ITV has been forced to stop airing The Only Way Is Essex before the watershed after Ofcom condemned the hit show’s “adult themes and sexual references”.
ITV took the decision to pull lunchtime repeats of The Only Way is Essex after Ofcom ruled that an episode aired on ITV2 at 1pm on 12 August broke scheduling rules put in place to protect children from unsuitable material.
The watchdog found that producers used 20 bleeps during the half-hour episode to block out offensive language. But it said 'the bleeping of the words was not always sufficient to mask the language or its impact'.
The episode was originally shown on ITV1 at 10pm, but all broadcasts of The Only Way is Essex are repeated on Sunday lunchtimes on ITV2.
During the episode, characters spoke frankly about their sex lives and sexually transmitted diseases, made sexual gestures with their hands, and joked about binge drinking.
ITV argued the conversations broadcast in the show were not sexually explicit and the 20 language edits “were not excessive in the context of the programme”.
Ofcom said the prominence of sexual discussion and the frequency of masked language made the programme unsuitable for children and not suitable for broadcast on a Sunday during the school holidays.
As a result of Ofcom’s ruling, ITV announced it would no longer be repeating episodes of The Only Way is Essex on Sunday afternoons.
ITV has previously been reprimanded by Ofcom over voting issues on Britain's Got Talent, and for the revealing outfits and risqué performances of female pop stars on its flagship programme, The X Factor.