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Ofcom reveals VoD regulation perceptions

Ofcom has published research into UK viewers’ perceptions of content standards for on-demand and online content.

The research covers the full range of content available on-demand and online – from ‘catch up’ TV services such as the BBC iPlayer to user generated videos on YouTube, and subscription services, such as Netflix.

On-demand and online content is widely viewed in the UK; around three-quarters (71 per cent) of adults aged 16+ claim to have ‘ever viewed’ this type of content. Use of any on-demand and online service is almost universal among 16-24 year olds and use of nearly all individual services is higher among younger groups, and declines among older age groups.

Short-form on-demand and online content such as that available on social networking sites is generally consumed more widely and more often than long-form content that is more ‘TV-like’. An important exception to this is the use of long-form TV catch-up services, which are used as much as the most-used short-form service: non-professional YouTube content.

PCs/Macs/laptops are the most widely and frequently used devices to access on-demand and online content, used by 74 per cent of respondents. Younger adults (16-24) are more likely than other age groups to access content this way. They are also more likely than adults overall to use smartphones and tablets to view on-demand and online content. Device use reflects general device ownership. Additional analysis among device owners shows that the three devices most widely used for viewing on-demand and online content are all TV set-based. Those devices whose primary purpose is typically something other than viewing content are used less often (smartphone 76 per cent and games console 74 per cent).

In terms of content type, long-form content is accessed more commonly via TV-based devices, while short-form ‘snacking’ content tends to be viewed via portable devices (smartphones and tablets) or PCs/Macs/laptops. This is likely to be related to screen size and comfort of viewing.

Teens’ consumptions patterns are similar to those of all adults, with a higher level of use for most services. They use a wide range of online services, particularly for non-paid long-form and most short-form content. However, young adults’ (aged 16-24) consumption levels tend to outstrip those of teens. Teens are less likely to use PCs/Macs/laptops and more likely than adults overall to use smartphones and tablets to view on-demand and online services.

Overall, around a tenth (11 per cent) of online content viewers aged 16+ have seen something of concern on an on-demand or online service.

Having seen something of concern correlates with age, with the highest incidence of concern among the younger age groups (16 per cent among 12-15s and 16-34s). This also correlates with the level of on-demand and online service use, which implies that greater levels of use leads to higher levels of potential exposure to concerning content.

Adults’ top three concerns (among those that report seeing concerning content) relate to violence (39 per cent), sex (30 per cent) and bad language (27 per cent), the same as those measured for broadcast television. Other substantial areas of concern include the welfare of children and young people (26 per cent), discrimination (22 per cent) and online bullying/victimisation (21 per cent).

Dangerous behaviour (18 per cent) and suicide (14 per cent) are also mentioned by around one in six adults with concerns.

The types of content perceived to be harmful to children are broadly in line with the types causing concern, although misleading advertising, defamation and infringement of privacy are seen to be relatively less harmful.

Parents are significantly more likely than non-parents to have been concerned by on-demand and online content (17 per cent vs. 8 per cent), but are no more likely to be concerned about any particular type of content, apart from pornography (22 per cent vs. 14 per cent). They are more likely to take action by making a complaint (35 per cent make a complaint compared to 25 per cent of those without children), by either complaining to the provider (29 per cent vs. 17 per cent) and/or complaining to a third-party body (19 per cent vs. 11 per cent).

The top three types of concerning content seen by teens also relate to bad language (37 per cent) bullying and victimisation of themself or others (also 37 per cent), and violence (33 per cent).

Other concerns for teens include: cruelty to animals (24 per cent), seeing things that are too old for them (24 per cent), things of a sexual nature (23 per cent), sad/frightening/embarrassing things (23 per cent), dangerous behaviour (21 per cent), suicide (19 per cent), drugs/drug use (19 per cent),

There is mixed understanding of regulation in the on-demand and online environment. Users assume higher levels of regulation among services which provide more TV-like content.

TV catch-up services have the highest proportion correctly identifying them as being regulated (63 per cent of all aware of them). The perception that services are regulated is lower for  more ‘non-professional’ content. People are more likely than not to correctly state that those services delivering largely short-form user-generated content are unregulated. There are high levels of mis-attribution for unregulated services that deliver more professional types of short-form content; in particular, video on news websites. Younger adult users are more likely to assume incorrectly that services are regulated, particularly for more niche, less TV-like servicesBearing in mind the mixed understanding and lack of detailed knowledge, the majority of online users claim to feel that current levels of regulation are about right (46 per cent), or don’t have an opinion (32 per cent).

Opinions differ significantly among people who have seen something of concern; they are more than twice as likely as those that have not seen something of concern to say there is too little regulation (35 per cent vs. 14 per cent).

Users wrongly perceive there to be differences in whether content is regulated if viewed on different devices. Perceived regulation is highest for devices used to access content via a TV set, and drops off for more ‘personal computing-type’ devices, reflecting the higher perceived regulation for TV-like services. This belief in the existence of differing levels of regulation by device contrasts with the desire for consistency of regulation across devices.

When considering whether services should be regulated, around two in five (41 per cent) feel that on-demand and online content overall should be regulated. Parents and females feel more strongly that there should be regulation.

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