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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 December, 2003, 10:04 GMT
EastEnders star slates violence
Shaun Williamson as Barry in EastEnders
Barry will leave the show shortly after marrying Janine
EastEnders actor Shaun Williamson, who plays Barry, has said the hit soap has become too "gritty" for young viewers.

It was "frightening" that parents let their young children watch, he told BBC Radio Five Live, and he did not let his six-year-old daughter see the show.

Williamson, who is leaving the show on Thursday, said: "The whole programme is very gritty and has become grittier over the last 10 to 15 years."

Recent storylines have included rape, a violent feud and a bus crash.

Williamson said increased freedom in what could be shown had also led to problems.

We expect parents to share the responsibility for assessing whether individual programmes should be seen by younger viewers
BBC spokesman
"It's frightening sometimes when parents come up to you with a five-year-old or six-year-old and say, 'That's him, you recognise him, don't you?'

"I don't let my six-year-old watch EastEnders and I certainly wouldn't encourage her to until she's a fair bit older."

The actor said the Sunday omnibus edition should be of particular concern to parents.

"It's all part of this culture we live in. We all have more, we all want more," he said.

"Our children have televisions in their bedrooms now, whereas they never used to have televisions in their home full stop until 30-odd years ago."

A BBC spokesman said the corporation took "great care" with storylines, especially in EastEnders because it goes out before the nine o'clock watershed.

"We expect parents to share the responsibility for assessing whether individual programmes should be seen by younger viewers," he said.


In 2003, the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC) upheld complaints about Trevor's abuse of Little Mo, ruling that it was too violent to be shown before the watershed.

The BSC also censured the show for screening scenes of Phil Mitchell beating his nephew Jamie before nine o'clock in the evening.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke recently said violent scenes on television encouraged bullying, while the charity Alcohol Concern warned that soap characters spent too much time in the pub.

Williamson's final scenes will be broadcast on Thursday, one day after he is seen marrying Janine Butcher.

In March, he announced he was leaving so he could appear in pantomime in Canterbury.

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