Blind date with danger

ANOTHER VIEW; Mary Whitehouse
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The Independent Online
Of course Blind Date is popular, and I imagine that most people have at some time in their lives either been on one or wish they had! And Cilla is always good for a laugh, as they say.

But the question is - when the programme goes out at peak family viewing time on a Saturday evening - can we have fun without going over the top? While there is much to enjoy and many delightful couples to rejoice with, the anxiety remains as to whether the programme is going too far; and certainly from time to time it does.

Which brings us to the heart of the matter - namely the Independent Television Commission's criticism of Blind Date in its annual report published this week, and particularly the programme's "increasingly obvious sexual innuendo".

One is driven to ask why it is that producers - or some of them - cannot accept and act on the fact that programmes which do not rely upon sex (in this case, the dirty joke) create a far happier and relaxed mood, preferred by the vast majority of viewers, especially those watching in a family situation. To base their work on any other assumption is to insult us all and, in the end, to do no justice to their own reputations.

But more than that, it is to leave us with a deep sense of anxiety that not only ourselves but, even more importantly, our children are being soldcheap. The idea gets around that to have fun you must also have sex, even if it is only the verbal variety.

But, to be honest, sex is not cheap. It lies at the heart of human experience and for better or worse it touches the very essence of our being. As for violence, it's not far behind.

Television teaches. As Sir Hugh Greene, one-time director-general of the BBC - and no friend of anyone fighting to maintain standards - once said: "Television is the most powerful medium ever to affect the thinking and behaviour of people." Howtruly he spoke.

Was everany wisdom more ruthlessly rejected in the cause of viewing figures? And one cannot help but ask, what is the real role of the ITC and how well does it carry it out?

The awful thing is that we - just about all of us - have been seduced into accepting as normal attitudes and behaviour which in our heart of hearts we know are unworthy, if not positively dangerous. And, incidentally, we might ask ourselves why it is that the crime figures published this week show a decrease in all areas of criminal behaviour except an increase of 6 per cent in sexual crime. That's no joke either. A long way from blind dates? Not at all.

The writer is emeritus president of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association.