BBC show 'beyond bounds of decency'

Simon Mayo's BBC1 show Confessions exceeded the bounds of taste and decency when it featured an account from one contestant who buried a tortoise alive and another who placed an able-bodied child in a wheelchair to avoid queueing, the Broadcasting Standards Council ruled yesterday.

The programme, in which guests relate true stories in return for prizes, was also criticised for accounts from contestants who: set fire to young woman's hair, reversed a car into a policeman, stole cutlery from a supermarket and clothes from a launderette, assaulted a motorist with a golf-club, and stole money from an employer.

The council agreed with complainants that the items could set a bad example to viewers, particularly children watching the broadcast at 7.10 on a Saturday night. "Some of the confessions were of a more serious nature than others and took the view that their content had exceeded what might be regarded as acceptable boundaries of taste and decency," it said.

Among items found acceptable, although "tacky and of questionable entertainment value", were a woman who wiped her bottom with a memo when annoyed with her boss, joyriding in a tank while drunk and a parrot that died after being run over by a vacuum cleaner.

The council expressed concern that "a broadcaster had seen fit not only to publicise but to encourage and reward confessions of anti-social behaviour and crime, particularly during peak family viewing time."

The BBC explained that the nature of the programme, which was singled out for being "tacky" by the council last month, meant there was inevitably a fine line between what was and what was not acceptable. However, in the cases highlighted it had overstepped the mark.

As for the dead parrot, the BBC argued that the death was "more the result of the bird's own actions than those of its owner and was not, therefore, an act of deliberate cruelty".