Chat Café is a daytime chat programme broadcast without access restrictions. It is located in the ‘adult' section of the Sky Electronic Programme Guide on the service LA Babes (Sky channel number 956). Viewers can call a premium
rate telephone number and talk to an onscreen presenter. Viewers can see the female presenters engaged in conversation but cannot hear what is being said as music is played over the images. At certain intervals the presenters can switch on a
microphone and speak directly to viewers to encourage them to call the premium rate telephone number.
Ofcom received a complaint that material broadcast at lunchtime featured a presenter in a low cut top and mini skirt engaged in inappropriate activities for a daytime broadcast. These included: jiggling her breasts to the camera; shaking her
bottom in front of the camera and lifting her skirt to reveal her buttocks; and opening her legs leaving the viewer with an impression that she was not wearing any underwear and simulating masturbation with a microphone.
Rule 1.3 (children must be protected from unsuitable material by appropriate scheduling)
Rule 2.3 (broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by context).
The broadcaster stated that the presenter was dressed correctly at all times. However, the presenter's simulated masturbation of the microphone and the occasional touching of her upper body, even though they were presented in a fun and playful,
not sexually explicit way, were not in line with the broadcaster's own internal guidelines for the time of broadcast. Consequently the licensee had dismissed the producer and suspended the presenter with immediate effect. Furthermore, Fierce
Media also confirmed that the service LA Babeshad been taken off-air for an indefinite period following this complaint.
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rules 1.3 and 2.3
Rule 1.3 makes clear that children should be protected from material which is unsuitable for them by appropriate scheduling. This is judged according to factors such as the nature of the content, the nature of the channel and the time of
In this case the nature of the content included a presenter behaving in an overtly sexual manner and, by the broadcaster's own admission, had engaged in simulating masturbation with a microphone at the request of a caller. Whilst taking other
telephone calls, the presenter also engaged in actions such as getting up from the bed and standing with her bottom to the camera; lifting her mini skirt to reveal her buttocks then stroking them suggestively; and lowering her top to reveal her
cleavage and then jiggling her chest to the camera.
The licensee stated that the presenter was wearing knickers at all times. In Ofcom's opinion, however, the broadcast images gave the impression to the viewer that the presenter was wearing minimal, or no, underwear. This was apparent when she
opened and closed her legs in front of the camera.
Given that these activities and images were not suitable for daytime broadcast, it was Ofcom's view that the positioning of this channel in the ‘adult' section of the EPG was not sufficient to provide adequate protection to prevent children from
accessing the content and this was a breach of Rule 1.3.
Furthermore, it was also Ofcom's view that the broadcast of this material would have exceeded the expectation of viewers watching television during the day and was therefore offensive.
The TV censor Ofcom has launched a review of its Broadcasting Code which sets repressive rules for TV and radio stations.
The main areas under review are:
A range of proposed new rules for commercial radio. These aim to create greater commercial opportunities for radio stations. They could help create a wider range of programming while safeguarding consumer protection and editorial independence.
Proposals to clarify other parts of the Code to help broadcasters better understand exactly how repressive the rules are, particularly in relation to the broadcast of sexual material.
In summary, the proposed new set of rules in relation to sexual material would make clear that regulation in relation to material of a sexual nature continues to require that:
Material equivalent to the BBFC R18-rating is prohibited
‘Adult-sex' material - which is material broadcast for the primary purpose of sexual arousal, must not be broadcast unless there are mandatory access restrictions in place, and then only between 22:00 and 05:30 with mandatory access
restrictions in place
Strong sexual material, material of a strong sexual nature which is not broadcast for the primary purpose of sexual arousal, and therefore not subject to mandatory access restrictions, may be broadcast after the watershed provided there is a
strong contextual justification
Pre-watershed sexual material - must be editorially justified and appropriately limited.
The consultation also asks whether not-for-profit organisations should be permitted to fund programmes about their own activities or interests. These programmes, called Public Information Programming, would cover subjects in the public interest
but could not deal with controversial matters. Currently such programming is not permitted.
The revised Code will also include mandatory changes as a result of new European legislation (the Audio Visual Media Services Directive).
