Skip to comments.Swearing, violence and sex? That's OK by Ofcom
Posted on 05/26/2005 12:24:20 AM PDT by echoBoomer
BROADCASTERS have been given the green light to serve up sex and swearing to viewers in return for restrictions on harmful programmes that might be seen by children.
The watershed is to become a Berlin Wall, with few restrictions on sexual material and foul language remaining after 9pm. But, under the new Broadcasting Code published by the communications regulator Ofcom, all reasonable steps must be taken to protect the under-18s from material that might seriously impair their moral development.
The code, which applies to all television and radio stations broadcast in Britain, was drawn up after a year of consultation and comes into force in July.
Acknowledging the Human Rights Act, it guarantees broadcasters freedom of expression and the right of informed adults to view whatever they wish, however offensive it might seem to others.
Jamie Olivers swearing, the C-word in Jerry Springer: The Opera and a graphic sex scene in The Idiots, a Danish film screened on Channel 4, are all acceptable under the code because they were justified within their context and preceded by clear warnings.
The code also raises the possibility of programmes funded entirely by product placement and channels renamed by brand sponsors as replacements for traditional advertising. However, the rules could soon become irrelevant as broadcasters begin streaming programmes over mobile phones and broadband internet connections. Ofcom has no jurisdiction over the content of the internet.
Verbal and physical violence, as well as portrayals of sexual behaviour, must be appropriately limited in pre-watershed programmes likely to be seen by children.
Smoking, the use of illegal drugs, alcohol and solvent abuse must not be condoned or glamorised. But Ofcom recognises that childrens grasp of modern technology often exceeds parental attempts to restrict access to unsuitable material.
Ofcom has banned the broadcast of hard-core porn films given an R18 rating by the British Board of Film Classification. Such films are often accessed through keying in a PIN code but Ofcom said that this security mechanism was ineffective because children could discover the number.
Chris Banatvala, head of standards at Ofcom, said: There is a limit to regulation because we cannot be in everyones home. Parents have to take responsibility too and we still see the watershed as the most useful tool.
But the watershed must not become a waterfall and the transition to more adult material must not be unduly abrupt. Nudity should not be sprung upon the viewer at 9:01pm. Stronger material should still be seen closer to 11pm.
Richard Hooper, Ofcom deputy chairman, demonstrated the bodys liberal approach, when he suggested that a notional programme depicting sex with animals could fall within the code if it was broadcast at a suitably late hour.
Ofcom can revoke a broadcasters licence for repeated breaches of the code and has fined terrestrial channels in the past. But most breaches result in a rap on the knuckles and no additional sanctions will be introduced.
The BBC took issue with aspects of the code which it claimed would undermine its long-established tradition of self-regulation. It also rejected proposals designed to protect privacy which require a broadcaster to seek consent before filming an individual.
This would inhibit legitimate public-interest investigations, warned the BBC, which is subject to Ofcoms rules on harm and offence but not impartiality.
THE NEW BROADCASTING CODE
Broadcasters guaranteed freedom of expression within the law
9pm watershed remains building block of regulation
R18-rated porn films banned due to lack of secure encryption
Broadcasters must protect under-18s from harmful material
Adults exercise informed choice over what to view
F and C words permitted with justification
Viewers must have adequate protection and warnings over harmful or offensive material
News must be reported with accuracy and impartiality
Relaxation of product placement under consultation
Brands can sponsor an entire commercial channel
TV hypnotists must not broadcast routines straight to camera
"Ofcom says OK to sex with animals"
Thank God, there's this shapely platypus in the London Zoo I've had my eye on for SOOOOOO long!