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Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 20:00 GMT 21:00 UK
Watchdog orders Brass Eye apology
Brass Eye
Brass Eye spoofed the media's coverage of paedophiles
TV watchdogs have ordered Channel 4 to broadcast an apology for its satirical documentary on paedophilia, Brass Eye.

The Independent Television Commission (ITC) has ruled the channel did not give viewers sufficient warning of the controversial nature of the programme.

Chris Morris' Brass Eye show caused uproar when screened in July, with the majority of protests focusing on Brass Eye's apparent mocking of a serious and sensitive subject.

Brass Eye prompted thousands of complaints
Brass Eye prompted thousands of complaints

The children's charity the NSPCC has welcomed the ruling.

Channel 4, which is obliged by the Broadcasting Act 1996 to broadcast the apology, has said it would "not hesitate" to transmit such a programme again.

Tim Gardam, the channel's director of programmes, said: "The decisions the regulators have reached seem confusing and contradictory."

In this case we think Channel 4 got it very wrong

NSPCC spokesman
The Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC), a statutory body for conduct in broadcasting, has concurred with ITC findings following what it called its most detailed investigation ever.

The commission said that the scenes involving children in a sexual context had "generated a level of offence and distress to the viewing audience" which outweighed the public interest purpose of the programme.

A spokesman for the NSPCC said: "We felt after the programme was first screened that Brass Eye had overstepped the mark on this very sensitive issue.

"Channel 4 should not have repeated the programme, particularly after so many complaints. In this case we think Channel 4 got it very wrong."


The show included mock TV news reports into suspected paedophiles, their behaviour, and how the public should take measures to keep their children safe.

Chris Morris
Morris fronted the pioneering news spoof The Day Today

A number of celebrities including, Phil Collins were duped into backing a fictional anti-paedophile campaign.

Politicians including Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and Home Secretary David Blunkett waded into the row, as the screening was branded "sick".

Ms Jowell contacted the ITC to discuss whether the watchdog needed new powers to enable it to react more quickly after Brass Eye was repeated several nights later despite protests.

The ITC - the regulatory body for broadcasting in the UK - ruled Channel 4 broke two of its codes in transmitting the programme.


The first states "programme services are free to deal appropriately with all elements of the human experience but should avoid gratuitous offence by providing information and guidance to audiences, bearing in mind the expectations of those watching".

The second breach was against a requirement that "there be clear and specific warnings... where there is the likelihood that some viewers may find the programme disturbing or offensive".

But the ITC accepted that Channel 4 has a "distinctive character" in broadcasting and that "innovation and experiment in the form of content of those programmes (should be) encouraged".

It also accepted its right to air disturbing material about sensitive issues and that it was within its rights to commission Brass Eye.

But the ITC felt that the opening sequence was likely to cause "gratuitous offence" to those caught unaware.

Mr Gardam said: "We unequivocally stand by the programme and believe that we scrupulously followed the regulatory codes."

Michael Jackson, Channel 4's chief executive, said: "Despite the ITC's ruling, Channel 4 is unwavering in its support for Chris Morris and Brass Eye, and we would not hesitate to commission or transmit such a programme again.

The BBC's Nick Higham
"Channel 4 attacked the rulings as confusing and contradictory"
See also:

04 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Channel 4 comedy 'unacceptable'
27 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
TV satire sparks 1,500 complaints
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