Broadcast Bulletin Issue number 133 - 11|05|09
Jon Gaunt,Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare,Kinky and Proud,Emmerdale,Stylista trailer, The Sex Education Show, Complaint by Maria Mercedes Brown & Complaint by Mr Matias Coombs
Talksport, 7 November 2008, 11:25
Jon Gaunt was a presenter on this speech-based station. In his programme, the presenter covered a range of issues from the news and was well known for his combative and hard-hitting style with participants.
Ofcom received 53 complaints about an interview by Jon Gaunt conducted with a local councillor, Michael Stark. The interview concerned the policy of the London Borough of Redbridge that from 2010 any foster carers in the borough would be required to be non-smokers.
Complainants said they were offended by the interview and said it was “unacceptable”. They objected to the way in which Jon Gaunt interviewed the councillor as they believed Mr Stark had been treated in an offensive and insulting manner culminating in him being called a “Nazi” by Jon Gaunt and an “ignorant pig”. Complainants stated that this was an “unprovoked personal attack” on the councillor and the interview was variously described as “oppressive”, “intimidating” and that the interviewer was “shouting like a playground bully”.
A number of the complainants also suggested that the manner in which the term “Nazi” had been used, belittled the sacrifice that was made in World War II. (The interview was conducted just before Remembrance Sunday). Some complainants also stated they found the manner in which the word “Nazi” was used to be offensive as they were Jewish.
The interview itself was extremely heated and during the interview, Jon Gaunt and Michael Stark had a number of exchanges, such as:
Presenter: “… What about an existing foster parent who doesn’t give up smoking and says actually, well, I like having a fag but I’m not going to smoke in front of the children, I never smoke inside the room, I only ever go out on the front door, why can’t they foster?”
Mr Stark: “ Well, we’re not going to drag children away from foster parents they are already with”.
Presenter: “ No, I’m talking post 2010, when your policy comes into place”.
Mr Stark: “In the future, we will not be using them as foster parents”.
Presenter: “ Okay, so now we’re getting to it. So, therefore, somebody who says: yes, I like a fag, I smoke 10, 20 a day, but I’ve never smoked in the house, I smoke outside; that person would not be allowed to be a foster parent?”
Mr Stark: “ No, because the trouble is Jon they do smoke in the house”.
Presenter: “ How do you know that?”
Mr Stark: “ Cause we have councillors on our council who are smokers and they say we never smoke in the building, there’s a policy - we wouldn’t dream - you go in their offices, there they are, puffing away illegally as they drop it on the floor”.
Presenter: “ So you are a Nazi then?”
Mr Stark: “ Erm, I find that…”
Presenter: “So, you are, because - you are, you’re a Nazi…
Mr Stark: “ No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no…”
Presenter : “Because what you’re saying, what you’re saying…” .
Mr Stark: “ I’m not going to let you just say that, or whatever you’re going to say next. That is an offensive, insulting remark that is emotive and brings discussion down to the lowest key…”
Ofcom further noted that after several minutes of tense exchanges and various comments by the presenter, Jon Gaunt said the following:
Presenter: “ You’re now going to insult me, are you, and say that somehow because I was in care and because of the experiences I’ve got I am some kind of victim and I have some kind of psychological problem? I find that immensely offensive, not only to me but to everybody else who has been through the care system, you ignorant pig”.
Later in the programme, the heated discussion continued:
Mr Stark: “you are…rude…no because you have used an insult that is probably
actionable in law to be quite honest…”
Presenter: “well I think your attitude is wrong…”
Mr Stark: “probably actionable…probably actionable…”
Presenter: “ take action …take action…because listen to me..”
Mr Stark: “no doubt that will give you more publicity and make you more thrilled”
Presenter: “take action if you wish”
Mr Stark: “make you more thrilled”
Presenter: “you are a health Nazi…you have no evidence”
Mr Stark: “oh, you’ve put another word in front now, to carry out the legal part…
health Nazi, that’s alright, you’ll probably get away with that one”
As the interview progressed, the presenter referred to the interviewee as a “health Nazi” and a “Nazi” as well as “an ignorant pig”.
Ofcom asked Talksport for its comments under Rule 2.1 which states that generally accepted standards must be applied to television and radio services and Rule 2.3 which says that material that may cause offence must be justified by the context.
Talksport told Ofcom that it regretted what had happened, stating: “The interview fell way below the acceptable broadcasting standards that Talksport expects and demands as a radio station”. The station also said that it: “totally accepts and regrets that the language [used by Jon Gaunt] was offensive and that the manner in which the interview was conducted was indefensible”.
Talksport said that Jon Gaunt: “was known to be an outspoken, hard-hitting, opinionated and aggressive presenter”. The station had encouraged him to be himself, but also made it clear to him the requirement to always remain within the law and abide by the Code.
In this case, the programme’s assistant producer had suggested that the programme should cover the London Borough of Redbridge’s policy on foster parents. Jon Gaunt expressed his enthusiasm for this idea and the interview with Michael Stark was organised. Talksport said that, prior to the programme, Jon Gaunt had been warned by the programme producer and assistant producer that the interview with Michael Stark might be emotive for him, given his own experience of being in care as a child. In the few hours prior to the interview, the licensee stated that Jon Gaunt was warned on 3 occasions by programming staff to remain calm and allow Michael Stark to put his point of view across.
During the interview itself, Talksport said that Jon Gaunt ignored “constant instructions by talkback and hand signals” from the producer to calm down, let the guest answer the questions, and retract the use of the word “Nazi”. According to Talksport, the programme producer had considered using the so called “dump” button (-1-) but decided it was better to get Jon Gaunt to retract and qualify his comments. This Jon Gaunt did by calling Michael Stark “a health Nazi”. As the programme producer believed Jon Gaunt was ignoring his comments, he gave further instructions by talkback and hand signals to conclude the interview. Eventually, Jon Gaunt terminated the interview. At the behest of the programme producer, Jon Gaunt gave two on-air apologies within the programme, following the interview.
The broadcaster said that it was proud of its reputation for using outspoken presenters to voice their opinions and tackle a range of issues that engender debate with listeners and guests. Whilst recognising that such debate could become heated, the station recognised that, aside from its legal and regulatory obligations, Talksport had two self-imposed boundaries. First: not to let robust debate “descend into an unedifying war of words that includes personal insults, offensive language and bullying”. Second: “to give both callers and guests a fair crack at expressing their views without being subject to ridicule or abuse”. The station considered that in this case, both boundaries had been crossed and the interview had been “without precedent” on the station.
