An ad for the computer game Hitman: Absolution , viewed on the YouTube channel and Facebook pages for the Hitman game series:
a. The ad on YouTube was titled Hitman Absolution - Attack of the Saints Trailer [North America] . Text at the beginning of the ad stated MAY CONTAIN CONTENT INAPPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN Visit www.esrb.org for rating information . The CGI
animated ad began in a motel room, where a man was seen removing his shirt, washing blood from his hands, cleaning a wound on his shoulder and getting dressed again. That was intercut with scenes of a group of nuns walking, a close-up of their
high-heeled boots, and footage of them producing weapons. They removed their robes to reveal they were wearing skin-tight PVC outfits. Some were wearing stockings and suspenders or ripped tights. The man was seen looking towards the spy-hole on the motel
room door. The women stopped in front of the motel and one of them fired a missile at the building. That was followed by several seconds of close-ups of firearms, intercut with the women pointing their weapons in different directions. The man appeared
behind two of the women in succession and attacked them, garrotting one and punching the other in the head whilst holding his other hand over her mouth. This was followed by close-ups of him grabbing a third woman over her mouth and nose, and pointing a
gun out towards the viewer. He then shot two women in the chest; blood was shown flying from their wounds. Another woman engaged him in a fistfight and knocked him to the ground. A shot, from the man's perspective, showed a woman standing over him
pointing a machine gun at him. He knocked her over and punched her in the head. A woman appeared behind him and attempted to garrotte him with her rosary beads. He headbutted her in the nose, breaking it, and they continued to fight. He then grabbed the
woman with the broken nose and used her as a shield as one of the other women, who was lying on the ground, shot at the man. He picked up a gun from the floor and fired twice. A close-up of the woman's face showed she was lying on the ground; she
appeared to be dead. The man knelt down and closed her eyes. He stood up, against the background of the motel on fire. Text appeared which stated HITMAN ABSOLUTION , followed by a shot of the man putting weapons in the boot of a car and driving
away. Further text stated THE ORIGINAL ASSASSIN PREORDER NOW AND PLAY THE SNIPER CHALLENGE TODAY ... .
b. The same ad was posted on the Hitman Facebook page, titled Attack Of The Saints Trailer The Saints have arrived! Watch the Hitman: Absolution trailer now!.
The ASA received two complaints claiming that theads glamourised and condoned violence, particularly towards women, through the themes of graphic violence and the sexually provocative clothing worn by the female characters.
Both complainants challenged whether ad (a) was offensive;
one complainant challenged whether ad (a) was distressing; and
one complainant challenged whether ad (b) was offensive,
One complainant also challenged whether ad (a) was socially irresponsible, because it glamourised and condoned violence, particularly towards women, when it was for a product which would appeal to teenage boys.
Square Enix (SE) said there was also a European version of the trailer, which was the same except that it gave the PEGI rating of the game at the start rather than the North American ESRB rating. The game was rated 18 in both jurisdictions, and both
trailers included those ratings prominently at the start. They said the trailers reflected the content of the game, which would have been banned or cut if it had any content which was considered offensive or harmful. They said the trailer was only
intended to be viewed by adults of 18 or over; it was not aimed or targeted at teenage boys. They said they had taken steps to ensure that it would not be viewed by those under 18.
SE said the trailer was released on their YouTube channel, which had an 18-rated age gate. Users could therefore only access the trailer by creating an account with YouTube and inputting their date of birth and other personal details.
With regard to the ad appearing on Facebook, SE said that, on the release date of the European trailer, it had only been accessible to Facebook users who followed links to YouTube, and therefore the YouTube age gate applied. They had subsequently
discovered, however, that the North American trailer had then been posted on their Facebook page without an age restriction on users in Europe. They explained that was a technical error which had now been rectified; the trailer on Facebook could now only
be accessed by adults who were 18 or over.