The review of the Code has taken into account recent compliance failings, discussions with stakeholders and audience research. Ofcom will be undertaking further research on public attitudes on the use of language.
There is no change to the current regulatory practice, only a clarification of the rules to benefit broadcasters and audiences.
There have been a number of 'compliance failures' concerning the broadcast of sexual material on TV. To help stamp out such failures, Ofcom suggests clarifying the rules about sexual material and incorporating some of Ofcom's guidance in this
area within the Code.
From time to time not-for-profit organisations wish to fund programmes about their own activities or interests. This is currently prohibited under the Code. The consultation asks whether this prohibition should remain and suggests some possible
rules that would ensure audience protection and editorial independence.
These strict safeguards would include:
requiring that the programmes are in the public interest
prohibiting funders banned from TV or radio advertising from funding such programmes (e.g. political parties)
requiring that the programmes do not cover controversial matters
ensuring that such funding arrangements are made transparent to the audience.
To inform our proposals on commercial references in radio programming, we commissioned audience research on listeners attitudes in this area. This is also published today.
We also commissioned research into audiences views on sexual content on TV to update our understanding of generally accepted standards in relation to a range of sexual material. This will inform our approach to the application of the rules
relating to sexual material and is also published today.
Ofcom has in place a number of rules relating to offensive language and the watershed. Our rules are applied on the basis of Ofcom's understanding of the attitudes of viewers and listeners, and this is underpinned by audience research. We will
conduct further research, and look at all available research, to establish public attitudes towards language, which will inform our application of the Code.
The consultation closes on 4 September 2009.
Update: Moving to a 10pm Watershed
For background I just read on a parenting website that 9pm is a typical bedtime for a 12 year old, 10pm for 14/15 year olds and 11pm for 16/17 year olds
The media regulator Ofcom is proposing to crack down on the amount of sustained sex scenes and sexual language shown on TV immediately after the 9pm watershed, to better protect younger viewers from explicit content broadcast
free-to-air by so-called babe channels .
The proposed tightening of guidelines, relating to images and/or language of a strong sexual nature , follows a rise in recent years of the number of babe channels, on which scantily clad women encourage viewers to call premium-rate phone
Ofcom said consumer research had found that between 9pm and 10pm people did not expect to see much more than a brief sex scene or brief nudity.
The regulator, which has launched a consultation into proposed changes to the broadcasting code covering TV and radio, is set to introduce a new rule governing the justification of showing strong sex scenes soon after the 9pm watershed,
while many under-18s are still watching.
Ofcom said that section one of the broadcasting code, which covers the protection of under-18s, requires broadcasters to observe the 9pm watershed, before which channels must be more sensitive to taste and decency issues, and ensure that material
unsuitable for children under the age of 15 is not shown before that time.
However, Ofcom added that it recognised that under-18s continue to watch TV after 9pm and some of this material may include sexual content.
Moving Wallpaper is a satirical comedy drama set in a television production office run by an egotistical and maverick producer called Jonathan Pope. This second series featured Jonathan working under great pressure to deliver a hit
programme after the failure of his previous production Echo Beach , which was featured in the first series.
Ofcom received 100 complaints about an episode which featured a transsexual character called Georgina, whom Jonathan brought in for her track record in writing successful TV drama. The hiring of Georgina resulted in anger from the in-house
writing team who felt sidelined by her appointment and consequently went on strike. During the episode Georgina experienced bigoted treatment from other characters, including Jonathan and some of his production team.
The complainants expressed concern that this storyline was offensive and encouraged transphobic bullying and discrimination against transsexuals in the workplace.
Ofcom Decision: Not in Breach of Rule 2.3
Satirical programmes, such as Moving Wallpaper , often derive humour from exaggerating a situation or attitude to the point of absurdity and Ofcom acknowledges that this may cause offence to individuals. Potentially offensive material may,
however, be broadcast provided it complies with the Code.
Rule 2.3 states that broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context. Context includes, but is not limited to: the editorial content of the programme; the service on which the material is broadcast; the
degree of offence likely to be caused; and the likely expectation of the audience.
