UK Prime Minister David Cameron and his adviser on family issues target explicit images that they say could be damaging to young people.
David Cameron is considering plans to give “raunchy” music videos cinema-style age certificates in order to protect children.
Under the proposals, websites hosting explicit videos would be forced to introduce age-verification systems similar to those used to prevent children gambling online.
The prime minister will summon leading industry figures to Downing Street for talks next month. He hopes they will take action voluntarily — but has promised new laws if they do not.
It was reported yesterday that Cameron has been “disappointed” by the music industry’s response to a report from Reg Bailey, the chief executive of the Mothers’ Union and an adviser to the PM on family issues.
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Last year, Bailey called for music channels and websites that show racy videos to display ratings such as 15 or 18. The cinema-style system would affect videos made by mainstream artists such as Rihanna, Beyonce and Madonna.
Music videos are currently exempt from classification under the Video Recordings Acts 1984 and 2010, and there are no legal restrictions on children downloading music videos from the internet. While MTV and other channels tone down sexual content before 9pm, there is no watershed online.
Bailey said yesterday: “Parents are really concerned about the influence which music videos have on the behaviour of their children. A lot of them are very raunchy.” He expressed worries about the “attitude of boys towards girls or men towards women in there that are reinforcing attitudes that parents don’t find helpful”.
Turning to specific artists, he said he was concerned by lyrics as well as video content. “There are some artists like Kanye West,Lady Gaga,Nicki Minaj,Britney Spears,Jennifer Lopez and Katy Perry who I think, with some of the videos there, they would normally have been rated 18 if they were seen in the cinema — but actually they’re exempted from rating at all.”
Bailey called for musicians to back his campaign.
“This is not a question of interfering with their artistic freedom,” he stressed. "It is simply saying [we would like you to] recognise that if [videos] are not age-rated, parents and children can get a huge shock when they see stuff that they weren’t expecting to see.
“And I’d like to see that go further. I’m talking about the fact that most children look at these things in the online environment and I’d like to see the data that contains that age-rating embedded into the digital copy of that.”
Ofcom, the media regulator, last year warned that Rihanna’s “highly sexualised” video for her song S&M contained scenes of “sexual bondage, dominance and sadomasochism” and should not be broadcast before the watershed.
Despite these concerns, some industry figures are opposed to music video ratings. Rio Caraeff, of music video website Vevo, has said ratings are unnecessary and difficult to enforce.
He claimed Bailey’s rules would be “bad for business” and cut royalties earned by some acts.
And singer Kelly Rowland said: “God gave us parents for a reason — what you want your children to watch, you should monitor that. It’s not up to the artist.”