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Written evidence submitted by Antisemitism Policy Trust

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-legislative Scrutiny of the Draft Media Bill – Submission to Inquiry

 

The Antisemitism Policy Trust welcomes pre-legistlative scrutiny of the draft Media Bill. One of the Bills central objectives is to make changes to On-Demand Programme Service (ODPS) regulation in the UK, impacting well known platforms including Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+. Many of the streaming services used by millions in the UK, have until now been regulated outside of the UK.

We therefore support bringing such companies under the regulatory ambit of OFCOM, similar to British broadcasters.

 

Regulating ODPS begins a much needed process of equalising standards for content consumed by large UK audiences, including in relation to protections from harm. Netflix, for example, which is the most popular streaming service in the UK, with 17 million households subscribed to the service, has a history of broadcasting misleading and biased information, and shows that have glorified suicide[1] and included antisemitic content.[2] Despite reaching millions of UK viewers, Netflix is currently regulated in Holland, where the company is registered. UK viewers may find the Dutch regulator difficult to navigate and can instead complain directly to Netflix, but the company does not release information about how many complaints are made or how they are being handled and resolved. This makes Netflix effectively self-regulated in the UK.

 

We propose two changes to the draft Media Bill that can enhance audience protection:
 

1. Under section 32 Audience protection reviews to add: (e) other support services, including educational resources.

 

This part of the Bill seeks to amend the Communications Act 2003, adding a new section 368OB which commands OFCOM to carry out a review of the adequacy of audience protection measures by relevant ODPS. Those measures are judged on their capability of assisting in protecting audiences from harm. There then follows a list of examples including, specifically, age-rating systems, content warnings and so on.
 

We propose a specific addition referencing educational resources, as our experience leads us to believe such resources are important and yet lack consistency of approach. Potentially harmful or distressing content should be accompanied by warnings but also by information about where to seek help for viewers who have been affected by the content. Netflix already offers some information on its wannatalkaboutit page, but this is limited.[3] We have previously engaged in discussion with Channel 4 about its support offers following a documentary it broadcast about antisemitism. We believe specific reference to such resources would not only help to direct OFCOM but send a signal that support and educational resources are a key factor in ameliorating and addressing harm. Services should provide audiences with information about where to seek help and support, as well as direct them towards narratives that counter any racist, extremist, or content that may promote self-harm or other harms that viewers have been exposed to. Such resources where they exist, should be developed with relevant stakeholders, for example on antisemitism with the Antisemitism Policy Trust or the Community Security Trust (CST).

 

2. Under section 32 Audience protection reviews to amend (a) as follows: The British Board of Film Classification age rating [or other classification systems];

 

We propose that use of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC)s trusted age rating and content warnings be given primacy in the legislation.

 

Age classification carried out by Disney+ is the best example for why services should use BBFC classification for UK audiences. In the UK, Disney+ has taken the unusual step of applying its own arbitrary ratings to the content on its platform. These do not provide the same level of confidence that the BBFCs work does. The show American Dad for example, is rated by the BBFC as Certificate 15 for reasons including frequent crude sex references, strong violenceand drug misuse. For Disney+, this content is deemed appropriate for 12-year-olds to watch. The Family Guy series is however rated 14+ despite the similarity in content, that includes antisemitic stereotypes. The Mandalorian, a Star Wars spin off, is also categorised as 14+, despite its great appeal and suitability to children. This shows a lack of consistency, and even a lack of common sense, by Disney+. It does not provide parents with the information they require and exposes younger audiences to harmful material. 

 

We firmly believe in artistic freedom and support diverse and thought-provoking content. However, we contend that harmful content should be appropriately labelled, informed choice should be possible, and support should be offered as and when required.

 

In the twenty years OFCOM has been regulating broadcasting, there has been a paucity of complaints about the restriction of freedom of expression or artistic freedom. Regulation does not restrict provocative and diverse content. Instead, it helps protect audiences by placing the right warnings on content, provides audiences with clear and transparent ways to raise complaints or concerns, and makes services responsible for the content they stream or broadcast. Films and shows that reach millions have the power to influence perceptions and opinions, for better or worse. Whilst we do not think that it should be for ODPS to educate, we believe that they should take responsibility when their content causes harm.

 

 

 


[1]https://inews.co.uk/news/media/netflix-complaints-ofcom-regulator-diet-controversy-294075 ; https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/netflix-scared-bad_n_5bbcd832e4b01470d055d4b3

[2] Antisemitic content, ideas, themes, or narratives have featured in several popular shows, including You People, Cobra Kai, The Umbrella Academy and Do Revenge.

[3] https://www.wannatalkaboutit.com/gb/#hero