The ineffectiveness of modern government is a great blessing. It means that proposals like this – “Cameron-backed report to protect children from commercialisation” – will almost certainly come to very little.
For the record, like Tim Worstall, I think T-shirts for five year olds that read ‘Sexy Tart’ are not the most tasteful of fashion statements. My opinions are rather more hostile than that, as it happens. But my hostility to chav parents is mild compared to my hostility to the governing classes, who first bred the problem (by ensuring that two generations have grown up who had no need to be respectable), and now step forward to “solve” it by giving themselves more power.
Mercifully, the modern Big State is made of fat, not muscle. Listed below are the key proposals of this report, and next to each what will actually happen.
• Retailers to ensure magazines with sexualised images have modesty sleeves. Measurable, enforceable, provides work for council busybodies. Might happen.
• The Advertising Standards Authority to discourage placement of billboards near schools and nurseries. Discouraging noises will be made.
• Music videos to be sold with age ratings. Measurable, enforceable, work for busybodies. Will be about as effective as the age ratings for computer games and films. (I have nothing against manufacturers giving an age rating for a product voluntarily, by the way – but see the final sentence of this post about “voluntary” self-regulation.)
• Procedures to make it easier for parents to block adult and age restricted material on internet. Could be dangerous, since procedures to make it easier for parents to block adult material on the internet are necessarily also procedures to make it easier for governments to block any material on the internet – but fear not, they can’t afford the people who can write the program.
• Code of practice to be issued on child retailing. OMG, a code of practice!
• Define a child as 16 in all types of advertising regulation. Presumably they mean “under 16”. If the current regulation allows scope to define a child as “under 13” this might make a difference. Or it might not. Probably all concerned will work very hard to find all the clauses and sub-clauses in fifteen different laws that refer to this, harmonise them all, then sit back and contemplate the beautiful consistency of the result. No one else will notice.
• Advertising Standards Authority to do more to gauge parent’s views on advertising. Colourful website to be set up. Two comments will be left a week, in Chinese.
• Create a single website for parents to complain to regulators. Colourful website to be set up. 45,000 comments will be left a week, often in something resembling English. Government will promise to clear backlog by 2021.
• Change rules on nine o’clock television watershed to give priority to views of parents. Will be acclaimed by all until someone who is not a parent threatens to sue.
• Government to regulate after 18 months if progress insufficient. Although I do think it most unlikely that the government ever really will send out inspectors to measure the amount of black lace on pre-teen bras, I still find this type of sickly-sweet concealed threat, so common nowadays, nauseating. “Voluntary change is so much nicer, don’t you think? So much more meaningful. But, of course, if you don’t change voluntarily…” It always reminds me of Dolores Umbridge early in her career.