`Cracker' censured for 9pm sex scene

Cracker, the popular ITV drama series starring Robbie Coltrane and made by Granada Television, was censured by the Independent Television Commission yesterday for starting an episode at 9pm with a scene of sexual intercourse.

In a separate ruling, the ITC, in its quarterly programme bulletin, also upheld complaints over a hostile programme about the Pope called Witness - The Pope's Divisions. It says that programmes about religion are expected to be accurate and fair.

Another Channel 4 programme, Hell's Angel: Mother Teresa - which offended Roman Catholics and attracted 134 complaints, escaped censure because of the Right to Reply discussion which followed it later that week.

However, Channel 4 is re-examining its commissioning plans for religious programmes, especially those on Catholicism, and is planning another programme "looking at a different aspect of Catholicism from that which has been reflected in recent programmes".

The ITC considered complaints about three episodes of Cracker, which has been attacked for being too violent, broadcast during the last quarter of 1994, but the sexual intercourse scene was the only one to be criticised.

The programme code says that the transition from the 9pm watershed must be "gradual and progressive". Granada, which has been fined £500,000 for breaching ITC codes, conceded that a warning would have been appropriate and regretted its absence.

Episodes on 21 and 28 November attracted 16 and seven complaints respectively for the portrayal of rape and the racial implications of a storyline concerning rape attacks by a black man.

In rejecting these complaints, the ITC said the treatment was "unusually thoughtful and sensitive" and avoided trivialisation. It also "showed nothing of the rapes".

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