ASA Assessment: Complaints not upheld
1., 2. & 3. Not upheld
The ASA acknowledged the ad included scenes of graphic violence in which a man fought a group of women wearing sexually provocative clothing. We acknowledged some viewers might find the women's clothing gratuitous and offensive, and the idea of a man
fighting women distressing and offensive. However, we noted the ad was age-restricted, and accessed via a Facebook page and YouTube channel which were specifically about the Hitman game. We considered it was likely that internet users who viewed the ads
would therefore have specifically sought out material relating to the game and would be familiar with its premise and the types of characters and imagery which featured in the ad. We also considered that, in addition to the age-restrictions, the 18
rating at the beginning of the ad clearly signposted to viewers that the content would be of a particular type. Furthermore, we considered that, because the 'Saints' were armed and initiated the violence, it was clear, even to viewers unfamiliar with the
game, that they were professional assassins who had been sent to kill Agent 47, and that the violence on his part was neither random nor sexually motivated. We also noted that the act of closing the eyes of one of the dead women would generally be viewed
as a respectful gesture. Whilst we acknowledged that some viewers might find the ad distressing and offensive, we concluded that, because it was age-restricted and unlikely to be viewed by those unfamiliar with the game, it was unlikely to cause serious
or widespread offence or distress to viewers of the Hitman Facebook page and YouTube channel. We also considered the ad did not glamorise violence generally, or violence towards women in particular, and we concluded it was not likely to condone or
encourage violence or anti-social behaviour.
On points (1) and (2), we investigated ad (a) under CAP Code rules 4.1, 4.2 and 4.4 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
On point (3), we investigated ad (b) under CAP Code rules 4.1 and 4.4 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
4. Not upheld
We agreed with the complainant that the product was likely to appeal to teenage boys under 18 years of age. However, we noted the ad was accessed via the advertiser's YouTube channel and Facebook page, and that both avenues of access were age-restricted
to website users who were 18 or over. We were concerned that a technical error had meant that European Facebook users had, for a time, been able to access the ad without an age-restriction, but we noted the advertiser had taken swift action to correct
the error when they became aware of it and they had not targeted the ad at those under 18 at any time. We concluded that, because we considered the ad did not glamorise or condone violence, and the advertiser had taken steps to prevent those who were
under 18 from viewing it, it was not socially irresponsible.
On point (4), we investigated ad (a) under CAP rule 1.3 (Social responsibility), but did not find it in breach.
Storm (Channel 966), 18 June 2012, 21:00 to 21:30
Storm Night is a segment of interactive adult chat advertising content broadcast on the licensed service known as Storm (Sky Channel 966). The licence for Storm is owned and operated by Live Television Ltd.
Ofcom received a complaint that content on this service, broadcast shortly after the watershed, contained sexual images that were too strong to be shown at this time
Ofcom noted a female presenter on screen wearing a translucent leopard skin print one piece outfit, which clearly showed the presenter's breasts. The outfit was cut away at the sides and back and featured a thong style back. In addition, she wore a black
thong, under the one piece outfit, and fishnet stockings. From around 21:15, and until at least 21:30, the presenter adopted various sexual positions: she lay on her side with her legs apart (albeit away from camera) while thrusting her body up and down,
stroking her breasts and inner thighs and pulling down her top to reveal her cleavage; she moved onto all fours and thrust her bare buttocks (albeit at an angle slightly away from camera) to mime sexual intercourse; and, she knelt upright on her legs and
moved her body up and down to mime sexual intercourse. While adopting these positions her outer genital area was briefly visible.
Ofcom considered BCAP Rule 32.3:
Relevant timing restrictions must be applied to advertisements that, through their content, might harm or distress children of particular ages or that are otherwise unsuitable for them.
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 32.3
On 27 July 2011 Ofcom published revised guidance on the advertising of telecommunications-based sexual entertainment services and PRS daytime chat services. This clearly sets out what Ofcom considers to be acceptable to broadcast on these services
post-watershed. In particular, the Chat Service Guidance states that with regard to material broadcast after 21:00 adult chat broadcasters should ensure that:
After 9pm any move towards stronger – but still very restrained – material containing sexual imagery should be gradual and progressive. There should not for example be any miming of sexual acts between 9 and 10pm.
Ofcom noted that between 21:00 and 21:30, the female presenter wore a cut away one piece outfit that, at times and depending on her position, revealed her outer genital area. In addition, from approximately 21:15 she adopted various sexual positions such
as lying on her side with her legs open thrusting up and down with her hips while pulling down her top and stroking her body; moving onto all fours and thrusting her bare buttocks up and down; kneeling upright and moving up and down. In these positions
she repeatedly mimed sexual intercourse. In Ofcom's view, the translucent clothing which revealed her breasts, the sexual positions and the miming of sexual intercourse were intended to be sexually provocative in nature. In light of this behaviour and
imagery, Ofcom concluded that this material was clearly unsuitable for children.
