Ofcom published their latest annual review
of "Adults’ media use and attitudes" on 21 April. They use these sorts of reports to inform their rules and regulations, hopefully modifying them in response to changes in the attitudes of the general population over time. (The basis of this new report was a "quantitative survey ... conducted by Saville Rossiter-Base among 1,841 adults [aged 16 and over] in-home using a CAPI [Computer Aided Personal Interviews] methodology between September and October 2015.")
Particularly relevant to this board is Ofcom's current analysis on supposedly offensive TV and online material. This forms part of the regulator's attempts to quantify what it is that offends the public and how best to minimise such offensive material reaching our homes.
I have picked out the, hopefully pertinent, highlights of the somewhat repetitious 200+ page pdf for easier consumption and to add the odd comment of my own! (I couldn't resist!
On TV Regulation:
• "Nine in ten adults (89%) are aware that TV programmes are regulated; unchanged since 2014 (88%)."
• "Four in ten of those with a TV in the household have concerns about what is on television (39%)." (This figure has been within 4% of 40% since 2010 and currently compares to, "half (49%) of internet users [that] say they are concerned about what is on the internet"; "three in ten (30%) app users [that] have concerns about apps"; 28% who are "concerned about mobile phones"; and "25% of adults who play games [that] are concerned about gaming".)
• "Users aged 55-64 (52%) and 75+ (59%) are more likely than all adult users (39%) to have concerns about what is on TV, while those aged 16-24 (18%) and 25-34 (29%) are less likely. Unlike the internet, women (40%) are no more likely than men (37%) to have concerns about television, and there are no differences by household socio-economic group."
• "Unprompted" specifics on these concerns were mainly related to "poor quality of content/ repeats (21%) or offensive content (20%); both of these are unchanged since 2014." (This figure has in fact been within three points of 20% since 2010.) Ofcom footnote this with the following truncated breakdown: "The top three specific concerns about television are: too many repeats (11%), violence in general (9%), and offensive language (spoken or song lyrics) (9%)."
So, in other words, the 20% figure is a conflation
of separate 'offensive' materials and the expected "sexual" material and/or "nudity" couldn't even muster 9% of those people who had any concerns about what's on TV (themselves only 3-in-10 of all those surveyed)! Ofcom continue, "As in 2014, less than one in ten have concerns about advertising/ sponsorship (7%), about diversity in content (6%) or about mistrusting content that they perceive to be fixed/ fake/ biased (2%)."
• "Adults aged 16-24 are less likely than all adults to have concerns about quality of content/repeats (7% vs. 21%) or about offensive content (9% vs. 20%). Those aged 25-34 are also less likely to be concerned about offensive content on television (12% vs. 20%). Concerns relating to quality of content/ repeats and about offensive content are more likely among 55-64s (29% for both types of concern) and over-75s (42%). Compared to all adults (2%), those aged 45-54 (6%) are more likely to have concerns about mistrusting content that is perceived to be fixed/ fake/ biased."
How much do people's views on such things change over their lifetimes is, I suppose, the key to the future of TV censorship in this country if Ofcom intend to truly reflect such figures in their future regulation.
• "Compared to all adults, those in AB households are more likely than average to be concerned about offensive content on television (26% vs. 20%) and women are more likely than men (25% vs. 16%) to be concerned about this type of content." Ofcom continue, "other concerns include security/ fraud (21%), personal privacy (8%) and advertising (6%). These are all unchanged since 2014."
On Internet Regulation:
More questions were asked on internet usage and attitudes in 2014 and 15 than in 2013's survey. (Given the current political climate on internet regulation I am wary that an agenda is being set here. Of course the net requires some regulation but, after the debacle that was ATVOD, I have grave concerns about where the UK is heading on this one.)
• "Half of all internet users told us that they had concerns about what is on the internet; unchanged since 2014 (49% vs. 51% in 2014). These concerns relate mainly to offensive/ illegal content (36%) or risks to others/ society (24%). While concerns about offensive/ illegal content are unchanged since 2014 (36% vs. 38% in 2014), concerns relating to risks to others/society have decreased (24% vs. 28% in 2014), following an increase between 2013 and 2014 (from 15% to 28%)."
• Unlike in their section on TV concerns Ofcom grant the specifics in the main body of text... "the top three specific concerns about the internet, mentioned by adult internet users, are: content unsuitable for children (19%), sexual content/ pornography (17%), and strangers contacting children (16%)." (Ofcom admit that "specific (unprompted) concerns are ... placed into the categories described.")
• "Users aged 16-24 (34%) are less likely than average (49%) to have concerns about what is online. No other age group of adult users are more likely to have concerns, but women (53%) are more likely than men (45%) to have concerns. Adults in AB households who go online are more likely than all internet users to have concerns (57% vs. 49%)."
"In 2015, compared to all adult internet users, 16-24s are less likely to have concerns about offensive/ illegal content (20% vs. 36%) ... Adults aged 45-54 are more likely to have concerns about offensive/ illegal content (45% vs. 36%) ... Adults in AB households are more likely to be concerned about offensive/ illegal content (44% vs. 36%) and women are more likely than men to be concerned about this type of content (40% vs. 33%)."
• "While the majority of internet users agree (52% strongly, 26% slightly) that the internet needs to be regulated in terms of what can be shown and written online, 17% of internet users agree strongly that they should be free to say and do what they want online [a similar proportion of adults agree (42%) and disagree (41%) overall (i.e. either ‘strongly’ or ‘slightly’)], and this rises to 23% for 16-24s, 25-34s and DEs."
• "Internet users were asked a similar question but with an emphasis on the collective: “Everyone should be free to say and do what they want online” ... Unlike the personal freedom question, the proportion who slightly or strongly disagreed (47%) outweighed the proportion who agreed (37%)."
These last two are interesting questions. There is at least a tacit acknowledgement here that while people may complain about things they encounter online, those very same people may also not wish their freedoms curtailed by any resultant legislation. There is always a balance that must be struck between people's expectations and appropriate regulation.
• "The majority [of internet users] agree strongly that users should be protected from inappropriate or offensive content (59%), with this measure unchanged since 2014.
In 2015, compared to all internet users (59%), those aged 16-24 (48%) are less likely to agree strongly with this statement. Women (65%) are more likely than men (52%) to agree strongly."
• "One in eight internet users say they have seen something online that they considered nasty or offensive; this is more likely than in 2014 (13% vs. 10%)."
On Adult site use:
• "A minority [of internet users] say they ever use adult-only 29 websites (14%), with less than one in ten (3%) saying they do so weekly." Ofcom add an apposite if somewhat coy footnote that states: "This activity is likely to be under-claimed by respondents, due to its nature." No shit really!
The 3% figure is down from 5% in 2014. (Does that mean people are really porn surfing less often or they are "under-claiming" to a greater extent as the UK has becomes more puritanical perhaps?!
) As a comparison to these figures: "Around one in 12 internet users (8%) say they ever gamble online; 2% say they do this at least weekly."
• The age group that browses adult sites most often is unsurprisingly 16-24 year olds. Also unsurprisingly men are more likely to say that they look at adult-only websites weekly than women are (5% vs. 1%).