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The BBC's John Andrew
"The culture secretary is examining whether the ITC should be able to react more quickly to programmes that offend"
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David Quantick, writer for Brass Eye
"The intent was not to offend; it was to throw light on the subject"
 real 28k

The BBC's Torin Douglas
"[Channel 4] still stands by the programme"
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Monday, 30 July, 2001, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Ministers backed in TV satire row

Channel 4 has been inundated with complaints
The government has denied it wants to act as a censor after ministers criticised Channel 4 satire Brass Eye, but said regulations could be reviewed.

The spoof show about media reaction to paedophilia has generated more than 2,500 viewers' complaints, and several ministers have voiced their distaste at its content.

I have no intention of dictating or influencing the content of TV programmes

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell was concerned that it was broadcast on Channel 4 on Thursday and repeated on Friday, despite negative reaction after the first show from viewers and children's charities.

She is contacting the Independent Television Commission (ITC) on Monday to discuss whether the watchdog needs new powers to enable it to react more quickly.

The prime minister's spokesman added it was "a government view" that the programme had gone beyond the boundaries of taste and decency.

This opinion was shared by Ms Jowell, Home Secretary David Blunkett and child protection minister Beverley Hughes.

I saw the programme and it made me laugh

Austin Mitchell MP

However the spokesman stressed that satire had an important role to play, and that "ministers were not talking about censorship".

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.

Brass Eye
The show generated more than 2,500 complaints
The show's contentious scenes include a man in stocks being offered a young boy; one "paedophile" being burned to death on a phallic symbol on release from jail and another portrayed preying on young children.

Ms Jowell said: "I have no intention of dictating or influencing the content of TV programmes. But I do have a role in making sure the ITC is equal to the task of representing the concerns of the public to broadcasters.

"The Brass Eye programme and the fact that it was repeated after only 24 hours suggests that there is a need for a rethink about the ITC's powers."

She also showed her distaste for the programme, saying: "If this is considered acceptable material then we are tearing down all the boundaries of decency on television."

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell
Tessa Jowell: Wants to raise concerns with Channel 4
The ITC, which received 600 complaints, is to launch an investigation into whether the programme broke its requirements on taste, decency and the use of child actors.

If it finds that its code was breached, the commercial television regulator could hit Channel 4 with an unlimited fine or even, theoretically, revoke its licence - although that ultimate sanction appears unlikely in this case.

But Labour MP Austin Mitchell disagreed with his fellow politicians, telling BBC Radio 5Live: "I think it's a lot of fuss and nonsense over nothing.

David Quantick
Writer David Quantick has defended the show
"I saw the programme and it made me laugh."

The Metropolitan Police received a number of complaints and Scotland Yard said although it has a copy of the show for reviewing purposes it was not investigating it "at this stage".

The show's writer, David Quantick, stood by his work, insisting on BBC One's Breakfast that it was "a show about media attitudes to paedophilia and the way the media apparently exploits it".

He said Brass Eye made a valid point about the "willingness of celebrities to endorse things just because they want a bit of publicity".


The show duped celebrities including Phil Collins and Richard Blackwood into appearing on it to lend support to its hoax campaign.

Ben Summerskill, a journalist from The Observer, added: "It was a parody about the way so many so-called investigative programmes are an opportunity to explore subjects that are prurient and smutty."

Mrs Hughes - who is launching a consultation document on tightening up the working of the sex offenders' register on Monday - admitted she had not seen the whole show.

But she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The spoof approach, the satirism, trivialisation and the use of humour in this kind of way about this subject is completely inappropriate and offensive to people."

Chris Morris was not making light of paedophilia; his target was the dangerous sensationalism and exploitation that can characterise media coverage of the issue

Channel 4

Channel 4 has voiced regret that some viewers had found the "savage" satire offensive, but has stood by its decision to broadcast the show.

"It is part of the channel's remit to ask hard questions about the way society and the media deal with its most difficult problems," a spokesman said.

The station has received more than 2,000 calls about the show, which was first shown on Thursday night and was repeated the following evening.

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See also:

30 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
Brass Eye's controversial clips
29 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
Paedophile spoof 'counterproductive'
30 Jul 01 | UK
Satire's thin line
30 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Satire row gets political
30 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
What does the ITC do?
18 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
Star consults lawyers over TV spoof
04 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Channel 4 comedy 'unacceptable'
27 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
TV satire sparks 1,500 complaints
28 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
Channel 4 defends 'sick' satire
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