Jakob Mejlhede Andersen, EVP, Group Head of Programming and Content evelopment
What’s the relationship between content and corporate responsibility?
Stories are amazing things. They entertain us, but the very best ones can also challenge our deepest preconceptions, raise awareness and transform how we see the world.
As a leading digital entertainer, MTG has an opportunity to use the power of storytelling to make some seriously positive impact and drive change for people and societies. That’s why we’ve made responsible media a cornerstone of MTG’s corporate responsibility strategy.
How do we define responsible media?
At MTG, we understand this concept in terms of topics such as freedom of expression, editorial independence, awareness, inclusivity and accessibility.
Can you give some practical examples?
When it comes to freedom of expression and editorial independence, we oppose censorship and other restrictions on these principles. MTG’s commitment to awareness and inclusivity, meanwhile, can be clearly seen through our content, which reflects a wide range of perspectives and issues, and challenges stereotypes.
Our aim is to reach and engage diverse audiences across all sections of society, so we work very hard to create an inclusive portfolio that speaks to everybody while raising important questions – we want to be both a mirror and a mover.
MTG’s original productions take place everywhere from Los Angeles to the northern Swedish mountains, and introduce characters as varied as private detectives to conflicted teenagers. We offer unexpected takes on familiar topics – MTG’s first original film, ‘SuperSwede’, which we announced in 2016, will explore the life of legendary Formula 1 driver Ronnie Peterson through the eyes of his daughter, Nina, which gives a more female perspective on a very male-dominated sport.
We consider who’s behind the camera, as well as in front of it, and are committed to working with creative talent from every background. This is also a chance for us to support domestic media industries, and in 2016, 13% of our content was locally produced.
What about our acquired content?
We take the same approach to other people’s content as to our own.
The US entertainment industry, in particular, is making progress in terms of equality and representation. There aren’t nearly as many 20 year-old women paired on screen with male leads in their late 40s, or blatant ethnic stereotypes, as before. But there’s still work to be done, and when we look at acquiring films or series, ensuring consistency with the tone found in the rest of our portfolio is a major part of our decision-making process. We’re proud to show the series ‘Transparent’, for instance, since it highlights transgender issues in a very engaging way.
How do we know what’s important to our audiences?
We have an ongoing conversation through multiple feedback channels, including focus groups and panels.
In the Nordic countries, we send surveys to everyone who’s watched one of our original productions on Viaplay (of course, we ask first if that’s OK). This gives us an opportunity to ask very targeted questions, such as which characters are most popular, which helps keep our future productions aligned with what audiences actually want to see.
In addition, our customer experience team conducted a major study in 2016 that included in-home, in-depth interviews of 16 households. And every month, we hear from 3,500 respondents as part of a Net Promoter Score survey, and our customer service representatives continuously collect feedback from over 40,000 customer interactions a month.
Has content shown by MTG created any positive impacts over the past year?
The clearest example is our first original series for kids, ‘The Great Escape’, which helps present subjects like chemistry and mathematics in an educational and entertaining way. Kids can also try out some of the experiments from the show at an exhibition at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.
More generally, our belief is that showing other realities is always positive, and we hope that offering viewers a plurality of perspectives ultimately contributes to a broader climate where we all understand each other a little better. We embrace the world in all its complexity – even if that means telling stories that can sometimes be challenging, as well as entertaining.
Minors Online Protection
Lina Brounéus, COO Content at Viaplay
You do not need to be an adult to love films or series – but how do we make sure our younger viewers only see appropriate content?
For us, it’s crucial that parents feel comfortable allowing their children to use our video-streaming service Viaplay or to watch our linear channels. So we continuously talk to parents in order to understand exactly what’s required to keep things enjoyable and safe.
The majority of our broadcast licenses are held in the UK, and that means MTG follows the principles set out in the Ofcom regulatory code relating to protection of minors. For example, the code obliges us to broadcast linear content that might be unsuitable for children only after 9pm, and adult material only after midnight.
Before these time points (and on our streaming services), our offering includes high quality kids’ content that’s educational and helps children develop. We also provide parents with flexible, effective tools that help them proactively set the right boundaries.
Do we produce original kids’ content?
MTG’s first original kids’ series, ‘The Great Escape’, premiered on Viaplay in December 2016. Each episode features the two leading characters trying a different experiment or solving a challenge related to subjects like music, chemistry and mathematics. It’s an engaging format that combines both education and entertainment, and we’ve heard from teachers who have shown the series in their classrooms. We’re really excited to broaden our portfolio of original productions in this way, while continuing to acquire great third-party kids’ content too.
