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Wednesday, January 6, 1999 Published at 14:41 GMT


Sex used to boost ratings says survey

Claudia Schiffer's strip for Citroen: 'Gratuitous and unacceptable'

Television viewers believe that sex is being used by broadcasters to boost ratings according to a new survey.

The survey carried out by the Broadcasting Standards Commission says people are becoming more tolerant of sex on TV - but many believe it is appearing at inappropriate times with discussions on daytime talk shows coming in for particular critisism.

BBC Media Correspondent Nick Higham: The BSC says sex sells - but shouldn't
Programmes like the US import The Jerry Springer Show regularly feature near-the-knuckle subjects.

Past shows have included My sister slept with my three husbands and I refuse to wear clothes.

For the survey respondents were shown a clip of former ITV show Vanessa during which a couple talked about their multiple sexual partners. Three-fifths of those surveyed felt its 2.30pm transmission time was unsuitable, while 22% said it was degrading and one-fifth said they would switch off.

[ image: Jerry Springer: Too much sex and too early in the day]
Jerry Springer: Too much sex and too early in the day
The study, called Sex and Sensibility in Broadcasting, also says there were too many unnecessary sex scenes in programmes.

Many viewers believed that sex was used to sell products on television with women questioned singling out the controversial advertisement for Citroen cars, in which supermodel Claudia Schiffer strips, as unacceptable and gratuitous.

In the six years since the last survey was carried out, numbers who believe there is "too much" sex have actually risen with the figure increasing from 32% to 36%.

The Daily Telegraph's Media Correspondent Tom Leonard: "More liberal attitude towards sex"
Most of questioned (78%) believed that it was important to portray sex if it was central to the storyline - yet 24% of the sample thought it was offensive to see it depicted on television. The report also pointed out that although there is greater tolerance of TV sex, it does not mean that people actually approve.

[ image: Sex in the soaps: Major cause for concern]
Sex in the soaps: Major cause for concern
However, the report shows a marked change in attitude towards the depiction of homosexual relationships since the last report in 1992.

Back then, 46% thought it acceptable to show gay relationships on screen, but this has now risen to 58%. The previous survey also showed 79% thought homosexual scenes should be shown only after 10pm. The latest report shows only 4% thought gay material should be shown only after that time.

Viewers were also concerned about soaps - all of which are shown before the 9pm watershed. Overall, just under a third felt there was too much sex in soaps.

Many viewers thought there was a difference between the amounts of sex shown on satellite and cable services, compared with terrestrial TV with 20% saying there was more sex on satellite and cable, and 19% saying it was more explicit.

[ image: Lady Howe: People accept sex but don't want it to see it every hour]
Lady Howe: People accept sex but don't want it to see it every hour
The survey also raised concerns for children, with 56% of respondents believing that showing sex on TV encouraged children to experiment too soon.

However, parents were less likely to agree. A vast majority (93%) of those in the survey said that people who did not like to watch sex on TV could simply switch off.

According to the study, there were two variables - age and gender - which influenced the sort of attitudes expressed - with older viewers and women more likely to find sex unacceptable.

Lady Howe, chairman of the BSC, said the 4% rise in the numbers who felt there was too much sex on TV could be a warning to broadcasters.

"That may be the start of a warning that people are saying it's going too far," she said.

"People accept sex is a fact of life and are generally relaxed about it. Some are even prepared to admit they enjoy watching it, but that's not to say they want to see it on the hour every hour."

She said that sex "has its place in life, but it's not life itself". The message was that "a balanced diet was a healthy diet".

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