Parents Television Council Criticizes Disney, Fox for Exposing Kids to 'Explicit Content' Online
The watchdog group calls monitoring functions on sites like Fancast and Hulu, which feature network content, "feeble" and "wholly ineffective"
NEW YORK - The Parents Television Council on Wednesday unveiled findings from a study of four major online video sites for TV content, arguing that their "feeble attempt at keeping explicit content from young kids is wholly ineffective."
The PTC report, Untangling the Web of Internet Video, looked at Hulu.com (a joint venture of Walt Disney, NBC Universal and News Corp.), Comcast's Fancast, AOL's /Slashcontrol and AT&T with a focus on such issues as the effectiveness of content ratings, homepage content decency and parental controls.
Its score card: Hulu received a D grade, Fancast and /Slashcontrol got a D-, and AT&T received an F.
Among other things, the PTC found that the online video sites don't offer a parental control option on their homepages. Also, the age-based login process is "optional, easily bypassed, and is an ineffective barrier even when used properly," it said.
While TV-14 content is not being blocked from any age group, a total of 46 percent of videos watched were unrated and accessible to all, the PTC said.
It criticized the ratings standards online as being more lenient than on TV in various cases. For example, the group said that Fancast gave South Park, a TV-MA show on Comedy Central, a TV-PG rating online.
“Most parents understand that the Internet can be a dangerous place for children to consume video entertainment," said PTC president Tim Winter. "With just a few clicks of the computer mouse a child can unwittingly travel from a website that is safe to a site that contains obscene material. That is why many families rely on the websites of mainstream media companies like NBC, Disney and Fox as a relatively safe place for their children to view online video. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of explicit content even on those websites, and some of it is extremely inappropriate for young viewers."
The PTC further criticized a lack of warnings about violence, coarse language or other potentially offensive material.
“Our report clearly shows that these corporate entertainment behemoths, which invest millions of dollars promoting their online video distribution outlets, are failing to protect kids on the web," said Winter.
For the study, over a three-week period, PTC analysts viewed a total of 602 videos and evaluated them.
AOL took issue with some of the PTC's arguments and assumptions. For example, it said its /Slashcontrol is not a kids and teens site, is not promoted to kids and teens and is not frequently visited by them. AOL does indeed not promote parental controls from its main page, but said information about AOL Parental Controls can be easily found by searching the help section.