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Thursday, February 25, 1999 Published at 13:50 GMT


Sex on TV complaints soar

A programme on prostitution was shown too early

Viagra, fetishism and prostitution on TV have sparked an increase in complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Commission.

Media Correspondent Torin Douglas: The autumn schedule was noticeable for its high sex content
The watchdog has upheld a series of complaints about programmes like ITV's Vice - The Sex Trade and Channel 4's Cutting Edge in its latest bulletin.

The complaints cover the period from October to February, and are 70% up on the same period 12 months ago.

Two editions of ITV's Vice - The Sex Trade prompted 16 viewers to complain about scenes including a prostitute breast feeding a client on whom she had just placed an incontinence pad. The show also included scenes in an Amsterdam brothel.

The BSC said the programmes - shown at 2100 - were inappropriate and the breast-feeding scenes had "exceeded acceptable boundaries".

Viagra prompted complaints

[ image: This Morning: The show's Viagra test got a thumbs-up from the BSC]
This Morning: The show's Viagra test got a thumbs-up from the BSC
The commission also partially upheld complaints against one of Channel 4's Cutting Edge documentaries, The Rise And Rise Of Viagra, which showed a gay man speaking explicitly about his sex life while using the drug, but did not point out the dangers of using it. It called the programme "irresponsible".

However, it decided not to uphold six complaints about ITV's This Morning for giving three couples Viagra to test so they could discuss their experience live on the show. It said the item was in "legitimate public interest" and was neither "explicit nor gratuitous".

A Nick Broomfield documentary on Channel 4, Fetishes, was also criticised for "turning the audience into voyeurs of demeaning and degrading behaviour," while Eurotrash was also criticised for graphic scenes and sexual references in a feature on Italian erotica.

BBC children's drama Byker Grove was found to be "too explicit" for its 1710 timeslot when a brother and sister were discussing starting a sexual relationship.

Viewers relaxed about sex - at the right time

[ image: Byker Grove: Rapped for sex storyline at teatime]
Byker Grove: Rapped for sex storyline at teatime
A BSC spokeswoman said the rise in complaints - which were mainly about the timing of the programmes concerned - reflected the results of a survey it published in January concerning attitudes to sex on TV.

The report, Sex And Sensibilty, found viewers were more relaxed about sex on TV, but found it was appearing too often across the schedule, especially on daytime shows.

However, complaints about one of ITV's most controversial imports from the US - The Jerry Springer Show - were not upheld by the BSC.

Other complaints upheld included:

  • Coronation Street (ITV): Images of character Anne Malone's body frozen to death at the start of an episode.

  • The Cops (BBC Two): Use of bad language, violence and drug abuse.

  • CD:UK (ITV): Suggestive lyrics in Montel Jordan's song, I Can Do That.

BBC Radio 1's Mark Radcliffe was also criticised for the innuendoes used by his Fat Harry White character.

Although broadcasters are supposed to adhere to the BSC's rulings, it has no statutory powers to enforce them, unlike the BBC, the Independent Television Commission and the Radio Authority.

The National Consumer Council has called for broadcast watchdogs to be replaced with a single body.

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