Ofcom consults on guidance for on-demand providers on protecting users from harmful material

July 21, 2021

Ofcom has launched a consultation on its proposed new guidance to assist on-demand programme services (ODPS) in making judgements about how best to protect viewers from harmful material.

ODPS providers include TV catch-up, online film services and those providing a library of archive content.

Ofcom’s proposed guidance reflects the requirements of the amended Audiovisual Media Services Directive 2018/1808 and its implementation of it by the UK government. These rules place new responsibilities on ODPS providers – including that they take appropriate measures to protect under-18s from certain types of harmful content.

The updated guidance includes detail about the kind of material that is prohibited on ODPS. It also sets out measures which may be appropriate for protecting users from other potentially harmful material, and how these might be best implemented. These include:

  • applying robust age verification measures for pornographic material; and
  • for other material that may impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of 18, implementing measures such as age ratings, content warnings and parental controls that are proportionate to the potential harm of the relevant material to under-18s.

The guidance follows publication of similar draft guidance for video sharing providers in May. Ofcom has also recently consulted on guidance for providers on whether their services fall into the scope of the ODPS regulations and how to notify to Ofcom if they are in scope. That consultation closed on 26 May 2021 and the final guidance will be published later in the summer.

The consultation ends on 14 September 2021. After considering responses, Ofcom plans to issue final guidance later in 2021.