ITV has been criticised by the TV censor, Ofcom, for screening violent scenes in Scottish police drama Taggart in a mid-afternoon slot.
Screened in May and June this year, the six programmes showed characters being set on fire, setting themselves alight and being forced to ingest bleach.
STV, which compiled the programmes for ITV1, said it had edited the shows to reduce the level of violence shown.
In its monthly bulletin, however, Ofcom said the show breached its regulations: The graphic and brutal nature of the violent scenes... resulted in these scenes exceeding audience expectations, it claimed. The programme, it ruled, went
beyond generally accepted standards for an afternoon drama.
Virgin 1, 6 October 2007 and 8 April 2008, 23:00
Ofcom received two separate complaints about items featured in the ‘adult' magazine style programme Sexcetera which explores topics of a sexual nature. The first complainant objected to the explicit sexual scenes in an item entitled “Houston Gang
Bang”. This featured a pornography actress called Houston being filmed breaking the world record for having sex with the greatest number of men in one day. The second complaint raised concerns about an item on the sexual practice of water
bondage. This showed scenes of consenting female models engaging in sadomasochism, domination and submission with a professional female dominatrix. The report included images of women being restrained underwater, submerged forcefully and whipped.
The complainant expressed concern that these scenes depicted torture and were offensive and potentially harmful.
Ofcom considered rules:
2.3 (broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context)
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 2.3
Ofcom acknowledges that, in applying generally accepted standards, programmes with content of an ‘adult' nature can be broadcast unencrypted provided they comply with all the relevant Rules of the Code. In this case Rule 2.3 applies because the
nature of the content broadcast has the potential to cause offence and therefore the material must be justified by the context.
The broadcaster argued that certain factors ensured that the material complained of met generally accepted standards, even though it included fairly explicit scenes of sexual activity on a free-to-air general entertainment channel late in the
evening. These included the fact that Sexcetera is broadcast late night, its title provides the audience with an expectation of the likely content, it is a long running series so viewers may be familiar with its content, and appropriate
information was given to viewers both before and during programmes.
In Ofcom's opinion however, these factors taken together did not ensure that the material met generally accepted standards for late night programming on a general entertainment channel. The nature and strength of the images of the sexual
activities featured in these episodes - prolonged footage of a ‘gang bang' promoted for public entertainment and scenes of sado-masochism - were removed from the mainstream and type of material most viewers would expect even on a programme like
Therefore, the treatment of these themes by the broadcaster required exceptional justification in the context to provide adequate protection for viewers from offensive material. In Ofcom's view in summary the contextual justification provided was
not sufficient and the broadcaster breached Rule 2.3 as regards both the “Houston Gang Bang” and the “Water Bondage” items.
Houston Gang Bang
According to the broadcaster the focus of the feature was not the scenes of Houston having sex with over 600 men but to report on the ‘gang bang' pornography genre. In other words the sexual scenes were justified by the editorial context. Ofcom
was concerned however by the number, length and relative explicitness of the scenes of sexual activity shown in the "Houston Gang Bang" item and the context in which they were shown. The whole event was being recorded for a pornographic
film and the item focussed on the event as a semi-public “rally” which men could attend and participate in. A series of men, some professional porn stars, were shown queuing up to have sex with the actress in an arena setting, the actress naked
and having sex with different men on a podium, while spectators and participants stood around watching, cheering, clapping and counting down as the last man finished sexual intercourse. No explicit shots of genitalia or penetration were shown,
but there were a series of scenes depicting sexual intercourse and other sex acts with close ups of faces and naked bodies.
Further, the style and content of the presenter's commentary overall appeared largely to promote and celebrate gang bangs as a form of adult entertainment, and did not, in Ofcom's opinion, provide adequate editorial context for, or analysis of,
what the broadcaster described as the ‘gang bang' pornography genre.
Ofcom noted the late night schedule and the fact that a warning was broadcast before the start of the programme. Sexcetera however is shown on a general entertainment channel. Ofcom took into account that not only viewers could come across this
material unawares but that even viewers who may have been more familiar with the series would have found this item offensive. The “Houston Gang Bang” item therefore overall was not justified by the context and breached Rule 2.3.
As regards this item, Ofcom was particularly concerned that the scenes, filmed for the purposes of the website of the dominatrix, featured women engaged in various water bondage, domination and sado-masochistic activities. All of these are not
mainstream sexual practices. Indeed the dominatrix herself described these sadomasochistic sexual practices as “extreme,” and the commentary noted that such activities are usually accessed only on ‘adult' websites.
The item showed one model suspended in the air, with her arms tightly tied and restrained behind her body with one of her legs hoisted to the side and raised off the floor. She was depicted being sprayed on her vagina with a jet hose at close
range, with her face wincing through gritted teeth and sometimes screaming in pain. In another scene a model was shown tightly restrained whilst her head was forced underwater several times in a water tank, as the dominatrix engaged in a sex act
with a dildo.
In Ofcom's view, such material was clearly in breach of generally accepted standards on a free-to-air general entertainment channel late in the evening. The strength of the sexual imagery shown, coupled with the nature of the sex acts depicted,
would in Ofcom's view require exceptional justification in the context. Ofcom noted that the models explained the pleasure experienced through the pain and fright they endured, no harm appeared to have been caused to the participants, the item
was shown late at night and warnings were given to viewers. But in Ofcom's view none of these contextual factors advanced by the broadcaster justified the showing of this material unencrypted on a general entertainment channel, even late in the
evening in a programme with which many viewers are familiar. Rule 2.3 was therefore contravened.
