BBC criticised over 'Ghostwatch' drama

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The Independent Online
A spoof BBC 1 documentary set in a haunted house which was blamed for the suicide of a teenage boy contained excessively frightening and distressing scenes, the Broadcasting Standards Council ruled yesterday, writes Rhys Williams.

In an adjudication prompted by legal action from the boy's parents, the council criticised the BBC for failing to give adequate warning before Ghostwatch went out in October 1992. Although it was trailed as a drama, the council accused the BBC of deliberately attempting "to cultivate a sense of menace".

Ghostwatch portrayed events in a haunted house with "live" reporting. The scratched faces of children were shown and references made to a mutilated dog. The council received 35 formal complaints and, three months later, one from Percy and April Denham, who believed that their son, Martin, 18, had hanged himself after watching the programme. They argued the BBC had misled viewers into thinking the show was a factual account of the supernatural.

In separate rulings, The Word and Talk Radio came in for criticism over taste and decency.

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