In summary, Talksport said it took the following steps, after the interview:
- after the programme, the programme producer spoke to Talksport’s Programme Director, as the programme producer: “was deeply concerned about how the interview was conducted”. After receiving a written report on the matter and listening to a recording of the interview and the two on-air apologies given by Jon Gaunt, the Programme Director spoke to Jon Gaunt a few hours after the programme. In this conversation, the Programme Director told Jon Gaunt he thought that the interview had been “appalling”. Jon Gaunt had defended himself by saying that Michael Stark had provoked him, and that it was a very emotive subject for Jon Gaunt personally, as he had been in care himself as a teenager;
- following discussions within senior management at Talksport, and UTV, who owns the station, it was decided that Jon Gaunt would be suspended and an internal investigation launched. The Programme Director informed Jon Gaunt of his suspension by telephone on the evening of 7 November 2008 (i.e. the same day as the broadcast);
- on the day following the broadcast, the Radio Managing Director of UTV apologised to Michael Stark for the manner in which the interview had been conducted, and for the use of the words “Nazi” and “ignorant pig”;
- in the days following the broadcast, the station’s internal investigation held interviews with a range of Talksport personnel, including Jon Gaunt. On 17 November 2008, after taking into consideration all relevant facts, including the results of the internal investigation, the decision was taken to terminate Jon Gaunt’s contract; and
- on 21 November 2008, the station broadcast an on-air apology.
In summary, Talksport contended that it had taken swift and decisive action that had resolved the matter (-2-).
The freedom of broadcasters to choose what topics to cover in the programmes they broadcast and in what manner, is fundamental to today’s broadcasting culture and a principle enshrined in the regulatory framework in which Ofcom operates. All broadcasters have the right to hold opinions and impart information and ideas to their audiences without interference and audiences are entitled to receive those ideas and opinions. Whilst broadcasters are obliged under their licences to comply with the standards set out in the Code, including standards which adequately protect members of the public from offensive (or harmful) material (Rule 2.3), these standards should be applied in a manner which “best guarantees an appropriate level of freedom of expression” (-3-). In this case, Ofcom recognises that Talksport specialises in a genre of hard-hitting talk radio, which encourages robust interaction between its presenters (such as Jon Gaunt) on the one hand, and audience members and invited guests on the other. It is not surprising that at times this interaction may prove uncomfortable and challenging listening.
The fact therefore that material may be offensive to some is not, in itself, a breach of Ofcom’s Code because the Code does not prohibit the broadcasting of offensive material - to do so would be considered an inappropriate restriction on a broadcaster’s and the audience’s freedom of expression (-4-). What the Code requires is that generally accepted standards are applied to broadcast content (Rule 2.1) and that the inclusion of offensive material in a programme must be justified by the context (Rule 2.3). In this case, a well-known talk radio presenter, with a distinctively robust style, conducted an interview with a local councillor, who had been invited onto the programme to explain his council’s new policy on foster carers. Ofcom noted that from the outset, not uncharacteristically Jon Gaunt took an aggressive and hectoring tone with Michael Stark. As indicated above, such an approach may well not have been at odds with audience expectation for this programme or station. However, this tone sharpened as the interview progressed. Jon Gaunt gave little chance for his guest to answer his questions, and dismissed those answers he did give. Ofcom noted that this culminated with Jon Gaunt calling Michael Stark, at times, a “ Nazi” and an “ignorant pig”. The overall tone of Jon Gaunt’s interviewing style on this occasion was extremely aggressive and was described by complainants as “oppressive”, “intimidating” and felt the interviewer was “shouting like a playground bully”.
Ofcom recognises that the subject matter in this case may have been a particularly sensitive one for the presenter, given his own experience of being in care as a child. Further, Ofcom noted that Jon Gaunt later qualified his use of the word “Nazi” to some extent by subsequently referring to Michael Stark as a “health Nazi”. However, following that qualification, he reverted back to the original term “Nazi”. The presenter also referred to the interviewee as “an ignorant pig” and told him to “shut up”.
Ofcom noted the steps that Talksport said it had taken before the programme to warn the presenter to exercise care during the interview, and the purported attempts by programming staff to control the situation during the interview. Further, Ofcom recognises the seriousness which the broadcaster attached to the incident, as shown by its prompt investigation into it and the two on-air apologies by Jon Gaunt:
The first apology was at 11:37:
Presenter: “ Well, I didn’t hold it together. So I’d like to apologise to the listeners. I’m not going to apologise to him. He’s exactly the kind of bloke who was in charge of social services when I was in care, so I’m not going to apologise to him. But I will apologise to you. I was unprofessional. I lost the rag. It’s something very close to my heart, which I’m sure you know about, but I did lose my rag with him. I wish I hadn’t lost my rag with him. And for those who are still laughing at me – fair enough, keep laughing”.
The second apology was at 12:32:
Presenter: “ The councillor wants me to apologise for calling him a Nazi. I’m sorry for calling you a Nazi”.
However, Ofcom remains concerned, in the wake of the recent sanction imposed by it on Talksport involving The James Whale Show (-5-) that the broadcaster’s compliance procedures do not appear robust enough to deal with problematic material being broadcast live. It is essential that whenever a broadcaster is making a live broadcast, the licensee maintains full responsibility for – and so should retain control over – all output. It is especially crucial that broadcasters ensure that presenters, however experienced, receive and obey clear instructions of production staff during live broadcasts and that generally accepted standards are applied to the content of television and radio services so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion of material which is offensive and/or harmful.
Rule 2.3 of the Code states that offensive material: “may include…offensive language…humiliation, distress [and] violation of human dignity”. Ofcom considered the language used by Jon Gaunt, and the manner in which he treated Michael Stark, had the potential to cause offence to many listeners by virtue of the language used and the manner in which Jon Gaunt treated his interviewee. In this case, the offensive language used to describe Mr Stark, and what would be considered to be a persistently bullying and hectoring approach taken by Jon Gaunt towards his guest, exceeded the expectations of the audience of this programme, despite listeners being accustomed to a robust level of debate from this particular presenter. Even taking into account the context of this programme such as the nature of the service, the audience expectations and the editorial content, Ofcom did not consider that this was sufficient justification for the offensive material. The broadcaster therefore failed to comply with generally accepted standards in breach of Rules 2.1 and 2.3 of the Code.