Ofcom recognises the concerns generated by the treatment of the transgender character Georgina in this episode of the comedy drama. In Ofcom's view, references such as a cock in a frock , trannies , he/she , not natural
and the overall discriminatory attitude demonstrated by Jonathan and some of his production team towards Georgina certainly had the potential to cause offence. This offence was clearly reflected in the strength of the many complaints received by
Ofcom, some of which were from the transgender community.
However, it is important to note that the Code does not simply prohibit the broadcast of potentially offensive material. Rather, Rule 2.3 means that such material may be broadcast, if its inclusion is justified by context so as to provide
adequate protection for members of the public.
In terms of assessing the context Ofcom firstly reviewed the editorial content of this popular comedy drama. First, it should be noted that this programme was a drama, with fictional characters and set in a fictional television environment. This
was the second series of Moving Wallpaper and the chauvinistic and narcissistic character of Jonathan Pope was already well established from series one. In the opening scenes of this particular episode, before Jonathan meets Georgina, he
talks about George as the new writer coming in who has a strong track record in writing hit television drama scripts. He demonstrates he has no qualms in undermining his existing scriptwriters by bringing in someone over their heads to
avoid another television flop.
In Ofcom's view it was therefore part of the characterisation of Jonathan to react negatively to Georgina from the point at which he meets her and realises she is a transsexual, even though it is the same writer Jonathan had previously praised
for her extensive experience. Members of the production team also made negative references to Georgina's sexuality. Their motives however were less obvious: one stated he was “just jealous” of her long list of writing credits, and another stated
that her attitude was not related to Georgina's gender but the way in which Jonathan had brought her in without consulting the team.
In contrast, throughout the programme, Georgina is not presented in a negative or stereotypical way. She has strong morals and is very professional, refusing for example to bow to the pressure Jonathan puts her under to turn around a script
quickly and to re-use storylines simply to salvage his own reputation.
It is Ofcom's view that the intention of the humour in this episode was to illustrate the crass and prejudiced character of Jonathan, rather than to ridicule a transsexual character. Georgina is given her opportunity to tell Jonathan what she
thinks of him at the end of the programme, referring to him as incompetent, sexist, offensive and talentless.
Although Ofcom appreciates this programme caused offence to some individuals, its intention was to draw out the characters, in the programme, in a manner which was both absurd and satirical. The reactions of the production team to the character
of Georgina were a key part of the storyline (i.e. this is how certain individuals reacted to her) and therefore editorially justified. The programme did not condone or encourage such negative attitudes to transsexuals. The broadcaster met
generally accepted standards given the specific context of a satirical drama. Therefore Rule 2.3 of the Code was not breached.
Herre på tppan
TV6 (Sweden), 1 March 2009 at 20:00
TV6 is a Viasat Swedish language channel licensed by Ofcom. TV6 is not on domestic Electronic Programme Guide and cannot be received in the UK on normal satellite or cable equipment.
Herre på täppan (“King of the Hill”) is a game show that sets bizarre challenges for contestants, with the ultimate prize of becoming King of the Hill . The challenges range from games, such as answering general knowledge
questions, to eating something unknown, or undertaking some potentially dangerous or painful activity.
Ofcom received a complaint from a Swedish viewer about the broadcast of a challenge called The Human Letter . This involved two young men attaching six pieces of paper, printed to resemble oversized stamps, directly to their bodies using a
staple gun as quickly as possible. The programme showed the men stapling the ‘stamps' to their face, and to their bare legs and torso. The viewer felt that the challenge was unsuitable for broadcast because it encouraged dangerous behaviour.
Ofcom considered Rules of the Code:
Rule 1.3 - Children must be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them
Rule 1.13 - Dangerous behaviour that is likely to be easily imitable by children in a manner that is harmful must not be broadcast before the watershed, or when children are particularly likely to be listening, unless there is editorial
Viasat stated that it has now scheduled this programme to after the watershed, beginning at 21:00.
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rules 1.3 and 1.13
Ofcom recognises that Swedish audiences may have different expectations regarding the broadcast of what could be considered dangerous behaviour before the watershed. We also note that Swedish audiences may consider 20:00 to be outside the peak
viewing time for children. While taking these factors into account, Ofcom has also has to recognise that Viasat is a broadcaster licensed by Ofcom and therefore it is required to comply with its licensing obligations in the United Kingdom. This
includes ensuring that all of its broadcast output complies with the Code.