What parental control tools do we offer?
On Viaplay, parents can ensure children are in the right place from the very start by setting the kids’ section as the default homepage. They can also use a child lock to control what content can be accessed. It’s as simple as setting an age limit – 7, 12, 15 or 18 years – and then choosing a four-digit code. The only way to see Viaplay content rated above the age limit is to enter this code, which covers all films, series and pay-per-views, as well as movie rental and purchase.
It takes seconds to set up and allows parents to tailor the exact level of protection they want for their family. Many kids today are growing up streaming, so we’re particularly focused on keeping Viaplay as safe as possible.
Joseph Grove, Head of Broadcast Compliance
How does MTG work with broadcast compliance?
Every time you sit down to enjoy your favourite show, a lot of work has already taken place behind the scenes. MTG’s compliance team pre-screens almost all our broadcast content – everything from movies and series to commercials, sponsorship and trailers – to ensure it follows the code set out by Ofcom in the UK, who regulate our operations.
The principles in the Ofcom code derive from the European Union’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive, and cover protection of minors, harm and offence, fairness, privacy and more. So whether you’re streaming a series on Viafree or watching one of MTG’s linear channels, our job is to make sure everything you see is in line with these regulations.
We also give compliance training to colleagues working in programming, scheduling, sales, transmission and creative services, as well as to external production teams. In 2016, a total of 182 people were trained; we also completed 25 intensive training courses across the business, compared with 17 courses in 2015, and introduced a downloadable training package for use by all employees. And of course, we follow up on any viewer complaints.
What if a viewer isn’t happy with something they’ve seen on our services?
A viewer who wants to complain can talk to us or the regulator. Any complaints about MTG’s services made to regulators in the Nordic region, for instance, are forwarded to Ofcom, since the majority of our broadcast licenses are held in the UK.
Ofcom investigate every complaint they receive. They notify us that a complaint has been made, specify the channel and date, and summarize the objection. We are not given details of the complainant. Ofcom then ask us for a full recording of the broadcast in question, review it and determine whether or not a code breach has taken place.
We work hard to maintain the very highest standards, and encourage dialogue with our customers through a range of feedback channels such as focus groups and surveys. We take every complaint very seriously, regardless of whether it’s upheld or not.
Did we receive any complaints during 2016?
In total, MTG received 50 broadcast complaints, compared with 58 in 2015. Of these, nine related to minors. For our Ofcom licensed services we had nine programme content complaints in 2016, an increase from six complaints in 2015. Four related to female nudity, and the rest to other issues. None of these nine complaints were upheld by Ofcom.
Ofcom also conduct regular monitoring of sponsorship. In January 2016, Ofcom monitored 12 campaigns broadcast on one of MTG’s Danish free-TV channels, TV3 PULS, between 18 October and 17 November 2015. One campaign was found in breach for not being sufficiently distinct from advertising, in their view.
How can we minimize the risk of similar breaches in the future?
All commercials and spots are cleared by our team before airing. We want advertisers to be able to reach viewers, but they have to do so truthfully and responsibly. A product should always do what it claims to do and at the price shown, while the advertisement should not negatively impact minors or other sensitive groups. We had no viewer complaints relating to advertising in 2016 – the same figure as in 2015.
What is MTG’s policy on pornographic content?
MTG does not produce any pornographic content. We do not offer any at all on Viaplay, and from April 1, 2017, no adult content is available on our own pay-TV channels.
Two third-party adult entertainment channels are available on Viasat, our Nordic and Baltic pay-TV platform. These can always be restricted by PIN lock parental controls, and may only be subscribed to by adults. This third-party content accounts for less than 0.1% of MTG’s sales and available hours of content. As with all third-party content and channels, they are licensed and comply with all rules set out by the relevant regulator.
What are we doing to improve the accessibility of our content?
Our Ofcom licenses oblige us to broadcast a certain amount of accessible content, which means providing subtitles and audio description (AD). In 2016, six MTG channels (four in Sweden, two in Denmark) offered access services – 6% of content broadcast on these channels was required to carry AD, and we exceeded this figure by a wide margin on all six channels, meaning we had zero complaints in this area during the year.
In Sweden and Norway, we already provide hard-of-hearing subtitling for all our own productions, and we’re planning to bring a similar service to Denmark. We’re doing everything we can to make our programmes even more accessible to viewers everywhere.