The Media in Figures: Attitudes to online and on-demand content

BEGINS the broadcasting regulators, Ofcom: “UK adults’ consumption of online and on-demand audiovisual (AV) content is widespread and almost universal for those aged under-24.”

It follows a survey of 2,678 adults who use on- demand and online services, plus an additional sample of 500 teenagers (aged 12-15).

Among the findings:

• Around three-quarters (71 per cent) of adults aged 16+ claim to have ‘ever viewed’ on-demand and online content, and use is almost universal among 16-24 year olds (94 per cent).

• The use of long-form TV catch-up services is roughly the same as the most-used short-form service, such as non-professional YouTube content, in both overall penetration and frequency of use.

• Teens’ (aged 12-15) consumption patterns are similar to those of all adults, albeit with a higher level of use for most services.

• Teens use a wide range of online services, particularly for non-paid long-form and most short-form content.

• However, young adults’ (aged 16-24) consumption levels tend to outstrip those of teens.

• Teens are less likely to use PCs/Macs/laptops and more likely than adults overall to use smartphones and tablets to view on-demand and online services.

Concerns regarding on-demand and online content, and reactions to it

• Overall, around a tenth (11 per cent) of on-demand and online content viewers have seen something of concern on an on-demand or online service.

• Levels of concern correlate with age, with the highest incidence of concern among the younger age groups (16 per cent among 12-15s and 16-34s). This also correlates with the level of use, which implies that greater levels of use lead to higher potential levels of exposure to concerning content.

• The top three concerns among adults who have seen something of concern relate to violence (39 per cent), sex (30 per cent) and bad language (27 per cent), similar to those identified in other research of concerns about broadcast television.

• Younger users are experiencing different issues, and the top three concerns among teens relate to bad language (37 per cent), bullying or victimisation (37 per cent) and violence (33 per cent).

Concerns regarding on-demand and online content, and reactions to it (for adults)

• Other areas of main concern include the welfare of children and young people (26 per cent), discrimination (22 per cent) and online bullying/victimisation (21 per cent). Dangerous behaviour (18 per cent) and suicide (14 per cent) are also mentioned by around one in six adults who have seen something of concern.

• The most common response to seeing concerning content is to stop viewing the specific content, but to continue using the service (50 per cent); a third of concerned adults (31 per cent) claim to have made a complaint either to the content provider (24 per cent) or to a third-party body (15 per cent).

• The types of content perceived to be harmful to children are broadly in line with the types causing concern, although misleading advertising, defamation and infringement of privacy are seen to be relatively less harmful.

• Parents are significantly more likely than non-parents to have been concerned by on-demand and online content (17 per cent vs. eight per cent).

• However, they are no more likely to be concerned about any particular type of content, apart from pornography (22 per cent vs. 14 per cent).

• They are more likely to have taken action by making a complaint (35 per cent made a complaint compared to 25 per cent of those without children), by complaining to the provider (29 per cent vs. 17 per cent) and/or complaining to a third-party body (19 per cent vs. 11 per cent).

Concerns regarding on-demand and online content, and reactions to it (for teens)

• The main concerns amongst teens relate to bad language (mentioned by 37 per cent and violence mentioned by 33 per cent of those who have seen something of concern).

• 29 per cent of concerned teens indicate a concern about content defined as “people being nasty, mean or unkind to each other or seeing bad things people have written about someone else or being picked on by other people online”. 16 per cent concerned of teens selected an option defined as “people being nasty, mean or unkind to me”, or “being picked on by other people online”). The combined total at 37 per cent makes concern over bullying, either bullying of others or of themselves, equal to the top concern of teens around bad language, and outweighs adults citing bullying or victimising as something of concern, at 21 per cent.

• Other issues for concerned teens include: cruelty to animals (24 per cent), seeing things that are ‘too old’ (24 per cent), things of a sexual nature (23 per cent), sad/frightening/embarrassing things (23 per cent), dangerous behaviour (21 per cent), suicide (19 per cent), drugs/drug use (19 per cent), content harmful to their self-esteem (18 per cent), gossip being spread even if it isn’t true (18 per cent) and trolling/online harassment (17 per cent).

• Teens are most likely to have stopped viewing (65 per cent) or told their parents (64 per cent) when seeing something of concern. Three-fifths (60 per cent) of those who stopped viewing also told their parents.

Understanding of, and attitudes towards, regulation

There is mixed understanding of regulation in the on-demand and online environment.

• TV catch-up services are the most likely to be correctly identified as being regulated (63 per cent).

• There is increased misunderstanding of regulation as the user moves away from ‘TV like’ content, for example around 40 per cent of users know that user-generated content is unregulated.

• The highest level of mis-attribution is for video on news websites.

• Younger adult users are more likely to get it wrong.

Says Ofcom: “Bearing in mind the mixed understanding by users in this area, we need to be cautious about interpreting their attitudes towards current levels of regulation.”

• People who have seen something of concern are more than twice as likely as average to feel there is too little regulation (35 per cent vs. 14 per cent).

• Around two-fifths (41 per cent) feel that on-demand and online content overall should be regulated. Parents and females feel more strongly that there should be regulation.

• People wrongly believe there is variation in the levels of regulation by device: perceived regulation is highest for devices used to access content via a TV set and drops off for more ‘personal computing- type’ devices (like smartphones and tablets), reflecting the higher perceived regulation for TV-like services.

• Most users think that responsibility for regulating on-demand and online services lies with content providers themselves. Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) are the most-mentioned third-party bodies. Younger people tend to be more likely to feel that responsibility is down to self-regulation by the content providers or the creators themselves.

Source: ‘Attitudes to online and on-demand content’, report by Ofcom, published April 1 2015. Read the report, here.