The broadcast of such sexualised content was inappropriate to advertise adult sex chat so soon after the 21:00 watershed. This broadcast was therefore in breach of BCAP Code Rule 32.3
Russia Today, 21 August 2011, 13:01 and 14:06
The Diplomacy of Defence|
Russia Today, 5 February 2012, 17:30
Russia Today is a global news and current affairs channel produced in Russia, and funded by the Russia Government. In the UK, the channel broadcasts on the Sky satellite platform. The licence for Russia Today is held by TV Novosti.
A complainant alerted Ofcom to two separate news items, featuring the reporter Lizzie Phelan, which the complainant considered were not duly accurate or duly impartial. In summary, the complainant said that Lizzie Phelan made claims that...the
[Libyan] rebels obviously lack any popular support and her report was not a factual news report .
Ofcom provided several examples. Eg in the news item broadcast on 21 August 2011 at 12:01, Lizzie Phelan said the following about the NATO air attacks:
This is all part of the strategy to create mass panic and mass confusion here, because NATO has obviously failed in its military strategy to create a military solution here and so instead what we are seeing is a massive psychological operation going
on to try and weaken the Libyan Government in that way .
Ofcom considered the material raised issues warranting investigation under Rule 5.1 of the Code, which states:
Rule 5.1: News, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality .
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 5.1
After a long report Ofcom concluded:
In this case, it is clear that viewers were presented only with viewpoints supportive of the Russian Government's policy on this particular matter of political controversy and matter relating to current public policy (NATO missile deployment in Eastern
Europe), thus denying viewers some knowledge of crucial alternative viewpoints on this issue. Therefore, in our view, to record a breach of Rule 5.5 would not be a disproportionate infringement of the Licensee's right to freedom of expression. Ofcom
therefore considered The Diplomacy of Defence breached Rule 5.5 of the Code.
Calendar News is ITV Yorkshire's half-hour early evening local news programme.
The edition broadcast on 22 May 2012 ended with a montage of clips illustrating the exceptionally sunny weather being experienced at that time and accompanied by the song, The Sun Has Got His Hat On .
A viewer alerted Ofcom to the broadcast of offensive racial language in the first two lines in the second verse of the song:
The sun has got his hat on, hip-hip-hip-hooray
The sun has got his hat on and he's coming out today
Now we'll all be happy, hip-hip-hip-hooray
The sun has got his hat on and he's coming out today
He's been tanning niggers out in Timbuktu
Now he's coming back to do the same to you
So jump into your sunbath, hip-hip-hip-hooray
The sun has got his hat on and he's coming out today
Ofcom considered Rules:
Rule 1.14 The most offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed.
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, ... discriminatory treatment
or language (for example on the grounds of...race...).
ITV explained that the music was selected for the montage by an editor from the news library on the assumption that the title and words of the song were appropriate to the theme of the montage. It was assumed, because the tune and opening verse
are very well known, that the rest of the song was equally innocuous. ITV said that the editor and other newsroom staff were completely unaware that the original version of the song contained the offensive language. Unfortunately, given this
mistaken assumption, the whole song was not reviewed before being selected for the montage, nor was the edited item reviewed by the news producer before broadcast.
Shortly after the broadcast and the bulletin had come to an end, it was recognised that inappropriate language had been used. Calendar News took swift action to prevent the repetition of the language in a further broadcast, ensuring that the
offensive language was dipped on the ITV1+1 service. Also an apology was broadcast on the later news bulletin that day stating, Finally Calendar would like to apologise for a piece of music we transmitted at the end of tonight's six o'clock
programme, which contained offensive language. It was transmitted in error.
Ofcom Decision: Complaint Resolved
Ofcom research on offensive language1 clearly notes that the word nigger is generally considered by audiences to be among the most offensive language. Therefore the use of this word before the watershed without any justification was a
clear breach of Rules 1.14 and 2.3.
Ofcom however took into account that: ITV identified the error almost immediately on transmission, took steps to dip the sound during the repeat on ITV1+1, broadcast an apology during the later news bulletin the same day and took various further
measures afterwards to ensure there was no recurrence of this problem.
In view of the action taken by the broadcaster, Ofcom therefore considers the matter resolved.
Praise TV features pastor Gilbert Deya, a self-styled evangelical bishop from Peckham, south London, who claimed to deliver miracle babies to infertile women and has faced accusations of child abduction.
After battling against extradition back to his home country of Kenya for several years, Deya lost his legal battle against deportation in September 2011.
Praise TV has in the past aired controversial content, such as promising to cure viewers with serious illnesses by prayer if they offer a donation, however Ofcom has not previously sanctioned the channel.
