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Last Updated: Monday, 23 April 2007, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
TV soaps too violent, Ofcom says
EastEnders actors Matt Di Angelo and Niall Greig Fulton
Ofcom said violence must be limited when children could be watching
TV soap operas have been criticised by broadcasting watchdog Ofcom for showing too much violence on screen.

The regulator warned that a number of programmes have reached "the limits of what is acceptable" and noted that complaints from viewers are rising.

Ofcom made its comments to broadcasters as it upheld complaints about a kidnapping story on ITV soap Emmerdale.

It said a scene where a character was shot in the stomach was "unsuitable" for broadcast before the watershed.

A total of 37 viewers complained about four episodes, broadcast at 1900 in September last year.

The storyline showed featured businessman Tom King and his former daughter-in-law Sadie King being kidnapped by villain Cain Dingle.

As Dingle's plan to extort money from the King family came to a climax, he appeared to shoot Sadie, played by Patsy Kensit, at close range with a shotgun.

According to Ofcom, the scene contained a "significant amount of blood" and a close-up of the character's injury.


Patsy Kensit as Sadie King in Emmerdale
Actress Patsy Kensit was seen to be shot in the stomach
ITV defended the storyline, saying it was one of the most "exciting and successful" events in Emmerdale's history.

The final showdown was seen by 8.5m people, and a warning about the "bloody climax" had been broadcast before the show.

"Whilst Emmerdale stories do not condone violent acts, it need not and should not shy away from them," the broadcaster told Ofcom.

It said it had reached an "appropriate balance between dramatic entertainment and offence".

Ofcom said that, while previous scenes involving violence had been limited and complied with broadcasting guidelines, the shooting scene contained an "unsuitable level of violence" at a time "when children were likely to be viewing".

The watchdog added a note to all broadcasters, saying: "Ofcom has concerns about a growing trend of complaints regarding the portrayal of violence in soaps."

It reminded programme-makers to adhere to the broadcasting code, which states that "violence, its after-effects and descriptions of violence" must be limited before the watershed, and must also be justified by context.

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