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May 24, 2021 9:07 am
This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs sits down with Melissa Henson from the Parents Television and Media Council to discuss her recent report on the wide variety of streaming services now available to families. Henson outlines the programming and parental controls available on each streaming service, and suggests which ones best fit which families.
Welcome family policy matters in engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina family policy Council hi this is John Rustin, presidency, family, and were grateful to have you with us for this week's program is our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged and inspired by what you hear on family policy matters and that you will flow better equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state and nation, and now here's our house to family policy matters.
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Many families are making the decision to cut the cord and move their TV entertainment to streaming services alone.
Some are doing this in an effort to gain more parental controls that what they hope will be a lower cost. However, there are so many choices of channels to stream which to choose, we can offer some perspective and advice for how to evaluate and compare all these options is Melissa Henson, program director of the parents television and media counsel on nonpartisan organization that advocates for responsible entertainment. Melissa is the author of a recent report entitled dollars and cents a parent's guide to streaming media Melissa Henson welcome to family policy matters. Thank you so much for having me start off by explaining why you decided to exclusively evaluate streaming platforms and which ones did you decide to include streaming platforms are still around learning new phenomena cable television in broad broadcast television and been around long enough that I think for most viewers at home. They know what you expect to know what the rules are the boundaries within which they operate that these streaming services are an entirely new ballgame. That's why we chose to focus on that, combined with the fact that, based on the past year to huge spike in the number of streaming household in America and that was accelerated.
I think by COBIT but things were trending in that direction. Anyhow, so what we did was we decided to look at the most popular streaming services out there like subscriber count will so that would be Netflix and Hulu Amazon prime video Apple TV HBO max that they plan Paramount plus which used to be CBS All Access Peacock which is NBC's contribution of the streaming string the world.
Okay so did you find some economic or non-economic impacts in your report.
Absolutely. In general, what we're seeing is that many families can realize significant cost savings by switching to streaming services. Although from most households. Right now they're still getting their Internet bundled with cable and television and so these streaming services are going to represent an added cost on top of what they're already paying for Internet access with the cable bundled in. But whereas five years ago you could get Netflix or maybe Netflix and Hulu are Netflix and Amazon prime and able to access 90 to 99% of the content that you wanted because they were the only streaming services that were really active at that time, but as more companies are entering the marketplace. There, taking back their licensed content that they were making available through Netflix and Amazon prime and Hulu in order to stream that content on their own proprietary streaming services. So whereas five years ago you could watch friends on Netflix.
Now if you want to stream friend you have to get HBO max. Five years ago you went to stream Frazier he could do that on Netflix. Now you have to get paramount. If you wonder what a Pixar movie you could do that on Netflix that I have to get Disney class so as more and more companies are entering the marketplace.
It's going to necessitate more buying more and more I streaming services in order to get access to all the content that you wanted.
So the costs are going to escalate pretty quickly. What is your research discovered regarding the trade-offs between the quantity and degree of explicit content versus the parental controls available then on these platforms.
I think what parents need to know is that unlike broadcast television broadcast decency laws do not apply to streaming services, and they're not even really constrained. For the most part by advertisers for couple of reasons.
One being that many of these streaming services are not even advertisers ported in the first place and second all the way advertisements work in the streaming environment is entirely different from the way advertising works on broadcast or cable television set. For example, they may give you a choice of ad that you watch they may be tying your name or your data, your personal data to your personal consumption habits in order to deliver targeted ads and so your ad viewing experience may be entirely different from I had viewing experience and so it's much harder to put pressure on advertisers with respect to content.
So what were saying is that there is significantly more mature content on the streaming services adult content on Netflix or Amazon prime is comparable to, content that used to only be able to see on HBO or Cinemax or showtime.
It's important to note too that some of these shows that seem pretty innocent at first can suddenly devolve. That's right. On the flipside of that, they're not at all – about using that TDMA rating sometimes on broadcast and cable television now reluctant to use that MA rating even when the content warns that because they're worried about scaring off advertisers that doesn't seem to be the case on streaming services. But what that does mean is that you see that TDMA rating take it seriously has that mature content can be very, very mature under industry standards. Then, for what constitutes any just mentioned that it they don't apply necessarily to streaming like they did to broadcast but are there some standards that we should expect right now with streaming services, like the old West. There is no sheriff in town.
There is no streaming industry equivalent of the MPA. There doesn't seem to be any third government over the streaming industry and so these streaming services or start making up their own minds are deciding for themselves what they're going to do with respect parental controls and that you know when we first looked at streaming services over about five years ago they were all over the map.
