PTC Urges FCC, Congress to Enact Streaming Media Reform

Written by PTC | Published June 8, 2021

Also Calls Out Top Streaming Companies for Ducking Opportunity to Discuss Best Practices at PTC Virtual Town Hall

LOS ANGELES (June 8, 2021) – Following its Virtual Town Hall held today, the Parents Television and Media Council (PTC) is calling for Congress and the FCC to help enact reforms to the streaming media industry, in light of increasingly explicit programming on streaming platforms that children can access due to inadequate parental controls.

“It is abundantly clear that Congress and the FCC must help improve the streaming landscape for American families in order to prevent children from accessing harmful and explicit programming that proliferates in streaming media. We are urging the FCC to follow through on the promises that Congress made to families when it unanimously passed the Child Safe Viewing Act. And we are urging Congress to update the Family Movie Act of 2005 to enable content filtering technology on streaming media platforms,” said Tim Winter, president of the PTC.

Top streaming companies (Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Paramount+, Peacock) were invited to the PTC’s Virtual Town Hall on June 8 to discuss key improvements that should be made to better serve families and protect children from harmful adult content, and to develop industry best practices. However, of the eight companies invited, none accepted the invitation, though Apple+ and Netflix kept the door open to possible participation in future discussions.

“Our earnest vision for today’s town hall was to provide a public forum where industry leaders could discuss and adopt best practices that will help parents protect their children. Sadly, their absence only demonstrates their lack of sincere interest in creating safe streaming platforms for all users—especially children. The only reason they have any parental controls at all is so they can say they are doing something, but if they were really engaged, they would take every opportunity to speak publicly, such as at our town hall – especially when families are spending more time streaming than any other moment in history,” Winter said.

The virtual town hall followed a new PTC report, Dollars and Sense: A Parent’s Guide to Streaming Media, that compared both the economic and non-economic impacts associated with the myriad and most popular streaming media platforms. Paramount+, Peacock, and Hulu were found to be the most cost-effective streamers, but those same services do not provide robust parental controls or enough distinction between age-appropriate programming. Netflix has the best parental controls, while Hulu has the worst, even failing to distinguish between content that would be suitable for a 7-year-old versus a 13-year-old.

“When it comes to reliable and robust parental control mechanisms, our research report’s findings were sobering. Although some platforms provided somewhat better gating measures than others, the streaming industry itself lacks a clear, uniform commitment to protecting children from age-inappropriate content,” Winter said.

“In our report, the PTC offers a number of recommendations. But with such a massive amount of explicit content – both in volume and degree – now being streamed on demand to Smart TVs, Computer Screens, Cell Phones and myriad other devices, any vigorous solution demands input from all stakeholders to recommend, adopt and implement industry-wide best practices for parental controls,” Winter added.

“We renew our call on the top streaming companies who didn’t join our town hall to meet in some other public forum where they can identify Industry Best Practices which all streaming platforms would adopt. These guidelines should include, though not be limited to, reliable gating/blocking technology measures, and an accurate, consistent and transparent age-based ratings system.

“Families urgently need basic protections from the increasingly explicit programming that is so pervasive on today’s streaming media platforms; and they need the confidence and ease of functionality to use those protections, especially given how much families are increasingly relying on streaming,” Winter said.

Take Action. Stay Informed.