Friendly TV, 26 July 2007, from 21:00 to 22:30
Babecast is free-to-air unencrypted programming in the adult section of the Sky electronic programme guide (EPG). The channel broadcasts programmes based on interactive ‘adult' chat services: viewers are invited to contact on-screen presenters
(“babes”) via premium rate telephony services (PRS). The female presenters dress provocatively and encourage viewers to contact them.
Ofcom received a complaint about the sexual nature of the material broadcast from 21:00, which featured the ‘babe' presenters apparently simulating masturbation and mimicking sexual acts. The complainant also considered that the programme
promoted pictures of other presenters and private chat lines (featuring women operators described as being “at home”), available through PRS, which did not contribute to the editorial content of the programme. [sounds a
bit unlikely to be a viewer complaint!]
Ofcom considered rules:
1.2 (protection of under 18s)
2.1 (generally accepted standards)
2.3 (material that may cause offence must be justified by context)
10.9 prohibits the inclusion of PRS in programmes, except where they are programme-related material (“PRM”), as defined under the Code, or where they contribute to the editorial content of the programme
10.4 sets out a general prohibition on undue prominence being given in a programme to any product or service, including PRS, even if the product or service is PRM
Although the broadcaster argued the material would have met audience expectations, it is Ofcom's view that despite the fact that this material was placed within the adult section of the Sky EPG, it featured portrayals of sex acts which were
inappropriate for broadcast on an unencrypted service available from 21.00.
Ofcom noted the broadcaster's argument that the sex acts were simulated. However, it is our view the combination of images shown and the presenters' actions amounted to highly sexualised content, real or not. In Ofcom's view the broadcaster did
not take all reasonable steps to protect the under-18s from this offensive material.
Although the stronger content was shown from about 21.30, sexualised material was shown from the start of this programme at 21.00. Ofcom notes that Babecast is broadcast within the ‘adult' section of the EPG. However, the material was shown
free-to-air soon after the watershed when children were likely to be available to view. Therefore the programme was in breach of Rule 1.2.
Further, in view of the points raised above it was also Ofcom's view that the material breached generally accepted standards and there was insufficient context to justify the potential offence to viewers in general. It was therefore also in
breach of Rules 2.1 and 2.3.
There were repeated and prominent references throughout the programme to pictures of presenters and private chat lines, available via PRS, and there was insufficient editorial justification for this level of prominence. The promotion of these
services was therefore in breach of Rule 10.4 of the Code.
We considered that specific (off-screen) services inviting viewers to call women “at home” were independent of the programme with no clear editorial link to the programme itself. Nor did they contribute in any way to the editorial content of the
programme. We therefore considered the promotion of the services was in breach of Rule 10.9.
Ofcom wishes to make clear that these breaches were sufficiently serious that careful consideration was given to whether to recommend this matter to Ofcom's Content Sanctions Committee for a statutory sanction. After careful consideration it was
decided on this occasion not to refer this case for sanction in view of all the circumstances – primarily the relative strength of the material. However, Ofcom has informed the broadcaster that any breach of a similar nature in future is likely
to result in serious regulatory action.
Singer Katie & Peter: The Next Chapter
ITV2, 3 June 2008, 20:00
Katie & Peter: The Next Chapter was a ‘fly-on-the-wall' programme chronicling the everyday life of celebrity couple Katie Price and Peter Andre.
Ofcom received one complaint from a viewer who said that the word “fuck” and its derivatives was repeatedly used in this episode broadcast before the watershed, together with frequent instances of offensive language including the words “shit” and
Ofcom considered the program against Rule 1.14 (the most offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed) and Rule 1.16 (frequent use of offensive language must be avoided before the watershed).
ITV acknowledged that the programme contained strong language, including the word “fuck”, which was inappropriate for the time of transmission, and apologised for any offence caused to viewers.
It explained that the wrong version of the programme was transmitted as a result of an unusual series of human errors.
Ofcom noted ITV's recognition that this material was entirely unsuitable for a prewatershed programme and that this was a serious error.
Our research indicates that the word “fuck” and its derivatives are considered by respondents to be the most offensive language. Broadcasters must have robust procedures in place to ensure compliance with the Code. The broadcast of such language
before the 21:00 watershed is in breach of the Code (Rule 1.14). Ofcom also judged that the programme contained excessive offensive language in general and as such considered it to be in breach also of Rule 1.16.
Spice Extreme is a channel that appears in the ‘adult' section of the Sky Electronic Programme Guide. Its core schedule is encrypted sexual programming, starting at 22:00. Each evening the channel also broadcasts 10 minute free-to-air trailers,
which promote its later encrypted programmes and encourage viewers to subscribe.
26 July 2007
A viewer complained that a 10-minute trailer broadcast as a repeated promotional loop from 21:30 to 22:30 contained material unsuitable for the time of broadcast and for unencrypted transmission.
