David Knight - 6th June 2011

Movie-style ratings for music videos are one of the recommendations of the widely-publicised Bailey Review on the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood, commissioned by British Prime Minister David Cameron and published today (June 6th).

Among a wide range of recommendations likely to be strongly supported by Cameron and numerous parental groups, the report - prepared by Reg Bailey, chief executive of Christian charity The Mothers' Union - proposes cinema-style age rating for music videos, as part of a clampdown on sexualized and violent images shown before British TV's 9pm watershed.

Condemning "sexualized images used in public places and on television, the internet, music videos, magazines, newspapers," the report recommends that the retail, advertising and video industries be given 18 months to clean up their acts voluntarily, or face tougher government regulation.
It comes after controversies surrounding Rihanna's S&M video directed by Melina Matsoukas, as well as Rihanna's and Christina Aguilera's performances on X Factor last winter, which generated over 4,000 viewer complaints, but was cleared by Ofcom of breaching pre-watershed codes. Rihanna's new video for Man Down, directed by Anthony Mandler, in which she shoots the man who rapes her, is the latest one to fall foul of parents and viewers' groups in the US.

According to the Bailey Review's recommendations, broadcasters would be expected to abide by the age rating when deciding when to broadcast music videos. But arguments are now likely to begin about how effective such measures would be - or if they are actually necessary.

Broadcasters such as MTV will argue that they abide by the rules governing TV as it stands, while the likes of YouTube also operate a system which limits content to over 18s (currently including Rihanna's S&M video in the UK). British music industry body the BPI can also argue that they are already addressing the issue, having just announced an updated version of the Parental Advisory Scheme with regard to streamed and downloaded music and music videos.

The BPI's updated Parental Advisory Scheme will stipulate that UK digital music retailers and streaming services should clearly display the internationally-recognised Parental Advisory logo or the word 'EXPLICIT' alongside any music or video files flagged as containing explicit content.

But with children as well as adults consuming music videos mostly online and on their phones, the question remains how schemes to prevent kids watching unsuitable material can be realistically enforced when they are able to ignore guidelines in the digital sphere simply by lying about their age.

David Knight - 6th June 2011

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