The Impending Impotence of Music Video Rating Systems
  • TUESDAY, JANUARY 14, 2014

  • Posted by: Matt Howard

The thought of music video censorship due to sexually explicit content is one that became a common topic of conversation in 2013. Music videos spent their formative years under the watchful eye of the FCC as they emanated out of televisions during MTV's hay day. But when that aforementioned network evolved into a culturally inept programmer of cheap and trashy thrills, music videos migrated to the digital realm where they found themselves a utopic home. The web is (currently) a place where (nearly) anything and everything can be shared and explored. Without the constraints of the FCC, music video makers have the freedom to exercise their creative muscles. But in 2013, a number of conflicts involving web-based censorship of sexually explicit content in music videos presented a soon-to-be topical debate.

It was recently announced that the UK's MPAA equivalent, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) plans to implement a rating system that will impose age restrictions on video streaming content. The organization will work in partnership with Google (the parent company of YouTube) who confirmed that they will carry the BBFC age rating. This pilot project was proposed in response to pressure from parents concerned about the graphic material readily available to their children.

Although the US is yet to implement such a project, this leads us to hypothetically question one's effectiveness and necessity. Unlike the trivial MPAA, which follows its own censorship standards and forces filmmakers to alter the content of their creations, this rating system will simply slap an age restriction on the videos. Those of us who grew up during the era of parental advisory stickers know the allure of the forbidden f-word fruits. And we've all been prompted online by the "age-restricted content" notices that are as easily averted as a snoozing mall cop.

YouTube is also a self-censoring body that enforces its own list of loose guidelines that video submitters must follow in order to post their content.

The Rule:

-YouTube is not for pornography or sexually explicit content. If this describes your video, even if it's a video of yourself, don't post it on YouTube. Also, be advised that we work closely with law enforcement and we report child exploitation. Please read our Safety Center and stay safe on YouTube.-

This guideline was brought into question last year after the site removed Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" video but permitted Justin Timberlake's "Tunnel Vision"; both videos broke the site's policy on nudity, yet only one was reprimanded. A Google spokesman stated in response, "While our Guidelines generally prohibit nudity, we make exceptions when it is presented in an educational, documentary or artistic context, and take care to add appropriate warnings and age-restrictions."

"Blurred Lines"




Google saw Timberlake's video as more artistic than Thicke's. But when the video was first posted, it was promoted by Justin Timberlake for its racy nature, not for the creative visual qualities that were suddenly being lauded by Google's execs. Timberlake tweeted: "Check out the new video for Tunnel Vision and be ready...it's explicit. - teamJT." YouTube proved its entire content restriction policy to be incredulous.

"Tunnel Vision"




So if these attempts to quell parental fears are fruitless, what should be done to prevent children's exposure to sexually explicit music video content online? Perhaps parents shouldn't be putting their own responsibilities on someone else's shoulders. Maybe allowing your child to be constantly connected to the internet by giving them a smartphone for his or her birthday isn't the brightest idea. And believe me; your kids are watching insanely worse videos than what's on YouTube as you're reading this.

And what about the artists? How do they ensure their content is accessible to its viewers?

Absolutely nothing. YouTube's rules are considerably tame compared to those that are enforced by the FCC on television. If your video is being rejected, perhaps you should consider the fact that its subversive visual content will be a distraction from the music you're trying to promote. Do you want people to hear your songs or to know you're into stacked naked chicks? And if you absolutely must include that irrelevant nip-slip in your music video, send it on over to info(@)baeblemusic.com. We'll take a look and totally post it on our own player!

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