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Monday, 30 July, 2001, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Brass Eye: Head to head
Brass Eye, Channel 4's satirical spoof show about media reaction to paedophilia has prompted a fierce row over whether it should have been broadcast.

While the network is standing by its decision, the government, more than 2,500 viewers and children's charities have objected.

So who is right? Mary Marsh, director and chief executive of the National Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) found the show "crude and crass".

But Channel 4 said it was using "savage satire" to make a serious point. Both bodies argue their viewpoint below.

Mary Marsh, director and chief executive of the NSPCC:

I watched Brass Eye's supposed satire on the sexual abuse of children with growing sadness and dismay. Millions of people in the UK feel a profound sense of disgust at the rape and sexual assault of children by adults.

Sex abuse can inflict terrible psychological and physical damage on children. Its effects can last a lifetime.

Many survivors of child sex abuse have phoned the NSPCC asking us to give voice to their distress at how they felt this programme belittled their trauma. One woman told us "Channel 4 was having a cheap laugh at our expense".

A recent survey of 3,000 young adults by the NSPCC uncovered a grim catalogue of sex offences against children, ranging from sexual or anal intercourse to involvement in pornography. A quarter of all known rape victims are children, with most offences committed by a family relative. The programme is a slap in the face for them all.

Brass Eye went out to pillory members of the public, celebrities and media reporting of child abuse. But, it went too far with its spoof scenes of paedophilia and pornographic imagery.

We are particularly concerned that children were used in making the programme.

The NSPCC welcomes reasoned debate about the best ways of protecting children against abuse. But this programme did not help.

Over the years, child sex offenders have gone to great lengths to convince us that their actions are no more than a "bit of harmless fun". A great deal of work has gone into revealing the serious, long-term damage that they do.

This crude and crass programme is not avant garde. It turns the clock back 30 years. The only ones laughing here are the paedophiles who want people to take their crimes against children less seriously.

Over the last two years, hundreds of thousands of people have joined with the NSPCC to protect children from sex abusers as part of these FULL STOP Campaign. They are taking positive action to make sure that no child ever again has to suffer sex abuse. They know that child sex abuse is no joke.

Channel 4 spokesman:

Channel 4 recognises that the Brass Eye programme on paedophilia has met with a very strong public reaction.

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.

However, 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. The channel stands by its decision to commission and broadcast this programme, which, through savage satire, sought to make a serious point.

Chris Morris 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.

The programme was scheduled and repeated late at night and was clearly labelled as likely to disturb some viewers. The finished programme and the process of making it were carefully supervised in accordance with the ITC's Programme Code.

In particular, the use of child actors was in accordance with the requirements to ensure the full consent of all parties and to ensure that their welfare was paramount.

We have noted the comments of government ministers. We will give a full account of our decision-making and our reasoning behind it to the ITC."

The BBC's John Andrew
"The culture secretary is examining whether the ITC should be able to react more quickly to programmes that offend"
David Quantick, writer for Brass Eye
"The intent was not to offend; it was to throw light on the subject"
The BBC's Torin Douglas
"[Channel 4] still stands by the programme"
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