Our ambition is to use the power of media to make a positive difference. We strive to provide content that is both entertaining and educational, and which reflects the complex and diverse world in which we all live. We believe editorial independence and freedom of expression are essential – both for producing engaging content, and for a free and open society. We aim to empower our audiences with media literacy skills, and to offer differently abled viewers the opportunity to enjoy our content. We are committed to offering children and minors a safe and fun experience at all times. We follow all applicable broadcasting rules and regulations, while providing parents with flexible, effective tools.
As part of our ongoing digital transformation, we have entered the esports and online gaming industries. We are aligning our corporate responsibility efforts to ensure that children and minors who play games on our platforms, or attend our tournaments and festivals, always stay protected in the same way as when they enjoy our broadcasting or streaming services .
Responsible content production
Camilla Rydbacken, Head of Program
Malin Lancha, Head of Production
Do we integrate specific values into our free-TV content?
Camilla: Turn on TV3 (or any of our free-TV channels), and you’ll see everything from young parents and secret admirers to big-bearded roadside assistance workers in northern Sweden. There’s a reason for that.
We’re in the storytelling business, and my job as Head of Program is to make sure our programmes entertain, inform and touch as many people as possible. MTG’s free-TV channels reach viewers of all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles across Denmark, Sweden and Norway. And because our audience is so diverse, so is our content. We want to relate to people’s lives. Storytelling works best when it resonates with viewers and reflects who they are (or aspire to be).
How does our production process work?
Malin Lancha: MTG owns Nice Entertainment Group, which includes 31 companies in 17 countries, and we work closely both with them and a wide range of independent partners to pitch ideas, develop concepts and deliver shows. In 2017, 11% of MTG’s free-TV content was locally produced, which as Head of Production makes me happy!
At all stages of the process, we clearly communicate our expectations. Before filming starts, MTG and the production company sign a legal agreement detailing what will be delivered, including content, cast and messaging. During production, we’re often present on set. And afterwards, we review all content and give final approval, sometimes in cooperation with our Broadcast Compliance team if we need extra eyes on something.
An independent partner audited our productions in 2017. What were the main findings?
Malin: The audit covered three suppliers and three of MTG’s own productions. It identified three focus areas – the distribution of our Code of Conduct to production companies; availability of health and safety information on set; and the integration of corporate responsibility into our content.
How are we addressing these areas?
Malin: From autumn 2017, we include MTG’s Code of Conduct in all production companies’ agreements, and the Code is an agenda item at every start-up meeting for a new project. On health and safety, our executive producers are engaging with the production companies to ensure everybody’s always informed of the requirements. And responsible content is a priority, as shown by our emphasis on diversity and plurality.
Of course, these areas have always been extremely important for us. Now we’re taking the opportunity to capture this commitment in an even more structured and documented way.
Which free-TV show had the most positive impact in 2017?
Camilla: On 14 November, MTG produced Sweden’s first ever TV gala focused on diabetes. It’s another example of how we’re focused on our audiences’ lives – today, diabetes affects 450,000 people in Sweden and hundreds of millions around the globe. Some of the biggest names in Swedish entertainment joined us to make it happen. Together, we reached 400,000 viewers, raised over SEK 5 million and told so many great stories.
Responsible online content
There’s such a wide range of content on Viaplay today – but how do we choose it?
Nathalie Bylund: We don’t have one audience – we have tens of thousands of audiences. Our customer community is broader than ever before, so we want to offer everybody moments that matter. As a Viaplay content executive with a remit covering content for both adults and kids, that’s where I come in.
We talk to our customers through surveys, user testing and home studies to understand what they want (and don’t want) to see. We aim to entertain, but also to challenge and start conversations. And for kids, Viaplay should always be a fun and safe experience.
For kids content, do we aim to balance entertainment with education?
Nathalie: The best kids content is both educational and fun – we know this because kids told us so! Our surveys show children want to learn when they watch. For them, learning is about exploring, interacting and seeing new things, as well as information. It’s important for them – and of course for their parents – which makes it important for us too. We view this as an opportunity to have a positive impact through responsible content.
What else does responsible content include – for children and adults?
Nathalie: For kids, it’s vital to be presented with good examples – how to treat others, how to respond to new situations and so on – in an engaging way. In general, we’re very aware that media can influence viewers of all ages. That doesn’t mean we never offer adults edgy material – on the contrary, we embrace responsible freedom of expression. But it does mean we’re committed to showing different perspectives, to portraying men and women equally, and to reflecting the complex world in which we all live. Series such as ‘Empire’, ‘The Good Wife’ and ‘Transparent’ are all good examples of this.
Do we integrate responsibility into our platforms as well as our content?
Jessica Berglund: That’s what I work with every day. I’m a Viaplay product manager and regularly talk to our users about where to take the platform next.
We’ve had parental settings for some time – parents can set the kids section as the default Viaplay homepage and control access via a pin code (think of it as helping out parents rather than locking out their kids). Now we’re integrating the findings of our latest research project into our product strategy. The big change is that parents today are more interested in knowing what their kids are watching (and for how long), rather than in controlling it in advance. Parents feel safer when their children use Viaplay rather than other streaming services. They also have a bigger need to be informed about their children’s viewing habits rather than controlling the sessions.
What were the other major findings of this research?
Jessica: The research project was completed in December 2017 and covered 3,300 survey respondents, split equally between the four Nordic countries and Viaplay customers and non-customers. Parents answered half the questions and then interviewed their kids (aged 2 to 15 years) for the rest. We learnt that 1) Viaplay is used by kids of all ages, and we need to cater to their specific needs: what works for an eight-year-old might not suit a two-year-old; 2) half of parents sometimes feel guilty about their kids’ streaming usage, primarily because of the inactivity involved; and 3) parents whose kids use Viaplay trust us more than any other streaming service. They see us as responsible and that’s a great acknowledgement of our efforts in this area.
