Monitoring of viewers in September 1997 revealed that members of the public not only watched more than twice as many news and current affairs programmes than normal, but felt 11 per cent of those programmes were intrusive. The polls throughout the rest of the year revealed they felt that around 2 per cent of news and current affairs were intrusive.
The statutory watchdog, the Broadcasting Standards Commission, which compiled the report for its sixth annual study on standards of taste, decency, fairness and privacy, concluded that its monitors felt: "The coverage was not always sensitively handled."
The BSC attributed the levels of distress to the strength of feeling among the public.
The BSC's research also found public concern over the 9pm "watershed", after which broadcasters may assume that children are not watching unsupervised.
The committee's chairman, Lady Howe, who has issued a written warning to the chairmen of the main broadcasters, said that viewers were concerned about "a high number of significant incidents of violence, sexual explicitness and bad language", notably between 8pm and 9pm.
Lady Howe added that the increase in unsuitable material "represents a disappointing trend". Complaints from the early peak-time schedule often focus on the harder subjects tackled in soaps and serial dramas such as The Bill and Brookside.Reuse content