Telcos dismiss adult content regulation fears

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Telcos dismiss adult content regulation fears

Telcos and ISPs looking for new revenue streams may have to look elsewhere following a regulatory move by the Federal Government.

Telcos and ISPs looking for new revenue streams may have to look elsewhere following a regulatory move by the Federal Government.

ICT Minister Helen Coonan announced today that new restrictions will be based on adult content to be offered over 3G phones and subscription-based internet portals.

Legislation will shortly introduced to parliament by Senator Coonan in an effort to provide the same ‘safeguards’ against explicit material as are currently found in traditional media.

In a statement Coonan defended the move, arguing that the government supported the development of new communications services.

“However, these new content services may also potentially carry offensive or harmful content and we need to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect children from exposure to content that might be harmful,” she said.

Coonan said that a recent review of the regulation of content delivered over convergent devices had found that specific new legislation was required protect children from inappropriate and offensive content.

“This will include prohibition of content rated X18+ and above, requirements for consumer advice and age-restricting access to content suited only to adults,” she said.

Non-compliance with the new regulatory framework would see the introduction of a range of sanctions including criminal penalties for serious breaches of the new rules.

Vodafone Australia content standards manager Michael Brealey said Vodafone did not view the regulations as an inhibitor to new services.

He said the current regulatory model already allowed mobile phone providers to provide MA15+ and R18+ content so long as that content was provided behind strict access controls.

The Minister’s announcement would allow for the development of an overarching legislative approach to content delivered on convergent devices.

“By harmonising the regulation of communications content, the aim is to reduce complexity for customers, the telecommunications industry and regulators,” he said.

“This will not diminish the existing requirements to provide an environment to protect children from accessing ‘inappropriate content’.”

Vodafone currently offered content rated up to MA15+, Brealey said, and was currently in the process of developing access controls but did not plan on having access controls in place until early next year.

“If Vodafone does choose to provide access to content rated MA15+ and above it will be restricted to adults who request access and this will be controlled according to strict guidelines,” he said.

“No content that would be rated as X18+ or RC will be allowed on the Vodafone network – this aligns with the regulatory requirements.”

A spokesperson for Optus said that despite not yet reaching a decision on the introduction of adult content services, the company supported the government’s initiative.

It had also been working with the Australian Communications and Media Authority and other operators on the creation of a restricted access system in anticipation of the introduction of legislation such as this.

The DCITA report is available at: www.dcita.gov.au/home/publications.
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