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Sunday, 29 July, 2001, 20:22 GMT 21:22 UK
Paedophile spoof 'counterproductive'
Child protection minister Beverley Hughes has condemned Channel 4's satirical show Brass Eye, calling the spoof paedophile investigation "counterproductive".
She criticised the programme for inciting the kind of media backlash its makers claimed to satirise.
Outgoing Channel 4 chief executive Michael Jackson has defended the decision to screen the programme, insisting it "had a real sense of social purpose".
But Mrs Hughes, who called the show "unspeakably sick", said it had damaged the chance of a serious debate around the issue.
She admitted she had not seen all of the show, but added: "If there was a serious intent, it has been entirely self-defeating."
She joins other ministers who have spoken out over the controversial show including Home Secretary David Blunkett.
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said it was "tearing down the barriers of TV decency".
Mrs Hughes - who on Monday will launch a consultation document on tightening up the working of the sex offenders' register - complained: "I find it extraordinary that Channel 4 could have conceived of this idea in the first place, let alone turned it into a reality.
"Anyone who has researched this subject will have been harrowed by the accounts given by the child victims of abusers.
"This programme trivialised traumatic experiences that can affect children for almost their whole lives", she told The Sunday Telegraph.
Mr Blunkett's spokesman added: "Mr Blunkett was pretty dismayed by the programme and did not find it remotely funny."
The station has now received more than 2,000 calls about the show - repeated on Saturday - which satirised media coverage of paedophiles.
Channel 4 said it had noted the ministers' comments but that its remit was to ask hard questions.
A spokesman said: "Channel 4 knew a satire of this nature would be a difficult programme for some to view and it is a matter of regret to us if victims of child sex abuse and those who work with them have watched the programme in full and been offended.
"Chris Morris (the presenter) was not making light of paedophilia; his target was the dangerous sensationalism and exploitation that can characterise media coverage of the issue.
"As commentators have already noted, some of the more outspoken reaction to the programme only underlines the validity of the point it was making."
In an article published in The Observer, Mr Jackson argues: "Some might argue that satire is the wrong format to engage in serious debate but often it's only when a punchline has finished that we can see the uncomfortable but serious point behind the joke."
High profile figures such as ITN correspondent Nicholas Owen, presenter Richard Blackwood and rock star Phil Collins were all duped into fronting bogus anti-paedophilia campaigns for the show.
The NSPCC described the show as "crude and crass", and "offensive", and along with NCH, the NSPCC's National Child Protection Helpline, unsuccessfully called on the station not to air the repeat.
The consultation document to be published on Monday will suggest a range of measures intended to strengthen the sex offenders' register.
The proposed changes will include expanding the range of offences which trigger registration.
At the moment, some offenders convicted of indecent assault are not required to register.
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