In Ofcom's opinion, attaching pieces of paper directly to the body using a staple gun, including to the face, could reasonably be considered dangerous behaviour. Further it is an activity which is likely to be easily imitable by children. Staple
guns are accessible objects, widely available in schools for example. We therefore considered that the behaviour featured could be easily imitated by children in a way which may be harmful. In Ofcom's opinion, the programme also presented this
behaviour as both humorous and acceptable and it did not sufficiently warn younger viewers of the potentially harmful results. This is despite the fact that in the programme the staples pierced the men's skin and drew some blood: one even
suggested that one staple pierced his rib. Ofcom considered there was insufficient editorial justification for featuring the material in this manner at this time of the evening. The programme was therefore in breach of Rule 1.13.
Given the breach of Rule 1.13, relating to material shown before the watershed, Ofcom also considered the programme in breach of Rule 1.3 which requires that children must also be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is
unsuitable for them.
Ujima Radio is a black music community radio station in Bristol. It is owned and run by local people, and many of the station staff work in a voluntary capacity.
The Noon Show is broadcast every weekday afternoon and includes new music, talk and interviews. During a broadcast of the show, the presenter read out a story that featured in a newspaper entitled The secret life of a male prostitute . He
then commented on the story and spoke about issues relating to black homosexuals. As part of this discussion the presenter made a number of comments directly about the black man who featured in the story, called Elijah, and homosexuality in
With regard to Elijah, and homosexuality in general, the presenter said:
21 years old, he's out the game ‘cos his backside's hanging out. Probably got a catheter….We're taking a moment to readjust here, readjust ourself, ask God Almighty to set us straight and keep us free from the pestilence
that certainly has fallen on us and certainly is a pestilence.
With regard to homosexuality the presenter said:
I don't like to believe we are the most homophobic, I like to look at it as we are the most right thinking. It's as simple as that. Because if you didn't think right, you wouldn't be here in the first place … as there
wouldn't be such [a] thing as procreation, and procreation has to continue between man and woman… don't get it twisted and don't get sick out there, real talk now…it takes a man and hormone. Adam and Eve, simple, simple, simple. Argue your case
with God Almighty.
You know your son is up in his bedroom playing his Xbox and you think ‘oh he's 16, 17 years old' and that lot, you'd like to see a few girls going up there but you don't wanna walk up there and find that they're not playing Xbox - the only box
they're playing is a nasty dirty little box, you know. I'm just merely saying, every time your son comes through the door with different boys, well it might be boys or just play mates I'm afraid.
Goodness knows what I would do if my sons turned round and told me they [are gay] , I know what I would do but I won't tell you on-air.
Ofcom received a complaint from a listener who felt that the presenter's comments during this discussion were offensive towards the gay community.
Ofcom considered Rule 2.3 of the Code (material that may cause offence must be justified by the context).
The broadcaster acknowledged that the programme was unsuitable for broadcast and that listeners would have been offended by the comments made by the presenter. Ujima Radio said that as a consequence of the complaint the station terminated the
presenter's volunteer contract and broadcast an on-air apology the following week.
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 2.3
Ofcom notes the broadcaster's acknowledgement that listeners would have been offended by the comments made by the presenter and the broadcast of an on-air apology.
Ofcom was concerned by this material and in particular the language used and the homophobic tone and manner in which the comments were made. In Ofcom's opinion, such comments would reasonably have been perceived as hostile and pejorative towards
the gay community and had the potential to cause considerable offence.
Ofcom considered that the broadcast of this offensive material was not justified by the context. Therefore, the material went beyond generally accepted standards for this type of programme and breached Rule 2.3 of the Code.
The EU is poised to appoint a super-regulatory body that will bring together all 27 national regulators, including Ofcom in the UK, and enforce wide-ranging reforms to the industry.
The establishment of the Body of European Regulators in Electronic Communications (BEREC) would bring national regulators together in an attempt to further integrate the European market and become the main advisory body to the Commission, the
body that proposes legislation.
The creation of a European telecoms regulator was pushed by EU commissioner Viviane Reding, who continues to campaign for lower data roaming rates around Europe.
