Broadcasters are warned on effects of crime shows

BROADCASTERS were yesterday urged to consider the effects that news footage and the reconstruction of crimes in documentaries could have on victims and their families.

The lastest Broadcasting Standards Council code of practice on sex, violence, bad language and good taste replaces the first edition published in 1989. By law, British broadcasters have to incorporate its principles in their own codes of practice.

Clare Reynolds, a council spokeswoman, said the report was more authoritative, but no more restrictive. 'The general principles have not changed, it is more a change in tone. This a more confident and detailed code, reflecting five years of audience research and dealing with viewers' complaints,' she said.

Particular concern was registered over the increasing use of crime reconstructions. In addition to its original warnings on over-dramatising violent aspects of a crime, the new code says: 'Reconstructing the crime, sometimes with fresh details of which the victims and their families were unaware, can disturb not only those directly affected, but also others in similar situations who are left wondering whether their experiences will be subjected to the same treatment.' The council is currently dealing with viewer complaints relating to a reconstruction of the James Bulger murder after the trial of two 11-year-old boys.

Complaints to the BSC about on- screen violence doubled last year, reflecting, the council said, 'wider concerns within society about violence in general and the part which television might play in its increase, especially among the young'. It restated its support for the 9pm watershed, but warned that it should not become a 'waterfall' when family viewing goes into reverse.

On the basis of research carried out in 1991, the code's section on bad language has been extended to include warnings on 'new terms of abuse', noting that 'racist terms and terms implying disability continued to be regarded more and more as deeply offensive, outpacing some traditional terms of abuse'.

The BBC yesterday signalled its determination to become a major player in world-wide broadcasting by announcing the establishment of a news and entertainment network spanning the United States, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

But Bob Phillis, its deputy director-general, said the network would fall short of a full 'head-to-head' confrontation with the global news- based Cable News Network.