5 September 2007
As part of Ofcom's monitoring of channels found in the ‘adult' section of the EPG, we noted a free-to-air, 10-minute trailer broadcast repeatedly from 20:00 to 21:30 that also contained strong imagery and language. Ofcom noted that more explicit
versions of the trailer were shown after 21:30.
Ofcom considered the following rules from their Program Code
• Rule 1.2 (protection of under eighteens);
• Rule 2.1 (generally accepted standards); and
• Rule 2.3 (offensive material to be justified by context).
Spice Extreme stated that it “focuses on the more niche areas of sexual activity and may therefore not be to everyone's taste.” Nevertheless, it believed the explicitness of the trailer broadcast on 26 July 2007 was generally in line with
industry expectations. It added that prolonged shots of genitalia and simulated sex were avoided and, while some images of sexual activity were shown fleetingly, these were largely obscured by the camera angle or graphics. With regard to
the context of the material, the broadcaster said it understood that nudity and certain language may cause offence to some viewers but believed it was generally expected in an adult channel's free-to-air trailers.
Ofcom accepts that a free-to-air promotion for encrypted material within the ‘adult' section of the EPG will contain a certain amount of sexual activity and that viewers of these channels might expect some depiction of such content.
While some viewers may object to such content being aired at all, to curb all visual or verbal references to sexual activity would not, in Ofcom's opinion, be in line with the generally accepted standards for such channels. Additionally, the
specific context for such references (including the time of broadcast, location of the channel within the ‘adult' section and the expectations of the audience) would allow sexual activity to be depicted to some degree.
Ofcom considered that, given the sexualised nature of the material (such as images of nudity, simulated sex and the use of inappropriate sexual language), the free-to-air trailers on both dates were clearly unsuitable for broadcast either before,
or soon after, the 21:00 watershed. The channel's positioning within the EPG and its scheduling of materially stronger content only 30 minutes after the 21:00 watershed did not provide adequate protection to prevent under-eighteens accessing the
content. The broadcasts were therefore in breach of Rule 1.2 of the Code.
When considering whether the offensive material was justified by context, Ofcom accepts that Spice Extreme broadcasts within the ‘adult section' of the EPG and that, to some extent, its audience may therefore be self-selecting. We also note the
warning given before the free-to-view trailers broadcast in this case, on both 26 July and 5 September 2007, from 21:30. Nevertheless, Ofcom does not consider that these factors justify the strength of content shown free-to-view. The broadcasts
were therefore in breach of Rules 2.1 and 2.3 of the Code.
The trailer broadcast on 5 September 2007 between 20:00 and 21:30 was generally more restrained than the material transmitted after 21:30. However, Ofcom is concerned that it featured sexual imagery and adult themes. As recognised by the
broadcaster, the cumulative effect of this material was not acceptable for broadcast before, or close to, the watershed. This content was therefore also in breach of Rule 1.3 of the Code.
Ofcom regarded the above breaches of the Code to be serious and considered whether to recommend this case for consideration of a statutory sanction. Taking into account all the relevant circumstances however (including the broadcaster moderating
its output on being made aware of Ofcom's specific concerns and its previous compliance record), Ofcom decided not to pursue a sanction on this occasion. However, any further breaches of this nature by Spice Extreme are likely to result in Ofcom
considering the imposition of a statutory sanction.
ITV1 daytime show Loose Women has escaped censure from Ofcom over a strong language incident involving American comedian Joan Rivers.
The TV censor received 21 complaints about Rivers' outburst during her guest appearance on the lunchtime magazine show in June.
Rivers, who was on the show to promote her West End acting debut, described actor Russell Crowe as a piece of, get ready to bleep this, fucking shit.
In its ruling today, Ofcom praised ITV1 for taking swift action to remove her from the show. The channel apologised to viewers on four separate occasions.
But Ofcom said Loose Women was aimed at an adult audience and this edition of the programme was broadcast during term time when few young people would have been watching: Ofcom considers that ITV acted responsibly on this occasion and
broadcast several apologies. Given that this was an isolated occurrence which the broadcaster acted swiftly to recognise and remedy, Ofcom considers the matter resolved.
Dear Mr Steward Purvis,
Content and Standards,
I am sick to death of Ofcom pandering to censorious types such as John Beyer of Mediawatch, and other Mary Whitehouse types, and allowing such people to dictate what the rest of us are free to see by pandering to their incessant inane complaints
about programs they have no need to watch, but watch them deliberately just so they can complain about them, in the hope they can get them off the air.
We should, under pin protection and encryption, be free to watch (even very) explicit adult material just like ALMOST EVERY OTHER FREE country in Europe can.
Please justify why we STILL cannot in THIS free (?) country ?
Also why was it necessary to fine "SATELLITE ENTERTAINMENT LTD" 20,000 pounds ? If I was them I would tell you lot to get lost, stuff your "licence" where it might hurt, and go and get a broadcasting licence from a FREE
country in Europe.
I STRONGLY suspect that some of those in charge are using their high position of POWER to IMPOSE NARROW MINDED restrictions upon us, because of THEIR RELIGIOUS beliefs. This is unacceptable, and a HUMAN RIGHTS violation.
