Memorandum submitted by the Video Standards
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
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
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
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
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
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.