Femdom website falls outside scope of Audiovisual Media Services Directive

18 Aug 2014 | by Caroline Sweeney

Ms Itziar Bilbao Urrutia, the founder and curator of the Urban Chick Supremacy Cell (“UCSC”), an adult website and art project featuring BDSM images and audiovisual content, has today won her appeal against a decision of the Authority for Television On Demand (“ATVOD”) classifying UCSC as an “on-demand programme service (“ODPS”) as defined in and regulated by Part 4A of the Communications Act 2003 (“the 2003 Act”), which implements Directive 2010/13/EU (“the Audiovisual Media Services Directive” or “AVMS Directive”).

The Directive sets out minimum standards for the regulation of ODPS that are in competition with linear television – covering issues such as advertising, sponsorship and restrictions on access to harmful material by persons under the age of 18 – with the aim of leveling the commercial playing field between these modes of access to similar audiovisual content. In addition, Part 4A of the 2003 Act requires all ODPS providers to notify their service to ATVOD and pay a registration fee.

Ofcom, which decided Ms. Urrutia’s appeal pursuant to section 368B of the 2003 Act, considered that the UCSC website was not sufficiently comparable with linear television to constitute an ODPS having regards the length, content and narrative structure, production techniques and niche appeal of the audiovisual content available on the website. However, Ofcom has also published today a decision finding that another adult website, Frankie and Friends, did constitute an ODPS.

The full UCSC decision can be accessed here.

Ligia Osepciu, instructed by Daniel Godden and Myles Jackman at Hodge Allen and Jones and funded by sexual expression campaign group, Backlash, advised and assisted Ms. Urrutia in her successful appeal.