PTC Report Shows Online Video Providers
Are Failing to Protect Kids
LOS ANGELES (November 17, 2010) – In a new report, the Parents Television Council™ found that four of the most popular online distributors of commercially-generated video are failing to protect kids from explicit content. PTC’s report, “Untangling the Web of Internet Video” is the most comprehensive on the matter to date and includes Hulu (NBC/Universal, Fox and Disney/ABC), Fancast (Comcast), /Slashcontrol (AOL) and AT&T. Each provider was graded on the effectiveness of its content ratings, homepage content decency, advertiser accountability and parental controls. Click here to view the full report.
“Most parents understand that the Internet can be a dangerous place for children to consume video entertainment. With just a few clicks of the computer mouse a child can unwittingly travel from a website that is safe to a site that contains obscene material. That is why many families rely on the websites of mainstream media companies like NBC, Disney and Fox as a relatively safe place for their children to view online video. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of explicit content even on those websites, and some of it is extremely inappropriate for young viewers,” said PTC President Tim Winter.
“Our report clearly shows that these corporate entertainment behemoths, which invest millions of dollars promoting their online video distribution outlets, are failing to protect kids on the web. The content ratings and parental control devices they tout as a solution to indecent material on television are not being applied to similarly-indecent material on their websites.
“Not a single online video provider offered a parental control option on its homepage. Even worse, the age-based login process is optional, easily bypassed, and is an ineffective barrier even when used properly. Of the providers we studied, TV-14 content is not blocked from any age group.
“Part of the issue stems from these providers and the networks behind them allowing more lenient ratings for online videos. Out of 602 videos that were watched by PTC analysts during the study period, 46 percent were unrated and accessible to all regardless of the nature of the content.
“The online providers also failed to provide a single content descriptor that would warn the viewer about violence, coarse language, or other potentially offensive material. One of the most egregious examples of misrated content was on Fancast, which gave ‘South Park’ – a TV-MA show on Comedy Central – a TV-PG rating.
“This study should serve as a wake-up call for any parent concerned about their child’s access to graphic or indecent material. In addition to greater parental involvement in kids’ media choices, we call upon these online video service providers to immediately adopt and implement more effective age-appropriate content gating procedures. We also urge advertisers to take responsibility for the content they support on these video platforms and improve efforts to ensure that adult products are not marketed to children,” Winter concluded.
Data collection consisted of Parents Television Council analysts creating Hulu, Fancast, /Slashcontrol and AT&T accounts and registering as a 13-year-old child. Each homepage was viewed at various times twice per week over a period of three weeks. During this three-week period, analysts viewed a total of 602 videos that were evaluated based on content ratings, homepage content decency, advertiser accountability, and parental controls.
• Providers and their partnering networks are using different and more lenient content rating standards for online videos than broadcast television.
• Out of 602 videos that were watched by PTC analysts during the study period, 46% were unrated. Unrated videos (including R-rated movies and premium cable content) were neither restricted nor blocked from the user.
• Content descriptors used to indicate the presence of specific types of content (“S” for sexual content, “V” for violence, “L” for coarse language, and “D” for suggestive dialogue) were not used for any of the videos.
• Providers do not block TV-14 rated content for any age group. Even TV-14 DLSV content is available to a child of any age.
• Based on the gating procedures PTC observed, it is conceivable that a seven-year-old child would have full access to an entire season of episodes from “Family Guy” and “South Park,” not to mention a full menu of R-rated movies with just one click.
• Of the 602 videos that were evaluated based on content ratings, homepage content decency, advertiser accountability, and parental controls, Hulu received a “D” grade from PTC, Fancast and /Slashcontrol received a “D-” and AT&T received an “F.”
View additional major findings and the full analysis at www.parentstv.org/onlinevideo.