Baroness Joanna Shields has teamed up with key stakeholders in the music industry and internet video giants to make it harder for children to watch UK-produced music videos that contain nudity, drugs and inappropriate lyrics.

The move means that age ratings will be displayed on UK-produced music videos that are uploaded onto YouTube and Vevo.

Ex-Googler Joanna Shields spearheaded the Tech City UK quango up until May 2015 ©Flickr/AIB
Ex-Googler Joanna Shields spearheaded the Tech City UK quango up until May 2015 ©Flickr/AIB

Shields, who held managerial positions at Google and Facebook before making a steady move towards politics, said: “Movies in the cinema and music DVDs are age rated to inform the viewer and help parents to make informed choices. We welcome this voluntary step from industry to bring internet services in line with the offline world.

“Keeping children safe as they experience and enjoy all the benefits the internet has to offer is a key priority for this government’s One Nation approach to help families across Britain. We will continue to work with industry to develop ways to help parents to better protect children online from inappropriate music videos with explicit adult or violent content.”

The former Tech City UK CEO became minister for internet safety and security earlier this year and has made online child safety one of her key remits.

The policies are being introduced after the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and major UK music labels ran a pilot programme in conjunction with BBFC (The British Board of Film Classification), BPI (British Recorded Music Industry Ltd), YouTube and Vevo.

In terms of how the new age certificiation measures will work in practice, UK labels will supply videos ahead of release to the BBFC, and then pass on the rating and guidance given by the BBFC when releasing their videos to the two digital service providers involved - Vevo and YouTube - who display it when the videos are broadcast online.

To date 132 music videos have been submitted by UK labels to the BBFC for certification and, of these, only one has been given an 18-rating – Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Couple of Stacks’.

Independent research commissioned by the BBFC shows that up to 60 percent of children aged 10 to 17 are watching music videos that they do not think their parents would approve of.

Vevo is exploring plans to link age ratings to additional technology on its platform that can support age controls. 

The new age ratings complement YouTube’s existing restricted mode which helps parents screen out content they may not feel is right for their children.

Sony Music UK, Universal Music UK and Warner Music UK have all agreed to get on board; meaning any UK artists they represent will be forced to comply with the new legislation.

Candice Morrissey, content partnerships Manager at YouTube EMEA, said"We have been working with the participants in this pilot to help them display the BBFC's age ratings on their music videos on YouTube. These ratings are in addition to the controls we already provide on YouTube including the ability for uploaders to add age warnings to videos and a restricted mode."