Breach of Rules 2.1 and 2.3
1.- Talksport operates a 7 second delay mechanism on all its broadcasts. The “dump” button allows the producer to go to “live” broadcasting and so drop the previous seven seconds of the broadcast. The programme producer was concerned in this case that using the “dump” button would have meant the broadcast going totally live and would have meant the station being, according to Talksport: “exposed to a comment by either the presenter or the guest that may not [have been] so easily qualified”.
2.-Following the original publication of this Finding on 11 May 2009, Ofcom received representations from Jon Gaunt disputing matters stated by Talksport in relation to him as set out in this section. In particular, he disputed that the requirement to remain within the Code was ever made clear to him by Talksport, stating that he had received no training in this respect. He denied that he had been warned by the programme producer and assistant producer that the interview with Michael Stark might be emotive for him, given his own experience of being in care as a child. He also disputed that he had received any instructions from Talksport production staff to “calm down” during the interview; or retract his use of the word “ Nazi”; or telling him to conclude the interview. Jon Gaunt maintained that he decided to apologise on air of his own volition, without any advice, instruction or prompting from Talksport production staff; and that he himself decided to conclude the interview. Ofcom put the substance of Jon Gaunt’s representations to Talksport, who in turn disputed Jon Gaunt’s account of events. Ofcom therefore notes that there are areas of dispute between Talksport and Jon Gaunt as regards the surrounding circumstances of the 7 November 2008 broadcast and the steps taken by Talksport in relation to it. See Ofcom’s Supplementary Note published in Broadcast Bulletin 135 on 8 June 2009.
Ramsays Great British Nightmare
Channel 4, 30 January 2009, 21:00 - 23:00
Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare was commissioned by Channel 4 as part of its Great British Food Fight season and based on the long-running Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmare series transmitted by Channel 4 since 2004. The series follows the chef, Gordon Ramsay, as he takes on failing restaurants and attempts to turn them around. He tackles amongst other things, poor management, inferior cooking and unacceptable levels of hygiene.
Ofcom received 51 complaints from viewers about the programme broadcast on 30 January 2009 from 21:00. They objected to the frequency and sustained nature of the use of the most offensive language (i.e . “fuck”, “fucking” and “fucked”). Complaints included:
“The excessive use of bad language by Gordon Ramsay was just unreal and the abusive way in which he continually used it to speak to others, the use of the 'F' word once or twice maybe but it's continued used in almost every sentence was totally unnecessary. I know it was after 9.00 but there are limits…”;
“I am a great fan of Gordon Ramsay but there was far too much swearing in this program. It was embarrassing and rude, and I had to turn it off”;
“I can handle the odd swear word from Gordon but is it really necessary to have this in every other word from all involved. The shows over use of the word FUCK is unreal”; and
“For the first time…ever I find myself totally shocked and actually unable to watch a show due to the use of the words "Fuck" "fucking" and "shit". There seems to be a swear word almost every other word. I am 45 mins into the show and I am afraid I have had enough”.
Ofcom noted that the first two parts of the programme, broadcast between 21:00 and 21:40, contained 115 instances of the most offensive language.
Ofcom asked Channel 4 to comment on the acceptability of this language in the programme with respect to Rule 2.3 of the Code (offensive content must be justified by context).
Channel 4 said that Gordon Ramsay’s exposés of restaurants provide a compelling insight for viewers who would not otherwise have the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes. The broadcaster stated that by exposing the truth and delivering frank advice which has been gained from 20 years in the hospitality industry, he upholds the interests of restaurant goers throughout the UK.
The broadcaster continued that with only five days to turn businesses around, Gordon Ramsay has no time for niceties or gently persuading people to change their ways, and that his management skills are based in the first instance on confrontation – confronting owners with unavoidable truths which they must act upon. It said that he provides professional advice and “inspirational guidance” in a frank and tough talking manner commonly used in restaurant kitchens. His assessments are precise and, given the failings he witnesses, often severe. Importantly however, Channel 4 said that any conflicts which arise from his confrontational manner are invariably followed by resolution, and that the consistently high audiences for the series since its inception in 2004 mean that Gordon Ramsay’s repeated use of strong language is within the expectations of the audience.
Channel 4 stated that in this programme Gordon Ramsay was assessing two failing restaurants. He assessed each restaurant’s décor, menu, food quality and preparation, financial status and personnel. Channel 4 said that the level of strong language in the first two parts of the programme was partly due to the honest and genuine reactions Gordon Ramsay experienced in relation to the two failing restaurants and to emotional exchanges between the contributors themselves. Channel 4 noted that Part Two of the programme included the highest levels of strong language. It said this was due to the chef assessing the more intricate details of each establishment and tensions arising as Gordon Ramsay delivered his hard-hitting advice, which led to an explosive confrontation between one restaurant owner and his chef.
Channel 4 continued that whilst the level of strong language included in the programme was at the higher end of the scale it was not inconsistent with the acrimonious disputes and levels of strong language that has regularly featured across the Kitchen Nightmares series. Indeed, it argued, that such a high volume of strong language (including from the start of the programme) is not exceptional and would not have been beyond the expectation of a returning audience. Channel 4 continued that regular viewers to the programme would expect that Gordon Ramsay and the contributors would use strong language in the first segments of the programme where the chef would deliver his hard-hitting advice and tensions would tend to run much higher. In addition, it said that viewers want to see this conflict, drama and strong language before a final resolution is achieved in the concluding part of the programme.
The broadcaster also highlighted in its response that each episode of Kitchen Nightmares was preceded by a clear warning. This informed viewers that the programme includes “strong language from the start and throughout”. It said that this warning provides adult viewers with sufficient information to inform their viewing choice and to decide whether to permit any children to watch.
Channel 4 stated that the programme had unique characteristics which justified the high level of strong language that was included. It was a two-hour special which included: two distinct storylines; two stubborn contributors who seemed incapable of receiving advice from anyone; and two highly tumultuous personal relationships. The inter-cutting of these storylines and a highly emotive contribution from one of the restaurant’s chef, in Part Two, significantly exacerbated the tensions illustrated in the programme. Channel 4 said that the use of strong language in this programme accorded with the likely expectations of the audience, was editorially justified, and did not offend the overwhelming majority of viewers. It therefore considered that the programme complied with Rule 2.3 of the Code.