Other countries do NOT find such BLATANT censorship at all NECESSARY. Censorship should only be acceptable, when REAL AND MANIFEST HARM would be caused if restrictions were not imposed. If such restrictions were necessary it would be EASY for you
to demonstrate the need for them. You have never done that. There would be STRONG evidence you could cite from countries who don't censor their Adult TV as you do.
You might well consider such programmes worthless. That is not the point however.
You should persuade people to use the channel changer remote more. After all, there's enough bandwidth nowadays to suit everyone.
Your restrictions are out of date, unfair, unnecessary, and a human rights violation.
You ought to be known as the TellyBan, rather than Ofcom. Or should it be Ofcon I wonder ?
Speaking today John Beyer, director of mediawatch-uk, praised Ofcom for their decision:
This is yet another breach of the rules by a so-called "adult" satellite TV channel.
There have been more serious breaches of the Broadcasting Code by these channels than any other. Ofcom really must set an example and think about withdrawing licenses rather than fining because only that will show the
regulator really means business.
Ofcom has fined Satellite Entertainment Ltd ฃ20,000 for breaches of Ofcom's Broadcasting Code in respect of its service SportsxxxBabes.
SportsxxxBabes broadcasts free-to-air 'adult chat' programming. Satellite Entertainment Ltd was fined because SportxxxBabes transmitted free-to-air explicit sexual content, which Ofcom considered to be 'adult-sex' material.
Specifically, Ofcom has found Satellite Entertainment Ltd in breach of the following rules:
Rule 1.24: Premium subscription services and pay per view/night services may broadcast ‘adult-sex’ material between 2200 and 0530 provided that in addition to other protections:
* there is a mandatory PIN protected encryption system, or other equivalent protection, that seeks satisfactorily to restrict access solely to those authorised to view
* there are measures in place that ensure that the subscriber is an adult
Rule 2.1: Generally accepted standards must be applied to the contents of television and radio services so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in such services of harmful and/or offensive material
Rule 2.3: In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context…Appropriate information should also be broadcast where it would assist in avoiding or minimising
Ofcom received three complaints about the explicit sexual nature of the unencrypted content broadcast on the Channel on 26 February 2007, 13 March 2007 and 17 March 2007.Ofcom assessed the material broadcast between 21:45 and 00:00 on the dates
This decision that there was a breach of Rule 1.24 was based on Ofcom’s view that the content of the programme was sexually explicit, its primary purpose was to arouse the audience sexually, and it did have any or sufficient editorial
In the broadcast on 26 February 2007 a presenter appeared to perform oral sex on another presenter, who appeared to be naked. In addition one presenter, who was apparently naked, was shown from a side view masturbating and appeared to alternately
insert the dildo into her vagina and her mouth. The genital regions of the presenters were pixellated.
The broadcast on 13 March 2007 featured a naked male lying down while a semi-naked female appeared to perform oral sex and masturbate him (the male’s genital area was pixellated). Another female could be seen, apparently masturbating and
appeared to pull her knickers to one side and insert the dildo into her vagina. Later the couple were shown apparently having sex.
On 17 March 2008 a female presenter, who was clearly naked, appeared to masturbate while a semi-naked female behind her appeared to insert a dildo into the first female’s vagina. A third female, who was wearing knickers, was seen apparently
masturbating (with her hand inside and outside her underwear). One presenter removed another’s knickers and used them to gag her briefly, after which she appeared to insert a vibrator from behind into the second presenter.
The decision that there were breaches of Rules 2.1 and 2.3 was based on the Executive’s view that the material breached generally accepted standards and had the potential to cause offence, and that this offence was not sufficiently
justified by the context in which the content was broadcast.
Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog, has been accused of demanding programmes that are only of interest to niche, marginal and worthy audiences in a stinging rebuke delivered by the head of ITV television.
Peter Fincham, the former controller of BBC1 and one of the most respected figures in British television, mocked the regulator by comparing it to an interfering traffic warden who wanted to get behind the steering wheel. You wouldn't ask your
traffic warden to give you advice on what sort of car to buy, still less how to drive it, he said.
In an attack delivered as part of the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Fincham said Ofcom's attempts to define the type of shows that constitute public service broadcasting had resulted only in the deathless language of the committee... rinsed of all life and passion.
Michael Grade, the ITV executive chairman, has claimed that the broadcaster is being hamstrung by a nanny state , and that Ofcom and the Government need to understand very, very quickly that we cannot afford to pay more than the licence
fee is worth.
ITV currently pays ฃ220m a year for its broadcasting licence and is lobbying hard to reduce its obligations to make certain "public service" shows in genres that deliver small audiences.
Sex Station a free-to-air unencrypted babe channel on Lucky Star channel. The channel is listed in the adult section of the Sky electronic programme guide (“EPG”).
While monitoring the output of channels within the ‘adult’ section of the Sky EPG, Ofcom found material broadcast in Sex Station on the 11 July 2007 that included some explicit images featuring, in particular, apparent female
masturbation. The presenters and viewers’ texts also used some explicit sexual language, such as: We want a paddling pool filled with your hot, horny man-muck and a viewer’s text (at 21:43 ) saying, Tammy would you punish me
if I didn’t lick your fanny good enough?
