Memorandum submitted by PPA and AOP UK
The PPA is the trade body for UK magazine and
business and professional media publishers, and in this role welcomes
the opportunity to respond to the Byron Review.
The association's membership consists of some
500 members who publish or organise over 4,400 products and services.
These include over 2,500 consumer, business and professional magazines.
PPA members also produce a large range of directories and websites,
in addition to organising conferences, exhibitions and awards.
Many PPA members offer online services, including
online versions of print publications and publications only available
online, or through electronic transmission.
This response gives the opinion of PPA members
for industry matters and also uses the results of an informal
focus group of students in a South London school (aged 12-15)
on attitudes to media use.
The UK Association of Online Publishers (AOP)
is an industry body representing online publishing companies that
create original, branded, quality content, spanning newspaper
and magazine publishing, TV and radio broadcasting, and pure online
AOP formed in 2002, in response to the growth
of the internet as a publishing medium, with the pace of change
creating its own challenges: how are publishers to position themselves
in the digital age? How will the users (readers, viewers, listeners,
contributors) of the future want to find and use content? Will
they be creating it themselves?
Members include Associated New Media, BBC, BSkyB,
Channel 4, CMP Information, CNET Networks, Condé Nast Interactive,
Dennis Interactive, The Economist Group, Emap, Financial Times,
Future Publishing, GCap Media, Guardian Unlimited, Haymarket Publishing,
Incisive Media, Independent Digital, IPC Media, ITV Online, News
International, Reed Business Information, Reuters, Telegraph Media
Group, Trinity Mirror, and Which?
The benefits of the internet
The internet has brought untold benefits to
all. Children and young people benefit from access to a wide range
of source materials which entertain them and help them with study
and finding out about the world in general.
A focus group sponsored by the Teenage Magazine
Arbitration Panel (TMAP) of students at a London secondary school
suggests that increased access to news sites has younger students
(12-13 year olds) reporting that they read the news regularly.
One student with hearing difficulties reported that he was able
to interact better socially with his friends online because via
webcam and Messenger he could stay in touch more effectively than
before. For very young children, use of computers to play appropriate
games develops cognitive skills but also encourages the development
of fine motor skills through mouse and keyboard use.
The benefit to society is plain to see, from
increased opportunities to give an opinion for anyone who has
access to the web; to activism which is way more effective in
the online environment; to improved opportunities to buy useful
products at competitive rates regardless of whether you live in
a metropolis or on a small Hebridean Island. The world is made
smaller by the internet.
The internet has also been the hub for an explosion
in creativity. People are producing content via open source materials,
including games, videos, blogs, music, artwork and sharing them
with the world. Community sites are increasingly used to make
the internet a major hub for local activity and news.
The benefits to the economy stem from the benefits
for society. The UK is increasingly seen by others internationally
as the place for creativity. The creative economy in the UK is
worth 7% of GDPas much as the financial services industry.
This is in no small part down to producers of content online who
come from all sectors of the creative economyincluding
magazine publishers. Opportunities for skilled and challenging
careers are available now which were not in the past.
Identifying risk and managing it
While content which is clearly illegal should
and can be dealt with by existing laws, the PPA is concerned that
the internet should not be subject to censorship of content which
There has been much discussion of how to deal
with "inappropriate" content. We need to be careful
about rushing to define what is meant by "inappropriate".
This is surely something for the individual to decide in the case
of adults and, in the case of children, for their parent or carer
Technology exists which can be used to filter
out content which could be offensive or inappropriate to individual
users. It is even possible to have settings for each member of
the family so that adults in the house are not bound by the settings
for their children.
Unfortunately, industry evidence shows that
there is limited take-up of filtering technology. The young people
we interviewed were of the opinion that their parents would probably
find it too difficult to set up, as they were not as technically
"savvy" as their children. Another potential problem
could be the legacy of earlier versions which were less user-friendly.
Raising awareness of how easy the technology is to use and encouraging
wider take-up would be a good way to support parents in their
decisions about what their children should access online.
While the PPA understands the call by some sectors
of the industry for a system of content rating across the board,
we have some serious concerns about any proposal to rate all content
online for the following reasons:
Content rating could never cover
all sites accessible online (as it would be a self-regulatory
or co-regulatory system applicable to sites based only in the
UK) and would therefore not be reliable as an information source
Content online changes on a
minute-by-minute basis. Most PPA member sites would have a broad
range of content on offer. Will this be rated on a piece by piece
basis? If not then the effect would be that of the most rudimentary
filter and could block off access to quality content for children.
It is unclear who would be the
arbiter of such a system. Currently the BBFC looks at computer
games and OFCOM is studying ratings systems. Press is traditionally
an industry which, while bound by the laws of the land, also self-regulates
via the Press Complaints Commission for editorial content and
Code of Advertising Practice for advertising. The inclusion of
any other agency in this lexicon does not seem practical.
For press products age-rating
could be considered as a form of censorship which is contrary
to the principles of a free press, particularly if Government
agencies could be involved in setting the parameters of the system.
This seems to contradict all recent Government statements about
the freedom of the press to self-regulate.
The PPA believes creating a safer environment
for online content access can best be achieved through an extensive,
well-targeted education programme for adults and children, which
encourages them to use easily-available filter technology and
gives them the information they need about issues such as staying
safe in chat rooms.
This approach, coupled with industry self-regulation
(some of it already in place) which is flexible and can adapt
to new developments, is a superior approach to the creation of
legislation, which could be obsolete very quickly in a rapidly
Finally and most importantly for publishers,
there should be no obligatory age-rating of online content, as
this could be difficult and costly to implement and could be considered
a form of censorship.