Licensee: Destiny Broadcasting Network Europe Limited
In the course of the correspondence with Ofcom, statements made by Destiny Broadcasting Network Europe Limited about the operation of the Licensed Service failed to satisfy Ofcom that the Licensee had general control over which programmes and
other services were comprised in the Licensed Service. Ofcom therefore concluded that Destiny Broadcasting Network Europe Limited had ceased to provide the Licensed Service in accordance with section 362(2) of the Act and that, accordingly, it
was appropriate to revoke the licence.
In addition, and in the alternative, Ofcom was satisfied that in the course of correspondence with Ofcom, the Licensee, in purporting to comply with any of the Conditions of the Licence, provided information which was false in a material
particular or withheld any material information with the intention of causing Ofcom to be misled.
Ofcom's annual survey of consumer attitudes towards broadcasting charts the changing public opinion towards media issues.
UK adults increasingly believe that the 9pm watershed on TV is set at the right time, Ofcom research reveals. The proportion of adults saying the timing of the watershed was about right has risen from 64% in 2005 to over three
quarters (77%) in 2011.
Overall, three quarters (74%) of respondents felt the current levels of TV censorship were about right .
The latest survey also shows that the proportion of adults saying there is too much sex, violence or swearing on TV has fallen by about a third since 2005.
In 2011, one in four (25%) adults felt there was too much sex on TV, and just over one in three felt there was too much violence (36%) and swearing (37%). This compares to 36% of adults saying there was too too much sex on
TV in 2005, with 56% for violence and 55% for swearing.
Nine in ten adults (89%) said they were aware that TV programmes are censored, up from 85% in 2010. Four in ten (41%) of respondents believed that the internet was regulated. However, more than two in five (44%) felt current levels of internet
regulation were too little , (increasing to 51% when asking parents).
A couple of year's ago Ofcom delegated the role of Video on Demand censor to ATVOD.
Ofcom recently announced the required progress review of ATVOD's work and have now announced the result that ATVOD will continue to be the delegated VOD censor. In fact Ofcom changed the rules a bit to allow ATVOD to make some decisions without
referring back to Ofcom for confirmation.
On the subject of R18s on VOD the review comments on ATVOD's decision against Bootybox.t:
Bootybox.TV was a website providing adult on-demand programmes. A complaint was received on 26 June 2011 that the service had ....no parental control on.... , and that the content was ....far too strong to be
allowed even under UK law... . ATVOD conducted a full investigation of the service and established that the principal purpose of the service was to provide content that was R18 or stronger. In its view, the content met the statutory test of
material which might seriously impair a minor and that accordingly an effective Content Access Control System was essential.
How can the depiction of sex, something that is so central to human life, and experienced by nearly everyone, many from the age of 16, be somehow 'seriously' impairing. The kids know all about it, as sex education is mandatory in schools. Not to
mention that it is one of the major topics of conversation for teenagers. It is understandable that parents would prefer their kids not see it, but that is not the same as claims of 'serious' impairment.
ATVOD also got in a whinge about foreign tube sites:
ATVOD explored the concern over the ease with which children can access harmful material especially through a small number of so- called 'Tube' sites operating from the USA, and therefore outside ATVOD's jurisdiction . ATVOD has said
that it will take a precautionary approach to implementing the Rule about material harmful to under eighteens when it is within its jurisdiction. Hence, it has made clear that ....material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or
moral development of minors when provided as part of an on-demand programme service may include content that has been classified R18 by the British Board of Film Classification, or material equivalent to content classified in that
Ofcom allude to further Government thoughts on the matter in the next round of TV legislation:
Ofcom notes the views expressed by ATVOD and other stakeholders about the growing concerns around the availability of content that might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of under-eighteens, and expects to explore these
issues further. Ofcom addressed this issue in its report on report on Sexually Explicit Material and Video-On-Demand Services39 . In its response40 to the report, the Government stated that it intended to address this issue comprehensively in
its review of the current regulatory framework for the communications sector. Ofcom will take account of any conclusions reached.
Channel 4, 4 March 2012 and 8 April 2012, 21:00
Homeland is a [BBFC 15 rated] intense US drama series about a soldier, Sergeant Nicolas Brody, taken prisoner during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 but who is rescued and returns to America after eight years in captivity. A CIA officer,
Carrie Mathison, is however convinced that the intelligence that led to Sergeant Brody's rescue was suspect and that the soldier may be connected to an Al-Qaeda terrorist plot to be carried out in America.
