Internet ‘a lottery’ for child safety, says Ofcom chief

The head of the UK’s broadcasting regulator has said the internet is a “lottery” for child safety.

Ofcom chief executive Sharon White said the experience of a young child using devices to consume media in the modern world amounts to “pick your screen and take your chances”.

She raised concerns over the fact that a child wishing to watch their favourite show on TV, on catch-up or in a clip on Facebook would be protected or vulnerable under different standards for each.

Speaking to the Royal Television Society conference in London, Ms White said people have a right to be protected online and that regulation – particularly of the big tech companies – could be introduced without curtailing free speech.

She said: “The broadcasters and online platforms are competing under different conditions. It is a standards lottery – choose your screen and take your chances.

“Most people want regulations to be tightened. Of course the internet is different, but its audience has fundamental rights and expectations.”

One proposal was to give public service broadcasters prominence online in the same way they are granted a more visible place in TV guides and TV services.

However, the Ofcom boss said the broadcast regulator is not looking for “more responsibility”, and that it is for Parliament to decide on an online regulator.

As Netflix continues to grow, Ms White admitted that scrapping a British version with collaboration from UK networks was an error.

She said: “With the benefit of hindsight, knocking back Kangaroo, the British Netflix, was a mistake.”

Mike PalmerComment