Channel 5 boss demands explicit sex on television

Senior television executive says UK lags behind Europe and predicts hardcore pornography will soon be seen on British screens

A senior executive at Channel 5 is calling for British television to be allowed to show hardcore pornography.

A senior executive at Channel 5 is calling for British television to be allowed to show hardcore pornography.

Adam Perry, the controller of special events at the channel, made his plea at the weekend and will screen explicit pornographic material at a special session of the Edinburgh television festival next weekend.

"My position is that we are now in an illogical and possibly indefensible [situation] in the UK, where we lag behind the rest of Europe in what we can see on subscription view," Mr Perry said.

Hardcore pornography would be available on British television by 2003, he claimed. "At the moment, the British Board of Film Classification [BBFC] guidelines on R18 videos allow scenes of penetration. Ultimately, in two to three years time, this will lead to hardcore pornography in specialist subscription services on British TV. It already happens in Europe: you subscribe to it and it is encrypted and it has pin protection so that kids can't see it."

Although Mr Perry said the views are his own and not those of the channel, such a claim is a little disingenuous as the Edinburgh television festival is chaired by Channel 5 director of programmes Dawn Airey. She will have been closely involved in drawing up the festival programme including the session on television and pornography.

Mr Perry's plea for hardcore pornography to be available on British television will be uncomfortable for David Elstein, his chief executive, who has bridled at the broadcaster being nicknamed "Channel Filth" in some quarters and has said that it does not show pornography. Channel 5 has already been criticised by the regulatory body, the Independent Television Commission (ITC), and by the Broadcasting Standards Council.

Though it has straddled the borderline of taste, the channel has so far stopped short of showing hardcore pornography, which would immediately fall foul of British law.

At the festival, Mr Perry will unveil a Channel 5 poll on sexual attitudes which found that 59 per cent of people think that the laws on sexually explicit material should be the same throughout the EU. It also shows that just over half of those questioned believe that broadcasters should be allowed to show more explicit material after the watershed.

"I think this survey proves that people are much more relaxed about it," Mr Perry said. "In the right conditions they are prepared to accept scenes of explicit consensual sex."

Mr Perry's views were condemned by Patrick Reilly, the chairman of the Catholic Communications Commission, who will take part in the festival debate. "You could argue that this is about freedom," he said. "But there are certain kinds of freedoms we should not exercise. You could argue that you should have the freedom to drive your car and drink, but we have laws against it to protect people."

An anomaly in current legislation was illustrated at the weekend when Channel 4's broadcasting of Lars Von Trier's film The Idiots cut out a scene of penetrative sex to comply with ITC rules, even though the film has been shown uncut on Channel 4's website and has been cleared by the BBFC for watching both at the cinema and on video.