'Brass Eye' triggers 1,500 complaints

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The Independent Television Commission has begun an investigation into Channel 4's Brass Eye satire on paedophilia after receiving more complaints than for any other show in the watchdog's history.

More than 500 people protested to the ITC after Thursday night's broadcast, including some who had been unable to get through to Channel 4, which also received a thousand complaints.

The broadcaster defended the programme, vowing to push ahead with a repeat of the programme last night despite requests from children's charities to scrap the showing. A spokesman for the channel admitted the programme had used "shock tactics" but said it was the only way to spark debate about a subject that it claimed was clouded in hysteria.

Among those who contacted Channel 4 to complain were some of the famous names who had been duped into appearing on Chris Morris's show.

The DJ Neil Fox, the pop singer Phil Collins and the comedian Richard Blackwood, who was filmed warning that paedophiles could make computer keyboards emit toxic fumes to bring youngsters under their power, were featured on the show.Fox was seen hammering a nail into a crab, saying child sex offenders shared more in common genetically with crabs than they did with humans. Phil Collins was seen wearing a T-shirt bearing the legend "Nonce Sense".

An ITC spokesman said of the complainants: "They are saying that they don't think it [paedophilia] was a suitable subject for humour."

The NSPCC child protection charity accused the programme of a "crude and crass" trivialisation of child sex abuse. A second charity, NCH, said it feared Brass Eye's ridicule of celebrities would make it difficult to persuade public figures to take part in future campaigns.

Channel 4 said it was not condoning paedophilia and hoped to encourage proper discussion. A spokesman said: "In the current climate of hysteria, it's impossible to have a debate about the issues surrounding paedophilia and you have to use shock tactics of this kind to force them into the public domain.

"Obviously there are people who have found this deeply disturbing but if it makes people think about the issues, then it will have achieved its aim."