They do seem to be trending in a similar direction, which is that most of them seem to be using some combination of the MPA rating CD11b rate will so MPA would be things like PG, PG-13 and RTV L&D ratings would be P GTB 14 or TDMA using a combination of these different rating systems and allowing parents elect part of their their maximum threshold before you have to enter pin in order to access that restricted content so if you have young children in the house he will set it to PG-13 so that anything rated PG-13 and above. You have to enter pin code in order to be able to watch on so that seems to be the general pattern, but it's not universal, and there are still some major problems and how these systems are applied.
So for example on Hulu you don't have that level of granularity you can create a kids profiler you have an adult profile but within the kids profile they're lumping everything together so that step. That's intended for very young children. Like preschool-aged is lumped in with stuff that's really meant for teen audiences.
Though TV TV 14 or PG-13 stuff is right there with stuff that's for preschoolers and that gives very young children access to sometimes very mature content that's really intended for older team that the problem and there's also on Hulu. No barriers to stop a child from switching over to an adult profile and that's a significant problem on the plus side, what we have seen is on Netflix. You do have a slightly greater degree of control and that you're able to block individual title that you can add an age restriction, but beyond that, you can also say, but I definitely don't want my child be able to stream 13 reasons why are cuties or specific titles clear winners. Do you think do you make any recommendations on one streaming service over another. It really is going to come down to the family preferences. So if you have a family with young children. Disney plus might be the best option for you because they have pretty strong final control of Alpha Delta have an awful lot of inappropriate content begin with. I mean it sort of is designed as a streaming service for families, so it's probably the best bargain out there as Netflix loses more and more content back to the original content creators is both creators start. Mark Pl., Netflix is going to come to rely more and more heavily on their own original content and I think you can find out less and less of interest to families. They have a pretty large inventory of programming for school-age children but one fear out of that first the six grade age range there's not an awful lot on there that really suitable for younger teens, older teens, you know kids between ages of say 1016. There's not an awful lot on Netflix is reasonable.
Do you think to expect our broadcasters to be more responsible in the kind of content they provide and and how they guard children is absolutely reasonable. I mean these streaming services really depend on family for their survival. We know from viewing habits. Surveys that a young adult professionals that are independent not yet married, not yet the children what they can do is subscribe to streaming service for short time and watch their favorite episodes of their favorite shows for time and then drop that service in the Navy. The next month I drive a different streaming service so there sort of hopping around because there's no significant entry or exit fees associated with these streaming services. There's no contract, no cancellation charges anything like that. It's very easy for young adults do that, but they tend to do so would be streaming services are really depending on family subscribers. So I think it's absolutely incumbent on them to make sure that they're serving those families well. Do you have some recommendations then to the streaming industry and content creators for ways that they can continue to reach these stable users.
These families that what we are calling for what we are urging is an industry from imposing then we we are offering to host one ourselves to be a virtual symposium. It doesn't have to be in person, but some way of getting all these different players to Canada table and agreed to best practices industrywide standard that they would agree to to adhere to involve the scientific community involved the, the academics and researchers that now have Canadian tax. Get all the major players involved in get them to agree to and which would be a clot applied across streaming platforms throughout the industry. That's what will really hoping will happen scaling that I think it's going to be important for a non-updated family movie act. For example, that would allow parents that are crucial when it comes to applying filters and blocking technology as an added layer protection above and beyond the parental controls that are already available. I think it would be important for the FCC to look at how the ratings are applied on these streaming services. Make sure that there's a high degree of continuity within the application of the rating for the parents can make good and well informed decisions when it comes to what they watch. So you mentioned 13 reasons why I think that's a really good example of a series had a lot of evidence that it was causing some harm to teens. Is there any other examples that you can think of that really illustrate the need for this kind of coming together to talk about standards and while I mention who we think by far the worst player when it comes to personal controls. Hulu is also owned by identically encoded the sort of the Jekyll and Hyde story and I mean on the one hand, I got busy class which is generally a pretty family friendly environment, but now I have Hulu and on Hulu. They have a show that targeted to teens called 1015 sounds innocuous enough, when I fade out loud, but if you write it down on a pit peacemaker. You can see the double entendre that there with the title.
It is hard to get it. They'll hunt some really grossly inappropriate scene is accessible because of the weak parental controls that are available. So if you set up a kids profile and you leave your 12 or 13-year-old in the room to watch on the kids profile they can switch over to the adult profile and accepted program without any trouble whatsoever.
Well were just at a time for this week. But before we go Melissa Henson where listeners go to find a copy of your report dollars incense and also to follow your work on the report.
Ottawa followed up on our social media pages look for the parents television media Council official page on Facebook and Twitter. Okay Melissa Henson with the parents television and media Council. Thank you so much for being with us today on family policy matters. You been listening to family policy matters.
We hope you enjoyed the program employment to to begin next week to listen to the show Oman into one more about into families work to inform, encourage and inspire families across been through a lot of good or website it into family don't want. That's into family.org.
Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family