A viewer alerted Ofcom to potentially inappropriate content – a sex scene – at the start of the programme broadcast on 4 March at 21:00. Separately another viewer alerted us to the fact that the opening titles of the programme shown
on 8 April contained two uses of 'offensive' language at approximately 50 seconds and 53 seconds into the broadcast.
The sex scene was between a Prince Farid of Saudi Arabia and his girlfriend, Lynne, who unknown to the Prince is spying on his activities for the CIA. This scene was broadcast at around 21:07 and lasted in total about 18 seconds. It featured
consensual sex between the couple and, because the two characters were covered by bed clothes, showed no nudity below the waist.
One sequence in the opening titles alludes to the fact that the Carrie Mathison missed an opportunity to intercept the terrorist attack in America on 11 September 2001 and how Sergeant Brody is questioning his actions:
Sergeant Brody whispering: what the fuck are you doing?
Carrie Mathison: Ah fuck. I missed something once before. I won't, I can't let that happen again.
On viewing the opening titles, in Ofcom's opinion both examples of offensive language were not clearly audible.
Ofcom considered Rule 1.6 of the Code:
The transition to more adult material must not be unduly abrupt at the watershed (in the case of television).... For television the strongest material should appear later in the schedule.
Ofcom Decision: Not in Breach of Ruler 1.6
Ofcom considered the sex scene broadcast at around 21:07 and had a duration in total of around 18 seconds. It showed the couple in bed having consensual sex and was largely filmed in wide shot. Since the couple were covered by sheets, Lynne's
naked breasts were visible but no other nudity was shown. When the sexual act was over, the Prince left the room temporarily and Lynne used this opportunity – at great peril to herself – to pick up his mobile phone from the bed and
download material. The sex scene was therefore linked to the plot of the thriller.
Homeland is a series that dealt with complex adult themes including terrorism and international security, and their powerful impact on the personal lives of the characters involved. Taking all these factors into account, Ofcom concluded that the
sex scene in context did have sufficient editorial justification, did not exceed audience expectations, and the transition to more adult material after the watershed was not unduly abrupt.
Rule 1.6 was therefore not breached.
Ofcom noted that the strong language was not clearly audible: the two characters whispered the words and jazz music was playing simultaneously. The language was not broadcast in a simple linear narrative but in a fractured montage of sounds and
images. This would therefore be likely to lessen the potential for offence. The potential for offence was also lessened by the fact that the character speaking was not shown and the words were not aimed at an individual: our research suggests
that audiences find strong language more offensive when directed at an individual.
Taking particular account of the almost inaudible nature of the content, Ofcom's view is the repeated use of the most offensive language in the opening titles of a programme in this particular case would not have exceeded the expectations of
Ofcom reiterates to all broadcasters the need to take great care when considering whether to include strong language in opening titles immediately after the watershed because only limited context can be provided to viewers before they watch them
and viewers may be more likely to come across the material unawares. Ofcom will only consider the use of the most offensive language in opening title sequences broadcast after the watershed to comply with the Code in exceptional circumstances,
and Ofcom discourages the practice.
A couple of year's ago Ofcom delegated the role of advert censor for Video on Demand to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
Now they are reviewing that assignment and are inviting input from interested parties.
The rules for advertising on VOD as defined in EU legislation are a bit more basic than for advertising in other media. Ofcom specified the advertising rules as follows:
(1) Advertising of the following products is prohibited in on-demand programme services:
(a) cigarettes or other tobacco products;
(b) any prescription-only medicine.
(2) Advertising of alcoholic drinks is prohibited in on-demand programme services unless:
(a) it is not aimed at persons under the age of eighteen, and
(b) it does not encourage excessive consumption of such drinks.
(3) Advertising included in an on-demand programme service:
(a) must be readily recognisable as such, and
(b) must not use techniques which exploit the possibility of conveying a message subliminally or surreptitiously.
(4) Advertising included in an on-demand programme service must not:
(a) prejudice respect for human dignity;
(b) include or promote discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, nationality, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation;
(c) encourage behaviour prejudicial to health or safety;
(d) encourage behaviour grossly prejudicial to the protection of the environment;
(e) cause physical or moral detriment to persons under the age of eighteen;
(f) directly exhort such persons to purchase or rent goods or services in a manner which exploits their inexperience or credulity;
(g) directly encourage such persons to persuade their parents or others to purchase or rent goods or services;
(h) exploit the trust of such persons in parents, teachers or others; or
(i) unreasonably show such persons in dangerous situations.