In conclusion, Channel 4 acknowledged that strong language is certainly not to everyone’s taste but it felt the relevant Rules set out in the Code are sufficient and proportionate to promote freedom of expression whilst balancing broadcasters’ need to act responsibly and ensure that any potential offence caused by a programme is justified by its context. It said that it would however be concerned if the Rules were interpreted and applied in a manner which resulted in a disproportionate impingement on Gordon Ramsay’s or indeed other contributors’ freedom to express themselves freely and Channel 4’s viewers’ right to receive and watch his programming in this format.
When dealing with programmes that may contain offensive material, such as Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare, Ofcom should exercise its duties in a way which is compatible with Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. In ensuring that broadcasters apply generally accepted standards, Ofcom must do so in “the manner that best guarantees an appropriate level of freedom of expression” (Section 4(g) of the Communications Act 2003). Freedom of expression encompasses the right to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority. Applied to broadcasting, Article 10 therefore protects the broadcaster’s right to transmit material as well as the audience’s right to receive it, as long as the broadcaster ensures compliance with the Rules of the Code as well as the law. Ofcom therefore does not prohibit offensive material. However, in line with the Code, such material must be justified by the context.
Given the application of Article 10 broadcasters are free to explore a wide range of challenging and provocative subjects in programmes. In addition, in relation to Channel 4, Ofcom notes that it has a distinctive remit to provide: “a broad range of high quality and diverse programming which…appeals to the tastes and interests of a culturally diverse society”.
Rule 2.3 states: “In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context…” The Code explains that “context”, includes such factors as the editorial content of the programme, programmes or series, the service on which the material is broadcast, the time of broadcast, the degree of harm or offence likely to be caused by the inclusion of any particular sort of material in programmes, the likely size and composition of the potential audience and its likely expectations, and the extent to which the nature of the content can be drawn to the attention of the potential audience.
In the case of programmes featuring Gordon Ramsay, this context is important given his well-known reputation for using offensive language. Ofcom also ensures that it assesses each programme complained of on a case by case basis, taking all the relevant factors into account. In assessing the wider context of this programme, Ofcom noted that:
- the channel provided pre-transmission information about the level of language in the programme: “strong language from the start and throughout”;
- this was a two hour programme compared to the usual one hour;
- the contributors as well as Gordon Ramsay used the most offensive language; and
- offensive language was often used at times of emotion and stress which typifies the series as a whole.
- The likely audience expectation for this programme
As noted above, Ofcom recognised that Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare differed slightly from the usual Kitchen Nightmares strand in as much as it was a two hour special featuring not one but two failing restaurants. The result was that parts one and two of the programme where Gordon Ramsay traditionally gives his unvarnished opinion - and which often results in confrontation - was twice as long. As a consequence this amplified significantly the effect of the language on the viewer.
Given the programme’s well-established reputation for using the most offensive language, Ofcom accepts that the vast majority of the audience comes to the programme with certain expectations. However, on this occasion there were 115 examples of the most offensive language i.e. “fuck” and its derivatives, in the first 40 minutes of the programme. In the first 15 minutes there were a total of 37 examples. The second part of the programme, between 21:20 and 21:40, contained a further 78 examples. Ofcom also noted that much of the offensive language was delivered in an extremely intense and at times aggressive manner. The most aggressive scene, which Channel 4 admits contributed to the overall tally of strong language in the programme, occurred in part two of the programme where, at approximately 21:30, a restaurant chef angrily berated his boss shouting the word “fucking” at him 30 times in less than two minutes.
The range of complaints made to Ofcom indicated that a number of regular viewers to the programme were shocked and offended by the combination of the sheer frequency of the offensive language and the way some of it was delivered. Whilst acknowledging that they were fans of the show many of them simply found it unacceptable and were extremely discomforted by it. In Ofcom’s opinion therefore, despite its established expectation regarding the strength and frequency of language, the audience would not have expected such sustained and very frequent use of the most offensive language as featured in this particular edition of the programme, particularly in the first 40 minutes which followed the 21:00 watershed.
The broadcaster and the audience has a right to freedom of expression. Importantly, the programme purports to show real life situations and record them as they unfold. (However, we note that in the acquired American version of this programme Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares USA, the level of strong language is considerably less, but in very similar intense circumstances). As Channel 4 points out the audience expects to see the drama and conflict played out before some form of resolution is reached. Therefore, to limit completely the transmission of a programme such as this would be a disproportionate restriction and could result in a chilling effect on broadcasters’ output. Nevertheless, freedom of expression may be limited and should at all times be balanced by the requirement on the part of the broadcaster to apply generally accepted standards to ensure adequate protection for members of the public from offensive material. In Ofcom’s view, by broadcasting this particular programme at this time after the watershed, Channel 4 did not apply generally accepted standards. This is due to the unexpected and sheer intensity and level of swearing in the first two parts of the programme. The strong language had not been used as a comedic device or as part of a characterisation but was at times extremely aggressive and, as described by complainants, “gratuitous” and “unreal”. Ofcom therefore concluded that it was not warranted since there was not sufficient editorial justification or context in this programme for the level and intensity of swearing in the first two parts of the programme, transmitted between 21:00 and 21:40.
The audience has a good understanding that as the evening progresses the context changes and material is likely to become more challenging and may contain frequent and strong language. However, where viewers have established expectations for a particular programme, at a particular time, broadcasters should carefully consider the impact of any significant editorial changes which may subsequently challenge those expectations. It was clear to Ofcom that the frequency and nature of the most offensive language in the earlier parts of this programme and at the time it was broadcast deviated seriously and significantly from previous editions, because this was the first time Channel 4 had broadcast a two hour edition of Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare, starting at 21:00. As a direct consequence the scale, frequency and way in which the most offensive language was delivered in the first two parts of this programme, went significantly beyond what could be reasonably anticipated by regular viewers - at this time of the evening – and resulted in a breach of the Code.