Ofcom considered the following Code Rules:
Rule 1.2 (the broadcaster must take reasonable steps to protect under 18s)
Rule 1.24 (‘adult-sex’ material is restricted to overnight encrypted services)
Rule 2.1 (the broadcaster must apply generally accepted standards)
Rule 2.3 (offensive material must be justified by context)
Ofcom also received a complaint concerning similar output on 26 July 2007 with such language as, I’m looking for a dirty man who’s going to make me cum everywhere, and, I reckon you guys should spunk all over that [i.e. a
presenter’s white bodice]. Cover her up with white.
Lucky Star said that Sex Station appears post watershed, with an ‘18’ warning and within the ‘adult’ section of the Sky EPG. It added that the presenters are instructed to moderate their language nearer the watershed and
that, while the programme is live, viewers’ texts are heavily moderated prior to being put to screen and acutely rude words are not allowed.
Ofcom judged that much of the material broadcast after 21:00 was sexually explicit, as regards both the images (in particular, apparent masturbation) and language. This content had insufficient editorial or contextual justification to allow its
exceptional transmission unencrypted on free-to-air television.
The broadcasts were found in breach of Rules 1.2, 1.24, 2.1 and 2.3 of the Code.
Ofcom regarded these breaches of the Code as serious and considered whether to recommend this case for consideration of a statutory sanction. Taking into account all the relevant circumstances however (including the broadcaster moderating its
output on being made aware of Ofcom’s specific concerns, its apology and its previous compliance record), Ofcom decided on balance not to pursue a sanction on this occasion. However, any further breaches of this nature by Lucky Star are
likely to result in Ofcom considering the imposition of a statutory sanction.
House of Fun
26 July 2007, 22:00 and 29 August 2007, 23:00
House of Fun is a free-to-air unencrypted babe channel. Viewers are invited to contact on-screen presenters (“babes”) via premium rate services. The female presenters dress provocatively and encourage viewers to contact them.
Ofcom received two complaints that the channel broadcast material that featured explicit images in particular apparent female masturbation.
Ofcom viewed recordings of the material broadcast on the above dates and noted that the content contained images of the presenters engaged in acts of an apparently explicit sexual nature including:
various shots of presenters with their hands in their underwear appearing to masturbate
two presenters licking another presenter’s breasts while they had their hands inside the first presenter’s underwear, appearing to masturbate her
two of the female presenters removing their underwear and, while the picture was pixelated, appearing to masturbate.
House of Fun TV said that great care was taken to ensure that there was no real masturbation was broadcast, although undoubtedly there was “posturing and gesturing with hands in the vaginal regions and on the upper thighs of the
presenters”. The broadcaster stated that suggestion, innuendo, titillation were all part of the presenters’ performances. It stated that from a purely visual point of view, a pixelated image is a pixelated image and an overexcited
viewer may imagine many things, but the reality is that the image was pixelated and nothing inappropriate was broadcast which could be identified.
Ofcom judges that the material broadcast was visually sexually explicit, in particular the apparent masturbation. This content had insufficient editorial or contextual justification to allow its exceptional transmission unencrypted on free-to-air
television. For these reasons this content was in breach of Rule 1.24, which requires such material to be encrypted and restricted to broadcast after 22:00.
This content was sexually explicit and unsuitable for free-to-air television. It was therefore also in breach of generally accepted standards to ensure adequate protection for viewers in general from harmful and/or offensive material. In
Ofcom’s opinion, contextual factors such as this channel being in the ‘adult’ sector of the EPG and the content being broadcast after 23:00 did not justify the broadcast of this material.
Ofcom therefore found that Rules 1.24, 2.1 and 2.3 of the Code were breached.
These were serious and repeated breaches of the Code. Ofcom reviewed whether the matter should be referred to the Content Sanctions Committee (the “Committee”) for consideration of a statutory sanction. However, taking account of all
the relevant circumstances, including that no explicit language was transmitted, the late time of the broadcasts and the fact that monitoring by Ofcom showed subsequent improvements in compliance, Ofcom decided that, on balance on this occasion,
the matter would not be referred to the Committee. Should there be further breaches of a similar nature however by this Licensee, it is likely that the contraventions of the Code will be referred to the Committee.
Ofcom have published a report: UK code of practice for the self-regulation of new forms of content on mobiles:
Mobile phone use is widespread among children and 7% of 8-17 year olds access the internet via a mobile.
The UK code of practice for the self-regulation of new forms of content on mobiles provides a series of undertakings regarding young people’s access to, and the classification of, mobile commercial content. The Code was formally published
in January 2004 and the resulting Classification Framework (“the Framework”) was published in February 2005. All major UK mobile phone operators subscribe to and support the Code and the Framework which act as self-regulatory
Audio-visual content available on mobiles arises from two sources. Some content is provided directly by the operator or a contracted third party (and referred to in the Code as ‘commercial content’). This content is under the mobile
operator’s control, enforced by contractual arrangements with the content creator/supplier. The other source of content available on mobile phones is from the internet. Internet-based content is outside the control of the mobile operator.
This Review of the Code was achieved with the support of the Home Office and the Children's Charities' Coalition for Internet Safety (CHIS).
Overall, we find the Code to be effective in restricting young people’s access to inappropriate content and a good example of industry self-regulation. Based on interviews with operators and stakeholders, we believe that the Code and
Framework are understood and readily adopted by all concerned.
