Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Video Standards Council

  1.  The VSC was established in 1989 as a voluntary body set up to develop and oversee a Code of Practice and Code of Practice Rules designed to promote high standards within the video industry. The Code and Rules have subsequently been expanded to promote high standards within the computer and video games industry.

  2.  Pre-recorded videos and computer and video games bring entertainment, pleasure and enjoyment to many millions of people but they are also very powerful means of communication. The video and games industries owe a duty of care to their customers and the public generally. The VSC will do its utmost to ensure that this duty is discharged.

  3.  The VSC is managed by a Committee made up of representatives from all segments of the video and games industries, a Secretary-General and an Operations Manager. The President of the VSC is Lord Merlyn-Rees.

  4.  The VSC has a Consultative Committee made up of representatives from a number of bodies concerned with children and the family who consider and advise on matters of public concern.

  5.  The VSC has a complaints board procedure to investigate alleged breaches of the Rules. It also offers an advice and guidance service to its members and the public.

  6.  The VSC is the only organisation that represents the whole of the video and games industries and as such is in a unique position to bring the various different sectors of the industries together to discuss and resolve matters of public concern.

  7.  In 1999 the UK video industry:

    —  Served the 89 per cent of households who own a video recorder;

    —  Sold 96 million videos and rented 3.34 million videos each week;

    —  Generated £1.29 billion from video sales and rentals;

    —  Employed over 38,000 people;

    —  Paid an estimated £200 million in VAT; and

    —  Generated considerable revenues for investment in further programmes.

  8.  The UK video industry is a substantial and integral part of the UK entertainment industry.

  9.  For historical reasons the UK video industry is the responsibility of the Home Office (the Sentencing and Offences Unit). The industry started in the late seventies/early eighties and was confronted by the so called "video nasties" controversy as a result of which the Video Recordings Act 1984 became law. The Act did two basic things. With certain exceptions it required videos to be classified by a Government appointed body (currently the British Board of Film Classification) before they can be legally supplied to the public. It allowed the BBFC to grant age-restricted classifications to certain videos and made it a criminal offence to supply an age-restricted video to anyone below the specified age.

  10.  As a result of the law and voluntary controls the UK video industry is the most tightly controlled and regulated video or media industry in the free world.

  11.  Since 1984 there has been a dramatic change in how consumers watch home entertainment. Prior to video there was only a limited choice of terrestrial television channels. With the advent of video consumers had the opportunity, for the first time, to watch what they wanted when they wanted to watch it.

  12.  With advances in technology and the arrival of digital media consumers now have a multiplicity of options for viewing home entertainment. These include satellite, cable, terrestrial television and the Internet. New products and services offer the consumer an enormous choice that they have never had before. Pay Per View, Near Video-On-Demand, Video-On-Demand and DVD software provide programming to suit all ages, tastes and lifestyles.

  13.  23.9 million UK households have a television, 21.3 million have a video recorder. It is estimated that over one million DVD players will have been installed by the end of 2000. Cable/satellite is available in approximately 40 per cent of households, digital television in 20 per cent and the Internet in approximately 25 per cent. These percentage penetration figures are increasing rapidly.

  14.  The situation today is indeed quite different to that which existed in 1984. This change has produced a growing anomaly so far as the video industry is concerned. The video industry is regulated by the Home Office. All other means of delivery are regulated by the DTI or the DCMS.

  15.  In 1984 there may have been good reason for the video industry to be regulated by the Home Office. This reason has long since ceased to exist. Essentially the video industry and the other delivery platforms are providing the consumer with the same programming and yet the video industry continues to be regulated upon an entirely different basis than other delivery platforms.

  16.  The VSC is not seeking any change in the law but believes that the Communications White Paper presents a unique opportunity to correct the current situation and place the regulation of the UK video industry under the DCMS being the same regulatory umbrella as for all other media and culture.

January 2001

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