Letter: Restraints on TV companies

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The Independent Online
Sir: Roy Greenslade (Another View, 21 September) is right. In a free society there must be freedom to get it wrong. But he is wrong to claim that the fines imposed by the Independent Television Commission on MTV are a denial of freedom.

The ITC, quite rightly, has no powers of prior restraint over the transmission of programmes. Parliament has, however, decided that restraints in the areas of taste and decency should apply to broadcasting. All television companies licensed by the ITC have to accept these restraints as a condition of their licences. If they breach these conditions they are likely to face sanctions from the ITC, as Parliament intended.

Far from harassing MTV in private, every one of the ITC's interventions with the company has been made public by the ITC.

Perhaps Roy Greenslade believes that smutty banter about under-age sex is appropriate for a programme aimed at children shown at 9am. Perhaps he would also claim that, in relation to Channel 4's The Word, items showing a man dragging a woman across the floor by a rope attached to his penis or a man apparently emptying a colostomy bag over someone else represent proper use of editorial freedom.

These kind of stunts do not advance the reporting of uncomfortable truths or creative artistic endeavour, both of which the ITC has defended and will continue to defend. There is no such thing as total freedom in society, whether in television or any other aspect of human social activity. Broadcasters who seek licences from the ITC do so voluntarily and accept the conditions that are attached to them.

Yours faithfully,

David Glencross

Chief Executive

Independent Television

Commission

London, E14

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