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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Brass Eye fuels rocketing complaints
Chris Morris
Brass Eye sparked a flurry of complaints
Complaints about "taste and decency" on television and radio have soared, according to a watchdog's annual report.

The total of 7,183 complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Council (BSC) for 2001-2002 is an increase of 46% from the total of 4,920 in the previous year.

The BSC blamed the rise on only a small number of programmes, with 24% of all complaints resulting from just four programmes.

David Dimbleby
The Question Time Special offended many
These were One Night With Robbie Williams, a radio special on the origins of foot-and-mouth disease, the post-11 September Question Time Special and the infamous Brass Eye Special on paedophilia.

Channel 4's Brass Eye satire on the media's treatment of paedophilia was bitterly attacked by some MPs and children's campaigners.

The BBC apologised after more than 200 viewers complained about its special Question Time programme on the 11 September terrorist attacks.

Broadcast just days after the attack, the programme featured audience members with strong anti-American views and visibly upset panellist and former US ambassador Philip Lader.

'Watershed' erosion

The total number of programmes and advertisements complained about rose by around 11%, with the BSC noting a handful of trends.

Many of the complainants were concerned about the erosion of the 2100 "watershed" on television, as well broadcasters overstating or sensationalising findings in factual programmes.

BSC chairman Lord Dubs warned the BBC could be dragged into politics if responsibility for the governors' regulation of the BBC ultimately lay with the government rather than the new Ofcom watchdog.

The draft communications bill, if made law, would create the new body as a watchdog which would deal with almost all media.

But it would have no power over many aspects of BBC regulation, which would remain with the board of governors.

Content board

Lord Dubs said: "If the only regulation of the BBC, other than the governors, is actually the secretary of state, that drags the BBC further into politics and that is not healthy."

The BSC is currently working with the government to help set up the Ofcom content board, which will take over many of its functions.

The annual report reiterated parents' concerns over how children could be affected by realistic soap storylines.

It also highlighted research suggesting viewers back strong provisions to protect privacy.

See also:

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