U.K.-Produced Music Videos Get Movie-Style Age Ratings Online

Dizzee Rascal

YouTube, Vevo, Universal, Sony and Warner Music will all participate in the system, admistered by the British Board of Film Classification and backed by the government.

Music videos produced in the U.K. that are shown online will include age ratings in Britain to protect children from adult content, British industry players announced on Tuesday.

People who go online to watch them will have to confirm that they are over a certain age.

The U.K. government is working with the country's music industry, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), and such digital players as Vevo and YouTube, and said the move was designed "to take further action to protect children from viewing inappropriate videos on the Internet." Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music will send videos to the BBFC before putting them on YouTube and Vevo.

In October, a pilot run for the age ratings for online music videos was launched. Now the system will be rolled out widely.

Of 132 videos submitted so far, 56 have received a 12 rating, meaning viewers must be at least 12 years old to watch them, with 53 classified 15. Only one video got an 18 rating: Dizzee Rascal's "Couple of Stack." The BBFC cited "strong bloody violence," "gore" and "very strong language."

Said Geoff Taylor, CEO of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI): "Britain is a world leader in making exciting and original music, in part because our artists have a freedom to express themselves that we rightly cherish. While we must continue to uphold this principle, it is equally important that music videos are broadcast in a responsible way and that parents are given the tools to make more informed viewing decisions on behalf of their families."

He added: "U.K. record labels value the opportunity to work with [the] government to build on the pilot and, as a key next step, we encourage Vevo, YouTube and other digital service providers to look at how they can make filters available to parents so they can use age ratings to screen out any inappropriate content."

The government is also encouraging independent U.K. music labels to follow suit so that the digital service providers can display appropriate age ratings on their videos. Independent labels will participate of a six-month pilot phase.
Joanna Shields, minister for Internet safety and security, said: "Movies in the cinema and music DVDs are age-rated to inform the viewer and help parents to make informed choices. We welcome 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. 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."

Vevo is exploring ways to link the age ratings to additional technology that can support age controls, she said. On YouTube, when record labels upload a U.K.-produced music video rated 18 by the BBFC, they are able to "age-gate" access to users signed in as over 18.
Said Nic Jones, executive vp international at Vevo: "Vevo have been participating in the BBFC’s age ratings pilot  since its inception and welcome news that that scheme is to be permanently backed by U.K. major labels." He added: "At Vevo, we support artists and their creativity; however, we understand the importance and value that age ratings provide parents and music fans to help inform their viewing, enabling them to make choices about what content they wish to watch."
Said Candice Morrissey, content partnerships manager at YouTube EMEA: "We have been working with the participants in this pilot to help them display the BBFC's age ratings on their music videos on YouTube. These ratings are in addition to the controls we already provide on YouTube, including the ability for uploaders to add age warnings to videos and a restricted mode."

The BBFC cited research that found that 60 percent of children ages 10-17 believed their parents would not approve of the music videos they were watching.