TV warned against the temptation to be tacky

Watchdog fears down-market shift in ratings battle
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The Independent Online
RHYS WILLIAMS

Media Correspondent

Broadcasters were warned yesterday against going down-market in the quest for ratings and quick profits, while satellite networks were told they risked lowering standards of taste and decency by screening pornography which could be seen by children.

Publishing its annual report, the Broadcasting Standards Council said that the proliferation of channels meant there was increasing pressure on revenue, and temptation to produce cheap programmes.

The council, which monitors standards of taste and decency on television and radio as well fielding complaints, added: "There is much to be admired in the services on offer to the public, but the dangers of a descent towards the tacky and falsely sensationalist need constantly to be kept at bay."

Colin Shaw, the council's director, said: "What we have in mind are the kinds of things in the US which are based on real-life crime ... It's exploitation of people in times of suffering and turning it into drama."

One programme singled out for being tacky was Simon Mayo's Confessions show on BBC 1, which the council believed made viewing capital out of people's past misdemeanours.

There were also stern words about recent trends for satellite broadcasters to screen soft porn on unencrypted channels late at night. Lady Howe, the council's chairman, said: "Children with video recorders turning on in the middle of the night, deliberately or accidentally, would come across this material earlier in their lives than might be desirable."

Last night, at 3.45am, Sky Movies showed a film called The Most Beautiful Breasts in the World while the Movie Channel screened Young Lady Chatterley at 11.50pm.

The council revealed it was about to hand to the Department of National Heritage the results of its monitoring of two new satellite channels, TV Erotica and Eurotica, which offer hard-core pornography in encrypted form. It said that while aimed at continental Europe, they could be received in Britain.

Little separated these two services, the council believed, from Red Hot Dutch, the porn channel banned by the Government in 1993. "The growing possibility of the relatively ready availability, to young people in particular, of material of this nature

Complaints to the BSC rose by nearly a third to 2,247 last year, with around 20 per cent at least partly upheld. About half of complaints related to taste and decency, with a third of those focusing on language.

Bad language remained one of the council's key areas of concern in which broadcasters needed to be more responsive and, despite formal representations to programme makers, "no significant improvement has come about".

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