Notice to Broadcasters re Babe Channels
In 2006, Ofcom wrote to broadcasters operating
channels in the adult section of Sky's Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) that transmit programmes based on viewer interaction with on-screen presenters (known as babes). These channels, which are broadcast free-to-air without encryption, invite viewers to
contact the presenters via premium rate telephony services (PRS). The letters were written because Ofcom had a number of concerns about the material shown on the channels, including:
- the appropriateness of sexual content broadcast before the 21:00 watershed, including the promotion of premium rate services offering adult chat
- the explicitness of sexual content broadcast after the watershed
- the promotion of
premium rate services within programmes.
As a result of these letters and Ofcom investigations in 2006, significant improvements were made to the daytime content on the channels. However, concerns have remained about the degree of sexual content broadcast after the 21:00 watershed as well as
continued problems relating to the promotion, within programmes, of PRS that appear to contribute neither to the editorial of the programme nor meet the definition of programme-related material.
The following Findings result from recent
investigations in this area. In addition to the cases detailed below, Ofcom has a number of other on-going investigations, some of which may result in consideration of further regulatory action. Due to Ofcom's serious concerns about levels of compliance
in the 'adult' sector, by both 'babe-style' channels and free-to-air content on encrypted channels, Ofcom is considering amendments to the Code so as to require that all material transmitted in the adult section of the EPG is protected by a mandatory
PIN. Any such proposals would be subject to a full public consultation.
Due to the serious nature of the Code and Licence breaches recorded in this Bulletin concerning babe channels, Ofcom considered whether some of these matters should be
referred to the Content Sanctions Committee for consideration of a statutory sanction. However, Ofcom has monitored the output of babe channels in recent months and noted some significant improvements in compliance after the watershed (e.g. there was
less or no very crude or explicit language or visual content). In view of the remedial action taken by relevant broadcasters to improve compliance, we decided against referring these matters to the Committee. Nevertheless, any breach of a similar nature
by a broadcaster of a babe channel in future is likely to result in further regulatory action.
All providers of babe style channels should therefore study carefully the findings
Get Lucky TV
Grandiose Limited, 6-7 March 2007, 23:00-01:00
Ofcom found that the broadcaster failed to adequately demonstrate that the following services contributed to the editorial of the programme or met the definition of Programme Related Material:
- the off-screen chat service
- the private text service
- the service that allowed viewers to submit photos to the channel.
Additionally, the promotion of the services that provided viewers with photos of presenters was unduly prominent.
Breach of Rules 10.4 and 10.9
Escape Channel Limited, 17 March 2007, 23:37 & 7 May 2007, 00:20
recordings provided by Lucky Star, through their provider EBS, were not adequate for Ofcom's investigation. The condition in licences obliging broadcasters to provide material as broadcast is a crucial one, since Ofcom relies on it for evidence when
investigating potential breaches of the Code. The broadcaster's failure to supply a recording of adequate quality was a breach of its licence conditions. Breaches of Rules 10.2, 10.3 and 10.9 Breach of Licence Condition 11
7/8 May 2007,
Ofcom judged that the promotion of the PRS within the programme was in breach of the Code.
When judging what constitutes 'adult-sex' material, Ofcom guidance for broadcasters takes account of definitions used by the BBFC for 'sex
works at 18'. These are defined as: works… whose primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation.
We consider that the actions of the presenters (e.g. masturbation) and the explicit sexual language used demonstrated quite clearly
that one of the main aims of the programme was to arouse viewers sexually: there was no other significant editorial context for the explicit images and language. Such explicit material is suitable for broadcast only on subscription/pay per view channels
that have appropriate protection mechanisms in place. The broadcast of the programme was contrary to viewer expectations for a free-to-air unencrypted channel (albeit one situated in the adult section of the EPG and broadcasting after the 21:00
watershed). The broadcast was inconsistent with the application of generally accepted standards to ensure protection for viewers from harmful and/or offence material.
Breach of Rules 1.24, 2.1, 2.3 and 10.9 Breach of Licence Condition 11
17 April 2007, 21:00-01:00 & 18 April 2007, 21:00–01:00
Ofcom was particularly concerned by the sexual language and behaviour used shortly after the 21:00 watershed. In view of the above matters, the programme was in breach of Rule 1.3.
The content on 17 and 18 April exceeded generally accepted standards and there was insufficient context to justify the potential offence. It was therefore in breach of Rules 2.1 and 2.3.
Moreover, Ofcom considered that one of the primary
purposes of the sexual content broadcast on 18 April 2007 after 22:00, which included highly explicit sexual language and prolonged scenes of vigorous masturbation with a dildo, was sexual arousal or stimulation. This content therefore in Ofcom's opinion
comprised 'adult sex' material and its broadcast on an unencrypted channel was in breach of Rule 1.24.
For clarity, Ofcom considers that depictions of masturbation, simulated or otherwise, are not appropriate for unencrypted broadcast unless
there is strong editorial justification. In this case, there was not sufficient justification.
Breach of Rules 1.3, 1.24, 2.1 and 2.3