We also note that the mobile industry has made significant investment in the development and implementation of content controls and has taken significant steps to enforce compliance, over and above the requirements set out in the Code. The mobile
operators have established a process whereby an initial breach of the Code by a commercial content provider results in a warning (yellow card), and any subsequent breach of the Code can result in a sanction (red card). Repeated failure to comply
with the Code may lead to termination of future business. The yellow/red card scheme is viewed both by the mobile operators and the content suppliers as a highly effective compliance mechanism.
We find that the availability of consumer information about how to restrict access to 18-rated material is generally poor – only 15% of adults who use a mobile and who have a child in their household are aware of age verification systems.
We therefore recommend that mobile operators redouble their efforts to ensure that the information supplied by retailers, customer services and websites is easy to understand and accessible.
The Content Classification Framework is provided on behalf of the mobile phone industry by the Independent Mobile Classification Body (IMCB), a subsidiary limited company of the premium rate phone regulator PhonepayPlus. The IMCB has to date
received no in-remit complaints from members of the public about any content of a nature encompassed by the Code, which has been accessed via a mobile phone. However, the basis for complaining is that consumers, in the first instance, must report
their concern to their contracted mobile operator. Only where there is no satisfactory resolution to the complaint is the customer then referred to the IMCB by the mobile operator’s customer services. The IMCB sees itself as primarily an
industry-facing body and does not promote awareness of its existence or its functions to the public (other than through its website), nor does it advertise its complaints function to members of the public.
The current arrangements block access to 18-rated material to non-age-verified customers. With increasing numbers of younger children having access to mobiles capable of accessing AV content, mobile operators may need to consider if a binary
system at 18 provides sufficient protection from inappropriate content for younger users, or whether a more granular system should be considered.
ITV has escaped punishment after the word "pikey" - a slang term for gypsy - was used in a sports broadcast in June.
Host Martin Brundle was interviewing Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone before the Canadian Grand Prix, where part of the track had crumbled.
There are some pikeys there at turn 10 putting tarmac down - what do you think of that, he asked.
Media regulator Ofcom said it would take no action after ITV apologised and addressed the issue with its presenter.
The broadcaster argued that "pikey" was now used more widely but conceded that it still remains a derogatory term. It added that Brundle was unaware of the potential racial or ethnic connotations and so had not meant to cause any
offence towards the travelling communities.
After the show ITV received 22 complaints from viewers over the remark while Ofcom received 14.
Ofcom received complaints about the over explicit sexual nature of output broadcast on TVX during both encrypted and free-to-air elements on 8 June 2007 from 22:00.
This was during a live ‘babe' programme. The complaints, from competitor broadcasters, suggested some of the encrypted output was equivalent to material that would be classified as ‘R18' by the BBFC
The encrypted material transmitted under PIN encryption on 8 June 2007 between 22.10 and 22.40 featured two naked female presenters engaging in very explicit sexual acts. This included:
frequent and prolonged masturbation, shown in close-up
explicit scenes of oral sex
explicitly depicted scenes of vaginal penetration by fingers and dildos.
The ten minute free-to-air trailer transmitted immediately prior to the encrypted output on the same night featured the same presenters. During this section one of the ‘babes' removed her knickers and was then depicted in relative close up
touching and being touched between her legs. Labial detail was apparent.
Throughout, the ‘babes' invited viewers to subscribe to the encrypted service using explicit language, such as: …I can't wait to bring my head in between those luscious thighs and get sucking on that juicy pussy!” and …If you wanna see
me fucking this pussy I‘ve got all kinds of toys…. that you can see me fucking Tiffany with…
The Licensee immediately accepted that part of the live programme transmitted on 8 June 2007 from 22:10 breached Rule 1.25 of the Code i.e. it was the equivalent of ‘R18'-rated material. The transmission of content equivalent to BBFC-rated
‘R18'-rated material is not permitted under Rule 1.25 of the Code.
Portland also accepted that the images broadcast during the free-to-air promotional trailer were in breach of the Code. However, they did not accept that the language during the free-to-air promotional trailer breached the Code.
Ofcom concluded that the encrypted material was equivalent to ‘R18' content because of the sexual explicitness detailed above. It therefore recorded that the broadcast was in breach of Rule 1.25 of the Code.
Ofcom also decided that free-to-air material was so explicit, especially the visual images, that it was ‘adult-sex' material. Accordingly Rule 1.24 applied, which meant it should have been broadcast under encryption. Since however this material
was not protected by encryption and other measures required by Rule 1.24, it contravened this Rule. In view of this material being shown free-to-air, the Executive also decided that it breached Rules 2.1 and 2.3. These require broadcasters to
protect viewers from material that is harmful or offensive and which cannot be justified by the context.
In Ofcom's view, the breaches were sufficiently serious that the case should be referred to the Committee for consideration of a statutory sanction of £25,000.
Except for the various mitigating factors, and in particular the swift action to discipline the production staff responsible and improve compliance, the Committee would have imposed a higher financial penalty.
Ofcom define the rules for promoting adult websites from licensed UK adult TV services
Ofcom specify the rules for website links shown on licensed TV service
before 21:00 watershed, no adult website links allowed
After 21:00 watershed, links to pages for subscription to services related to the broadcast channel are allowed. But only if all hardcore content is protected by physical age verification, not just self certification.
