Age ratings enforced for UK-produced music videos on YouTube and Vevo

Videos made in the UK by artists signed to major labels will be classified before release, in measures meant to protect children from unsuitable online content

Clear age ratings will be displayed on UK-produced music videos on YouTube and Vevo, as the government seeks to protect children from inappropriate content online.

The new measures, which have been agreed voluntarily by parts of the music industry after a government initiative, will apply to videos that are deemed unsuitable for children and are produced in the UK by artists who are represented by major labels.

The announcement on Tuesday will make permanent a pilot programme launched by the government in October 2014. Vevo and YouTube worked alongside the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) – which represents the recorded music sector in the UK – to create a ratings system so that online videos could be classified in the same way that feature films are.

The scheme was launched amid growing concern about the sexual content of videos, including those by Miley Cyrus and Rihanna. Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines, released in 2013, drew fierce criticism for its apparently lewd lyrics and video featuring naked models dancing. To date, 132 videos have been submitted to the BBFC by labels, with 56 rated as a 12 and 53 classified as 15. Only one has been given an 18 rating – Dizzee Rascal’s Couple of Stacks, which features the rapper brutally murdering people with a knife.

Joanna Shields, minister for internet safety and security, said that films shown in the cinema and music DVDs were age rated to inform the viewer and help parents make informed choices. She welcomed “this voluntary step from industry to bring internet services in line with the offline world”.

“Keeping children safe as they experience and enjoy all the benefits the internet has to offer is a key priority for this government’s one-nation approach to help families across Britain,” said Lady Shields. “We will continue to work with industry to develop ways to help parents to better protect children online from inappropriate music videos with explicit adult or violent content.”

Under the new system, big UK labels will send videos to the BBFC for classification ahead of release, and then pass on the rating and guidance given when releasing their videos to Vevo and YouTube. The government will also announce a six-month pilot to roll out the new system to independent record labels.

The announcement brings the practice with online music videos into line with those sold on DVD and other physical media, which were obliged to have age ratings from October 2014 under the Video Recordings Act.

Hannah Broadbent, deputy chief executive of the internet safety charity Childnet, said it was encouraging to see UK music labels and digital platforms – such as YouTube and Vevo – stepping forward to help protect children from inappropriate music videos online.

“Age ratings can help parents make informed choices online, and it’s particularly important that digital services offer parental control tools that work alongside these age ratings,” she said. “While this is an important first step, there is a need to extend this more widely to content from outside the UK and to ensure that families are making the most of the tools available.

“Technical tools are a real help for parents, but we also need to have ongoing conversations with young people to ensure that are able to process, critique and cope with the sometimes upsetting or confusing things they see online.”

Vevo said it was exploring ways to link the new age ratings to additional technology that could strengthen age controls on its site, while YouTube said the new ratings would complement its existing restricted mode, which is designed to allow parents to screen certain content.


Frances Perraudin

The GuardianTramp

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