What’s the latest on Viaplay’s kids originals?
Nathalie: In September 2017, our first kids original, ‘The Great Escape’, was named Children’s Program of the Year at Sweden’s Kristallen TV awards – the first time a streaming service won this prestigious prize. The December 2017 survey shows that science experiments are the most popular content category for both boys and girls, so the theme of ‘The Great Escape’ is spot on.
Jessica: We released ‘Peppy Pals’ in September 2017. It started as an app from a company supported by Reach for Change, and the idea is to help smaller children develop their emotional intelligence. The language and scenarios have been developed together with child psychologists, and everything is presented in such an appealing and heartwarming way. Content doesn’t get much more responsible than a series about considering other people’s feelings and being a good friend. I think everybody should start the day with a ‘Peppy Pals’ episode!
Sara Breitholtz, Broadcast Compliance Advisor
What does a typical day in broadcast compliance look like?
At MTG, we want all our broadcasts to maintain the highest standards. Both our viewers and the regulators expect this too, so we do our very best to keep everybody happy.
The majority of MTG’s broadcast licenses are held in the UK, where Ofcom sets out clear rules about important issues such as programme content, sponsorship, product placement, fairness and privacy. So a typical day for the broadcast compliance team focuses on pre-screening our broadcasts (including commercials and trailers) to ensure we’re always following these requirements. This gives us the opportunity to fix any potential issues in a proactive way.
I like the variety and the responsibility, and the opportunity to use my language skills in Swedish, Norwegian and English. There’s also a problem-solving dimension that I particularly enjoy.
What kind of problems do you solve?
We co-operate closely with many MTG departments, including production, sales and MTG Creative, to make sure we meet our responsibilities in everything we broadcast. That’s often quite a balancing act – for example, if we’re integrating a commercial product into a programme, we want the advertiser to get value for money while respecting Ofcom’s product placement rules. I’m happy to say that we had zero complaints about sponsorship in 2017.
Did we receive any complaints during 2017?
In 2017, MTG received a total of 49 broadcast complaints, one fewer than in 2016. Of these, 11 related to minors. For our Ofcom licensed services we had 19 programme content complaints in 2017, compared with nine complaints in 2016. No complaints about MTG were upheld by Ofcom, with one decision still pending at the end of 2017.
Viewers can choose to contact us or the relevant regulator at any time. Complaints made to regulators in the Nordic region about MTG’s broadcasts are forwarded to Ofcom in the UK, who assess every complaint they receive to determine whether a breach has occurred.
Do we help our viewers make informed decisions about what to watch?
We always carry on-screen warnings beforehand if a programme or film contains potentially offensive material. If we feel there’s a need for additional guidance, we add that to the continuity voice-over before the broadcast starts. On Viaplay, we include age rating information for all content.
In this context, it’s important to note that no adult content has been shown on our pay-TV channels since April 2017, and from May 2018 no third-party adult channels will be available either.
How are we making our content more accessible?
Ofcom requires us to broadcast a certain amount of content with audio descriptions (8%) and subtitles (40%). In 2017, we exceeded these targets in both areas, with 15% and 89% respectively. We’re aiming even higher this year, such as introducing sign language captioning to our channels for the first time.
Future of broadcasting
Julia Smetana, Head of European Regulatory Affairs in Group Legal
Julia, from an MTG perspective, what was the most important regulatory development in 2017?
Our Viaplay customers will directly benefit from the Portability Regulation, agreed upon by the European Union in February 2017. This will enable streaming service subscribers to access their favourite films, series and sports when travelling in Europe.
We welcome this legislation, since it benefits consumers while preserving the principle of exclusive territorial licensing, which is crucial for MTG’s ability to invest in great services and content.
What’s the latest on the Audiovisual Media Services Directive?
This directive, which governs EU-wide coordination of national legislation on TV broadcasts and on-demand services, is still under review. Unfortunately, we’re seeing two trends in this process that we believe could negatively impact our customers and business.
Firstly, the Country of Origin Principle, which increases consumer choice and media pluralism by enabling broadcasting across borders in Europe, could be weakened. Secondly, even though broadcasters are asking for less regulation to compete with global platforms, things seem to be moving in the opposite direction. Everyone benefits from a competitive European media sector, and we’re engaging with policy makers to help shape the discussions accordingly.
MTG offers next generation entertainment experiences in esports, online gaming and digital video networks. How are regulators looking at these types of business?
These may be relatively new areas, but they’re definitely on the European agenda – especially esports. Minor protection is always in focus for regulators across all forms of media, and both the content and format of esports productions have come under increasing scrutiny during 2017.
We share this commitment to ensuring a safe experience for viewers of all ages. In addition, MTG’s esports businesses ESL and DreamHack are members of the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC), an industry body that addresses cheating, doping and fraud in professional gaming. Overall, our view is that specific regulation is not required at the moment, and that esports can benefit from some space to keep innovating and fulfill its potential to become the next global entertainment phenomenon.
As more digital offerings go global, how does that affect the regulatory landscape?
I think everyone wants to find a satisfactory answer to that question. There’s already a growing sense that every platform should be held to the same standards of accountability and responsibility, but it remains to be seen if this requires new legislation or simply a rethink of how we apply the current rules. MTG’s view here is very clear – when everyone competes on a playing field, consumers and businesses all win.