I can't actually see where the rules allow ASA to claim its usual bollox about adverts causing widespread 'offence' of 1 person. I don't know how ASA cope without this fall back.
Sikh Channel Youth Show
Sikh Channel, 9 February 2012, 22:00
The Sikh Channel is aimed at the Sikh community in the UK. The Sikh Channel Youth Show was a weekly live programme broadcast in Punjabi. The licence for the Sikh Channel is held by TV Legal Ltd. This programme consisted of a live discussion,
with a presenter and guest and an audience broadcast from a Sikh Gurdwara.
The discussion touched on a range of subjects of interest to the Sikh community and various reported actions taken by the Indian Government towards the Sikh community in India, including Operation Blue Star.
A viewer alerted Ofcom to the programme, stating that the broadcast contained inflammatory content about the Indian Government and no alternative views concerning the situation of the Sikh community in India. On assessing the
content, Ofcom noted the following statements made within the programme:
All of this [i.e. negative attitudes towards the Sikh community in Canada] again organised at the behest of the Indian Government. The third agency within India, and be under no misconceptions about this, has been carrying out a cover war
against the Sikhs in the diaspora outside...It's not a myth: They're at [indecipherable] Road – you can go and see their offices there – it's the research and analysis wing of the Indian Government. They're absolutely involved in
this. There is example after example that will show that there is an agenda to malign the Sikh community outside of India .
[The Indian Government's] problem really centres around the idea that we consider ourselves a nation, that we consider ourselves as a sovereign nation.
Since '84, hopefully, I believe that the Sikh nation is coming to the conclusion that this is not a fight for independence, this is a fight for survival...The environment in India is so toxic that really Sikhism cannot survive there in its
present form, and in its truest form, within India as it stands .
Ofcom considered Rule 5.5 of the Code which states that:
Due impartiality on matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy must be preserved on the part of any person providing a service. This may be achieved within a programme or over a series of
programmes taken as a whole .
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 5.5
Ofcom considered that the programme included a number of viewpoints, but all of them were: either critical of the Indian state's policy and actions in relation to its treatment to the Sikh community in India; or could be interpreted as arguing
the case for an independent homeland for the Sikh community in India.
We considered that the programme did not contain any alternative views, which could be reasonably and adequately classed as: supportive of, or which sought to explain, the policy and actions of the Indian State in relation to the Sikh community
within India, and in particular, the Punjab; or supportive of the arguments against an independent homeland for the Sikh community within India. Therefore, this programme when considered alone gave a one-sided view on these matters of political
controversy and current public policy.
Ofcom considered the programme to be in breach of Rule 5.5 of the Code.
We are concerned that the breach in this case comes after two previous contraventions of the Code rules covering due impartiality and elections recorded against TV Legal. In particular, we are concerned that the breach in this case follows
relatively soon after a similar breach recorded in Broadcast Bulletin 192.
Ofcom is therefore requiring the Licensee to attend a meeting to explain its compliance procedures in this area.
The Licensee is also put on notice that, following that meeting, any further similar contraventions of the Code will be considered for further regulatory action by Ofcom.
Britain's Got Talent
ITV1&2, 31 March 2012, 20:00 repeated at 13:00 and 19:00
Britain's Got Talent: Live Semi-final
ITV1&2, 9 May 2012, 19:30 repeated at 16:00
Britain's Got Talent is a talent series, broadcast on ITV1, which aims to find an unknown star from the general public to perform at the annual Royal Variety Performance.
The episode of Britain's Got Talent broadcast on 31 March 2012 was pre-recorded and showed an early audition stage that took place in Blackpool. One of the performances in this programme was a burlesque act performed by a woman named Beatrix Von
Bourbon. This item was shown at around 20:25. A total of 75 complainants alerted Ofcom to her act. In summary the complainants considered the performance was inappropriate for broadcast during a family show because it contained images and themes
unsuitable for a child audience.
Ofcom noted that the programme included: a brief introductory piece about Beatrix Von Bourbon in which she explained that she had a background in ballet and tap dance; her two minute burlesque act performed to the audio track Feeling Good
by the band Muse, during which she removed her skirt, jacket and bra (underneath she wore nipple tassels and her breasts were masked with an on-screen graphic), leaving her wearing a corset, knickers, stockings and shoes.
