Gov: Smart TV bods must protect users from smut-riddled badness

Who knows what lurks in the darkness of t'interwebs

Labelling within electronic programme guides on connected TVs could help viewers to distinguish between regulated and unregulated content, the Government has said in setting out a new communications strategy.

The government has called on industry (52-page/472KB PDF) to develop tools that enable the distinction to be made between regulated and unregulated content viewable on connected TVs.

It said labelling within electronic programme guides could be a solution. The term "connected TV" refers to devices that enable both TV programming and internet content to be displayed on TV screens.

"We ... want it to be clear to people when they are watching TV in a protected, regulated space, and when they move with just a few clicks to an unregulated area of the internet," the government said. "We want industry – broadcasters, manufacturers and platform providers – to lead the development of consumer tools in this area, working with regulators to consider what mechanisms can be applied to clearly label regulated and unregulated content.

"One such mechanism, may be, for example, using the electronic programme guide itself to define the protected space. We will work with industry to ensure that best practice is developed and can be shared and standardised," it said.

The government said that it would consider legislating if industry did not itself act so as "to ensure that audiences are protected to the level that they choose".

"Increasingly, set-top boxes and TVs connected to the internet enable programmes and films to be viewed on-demand, to fit viewing around our own schedules," the government said. "These can fall outside of regulatory frameworks.

"People tend to consider connected TVs to be a TV-like experience and expect to be more protected than they are from content accessed through PCs and laptops. Yet, the technology means that it is easy to flick between regulated and unregulated spaces.

"Since this is not always clear, this increases the risk of people inadvertently accessing content that may be offensive, inappropriate, or harmful to children," it said.

"The technology is already available to enable people to be provided with more information about programmes, and for "locks" to be put in place to prevent post-watershed programmes from being viewed by children on-demand. But more needs to be done to make sure that these practices are adopted more widely, and to make sure that tools, like pin-protection, are straightforward and easy for people to use," the Government added.

Elsewhere in its strategy the government said it would continue to work with stakeholders in the online space to restrict advertising revenues and payment facilities to copyright infringing websites.

Amongst the other initiatives contained in the strategy, the government said that it would legislate to prevent 'R18' rated material – content that can only be sold in licensed sex shops – from being accessible via catch-up TV or video-on-demand services other than via "access controls".

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said: "The communications industry has undergone change at an unprecedented pace over the last decade. In this digital age we must ensure the needs of the consumer are not lost in the dash for progress and the changes we are making will put the British public at the heart of the sector. The government will ensure consumers are protected from potentially harmful content, soaring costs and contracts that don’t meet their needs."

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