Breach of Rule 2.3
Kinky and Proud
Virgin 1, 28 December 2008, 21:00
Ofcom received two complaints about Kinky and Proud. This programme was one in a series of factual programmes which - as described by the broadcaster - documented “alternative human behaviours”. This episode explored more unusual sexual preferences such as latex fetishes, spanking and cross dressing, and “pony play” (in which a man “trained” a topless woman in harness who was pretending to be a horse). The programme contained interviews with the individuals who engaged in these activities and these were accompanied by light hearted commentary and contributions from stand up comedians, a journalist, an ‘agony uncle’ and a psychotherapist. The complainants expressed concern that the sexual images and language in this episode were offensive and not suitable for broadcast so soon after the watershed at 21:00, on a general entertainment channel that was available unencrypted.
Before the programme started the broadcaster warned viewers that the programme included “strong language, nudity and a whole lot of weird stuff” and the programme highlighted the material that was coming up after each of the advertising breaks.
Ofcom asked Virgin Media (which complies Virgin 1) for comments under Rule 2.3 which states that “broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context”.
In summary, the broadcaster argued that the programme did not breach Rule 2.3 because the content of the programme was justified by the context.
The broadcaster stated that Kinky and Proud had a “good humoured and affable approach to documenting a wide range of alternative human behaviours”. It acknowledged that the episode contained mild references to, and conversations about, sexual activity but it did not include anything explicit. A clear warning about the content around 21:00 before the start of the programme provided a sufficient lead into the watershed period, and the information highlighting what was coming up before each part of the programme would have assisted viewers in knowing what to expect.
In addition, the broadcaster considered that the stronger items in the programme such as the woman with a strap-on dildo fetish, and the female dominatrix and her male maid, were “devoid of any explicit sexual imagery”. Whilst there was some overt sexual language and images of sex toys, it did not believe the content exceeded the material that was widely available on other channels after the watershed. Indeed the editorial content was not intended to shock viewers but to highlight the very human and tragic stories behind certain sexual practices.
Virgin 1 also argued that, given the channel specifically appeals to a male adult audience, the likely child audience for this programme would have been typically low. The broadcaster explained that the programme had been broadcast four times previously and had not received any complaints and this “demonstrated that the content was not contrary to generally accepted standards nor likely to cause offence”. However, in light of the complaints received, Virgin 1 stated it had removed the programme from a 21:00 slot until Ofcom had made a decision.
Broadcasters can show programmes with adult themes provided they comply with the Code. In this case the applicable Rule 2.3 makes clear that “in applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.” “Context” includes a variety of factors such as the time of broadcast, the editorial content of the programme, the service on which it is broadcast, and the effect of the material on viewers who may come across it unawares. In applying the Code, Ofcom must take account of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which provides a right of freedom of expression to both broadcasters and viewers.
In terms of the editorial content, Ofcom noted that the programme followed a popular format of a chart countdown with some of the more ‘bizarre’ fetishes, such as those involving hair and power tools, referenced very briefly. However, the main focus of this programme was to explore, through a series of interviews and clips, a range of better known sexual fetishes such as spanking, bondage, strap-on dildos, domination and submission. The content included a number of images which showed a range of fetish practices in some detail. These included a person being tied up and whipped in a dungeon-like room, a semi-naked woman wearing a variety of strap-on dildos, a woman with a bare bottom lying across a man’s knees being spanked, and a man and woman engaging in “pony play”. There were also frank discussions about these practices. In Ofcom’s view such images and discussions, particularly given the time of broadcast starting at 21:00, had the potential to cause offence to viewers.
In assessing the context, Ofcom acknowledged that the programme had previously been shown at 21:00 without complaint and was broadcast with pre-transmission guidance that provided some information to viewers about the programme’s content. The programme also included comment from a psychotherapist and ‘agony uncle’, who provided context by explaining some of the fetishes, and comedians who reacted with laughter and cynicism in response to some of the unusual practices described.
However, Ofcom noted that the programme started immediately at the 21:00 watershed, on a general entertainment channel which is available unencrypted to all viewers, including children. As described above, the editorial content contained images and discussions about unusual fetish practices. Although the title of the broadcast and pre-transmission information provided an expectation that viewers would see quite challenging material, in Ofcom’s opinion, this likely expectation would not have extended to the stronger content actually included in this broadcast. Irrespective of complaints, broadcasters are under a duty to ensure compliance with the Code, which includes applying generally accepted standards so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from offensive material. The 21:00 watershed lays down a boundary for when broadcasters may start progressively to air material more suitable for a predominantly adult audience. It does not mark a moment when they may immediately start to transmit content which is at odds with overall audience expectations for material broadcast on that channel at that time.
For these reasons, Ofcom concluded that the offensive material included in this programme was not justified by the context. In Ofcom’s view, whilst the overall tone of the programme was light-hearted, portrayal of these more unusual fetish preferences required the broadcaster to provide greater justification in terms of context - and in particular a later time of broadcast - to ensure adequate protection to viewers from offensive material. Therefore the broadcaster did not apply generally accepted standards in this case and Rule 2.3 was breached.
Breach of Rule 2.3
ITV1, 16 December 2008, 19:00
Emmerdale is a weekly peak-time drama serial generically referred to as a ‘soap’. The King family, including brothers Jimmy, Mathew and Carl, arrived in Emmerdale in 2004. Since arriving they have been portrayed as ruthless and successful businessmen involved in numerous scandals in the village. In this one-hour special Mathew King was to marry local business woman, Anna. However his brother Carl had other ideas, informing the bride that Mathew had been responsible for her father’s recent death (which was partly true). Anna cancelled the wedding and a fist fight developed between Mathew and Carl as a number of wedding guests and their brother Jimmy tried to intervene.
17 viewers complained to Ofcom that the fight that developed between the King brothers was too graphic and violent for the time of transmission in the early evening at 19:00. Ofcom asked the broadcaster to comment with regard to Rule 1.11 which states that “Violence, its after effects and descriptions of violence…must be appropriately limited in programmes broadcast before the watershed…”
ITV1 said that this episode was very carefully considered in relation to Rules 1.11 and 2.3 (generally accepted standards). It said that like other TV ‘soaps’ Emmerdale regularly includes family conflicts. It continued that the scenes in question were a dramatic and emotionally charged climax to a long-running storyline of deceit and betrayal between family members and, given the nature of the established characters, regular viewers would have expected a confrontation between them to be explosive and potentially physical.