Malcolm Harbour, West Midlands MEP and vice president of the European Parliament's science and technology unit, was involved in proposals for the package and told Mobile that aside from issues about internet access, the rest of the reforms had
already been agreed on in theory.
Celebrity Big Brother
Channel 4, 2 to 23 January 2009
Celebrity Big Brother is a reality based television show where 11 celebrity contestants are confined together in a controlled environment.
Ofcom received 527 complaints about Celebrity Big Brother 2009 . The majority of the complainants considered that Housemates were bullied or were responsible for bullying other Housemates. In particular, the American rap artist Coolio was
the focus of many complaints for the manner in which he behaved towards some female Housemates, most notably singer Michelle Heaton. Complainants were concerned that he made misogynistic and sexist comments and subjected them to bullying
and boorish behaviour.
However, Ofcom also received complaints that Coolio was negatively stereotyped as an aggressive black man.
Ofcom Decision: Not in Breach
Ofcom did not receive any complaints from any of the participants in Celebrity Big Brother 2009.
Ofcom noted that, in particular, the relationship between Coolio and Michelle Heaton became fractious. It appeared clear to viewers that Coolio enjoyed baiting and teasing female Housemates. However, when Coolio teased Michelle for allegedly
having feelings for another Housemate (Ben) she became very upset. Sensing he had hit a nerve, Coolio continued to tease her about it. It was at this point that Channel 4, through Big Brother, talked to both Coolio and Michelle separately in the
Diary Room about what had developed between them. Michelle appeared comforted by her conversations with Big Brother, and some of the other Housemates, and Coolio, when told that his behaviour could be seen as intimidating, appeared to be
genuinely disconcerted that this could be the case. Ofcom noted that Big Brother and fellow Housemates managed to get Coolio and Michelle to resolve their issues and their “feud” was amicably resolved when Coolio and Michelle apologised to each
other for their behaviour.
In Ofcom's view Coolio was a larger than life character in the House, playing the role for many viewers of the villain of the piece where such a role, after 10 years of Big Brother , is generally expected by the audience. He
exhibited an acerbic wit; was clearly at times quite bored; baited female Housemates; and, was at times, generally unpleasant, making statements and references that appeared calculated to be potentially offensive and provoke a reaction.
Ofcom acknowledges that Celebrity Big Brother is the type of programme in which controversial matters will inevitably be raised and emotional and offensive exchanges occur, as the characters of the participants are revealed. Given this, what is
broadcast may contain language and behaviour which is capable of causing offence to viewers. Viewers therefore expect the broadcaster, through Big Brother, to challenge such behaviour appropriately and for it to be in context.
When Ofcom viewed this series it noted that there was indeed friction between a number of celebrity Housemates: tempers frayed, emotions at times ran high, personalities clashed and name-calling abounded. The Housemates did however work towards
defusing tense situations themselves and, where necessary, Channel 4 through Big Brother, intervened. Big Brother for example called Housemates to the Diary Room to talk through their behaviour to resolve more highly charged situations and to
discuss how behaviour could be improved.
As a consequence Ofcom did not consider that compliance with the Code had been brought into question by Channel 4's handling of the conduct exhibited in this particular series. It concluded therefore that this series complied with the Code
because any potentially offensive content that was shown and the manner in which the friction and the arguments were handled and presented by Big Brother on behalf of Channel 4, were adequately justified by the context.
Ofcom have been fined Portland Enterprises Ltd £27,500 for showing a little hardcore female masturbation in a programme Bathroom Bitches on its softcore TVX 2 channel.
But BobB points out that something is going on between Ofcon and the Satellite broadcasters! The program that supposedly breached the code, and attracted these fines, is still being regularly shown on TVX/Redhot (with no cuts from the original
One would imagine that only an idiot would continue to broadcast a program for which they have already been fined.
Shaun asks: I'd like to know who these morons are, that subscribe to the Sky platform's "porn" channels (if you can call them that) and then complain about the fact that what they see on the screen is pornographic...
To be honest I care very little about the issue these days. The broadcasters are pandering to Ofcom instead of fighting their cause. Their subscribers are gullible into paying for such rubbish when there's more adult material than ever available
from all kind of sources online, and other satellites...
