Decisions about how to deliver content information are based on:
- the nature of individual pieces or categories of content
- the platform (not all forms of information are suitable for all platforms)
- the company’s brand values
- the legal and political environment of the market concerned
- whether the piece of content is made available to users in multiple territories (meaning that the information format must be universally understood)
- whether content is aggregated from many different sources (e.g. original, in-house production, user-generated content or licensed commercial content).
It is important to note that consumer expectations of content information are different across different platforms and audience segments, e.g. between traditional broadcasting and online services, which can develop niche audiences with specific needs and expectations regarding information. Providers aim to match these expectations with the type of information they provide.
As the number of audiovisual delivery platforms grows, content providers are employing a variety of content information formats to empower their users. The following (non-exhaustive) list shows some of the most commonly employed formats. It is important to bear in mind, however, that this list is based on approaches being used today. New tools may of course be deployed as technology advances:
- Visual symbols
- Long form text information (labelling content descriptively according to its nature, strength and frequency)
- Short access codes
- Scheduling of the original linear transmission
- Marketing and promotion
- Conveying the context of original linear transmission (channel, time of broadcast etc)
- Classification or ratings
- Visual or audio warnings
- Signposting: (categorising content into logical areas)
- Information where PIN protection is in place or other forms of access controls
The extent of the information contained in each format can also vary depending on context and medium. For example, information might include the title of the content (e.g Spooks), the genre of the content (serial drama) or the title of the content plus some supplementary information such as a brief description of the content.
While providers employ a rich mix of formats to provide content information, there are some basic principles that they will adhere to in order to ensure that content information is effective in achieving its objective, including making sure that it:
- is easy to use and understand
- gives adequate information to enable the user to make an informed choice about whether or not to access the content
- uses plain and consistent language
- is practical for the medium in which it is being offered.
This good practice framework, and the principles and background context statements within it, are not intended to create any liability or legally binding obligation on any member of the working group who is listed at the end of this document or otherwise associated with it.
The development of this good practice framework has been facilitated by the Broadband Stakeholder Group (www.broadbanduk.org)