Quangowatch: A guide to those unelected quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations that run our lives: No 8: The Broadcasting Standards Council

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The Independent Online
What does it do? Monitors and deals with complaints about violence, sex and 'matters of taste and decency' on television and radio. Makes findings public and orders programme-makers to broadcast condemnatory verdicts.

Budget: pounds 1.35m.

Who is on it? Lady Howe, wife of Geoffrey, Conservative peer; Matthew Parris, journalist and ex-Tory MP; Sally O'Sullivan, magazine editor; Dame Jocelyn Barrow, former BBC governor; a consultant psychologist and an ex-chaplain to the Queen.

Why? Peter Brooke, the National Heritage Secretary, put them there.

Recent decisions: The words 'spastic' and 'demented' should not be used except in relation to health issues. A sex scene in BBC1's Lady Chatterley's Lover was 'unduly protracted'. BBC and ITV coverage of the James Bulger trial verdict was 'sensationalist'. The use of the word 'fuck' on Channel 4 was improper even though after 9pm adult watershed.

Criticism 1: Michael Grade, chief executive of Channel 4, said the council was composed of 'new puritans' who only exist to 'curb the artist, the writer and the director. If it is not seen to repress, it loses its raison d'etre.'

Criticism 2: It is just one of many regulatory bodies for broadcasting that all have similar remits. Much of the work is a waste of time. Most of the 1,355 complaints it received last year were dismissed.

Accountability: No elected members. No public or press access to meetings.

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