For years UK adult TV has been characterised by being softcore promoted with the misleading suggestion that it is hardcore. Who is going to trust these companies with their credit card without seeing some hardcore trailers first?
Ofcom and the BBFC seem to be stacking the odds against UK adult companies even before Internet TV has had a chance to establish itself. Who wants to type in a whole load of verification details just to take a look what is on offer at a site.
It seems so much safer to use foreign websites where ID checks are not stashed away in databases and there is an openness about the material on offer. This openness tends to give confidence that you will get what you expect when you hand over
Red Hot TV Trailer
Red Hot TV, 13 February 2008, 20.00 – 22.00
Red Hot TV is a subscription-based, i.e. encrypted, adult service. In common with most such services it is promoted with free-to-air trailers broadcast on a loop from 20.00 onwards.
Throughout a trailer, broadcast between 20.00 and 22.00, verbal and on-screen text references were made to the broadcaster's websites www.redhottv.com and www.televisionx.com. From 20.00 verbal references to the websites were made primarily to
encourage subscriptions to the broadcast service. However, the accompanying on-screen text reference to the websites remained on-screen for the majority of the trailer. Further, after 21.40 the trailer included several additional verbal
references specifically promoting the “uncut” and “uncensored” content on the websites, in particular for Red Hot WebTV.
Ofcom received a complaint that the websites featured sexually explicit, “hardcore pornography" which could be readily viewed without registration to the websites.
Although this material was not broadcast on-air, Ofcom was concerned that it appeared on a website being promoted on the Red Hot TV trailer pre-watershed from 20.00.
Red Hot TV promotes its websites within its licensed TV service as a means for viewers to subscribe to the service and to access previously broadcast programming and unedited versions of these programmes. Ofcom's concern in this case was whether
the content of these websites was suitable for promotion pre-watershed and whether the more explicit imagery was suitable at all to be promoted, even indirectly, on a licensed television service.
While the content of the websites is not in itself broadcast material, and therefore not subject to the requirements of the Code, any on-air references to the websites are clearly broadcast content. Such references must therefore comply with the
However, when accessed – merely by clicking “enter” on the site's front page – the two websites contained extremely explicit material (equivalent to BBFC ‘R18'-rated content). This did not require registration to view and could be seen by
under-eighteens. Registration and credit card verification was only required if the user wished to download the material in full. The promotion on television of this website was therefore of serious concern to Ofcom.
Ofcom concluded that the inclusion of promotional references to a website containing highly explicit ‘adult' material on a service regulated by Ofcom was a breach of the Code
Ofcom wishes to emphasise that it does not regulate the content of websites such as www.redhottv.com but that it does regulate on-air references to where such content may be found. It is therefore able to require a broadcaster to remove such a
Further, and mindful that the trailer for Red Hot TV – and other ‘adult' services' trailers – is only available in the ‘adult' section of the electronic programme guide (“EPG”), it is Ofcom's view that references to a website for genuine
subscription purposes, and not for the promotion of any other website content, may be an acceptable way to publicise a service that Ofcom requires to be encrypted. But where websites are used to enable subscription, the viewer should be taken
directly to the relevant page(s) (otherwise Ofcom's rules on the undue promotion of goods and services may be infringed) and the websites must not contain unprotected R18-standard material.
Therefore it is Ofcom's view that any ‘adult' websites promoted on an Ofcom licensed service, even those that take the viewer to a subscription-only page, should not be broadcast until after 21.00 post-watershed. In no circumstances may such
websites contain unprotected R18 material if they are promoted on a licensed service. Appropriate protection will be, for example, the need to purchase access to the stronger material by using a credit card or similar means that allows an age
check to be done.
As the former chair of the Internaltional Panel on Climate Control, I welcome Ofcom's ruling today, which states that The Great Global Warming Swindle was unfair in its treatment of the IPCC and leading scientists such as Sir David King and
Professor Carl Wunsch, and that it was in breach of due impartiality on matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy.
However, I am very disappointed that Ofcom did not find that the programme materially misled the audience as to cause harm or offence.
In my opinion, The Great Global Warming Swindle did a major disservice to the public at large and tried to undermine the scientific basis which governments and the private sector are using to address cost effectively one of the greatest
challenges the human race has ever faced. I believe it inaccurately portrayed the scientific evidence, was not impartial – which, in my view, a documentary should be – and was unbalanced and totally misrepresented the scientific consensus on the
role of human activities in causing global warming. Therefore the program should have emphasized far more than it did that it was portraying a minority opinion.
TV censors Ofcom have fined Square 1 £175000 for a scene on a free to air babe channel. Square 1 operate the channel Smile TV which has since renamed to Blue Kiss TV.
Ofcom received a complaint about the explicit sexual nature of the content broadcast on Smile TV on 22 May 2007 at around 22.25. The complainant referred to shots in which a female presenter appeared to insert her fingers into her anus several
times and masturbate for a number of minutes.
In the material complained of the presenter wore only a thong and appeared to carry out the actions described by the complainant. There were also prolonged shots of her lying on her back, with her legs wide apart in front of the camera,
apparently masturbating through the thong. She also encouraged viewers to call her by saying, for example: Well, I tell you what, you're not lasting a second tonight guys. Maybe it's all my oil on my shaved minge…If you'd like to hear some
explicit chat tonight, while you're having a good old tommy tank… [rhyming slang for ‘wank' – i.e. masturbation].
