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Wednesday, 14 July, 1999, 08:25 GMT 09:25 UK
Sex on TV complaints rocket
John Simm as Danny in The Lakes
BBC One's The Lakes: More complaints than any other series
Complaints about sex on television have soared over the last year, according to the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC).

In its annual report, the TV watchdog says complaints about sex rose by 60% in 1998-99 compared to the previous year and now represent nearly a quarter of all viewers concerns.

Objections were not just about explicit portrayals of sex in drama, but also about talk of sex in daytime confessional shows, documentaries and the news.

The BSC acted on 693 complaints about sex in the year up to 31 March - out of 2,994 standards complaints altogether - with objections covering nearly all terrestrial channels.

While the number of complaints rose, so did the number upheld by the BSC, at 31% compared with 18% a year earlier.

Taste continued to be the issue that viewers complained about the most, representing 44% of objections.

Sex And the City publicity shot
Channel 4's Sex And the City did not escape censure
The proportion of people complaining about bad language fell slightly - 14% to 13% - as did those for violence, from 26% to 15%.

The first episode of Channel 4's Queer As Folk was the most complained-about programme, with 110 objections.

However, BBC One's The Lakes picked up the most complaints for a series, with 150 objections from the public.

Other individual programmes with large numbers of complaints included the Kate Winslet film Jude with 35, and a South Bank Show edition about choreographer Javier De Frutos with 32.

Boundaries pushed

The number of complaints received was distorted by a huge increase between October 1998 and February of this year, said the BSC - with sex-packed autumn schedules to blame.

As well as The Lakes, controversial shows broadcast during that period included ITV's Vice - The Sex Trade, Channel 5's Sex And Shopping and Channel 4's Sex And The City.

Monica Lewinsky
Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky was in the news at the time
And the BSC noted that during the time of its report, the affair between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky was in the news.

"It was clear to the commission that the boundaries were being pushed," it said.

"People are ready to admit they enjoy watching sex on TV, but that does not mean that they wish to see it on the hour, every hour."

"The commission received complaints not just about explicit portrayals pre- and post-watershed but also about song lyrics, talk about sex in daytime confessional shows, aural sex on breakfast radio, telephone sex in the news and naked weather forecasts."

The BSC said it strongly supports the "watershed", under which programmes broadcast before 9pm should be suitable for a family audience.

Findings welcomed

The BSC report, and its call for education for children, was welcomed by "clean-up TV" campaigning bodies.

John Beyer, Director of The National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, said: "The startling increase in the overall number of complaints indicates again that there is mounting dissatisfaction among viewers with some of the programming prescribed by the broadcasting authorities.

"More and more viewers are concerned about the levels of violence, obscene and profane language and the portrayal of sexual conduct in programmes.

"We are delighted that viewers are becoming less inclined to remain silent and more vocal about the offence caused."

The BBC's Torin Douglas: "The commission admitted some people like watching sex on television"
See also:

05 Jun 98 | UK
New code for broadcasters
25 Feb 99 | Entertainment
Sex on TV complaints soar
24 Jun 99 | Entertainment
Lakes complaints rejected
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