That was the news – Week 13, 2008: Commendable Byron talks common sense, becomes tomorrow’s chip paper

By Patrick Garratt, Monday, 31 March 2008 11:56 GMT

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The Byron Report – a study commissioned by the UK Government to investigate games and internet use among the young in the UK – was delivered last week, saying almost exactly what everyone thought it was going to say and showing its author, Doctor Tanya Byron, in a highly professional light.

Probably the best thing about the publication, however, is that fact it’s now been and gone and we can (almost) stop writing about it.

As predicted, the report recommended that all games on sale in the UK should be rated legally. Byron also said that the age limit for games ratings be dropped to 12 from 15.

In the wake of the paper’s release, it transpired that the BBFC would be responsible for rating all games meant for those aged 12 and over. PEGI, the voluntary European ratings system currently used in the UK, would rate everything meant for younger children.

An awareness campaign is needed, said Byron, to make sure adults know what their children are playing and what’s appropriate. The good doctor studiously extolled the benefits of games while saying minors needed to be protected from inappropriate content, and assure that proper ratings and regulation didn’t mean an end to adult content.

Pretty much the only downside to the entire shebang was a barely veiled inference that the British games industry itself was to be forced to fund the awareness campaign, but behind-the-scenes talk indicates that the decision to move the cost away from the taxpayer came from the Government itself.

TIGA was quick to warn Labour off weighing the industry down with the expense of the programme, but the entire notion that the holder of the purse strings doing anything other than keeping public funds away from the campaign was depressingly inevitable. It seems a shame that Byron herself was left to defend the decision.

The new ratings would take up to two years to come into affect said one report, while another said Government would act on the recommendations immediately. Various officials queued up to welcome the report with a couple of caveats and the specialist trade press fought over first dibs on Byron’s time.

By that point, though, the boat had pretty much sailed on one of the duller stories in games news history.

Leave it

That really was that. A few noses were put out of joint with the PEGI decision, but Byron was ultra-professional in her delivery and her conduct both during and after the compilation of her research was commendable in every respect. Not a bad word’s been said about her from those involved in the process.

The interviews she gave after the report’s publication showed her to be conscientious, sensibly correct and knowledgeable on the subject of media and children to an almost bewildering degree, a fact made all the more pleasurable by some ridiculous cheek-puffing by the right wing UK press both before and during the paper’s release.

Byron finally said that she was “taking a step back” from gaming while considering her next move – a likely translation for “thanks for all the fish” – after a morning TV appearance with Gordon Brown himself.

Stories are still floating around, quoting Byron on things she said a week ago, but they’re finally, thankfully, starting to peter out. It’d be cruel to call the Byron Report tomorrow’s chip paper, but it’d be accurate. In a few years’ time, games will be rated like films, and that’ll be that.

Hopefully everyone can accept Byron’s work and move on sooner rather than later. Can we stop writing about it now?

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