The broadcaster said that it was not its intention to cause viewers concern or distress, and it was aware that emotional and confrontational scenes are not to the taste of all its viewers. As a result it preceded the programme with information that the episode included a “violent encounter for the King brothers”. It also edited the scenes in an attempt to moderate the explicit violence of the confrontation to a level that it judged would be acceptable for the editorial context in which it was portrayed and that the scene in question consisted primarily of pushing, shoving and raised voices interspersed by dialogue. It said that it was filmed carefully to minimise detailed shots of violent blows seen by the viewer and, whilst a lampstand was picked up and used in a threatening manner, care was taken to ensure that the subsequent blow from the lamp-stand was not explicitly shown.
ITV1 continued that in considering the script and during editing of the sequence in question it took into account previous adjudications by Ofcom in relation to violence in ‘soap’ dramas, for example in Bulletin 103 (-1-). It concluded that the degree of threat and of actual violence was appropriately limited and, whilst it regretted that some viewers were concerned by the scenes, it considered most viewers’ expectations of programming of this nature, for this time in the evening, were met.
Ofcom noted that the fight between Carl and Mathew King was sustained and at times vicious. Where ITV1 had described the action as “potentially physical”, the programme did in fact feature blows and kicks (delivered and sustained by both men to the body and head) and the use of a large metal lamp-stand as a weapon (which was pushed into Mathew’s face with corresponding sound effect). The level of violence was further heightened by blood flowing from wounds, the smashing of household objects and a number of people shouting and screaming. This tense and violent scene lasted for 2 minutes. The next and final part of the programme featured a sequence showing a bloodied Mathew King behind the wheel of a van, crashing into a wall at speed. He flew through the windscreen landing with a loud thud on the floor. He died in close-up with his face covered in blood.
Emmerdale starts at 19:00, some two hours before the 21:00 watershed. It is firmly positioned and established in peak family viewing time as a ‘soap’. It is therefore always likely that some children will be in the audience watching with adults in the home. Audience figures for this episode indicate that 482,000 children between the ages of 4 and 15, representing an 18.8% share of all children viewing the television at the time, were watching the programme. This figure is not insignificant and brings with it a responsibility on the part of the broadcaster to ensure that any violence it portrays as part of the storyline is appropriately limited for the time of transmission. The broadcaster must therefore strike a balance between providing quality and engaging drama in a peak-time slot and complying with the requirements of the Code as regards protecting members of the public in general and in particular children.
Ofcom noted the broadcaster regretted that some of its viewers were concerned by the scenes of violence in this episode although it considered that overall audience expectations were met. In addition, Ofcom noted that the broadcaster referred to Broadcast Bulletin 103 to which it looked for guidance regarding this particular episode (see footnote 1 above). However, Ofcom considered that the In Breach Finding published against ITV1 (for another episode of Emmerdale) in Broadcast Bulletin 83 (-2-) and a corresponding Note to Broadcasters in the same publication was more pertinent in this case. In the Note to Broadcasters Ofcom stated that “Ofcom has considered that a number of cases it has dealt with recently have contained violence that goes to the limits of what is acceptable in terms of the Broadcasting Code. Therefore, it would like to remind broadcasters to take particular notice of Rule 1.11 of the Code…when portraying violence in pre-watershed programmes”.
In Ofcom’s view this programme contained an unacceptable level of violence for broadcast in a programme which began at 19:00 when children were likely to be watching, and indeed were viewing, in considerable numbers. Ofcom therefore judged that the fight scene between Mathew and Karl King was in breach of Rule 1.11 of the Code.
Breach of Rule 1.11
Five, 22 February 4 March 2009, various times
Stylista is an American reality programme in which participants compete for a job at a leading fashion magazine.
Promotions for the programme were broadcast between 16:00 and 19:00 and included: the sentence “Bitchy is the new black” on screen; and, a clip of one contestant saying about another, “she’s such a f---ing bitch” (with the expletive partially bleeped).
Six viewers complained that these trailers were broadcast during programmes that appealed to younger viewers and their children were watching. These programmes included The Wizard of Oz, Jumanji, Slappy and the Stinkers, Wild Animal ER and Neighbours. The complainants objected to the use of the word “bitch”, and that the word “fucking” was not sufficiently bleeped.
Ofcom asked Five for its comments against the following Rules:
Rule 1.3 - children must be protected by appropriate scheduling from unsuitable material;
Rule 1.14 - the most offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed; and
Rule 1.16 - offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed unless justified by the context.
Five explained the promotion was classified internally as “schedule with care” due to the bleeped language, and while this would not prohibit broadcast before the watershed, it should not have been scheduled around programmes likely to appeal to children. When Five’s Customer Services department alerted the compliance team to complaints received on 2 March 2009, an apology was issued to the complainants and the promotion was recalled, re-edited to tighten up the edit in question, and rescheduled appropriately.
Five stated that the word “fucking” was inaudible having been bleeped, and also visually disguised by the subject’s mouth being blurred to avoid lip reading. It said the word “bitch” was broadcast because it was not deemed to be unduly offensive language in this context. Five cited Ofcom research (-1-) which suggested this language is “most likely to be seen as a playground or common word by younger groups”. Five did not accept that the majority of viewers would have been offended by the strength of language in the context of these trailers, but added that all personnel involved in scheduling promotions had been made aware of the matter.
Ofcom notes that, the broadcaster did not intend to transmit this trailer around programmes likely to appeal to children. We also took into account the broadcaster’s swift action in re-editing this promotion, and rescheduling this trailer outside programmes likely to appeal to children.
However, particular care should always be taken when transmitting material in or around programmes which children are likely to watch. Ofcom’s research has shown that “fuck” and its derivatives are regarded by many viewers as the most offensive language. In Ofcom’s view, the clip of the partially bleeped “f---ing” appeared to have been selected to show the use of strong language by a contestant in the programme. Further it noted that, while it had been edited, the expletive was insufficiently masked to prevent the word being identifiable. It was therefore clearly unsuitable for children and was inappropriately scheduled on a mainstream free-to-air broadcaster between 16:00 and 19:00. Rules 1.3 and 1.14 were therefore breached.