The live semi-final broadcast on 9 May 2012 starting at 19:30 also included a performance by Beatrix Von Bourbon. Ofcom noted that approximately one hour into this programme a brief introductory piece about Beatrix Von Bourbon was broadcast and
her performance followed. It lasted approximately one and half minutes. She began by wearing a long sleeveless gown and gloves, both of which she then removed to reveal a pair of gold satin camisole knickers, shoes and a top that comprised a bra
and large beaded necklace. While her back was turned to the audience, Beatrix Von Bourbon then removed this top and she concluded her act in this position. This shot of her was partially obscured by two assistants who held large ostrich feather
fans. Prior to receiving feedback from the judges, she was handed a large, knee-length fur wrap to wear, which covered her torso and thighs.
Ofcom considered Rule 1.3:
Children must ... be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them.
Ofcom Decision: Not in breach of Ofcom rules
Ofcom is aware that some viewers may find the sexualised nature of burlesque performances potentially offensive. However we noted that the images of Ms Von Bourbon adopting mildly provocative positions and limited and partial nudity were
fleeting, and the act itself was performed in the manner of a dance that required skill and training. As already pointed out Ofcom guidance states that: It is important to note that in pre-watershed content, Ofcom would not expect to see
singers and dancers wearing clothing that does not adequately cover their bodies (in particular their breasts, genital area and buttocks) . The performance included a very brief image of the performer's partially obscured buttocks when she
unzipped her skirt. We considered this image was on the margins of acceptability and remind the broadcaster to take particular note of Ofcom's guidance cited above in future.
The programme is part of a long running series on ITV1 and ITV2 that includes a variety of acts that appeal to wide range of viewers including children and adults. We noted that the programme was repeated after its original broadcast on both
services at various times of the day before the 21:00 watershed during the following six day period. We also noted that the format and style of the series, including the types of acts included, were similar in nature to the previous series that
have been broadcast over recent years. In our opinion this programme, and in particular this burlesque performance by Ms Von Bourbon, would therefore not have exceeded the likely expectations of the vast majority of the ITV1 and ITV2 audience
– either when originally broadcast or when repeated.
The performance and partial nudity was in Ofcom's opinion appropriately limited and suitably brief in duration. We considered that while some forms of burlesque dancing would be considered inappropriate for a child audience, this performance was
presented carefully by the broadcaster to take account of the pre- watershed audience and did not convey an overtly sexualised theme.
We therefore concluded, on balance, that this performance was appropriately scheduled and the broadcaster complied with Rule 1.3.
Keith Lemon's LemonAid is a weekly Saturday early evening entertainment programme broadcast on ITV1 presented by Keith Lemon.
During the programme, three children accompanied by their parents took part in a competition, A Right Dog's Dinner', for the chance to win a puppy as a prize.
A total of 237 viewers complained to Ofcom that awarding a puppy as a prize to a child in an entertainment show promoted an irresponsible attitude to animal welfare and pet ownership.
Ofcom's Code does not contain any rules dealing specifically with the treatment of animals or pets in broadcasts. Ofcom considered that the offer of a puppy as a prize in this programme raised potential issues warranting investigation under Rule
2.3 of the Code. This states:
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 offence.
ITV said that it regretted that the programme had generated a number of complaints from viewers but did not accept that it had promoted an irresponsible attitude to animal welfare or pet ownership. ITV explained that the families that took part
in the competition were all selected with care, and were considering buying a puppy prior to appearing on the programme. Appropriate checks were carried out before the families took part in the studio game, and again before the puppy shown in
the programme was finally given into the care of its new owners.
The programme producers employed an independent qualified vet to make a home visit to each prospective family, and to report on their suitability. The families selected for the programme were all deemed to be capable of caring for a puppy well,
and were fully equipped to meet all its needs.
Ofcom Decision: Not in Breach of Rule 2.3
Ofcom accepts that this material may have caused offence to some viewers who object in principle to a puppy being given away as a prize in an entertainment programme. However, Ofcom noted that at no time was the puppy shown during the broadcast
to be in discomfort or distress. Further, and importantly, the broadcaster demonstrated that it took a number of very extensive measures to ensure the welfare of the puppy shown on screen and given as a prize, and of other puppies in the
studios. Through these measures, in Ofcom?s view, the Licensee demonstrated its awareness of, and fulfilled, its obligations to ensure the welfare of all the puppies involved with this programme. The broadcaster therefore applied generally
accepted standards to this content so as to ensure that any potential offence was justified by the context.
