Like your music unrated? Tough, YouTube and Vevo bring in government-backed age ratings

The government has sometimes struggled to stay up to date with the goings on of internet culture, but it’s just upped its game a little when it comes to protecting children online. The latest addition to the arsenal is an age-rating system for online music videos.

Like your music unrated? Tough, YouTube and Vevo bring in government-backed age ratings

This new initiative has come about because of a shared initiative between the government, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the UK music industry. Now, thanks to a new ratings system devised by the BBFC, music videos hosted on popular video-streaming sites such as YouTube and Vevo will carry age-appropriate labelling.

When a participating record label uploads a music video with a BBFC rating, YouTube will automatically age-gate the content, with no effort required on the uploader’s behalf. The same process is currently being worked out on Vevo’s own site, which doesn’t have an age-gating system just yet. On YouTube, you’ll see a “Partner Rating” label, where Vevo will display an age rating underneath the video in a square box.

You may be thinking that you’ve already seen age ratings adorn some YouTube music videos, and you’d be right; the government actually started trialing the initiative in October last year. As of today, however, the new ratings service has been brought into effect and will now become a staple of online viewing.

“Keeping children safe as they experience and enjoy all the benefits the internet has to offer is a key priority for this government’s One Nation approach to help families across Britain,” said Baroness Joanna Shields, minister for internet safety and security. “We will continue to work with industry to develop ways to help parents to better protect children online from inappropriate music videos with explicit adult or violent content.”

The BBFC determines age ratings for music videos in a similar way to film classifications, weighing up suitability based on the video’s depictions of “drug misuse, dangerous behaviour presented as safe, bad language, sexual behaviour and nudity and threatening behaviour and violence”. So far only one music video has received an 18 rating: Dizzee Rascal’s “Couple of Stacks”.

While this may sound like a Brass Eye-style overreaction to some kids watching music videos online, independent research commissioned by the BBFC revealed that 60% of 10- to 17-year-olds watch music videos they think their parents wouldn’t approve of.

Can YouTube, Vevo and the government actually win?

The government’s desire to put restrictions in place and give parents some control over what their kids are exposed to online is admirable. However, it’s hard to see how this new measure can really do anything to protect kids online.

Unless you’re some sort of mythical creature, we’ve all been children at some point in our lives; I for one know that if I wanted to do or see something as a kid, I’d find a way to do it.

With just Sony Music UK, Universal Music UK and Warner Music UK onboard from the big labels – and a handful of indie labels undergoing a six-month trial – there’s still plenty of opportunity for children to find and watch unrated videos.

Factor in other video-streaming sites not involved with the initiative, such as Dailymotion and Vimeo, and it’s obvious that children and teens determined to watch their favourite artist’s new music video will find a way. Copyright-takedown notices will certainly help regulate the situation, but the internet generally finds a way to keep existing as it always has.

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