As regards Rule 1.16, while the Ofcom research (as cited by Five) did indicate the word “bitch” is “most likely to be seen as a playground or common word by younger groups”, this research also indicates that, for African-Caribbean and British Asian parents, “bitch” is quite a strong/offensive word in its own right. In Ofcom’s opinion, the coupling of the word “f---ing” with the word “bitch” increased its intensity and undermined any argument that its use was justified by the context. When considering the suitability of the content of a trailer, Ofcom has to take into account that viewers come across trailers without warning and therefore the potential for offence is greater than for programmes which are signposted and scheduled in advance. Broadcasters must ensure that the content of trailers is suitable for the time of transmission, taking into account such factors as the target audience, and that it complies fully with the Code. Therefore Rule 1.16 was also contravened.
Breach of Rules 1.3, 1.14 and 1.16
Not in Breach
The Sex Education Show
Channel 4, 9 September 2008 to 14 October 2008, 20:00
This series of six magazine-style programmes was broadcast by Channel 4 between 9 September 2008 and 14 October 2008 in a timeslot before the 21:00 watershed. As the title made clear, the series set out to provide educational information about sex to a wide range of viewers and was primarily aimed at young people.
The programmes covered a wide range of topics including pornography, sexual behaviour, sexually transmitted infections, erectile dysfunction, fertility, contraception, pregnancy, parenting and abortion. The programmes, presented by the journalist Anna Richardson, were fast-paced and at times light-hearted. They contained short films, studio discussions and interviews with the general public, health professionals and experts about sex and sexual behaviour.
Ofcom received a total of 152 complaints about the series. The majority of these complaints questioned whether it was appropriate to schedule the programme at 20:00, before the 21:00 watershed, when younger viewers may have been watching. In addition, viewers raised specific objections to some of the content featured throughout the series. In particular, concerns were expressed about the following:
- close-ups of male and female genitalia in several programmes;
- close-up of the symptoms of sexually transmitted infections (“STIs”);
- frank and open discussions about sex; and
- a sequence in which teenagers were shown images of penises and breasts.
In light of these concerns about the scheduling of the series, we asked Channel 4 to comment on the scheduling rules contained in the Code. These are:
- Rule 1.3 – children must be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them;
- Rule 1.4 – broadcasters must observe the watershed; and
- Rule 1.17 – representations of sexual intercourse must not occur before the watershed, or when children are particularly likely to be listening, unless there is a serious educational purpose.
Channel 4 first of all outlined the background to the series. It said that the programme made clear that the explosion in sexually transmitted infections and underage pregnancies in Britain illustrates that there is still a lack of clear straightforward information about sex. It was against this background that the programme makers set about creating a six-part television series, the purpose of which was to provide educational material about sex to all ages in an informative, accessible and innovative way.
The broadcaster said the tone of the series was entirely educational, and took the viewer through a series of components including product/service testing interviews and case studies. Towards the end of each programme, a short medical film was screened, the purpose of which was to provide straightforward biological information in a clinical context. By utilising the various components, the programme makers sought to provide essential factual information and to draw attention to areas of possible or potential concern for parents and children.
Appropriate scheduling and the watershed
Channel 4 said that many of the complaints assumed that it is never possible for nudity or a discussion of sexual matters to occur prior to the watershed when in fact under the Code there is no absolute prohibition.
Channel 4 said that in order to decide whether a particular programme is scheduled appropriately several factors should be taken into account. These include: the title of the programme, which made clear in this case that the content would be informative and educational about sex and sexual matters; the fact that each episode of the programme was clearly sign-posted by pre-transmission announcements; and the fact that, although some of the content may have been challenging for some viewers, it was carefully contextualised. Channel 4 continued by saying that the content of the series was clearly relevant to the educational themes, and great care was taken to ensure it was neither gratuitous, sensationalist or exploitative. In addition viewers were specifically advised in advance that various segments of the programme would contain full frontal nudity, for example in the context of sexual health screenings or during a discussion on genital conditions. As a result the broadcaster did not accept that any of the programme’s material was unsuitable for children so as to breach Rule 1.3.
Similarly, in relation to Rule 1.4 and observance of the watershed, Channel 4 reiterated its view that the series was appropriately scheduled and the intention of the series was to provoke discussion, learning and interest amongst children and adults. Channel 4 continued by saying that, even if the view was taken that some of the material in the programme may have been unsuitable for children, the context of the broadcast ensured that there was no breach of the watershed. It said that no one who watched one of the programmes in its entirety could have been caught out by the nature of the material: the title of the programme and the advice given to viewers prior to its commencement and the start of each part of the programme would have made the nature of the broadcast clear. In addition, Channel 4 argued that the series was entirely educational in content and tone and did not engage in unnecessary or gratuitous use of images or words.
In relation to Rule 1.17, Channel 4 argued that the series contained no representations of sexual intercourse and that, while throughout the series there were discussions of sexual behaviour, all of these were editorially justified and appropriately limited. It referred to a sequence in the first episode of the series during which the presenter was seen participating in a tantric sex lesson (this particular sequence attracted a large number of complaints to Ofcom). It said this was the closest the series came to a “representation of sexual intercourse” but that the programme made clear that no one was actually having sex. It argued that the discussion and illustration of tantric sex was editorially justified and appropriately limited. It added that this segment had a serious educational purpose: it was part of the presenter’s exploration of the expensive and well advertised techniques and sexual aids the public – particularly young people – are constantly urged to spend their money on.
Addressing the specific areas raised by Ofcom about the content of the series (for example the close-ups of male and female genitalia and images of STIs), Channel 4 explained that it did not believe any of the material was in breach of the Code. For example, it said that all of the occasions of genitalia being shown were informative and educational – and completely appropriate for children. The audience was warned that the sequences using naked models would involve nudity and these were carried out in a clinical way, completely devoid of titillation or exploitation.
Channel 4 also dealt with a concern of complainants about episode one of the series. This featured a discussion about an explicit pornographic video clip found on the internet. The presenter interviewed teenagers who had previously, and independently, viewed the clip, and then played the clip to a group of the teenagers’ parents. Channel 4 emphasised the following: no part of the relevant internet clip was actually shown in the programme; the programme clearly condemned the easy access teenagers have to material such as the internet clip; and the parents who were shown the internet clip knew that they were about to see a shocking pornographic clip and agreed to be filmed watching it.
The channel argued that the discussion of this clip was entirely appropriate and there was real educational value in this segment – particularly as the programme gave practical information about how access to internet material such as this can be limited by responsible parents.