Ofcom notes that ITV took the editorial decision not to inform viewers of the measures it took to ensure the welfare of the puppies. This may have contributed to the concerns of some viewers about giving away a puppy as a prize. If viewers had
been made aware of some of the steps taken by the Licensee, this would have provided assurance that careful consideration had been given to the puppies? welfare. Ofcom therefore advises broadcasters, where the welfare of animals featured in a
programme may cause concern to viewers, to consider broadcasting appropriate information to help protect viewers from offence that may result from withholding that information.
Gavin and Stacey is a sitcom which features the long-distance relationship of two characters, Gavin from Essex and Stacey from Wales, and their friends, Smithy and Nessa, and their families. The first series was originally broadcast
post-watershed on BBC 3 in 2007.
This particular programme broadcast at 10:00 on a Saturday, on the classic comedy channel GOLD, was an editted repeat of the first episode of the first series of this long running sitcom.
The licensee for the service GOLD is UK Gold Services (UKTV).
Ofcom was alerted by a complainant to this programme because it featured several examples of offensive language and content with adult themes and sexual references throughout the narrative. Ofcom reviewed the material and noted, for example:
an opening scene outside Stacey's house in Wales where she talks to her elderly neighbour, Doris, about Stacey's forthcoming trip to London for her first date with Gavin. Doris advises Stacey, don't go giving him nothing on the first night
... well not nothing ... a kiss, a cuddle, a cheeky finger – just don't go selling him the whole farm ;
a scene where Gavin and Smithy discuss going back with Nessa and Stacey to their hotel and Smithy asks Gavin, you got any johnnies? I ain't going in there bareback ; to which Nessa replied: don't worry I've got a stash – ribbed
a scene back at the hotel where Nessa makes clear the reasons for returning there are to have sex and says, why don't we cut to the chase and we'll all get some, and she reaches her hand towards Smithy's genital area. She then goes on
to say, I hopes you hungry big boy, and slaps his backside;
a scene the next morning when Smithy wakes up after spending the night with Nessa and tells Gavin, I feel like I've been abused. The guilt...She did things. She put things in...did Stacey stick things in? He then gets out of bed wearing
Nessa's red lacy thong which reveals his buttocks;
a scene where Nessa responds to a coach driver's offer of a meal by threatening to tell everyone on the coach about her trip to the doctors following a previous sexual liaison with the driver. She says he is riddled as she looks
down at his genital area. In response the driver asks how everything is down there as he looks down and nods towards Nessa's genitals; and
various examples of offensive language, for example: bloody , shit , takes the piss , cacking myself , prick , and bugger .
Ofcom considered Rule 1.3 of the Code:
Children must ... be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them.
UKTV stated that it believed the subject matter of Gavin and Stacey is suitable for broadcast pre watershed as it portrays the relationship and subsequent marriage of two people.
With regard to the sexual references, UKTV considered that those remaining in the episode were oblique enough for children not to fully understand the true meaning .
In addition, the broadcaster explained, edits were made to remove: the strongest language; milder language said in an aggressive manner; and, the stronger sexual content. Further, UKTV stated the audience of Gavin and Stacey would expect some
milder language from characters such as Smithy and Nessa and the language used in the episodes had been broadcast in other programmes pre-watershed on GOLD. without complaint. Therefore, in UKTV's view, the language would not have exceeded
the audience's expectation.
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 1.3
In Ofcom's view, overall this episode clearly included themes and content aimed at an adult audience, as might be expected for a series originally produced for post-watershed transmission. These themes and content centred, in the first episode,
on a narrative about two groups of friends meeting up for the first time, each couple having sex in a hotel room the first night after meeting, and the consequences for both couples afterwards.
The programme included a number of sexual references which were not necessarily sexually explicit but, in Ofcom's view, clearly exceeded comic innuendo and were aimed at a more adult audience. These references were made throughout this episode
and the language used was central to the comedy and the characterisation, particularly of Nessa and Smithy. The sexual references were particularly integral to the comedy scenes revolving around the couples returning to the hotel to have sex
Ofcom considered that it was the overall tone and cumulative impact of the sexual language and references throughout the programme which resulted in this material being of a more adult nature and which made this episode unsuitable for scheduling
on a Saturday morning, when it was reasonably likely that children would be in the audience. While Ofcom accepts that some of the audience of 10 to 14 year olds may have fully understood the sexual references and they and their parents may have
considered this programme suitable viewing, Ofcom has a duty to protect all children under the age of 15 from potentially unsuitable content.
All broadcasters need to be aware of the need to take great care when considering the scheduling pre-watershed of programmes originally produced for post-watershed transmission.