Ofcom, the adult broadcasters and the gullible subscribers all deserve each other really.
Ofcom have fined RHF Productions Ltd £25,000 for broadcasting the URLs of websites that feature hardcore teasers without an age verification mechanism. The softcore pay per view channels were broadcasting the links between 21 July
2008 and 28 August 2008.
Rule 1.2: In the provision of services, broadcasters must take all reasonable steps to protect people under eighteen
Rule 1.3: Children must also be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them
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…Such material may include, but is not limited to, offensive language…[and] sex….
In Broadcast Bulletin 114 dated 21 July 2008, Ofcom published a breach Finding against RHF. Free-to-air trailers broadcast in February 2008 on Red Hot TV which included verbal and on-screen text references to RHF’s website address
www.redhottv.co.uk and Portland Enterprises’ website address www.televisionx.co.uk.
The websites to which the Website URLs led, featured content equivalent to BBFC R18-rated material which could be viewed without registration. As a result, it was the responsibility of all Licensees (including RHF) to take all appropriate and
immediate steps to comply with the Code.
On 14 August 2008, Ofcom were again alerted to the offending Website URLs. The Website URLs led to websites which, although they included a warning on their front page, contained extremely explicit sexual material (equivalent to BBFC R18-rated
material). This did not require registration to view and could be seen by under-eighteens.
On being contacted by Ofcom on 28 August 2008, however, RHF took immediate steps to ensure the removal of the Website URLs from the Red Hot Channels. This was achieved on 28 August 2008.
Ofcom noted that whilst the content of the websites, to which the Website URLs led, was not broadcast material, and therefore not subject to the Code, the on-air references to the Website URLs were clearly broadcast content and must comply with
the Code. The on-air references to the Website URLs did not comply with the Code because they led users to websites allowing unrestricted access to R18-rated equivalent material.
Television Not So X 2
Ofcom have fined Portland Enterprises Ltd £27,500 for showing a little hardcore female masturbation on its softcore TVX 2 channel.
Rule 1.25: BBFC R18-rated films or their equivalent must not be broadcast
Ofcom received a complaint that the programme Bathroom Bitches broadcast on Television X2 (TVX2) on 4 September 2008 at 21:53, although encrypted, contained R18 equivalent material. The Programme included prolonged and explicit scenes of a
woman masturbating, some of which were shown in close-up and depicted vaginal penetration using a dildo. Ofcom considered that the content broadcast was equivalent to BBFC R18-rated material because of the sexual explicitness detailed above.
Portland Compliance admitted the Code breach stating that: Regrettably, the programme contained such footage [R18-rated equivalent material] . Ofcom therefore recorded a breach of Rule 1.25 (R18-rated equivalent material must not be
broadcast) against Portland Enterprises for transmitting the Programme.
Ofcom considered that lthough encrypted, the equivalent of R18-rated material (namely images of actual vaginal penetration) has the potential to cause harm to under-eighteens and children in particular.
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
a sequence in which teenagers were shown images of penises and breasts.
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
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.
Ofcom Decision: Not in Breach
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 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.
Ramsay 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
Ofcom considered Rule 2.3 which states that broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 2.3
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.
Ramsays Great British Nightmare
Channel 4, 30 January 2009, 21:00 - 23:00
Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare 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”).
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 considered Rule 2.3 of the Code (offensive content must be justified by context).
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 2.3
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;
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
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 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.
Jon Gaunt was a presenter on this speech-based station. In his programme, the presenter 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 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.
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 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.
Ofcom considered 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.
Ofcom Decision; Breach of Rules 2.1 and 2.3
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 taken by Talksport before the programme to warn the presenter to exercise care during the interview, and the 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:
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.
Emmerdale is a weekly soap. The King family, including brothers Jimmy, Mathew and Carl, 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 considered Rule 1.11 which states that Violence, its after effects and descriptions of violence…must be appropriately limited in programmes broadcast before the watershed…
Ofcom Decision: In Breach
Ofcom noted that the fight between Carl and Mathew King was sustained and at times vicious. The programme featured 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.
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.
