Sex performance 'makeover' show is new BBC boss's parting gift to Channel 4

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The Independent Online

Mark Thompson, the new director-general of the BBC, is leaving a controversial legacy behind him as he leaves his old as chief executive of Channel 4. He has approved a series in which couples will be filmed having sex, with their performance assessed by experts.

The Sex Inspectors will be screened in the autumn, after Mr Thompson takes up his BBC role. The series will be modelled on The Dinner Party Inspectors, in which experts on etiquette gave critical feedback after observing the interactions of diners.

The production company Talkback, which is behind both shows, has begun recruiting couples to tackle problems including differences in sex drive and difficulties created by having children.

The programme could heighten fears that Mr Thompson, working with new BBC chairman Michael Grade, will erode values at the corporation. Mr Grade was once branded "pornographer in chief" when he was in charge at Channel 4.

Couples featured in The Sex Inspectors will be guided by relationship guru and body language expert Tracey Cox, from BBC2's Would Like to Meet, and the American sex columnist and broadcaster Michael Alvear. The finer points of what viewers will see are still to be finalised.

Daisy Goodwin, the editorial director at Talkback, said: "Everybody thinks other people are having better sex than they do - it's one of the world's great myths.

"This is partly to reassure them that they're not and also to show them some things that might make things a little better. There will be footage that the inspectors analyse, but there will be pixellation. This isn't a porn show by another name."

Commenting on the programme, the MP Gerald Kaufman, chairman of the Commons media select committee, said: "It sounds absolutely gross and you won't catch me watching it."

The shadow Secretary of State for Media, Julie Kirkbride, said she hoped the programme did not reflect what may be commissioned when Mr Thompson arrives at the BBC. "Channel 4 does have a remit for slightly unusual minority programming, and I suppose this falls under that category, but I certainly wouldn't expect to see something like this on the BBC. It amazes me that someone would want to participate, but as long as people abide by the normal laws of decency, it's up to them."

A Talkback spokeswoman said it was too early to say what viewers would see. "It's not even in the edit suite so we can't say you are definitely going to see sex ... It is supposed to be educational and informative, it's not about titillation," she said.

Mr Thompson's successor at Channel 4 is expected to be appointed within two months. Frontrunners include Kevin Lygo, Channel 4's director of television, and Dawn Airey, a former chief executive at Five and currently the managing director of Sky Networks.

Other controversial shows on Channel 4 include Queer As Folk, a drama about the relationships of gay men which featured a number of frank sex scenes, including one of a man sleeping with a 15-year-old boy. Pornography: The Musical showed porn stars singing about their experiences in the sex industry and footage of them preparing to work. The soap Brookside broke a taboo with a lesbian kiss on prime time TV in 1993.