into line with new requirements relating to commercial pornographic content online, under the authority of the British Board of Film Classification (“BBFC”).
However, on 16 October 2019 the Government announced that it would not be commencing the legislation necessary for the BBFC’s regulation of online pornography and that, instead, it would deliver its child protection aims through the planned wider online harms regulatory regime. At the same time, commencement of the legislation which would have changed the on-demand rules was put on hold.
As a result of this and the fact that Ofcom’s amended guidance for age-verification was based on the scheme proposed by the BBFC, we have decided to withdraw our statement. We will consider next steps in the light of any legislative developments including developments in relation to the online harms regulatory regime, and will provide updates to affected on-demand service providers as appropriate.
On-demand programme service providers (“ODPS providers”) regulated by Ofcom are required to place ‘specially restricted material’ (which includes certain pornographic content) behind age-verification controls to restrict access to over 18s. The Digital Economy Act 2017 increases the scope of content that has to be placed behind age-verification controls on ODPS, and we are changing Rule 11 of Ofcom’s Rules for ODPS to reflect this stricter requirement.
The Digital Economy Act also introduced new duties for the British Board of Film Classification (“BBFC”) to regulate ‘pornographic’ content online on commercial adult websites. In light of this, and following our consultation in October 2018, this document sets out our decisions regarding changes to Ofcom’s Guidance for Rule 11.