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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Concern over soap violence
Little Mo hits Trevor with an iron in EastEnders
Violence is a regular feature of modern soaps
Viewers worry "vulnerable" people, including children, may be influenced by unsuitable themes on soap operas, a survey has found.

The Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC) survey showed that many felt violence could be used gratuitously to drive ratings up.

Many did not like this, especially if it changes the nature of the soap opera suddenly.

People want their soaps realistic, but not too real

Paul Bolt
Soaps such as EastEnders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Brookside have often used violent or shocking storylines when ratings have flagged.

Murders, court cases, prostitution, and teen pregnancy have all featured recently.

Despite worrying over themes unsuitable to children, many of those questioned in the latest survey said they used soaps to inform them about issues, without being lectured to.

But they recognised time constraints meant issues were often explored, only at a "superficial and dramatically engaging level".

Paul Bolt, director of the Broadcasting Standards Commission said: "Soaps are the nation's favourite programmes, and we need to place the complaints we get in the context of the wider public attitudes reflecting the 'contracts' soaps have with their viewers.

"This research is particularly helpful in considering soaps' treatment of serious themes which would normally be tackled in post-watershed drama.

"People want their soaps realistic, but not too real, true to life but not too close to home."

Viewer complaints

Researchers spoke to more than 2,100 viewers from Edinburgh, Llanelli, Stockport and Surrey for their views on soap.

The BSC, which monitors TV standards, wants a fuller understanding of viewers' attitudes towards soap operas to help it deal with viewer complaints.

It suggested people understand soap is escapist entertainment, but can become addicted.

Viewers wanted storylines and situations to be realistic, but not real, and wanted audiences to be prepared for them through developing storylines.

With sufficient warning, audiences can make their own decision as to whether they want to watch or not or whether they want their children to watch.

They welcomed pre-transmission warnings, the survey showed.

Respondents felt broadcasters should be aware when dealing with sensitive issues such as domestic violence, rape or teenage pregnancy that people who have experience of these may be watching.

But viewers did not insist storylines should always end positively, and they welcomed the use of helplines and information that might help victims.

See also:

07 May 02 | New Media
Soap writers to advise on text drama
23 Apr 02 | TV and Radio
Fire boosts The Bill's ratings
25 Apr 02 | TV and Radio
TV violence on the up
29 Mar 02 | Health
TV violence link disputed
29 Mar 02 | TV and Radio
Teen TV viewing 'linked to violence'
30 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Viewers want children 'protected from TV'
23 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Violence is 'TV turn-off'
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