Ofcom concluded that the sexual content on the programme was so explicit and prolonged, particularly the visual images, that it was 'adult-sex' material. This meant it fell within Rule 1.24 and accordingly should have been broadcast under
encryption. The programme was not protected by encryption or in line with the other requirements of Rule 1.24 and therefore the broadcaster had breached Rule 1.24 of the Code.
Given that the material appeared on a free-to-air unencrypted channel, Ofcom also decided that it breached Rules 2.1 and 2.3 of the Code. These require broadcasters to protect viewers from material that is harmful or offensive and which cannot be
justified by the context. In Ofcom's view the breaches were sufficiently serious that the case should be referred to the Committee for consideration of a statutory sanction.
Rule 1.24: Premium subscription services and pay per view/night services may broadcast ‘adult-sex' material between 2200 and 0530 provided that in addition to the other protections named above:
there is a mandatory PIN protected encryption system, or other equivalent protection, that seeks satisfactorily to restrict access solely to those authorised to view
and there are measures in place that ensure that the subscriber is an adult
Rule 2.1: Generally accepted standards must be applied to the contents of television and radio services so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in such services of harmful and/or
Rule 2.3: In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context
Rock Rivals is a drama based around the concept of a popular television talent competition. It was broadcast on ITV1 at 21:00 earlier this year and repeated on ITV2 at 20:00 each week. One viewer complained that the ITV2 repeat of the
first episode of the series contained strong language, including “tosser” and “shit”, and one use of “fuck” (which was also subtitled). The viewer was offended that inappropriate language was broadcast before the 21:00 watershed. On reviewing the
material, the word “fuck” was included in the subtitles but from the audio track it could not clearly be determined what was actually said. Ofcom wrote to Channel Television, who complies this programme for the ITV Network, asking it to respond
under Rule 1.14 (the most offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed).
Ofcom does not normally regard the infrequent use of what are considered to be milder terms of bad language such as “tossers”, “shits” and “sodding” to be at odds with the Code when broadcast in a drama not intended for children. However, “fuck”
is considered one of the most offensive forms of language. Rule 1.14 states that the most offensive language should not be broadcast before the watershed.
It's 40 long years since the Theatres Act swept the Lord Chamberlain's censorship squad away. Goodbye to immobile, goose-pimpled nudes, shivering on plinths. Hail to the drugged-out hippies of Hair. Welcome, up to a point, to Oh! Calcutta!
Here was one great liberal battle won. We'd pulled the dead hand of prim, bureaucratic authority away from our action. Unless, that is, it happened to be called Ofcom.
Peter Preston attacks Ofcom's regulation of broadcast standards as "officialdom's apparatus of imbecility" (Comment, July 7). Parliament requires Ofcom to regulate what appears on British television and radio, and the foreign-language
services which fall into our jurisdiction under European directives. Ofcom's content and standards group is currently regulating 2,101 TV and radio outlets. Ofcom's broadcasting code was drawn up after extensive research and consultation with
broadcasters and their audiences.
We regularly research changing public attitudes and expectations. We receive an increasing number of complaints about broadcast content each year and consider them in processes which are fully explained on our website, and involve not only Ofcom
executives, but also non-executives appointed in a public process. We regularly review our processes; one such internal review is under way at present. We publish all our findings, some in great detail.
All our processes are open to challenge in court through judicial review. All this is done as part of Ofcom's statutory responsibility to represent the interests of citizens and consumers. Which of these would Peter Preston dismiss as imbecilic?
Ofcom boss Ed Richards says the telecoms censor is ready to play a constructive role in the ongoing debate over online music piracy.
To date, Ofcom has not made a lot of public noise about the piracy issue, Richards said in a speech to telecoms bosses. But that should not be mistaken for a lack of interest or concern. Our formal focus may be limited. But this sort of
piracy is something that affects network operators, ISPs, content creators and consumers - and as the converged regulator we have of course
Not surprisingly, Ofcom comes down on the side of the industry, claiming file sharing is clogging up networks. The issue is critical. An operator investing in next-generation networks will not want it clogged up with illegal peer-to-peer
content if that means no-one will pay to ensure a return on the investment, as we have seen in some Asia Pacific markets, Richards said: And content providers, self evidently, do not want illegal traffic undermining their investment in
As the converged communications regulator, if we can play a constructive role in helping to find a common solution in the best interests of companies and consumers we would be very happy to do so.
The Jeremy Kyle Show has been rapped by TV censor Ofcom for failing to bleep out an expletive during a daytime transmission.
Two viewers complained that, during a heated discussion on the ITV1 talk show between Jeremy Kyle and a Scotsman on the programme, the man – who spoke in a very strong accent - said I don't see you going out there saying [blanked] to people in
the street you'd get your cunt kicked in.
The word cunt was described by Ofcom as "most offensive and abusive" was deemed "unacceptable" by Ofcom.
ITV said the show's Manchester-based staff missed the word due to the guest's strong Scottish accent. ITV added that none of its subtitlers or compliance officers had picked up on the expletive.
Ofcom conceded it was "unintentional" but issued ITV with a warning.