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Last Updated: Monday, 25 April, 2005, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Watchdog slams ITV show fire joke
Holly Willoughby
Holly Willoughby presents Ministry of Mayhem
ITV children's show Ministry of Mayhem has been criticised by watchdog Ofcom for a stunt which it said could lead youngsters to set their hands on fire.

Ofcom upheld complaints about a sketch in which an actor set fire to his hands after filling them with bubbles created by pumping methane into detergent.

Ofcom ruled that the item, shown in January, had breached guidelines set up to protect children.

ITV argued that children could not get hold of methane gas to try the stunt.

Programme bosses were criticised for failing to include a "Don't try this at home" warning.

Copycat fears

The stunt was part of a weekly item on the Saturday morning show in which a comedy character called The Doc demonstrates a scientific experiment.

Four concerned parents contacted Ofcom to complain that children at home would try to copy the sketch.

In upholding the complaints, Ofcom's report found that the mix of bubbles and flames was "likely to appeal greatly to children".

It said: "The experiment was conducted almost as a piece of slapstick fun, exacerbated by the comic character of The Doc, with any education aspect being minimal.

Previous complaint

"When The Doc suffered a burn to his hand, this was met with laughter. We also noted that no warning against trying to copy the experiment was given to children watching."

ITV defended the item by saying children could not recreate the stunt as they would not have access to a methane gas cylinder.

It is not the first time Ministry of Mayhem, hosted by Stephen Mulhern and Holly Willoughby, has been rapped by Ofcom.

In April 2004, the programme was criticised for a stunt which encouraged children to feed lemon juice to babies.

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