`Eccentric and ludicrous' views of the people who decide what we view on TV

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The Independent Online
ALAN PARTRIDGE is repeatedly too offensive for television, The Omen should not have been broadcast on Christmas Day and a discussion about male strippers should not have been aired at 4pm, the Broadcasting Standards Commission said yesterday.

Television executives criticised the rulings as "overly- censorious", "eccentric" and "ludicrous", and suggested the commission's judgements on taste and decency on television have been fatally discredited. The commission's comments are made in its latest bulletin, issued yesterday.

But Michael Jackson, the head of Channel 4, said the Omen decision was "typical of how the commission fails to get things in proportion" and confirmed that he would defy the watchdog and schedule the film in the same way again.

Others criticised a system whereby a few members of the great and the good "sit around in committees deciding what will offend the nation's sensibilities". The 11 members of the commission are appointed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and are paid pounds 14,000 a year to work a two-day week.

Peter Bazalgette, who devised Changing Rooms and other popular programmes, said the judgements against Alan Partridge "prove that the commission itself is a sit-com ... Alan Partridge should be appointed to sit on it."

Although many television bosses were not prepared to be named for fear of victimisation by the commission, most were critical of its decisions and some called for an examination into its existence.

One industry figure said: "Regulatory bodies are vying to be more censorious than each other, with the BSC, the Independent Television Commission and the BBC trying to impress the Government that they are the most careful custodians of television morals."

There is agreement that regulation is necessary for issues such as racism or gross indecency, but the latest decisions will fuel the argument that taste and decency regulation should be reduced. Elisabeth Murdoch, director of programmes at BSkyB, recently argued that British television is over- regulated and that in a multi-channel world people can simply choose to watch something else if they object to what is on their screens.

The Living channel felt that its "light-hearted fun look at the world of male stripping" offered "a balanced viewpoint ... to the audience with a valid discussion over the merits, attractions and disadvantages of working in the entertainment area". But the commission felt its scheduling at 4pm and the phrase "I once had my penis bitten" were unacceptable.

Alan Partridge, a character created by the comedian Steve Coogan, was accused of offending disabled viewers. The BBC, which airs his show, said: "The language used by the main character illustrated both his tactlessness and ignorance ... The character was being ridiculed, not the person he was attempting to abuse."

Mr Bazalgette said: "It's all irrelevant. The industry ignores the BSC anyway."

The Programmes That Offended The Watchdogs

The Omen

Channel 4

The Commission ``acknowledged'' Channel 4's arguments that the film, chronicling the life of the ``anti-Christ'' is a classic and ``deeply moral''. But it said it should not have been shown at 10.30pm on Christmas Day.

Newsround

BBC1

A report showing, with some vagueness, nude contestants in an Australian surfing competition was condemned as inappropriate in a children's programme. The BBC had wanted to give children a light-hearted view of life in another country.

I'm Alan Partridge

BBC1

The BSC accepted that Partridge's language was supposed to backfire and make him seem ridiculous. However, ``the words were in themselves offensive to certain groups'' and the complaint (received by only one viewer) was upheld.

Michael Cole

Living

A viewer's complaint that the remark "I once had my penis bitten" was tasteless was upheld, despite the subject matter of the discussion programme being male stripping. It was unclear whether the penis or the biting was considered more offensive.

EastEnders

BBC1

The killing of Saskia and the disposal of her body was judged too macabre for pre-watershed viewing, even though the soap had been building up to its grisly climax for several weeks. The BBC said it had been careful to avoid being too graphic.

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