'Coronation Street' accused of failing to reflect reality

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The Independent Online
CORONATION STREET, Britain's most popular and longest- running television soap opera 'is out of touch with reality and living in the Harold Macmillan era' of the late Fifties and early Sixties, Lord Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the Broadcasting Standards Council said yesterday.

Lord Rees-Mogg, who steps down from the taste and decency watchdog next April, was commenting on research about the portrayal of ethnic minorities on television which found that black and Asian people were more frequently seen on factual programmes than top-rated dramas.

He told a press conference there was a tendency for the newer soap operas and dramas such as EastEnders and The Bill to have a wider ethnic mix, showing society 'which is of now, rather than the way it used to exist. Coronation Street is an accurate portrayal of life 25 years ago'.

David Liddiment, Granada's head of entertainment said: 'Lord Rees-Mogg might like to talk to any of the 18 million viewers who watch Coronation Street and discover an entirely different view. The idea that serial drama is there to directly reflect real life is a false one. It is there to entertain, not provide a demographic reflection of Britain.'

The BSC's research, drawn from 12 discussion groups and a telephone poll of 500 people, reports that many referred to the fact that non-whites were a rarity on Coronation Street, and that they found this unrealistic, especially since Manchester had a large Chinese population.

The document quotes a typical view from a research group. 'It's supposed to be representative, but it's white-oriented so it doesn't cater for everyone,' said one white male viewer.

The research showed that many respondents felt that the black characters in The Bill were less favourably represented than in other soaps.

Dame Jocelyn Barrow, deputy chairman of the BSC, said, however, that there had been a marked change in television during the past decade, and pointed to Trevor MacDonald's success in becoming the main presenter of ITN's News at Ten. A parallel survey on the subject was carried out by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. It found that its most popular exports of soaps such as Neighbours and Home and Away were giving a misleading impression of the population, where one third was either of aboriginal or non-English speaking origin.

'A neighbourhood like Neighbours doesn't exist,' said Kate Aisbett, one of the researchers.

Nearly one in two of the Australians taking part in her research thought Aborigines should be seen more on the screen, and one in three thought more Asians, Greeks and Italians should be screened.

GMTV, the new breakfast television station which takes over from TV-am in January unveiled its programmes for children yesterday, saying its weekly output for this grouping would be 90 minutes more than TV-am's.

The vast majority is acquired cartoons, many from Disney, which holds a 25 per cent stake in GMTV. It declined to say how much it was spending on the programmes - GMTV bid pounds 35m a year for the franchise - but said it was sure the figure was higher than TV-am's.