The broadcaster continued by re-emphasising that The Sex Education Show was justified editorially, appropriately contextualised, and was not gratuitously graphic, lurid or titillating. Channel 4 also pointed out that many of the complainants focused on specific images or topics which complainants considered younger people should simply not view. For example, complainants objected to the image of a foreskin of a penis being pulled back to demonstrate proper washing techniques. Channel 4 argued however that these complainants failed to take into account the contextual framework of the series.
In ensuring that broadcasters apply generally accepted standards, Ofcom must do so in “the manner that best guarantees an appropriate level of freedom of expression” (-1-). Freedom of expression not only encompasses the right to hold opinions but also to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority. Applied to broadcasting, Article 10 therefore protects the broadcaster’s right to transmit material as well as the audience’s right to receive it, as long as the broadcaster ensures compliance with the Rules of the Code as well as the law.
Therefore Ofcom considers it of paramount importance that broadcasters, such as Channel 4, can explore controversial subject matter provided they comply with the Code. In particular, Ofcom recognises Channel 4’s statutory remit to provide “…a broad range of high quality and diverse programming which, in particular ….exhibits a distinctive character.” (-2-)
It is inevitable that such programmes will have a high profile and may lead to a large number of complaints. The overriding issue that had to be considered in relation to this series was the question of whether or not it was appropriately scheduled so as to ensure that people under eighteen were given suitable protection under Rules 1.3, 1.4 and 1.17 of the Code. Many complainants objected to the content and tone of the series generally and felt that a series of this nature should not in principle be broadcast before the watershed. In addition there were objections to specific items or sequences being shown before the watershed, for example complainants objected to close-ups of male and female genitalia and discussions of a sexual nature. Ofcom accepts that some viewers found some of the content challenging in a pre-watershed timeslot. However it considers that it would be an inappropriate and a disproportionate limitation on the freedom of speech and editorial freedom of the broadcaster to prohibit programmes of this nature before the watershed. A series like this must always be considered as a whole, and any potentially offensive material within it assessed in context.
In deciding whether this series was appropriately scheduled, Ofcom took account of a number of factors, including the nature of the content, the nature of the series and the likely expectations of the audience. We considered that the series title clearly indicated to viewers the likely content of the programmes. Viewers were further alerted to the tone of the programmes by pre-transmission warnings which described the series as “revealing” and “frank”. The context of the programme was clearly explained to viewers at the outset - before the first programme there was the following announcement:
“…the birds and the bees…time for some sex education, whether you are eight or eighty. Anna Richardson tackles everything you’ve wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask in a frank and revealing new series…”
The presenter then opened the first programme by telling viewers:
“Sex, Sex, Sex. I’m about to get the Great British public talking about sex…and why? Because we need to…when it comes to sex, Britain is in meltdown and those most at risk are our children…welcome to the Sex Education Show.”
Ofcom also noted that in addition, there were separate advisory warnings to viewers included within the programmes, immediately before all items which contained nudity. For example, in the fourth episode of the series, before a film dealing with a male sexual health screening was shown, viewers were told:
“…it’s time to get rid of the fear and ignorance. Here’s a video showing you exactly what happens when a man has a sexual health check-up, which means there will be some nudity in this film.”
While the nature of the images and discussions were frank, the series’ overall focus was clearly on the educational aspects of sex and could not reasonably be described as salacious or gratuitous. Ofcom therefore bore in mind that the series was attempting to examine sex and sexual health issues in an accessible way that would engage viewers.
Ofcom accepts that this series had a serious educational purpose as regards both adults and those under eighteen, and understands that in order to fulfil such a purpose, it may be appropriate to broadcast a series like this in a timeslot likely to attract a significant young audience. Nevertheless, as was pointed out by some complainants, many viewers have an expectation that programmes dealing with sex education are likely to be broadcast to younger viewers in a moderated environment - for example at school - not on a weekday evening, on a free-to-air channel at 20:00. Ofcom noted the audience figures for the follow-up series to this one - The Sex Education Show v Pornography -which consisted of similar material but was broadcast at 21:00, after the watershed. This follow-up series attracted a very similar number of younger viewers to The Sex Education Show. Nevertheless, in this respect Ofcom considers that The Sex Education Show may have just as effectively achieved its educational aims, as described by Channel 4, if it had been broadcast after the watershed, and without some of the difficulties the series has experienced, as evidenced by the level of complaints received by Ofcom.
Channel 4 should also be aware that the nature of some of the images in the series was at the limits of what is considered to be acceptable under the Code for this time. In addition some of the sequences dealt with subject matter which would more properly be positioned in a post-watershed timeslot, for example the item on tantric sex in the first episode. This was because during this item, Ofcom considered that the programme’s emphasis shifted from educating and informing viewers about sexual health to suggesting methods of improving sexual technique and arousal. While, this could not reasonably be described as explicit, it nevertheless did address more adult themes, perhaps more appropriate to a post-watershed audience. For these reasons, this material came extremely close to breaching the Code.
The clip which attracted the largest number of complaints occurred during the first episode and dealt with the internet viewing habits of teenagers, and one pornographic clip in particular. Ofcom noted that the actual clip was not shown, and that the focus of the segment was to highlight the dangers of young people viewing such material. The broadcaster was not itself responsible for showing the material to the youngsters - it had emerged during the production of the programme that teenagers were viewing this type of material. The clip was shown to parents to enlighten them about the explicit nature of the content their children may have had access to. It revealed, importantly, that some parents were unaware and also shocked by what content their children were accessing. While the discussion was frank, it was not in Ofcom’s opinion gratuitously explicit and did not in any way condone or glamorise the accessing of internet pornography by teenagers. Further, it provided information to parents about how they could limit their teenagers’ access to the internet to prevent them viewing such content. Ofcom therefore found that this sequence, in the context of an educational programme such as this, did not breach the Code.
In conclusion, having weighed up all the considerations in this difficult area Ofcom found that, on balance, the scheduling of the series was not in breach of the Code. Mindful of the series as a whole, Ofcom was satisfied that the educational purpose of the series, and the broadcaster’s and viewers’ right to freedom of expression, outweighed the concerns of complainants about the protection of children from sexual material.
We wish to stress, however, that the scheduling of the series was at the edge of acceptability under the Code. Without the very strong context provided by the well understood style and approach of the broadcaster, or the seriousness and care with which the material was presented, it is doubtful that the scheduling of the series would have been judged as compliant with the Code.
Not in breach
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