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Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 14:15 GMT
TV shows criticised for smut
Skinner: Producers say the show is
Producers say Skinner's show is "free-flowing and spontaneous"
Television presenters and producers are screening too much smut and bad language in a bid to win ratings, according to one of the UK's biggest viewers' groups.

TV stations have faced criticism after swearwords were broadcast from a televised Robbie Williams concert as well as a string of risqué topics on mainstream chat shows.

John Beyer, director of pressure group Mediawatch UK, said the level of bad language on some shows, including prime time dramas, was "unacceptable", and that chat shows were "vehicles for smut".

There is a lot that fails to stand up to the test of good taste and decency and it's becoming more frequent

John Beyer
Mediawatch UK
Sunday's screening of The Frank Skinner Show, in which guest Boy George was seen talking about masturbation and homosexual acts, sparked more than 20 complaints to the Independent Television Commission (ITC).

But programme-makers have defended the show, saying a warning was broadcast at the start and that it was screened after the watershed.

"The Frank Skinner show is topical comedy and chat show which is free-flowing and spontaneous," a spokesman said.

"The content varies from week to week and often the guest will dictate the direction of the conversation."

The ITC said it would be getting in touch with ITV, who broadcast the show, to inform them of the complaints and ask for their comments - but that it was too early to decide whether they had breached the regulator's programme code.

'Push the limits'

Mr Beyer said most people did not want programme-makers to continually test the boundaries of taste and decency.

"Producers and hosts think it's their job to push the limits," he said.

"Most people may tolerate this stuff in some environments, but they really get fed up when it keeps coming into their living rooms.

"Right across the schedule, there is a lot that fails to stand up to the test of good taste and decency and it's becoming more frequent."

'Quest for controversy'

He said the problem was not just with late-night chat shows and youth programmes, but that prime time comedies and dramas like BBC One's Linda Green and ITV1's Cold Feet also contained "inappropriate" language.

"What we really want is somebody in the broadcasting industry who will stand up to the programme-makers and this quest for controversy."

The BBC has apologised for the language during a Robbie Williams concert
The BBC has apologised for the language during a Robbie Williams concert
The majority of viewers who contact Mediawatch UK "regard this kind of smuttiness as unacceptable", according to Mr Beyer.

Mediawatch UK was formerly known as the National Viewers and Listeners Association, once headed by Mary Whitehouse.

The BBC apologised on Monday after receiving more than 500 complaints about language used in a Robbie Williams concert special on Saturday night.

Chat show presenter Jonathan Ross has also been under fire for interviews with Sir Elton John and actors Richard Harris and Kim Cattrall that contained discussions about sex.

Another host, Channel 4's Graham Norton, has become one of TV's hottest properties through his risqué chat show style and subject matter, and recently signed a new £3m deal with the station.

Earlier this year Channel 4 received more than 1,000 complaints over an episode of Channel 4's Brass Eye which satirised media treatment of paedophilia.

See also:

19 Nov 01 | TV and Radio
Complaints over Robbie's TV show
03 Oct 01 | TV and Radio
Skinner to battle Parkinson
31 Oct 01 | TV and Radio
Linda Green trumps Barrymore
27 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
TV satire sparks 1,500 complaints
05 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
Robinson dig tops TV complaints
11 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Audiences shun racist language
14 May 01 | TV and Radio
Graham Norton: So naughty but nice
10 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Ross agrees BBC deal
01 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Ross reprimanded by BBC governors
04 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Channel 4 comedy 'unacceptable'
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