Ofcom has rejected 38 complaints against controversial sex-themed episodes of daytime educational series KNTV Sex .
Repeats of the series aired in March, attracted viewer complaints for their sexual content, with one episode alone receiving 33 complaints. One focused specifically on its place in Channel 4's mid-morning educational schedules.
Ofcom have fined the BBC £150,000 over the Sachsgate row, describing the Radio 2 broadcast of messages left by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand on actor Andrew Sachs's voicemail as gratuitously offensive, humiliating and demeaning.
The TV censor said the scale of the fine reflected the extraordinary nature and seriousness of the BBC's failures and the resulting breaches of the broadcasting code.
Ofcom said the corporation had broadcast explicit, intimate and confidential information about Sachs's granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, without her consent in Brand's Radio 2 programmes that aired on 18 October and 25 October last year.
This not only unwarrantably and seriously infringed their privacy but was also gratuitously offensive, humiliating and demeaning, Ofcom said.
The media regulator said it had imposed a fine of £70,000 for breaches of the broadcasting code on standards and over the Radio 2 broadcast of offensive material, and a further £80,000 for the unwarranted infringement of Sachs's and
Ofcom said that despite the BBC considering Brand's show to be high risk , it had ceded responsibility for some of management of the programme to people working for the comedian. The presenter's interests had been given greater priority
than the BBC's responsibility to avoid unwarranted infringements of privacy and minimise the risk of harm and offence and to maintain generally accepted standards, the Ofcom report said.
The TV censor, Ofcom has fined Playboy TV £22,500 in respect of their now defunct free to air Playboy One channel.
Ofcom have been gradually clamping down on free to air softcore over a series of decisions made over the last couple of years.
Unfortunately for Playboy One, Ofcom's new interpretation of the rules proved unviable for Playboy One and it closed in September 2008. It was replaced by the encrypted Paul Raymond TV service but Playboy say that the suffered losses both from a
drop in revenue and the loss of the opportunity to advertise encrypted adult services on a free to air channel.
Playboy argued that Ofcom were being unfair to have changed the rules such the softcore content generally unchallenged when Playboy One started in 2005 had become verboten by 2007/8. But to to no avail. For whatever reason, Ofcom seem set on
banning softcore from free to air channels and restricting into encrypted programming. Where of course customers are then disappointed because they rightfully expect hardcore programming and get fobbed off with tame softcore.
Ofcom justify the fine with a hard line interpretation of their programme code:
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; 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 content 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 five complaints between September 2007 and January 2008 that material broadcast free-to-air and un-encrypted on Playboy One featured explicit sexual content that was inappropriate on a free-to-airservice.
Ofcom investigated material transmitted on Playboy One in seven
· Jenna’s American Sex Star (26 September 2007, 23:35);
· Adult Stars Close-up (27 September 2007, 00:35);
· Blue Collar Babes (27 September 2007, 01:05);
· Sexy Girls Next Door (27 September 2007, 02:00);
· Sexy Urban Legends (29 November 2007, 23:00);
· Sex House (30 November 2007, 00:35); and
· Sex Guides (9 December 2007, 03:30).
The broadcasts investigated included [softcore] sequences depicting masturbation, oral sex (both between women and between men and women), clear labial detail, sexual intercourse, and full nudity. Some also included strong language, such as
“fuck” and its derivatives and “cunt”, in an overtly sexual context.
Ofcom assessed the material broadcast between 23:00 and 03:30 on the dates in question. It concluded that – depending on the individual breach - the explicitness, strength and/or sustained nature of the sexual content and language was
unacceptable for broadcast on a free-to-air channel. The primary purpose of this material was sexual stimulation. None had a sufficient and clear editorial context to justify its broadcast. It was considered to be ‘adult-sex’ material under Rule
1.24 and so should have been broadcast under encryption and in line with the other requirements of Rule 1.24.
‘Adult’ channels generally and ‘adult chat’ channels should be in no doubt of Ofcom’s concerns about the broadcast of sexual material which is too explicit. Should further such cases be considered for sanction in future, the
Committee will continue to regard them very seriously. If highly graphic sexual material is broadcast without editorial justification on a free-to-air channel even on a single occasion it can be a very serious breach of the Code.