Advertising censors have branded an anti-domestic violence advert starring Keira Knightley too shocking for TV, and are refusing to allow it to be broadcast unless key scenes are cut.
The gripping ad shows the actress returning home from a film set, where she is confronted by a violent boyfriend who accuses her of having an affair with a co-star, before launching into a vicious attack. The disturbing footage ends with Knightley left sprawled on the floor, being repeatedly kicked.
The Cut was made for the charity Women's Aid, and launched in cinemas at the beginning of this month.
Charities working to combat domestic violence branded the decision by Clearcast, the ad approval body, "pathetic", arguing that, in banning the advert, it is shielding the public from the reality of domestic violence.
"It seems pathetic. It is really important to raise awareness about domestic violence, and TV gets into people's homes" said Sandra Horely, chief executive of Refuge, a charity that provides accommodation for women and children escaping from domestic violence.
"Many women who are victims of domestic violence are isolated by their partner, and in these situations TV is very helpful. It is also a great way to reach the public and raise awareness of the issue," said Ms Horely.
The ad, created by Joe Wright, the director of the films Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, in both of which Knightley starred, has been viewed more than a million times on YouTube. It was hoped that the ad would air on TV this month, but it will now only be seen on British television if scenes showing Knightley being thrown to the floor and kicked are axed.
"The reason we are still in conversation with Clearcast about it is because they believe it is too violent," said Chris Hirst, managing director of Grey London Advertising Agency, which created The Cut. "Part of the point of the campaign is to raise awareness about domestic violence, and spark debate, which the advert has done, even if it doesn't make it on to TV."
Women's Aid said it has had a brilliant response to the advert, which women viewers believe accurately reflects the reality of domestic violence. "We were very careful to reflect what we had heard from anecdotal evidence. We have put this forward to Clearcast, with statistics from the Home Office, and other material," said Lucy Brown, a spokeswoman for Women's Aid.
Some believe that Clearcast is being overly cautious in failing to approve the full advert, and that advertisers are reluctant to even try to address the issue for fear of being censored.
"You can't tread softly-softly on these issues. It is important that we have these public awareness campaigns, and that the message gets to the people affected by it," said the Labour MP Kerry McCarthy.
Independent regulator the Advertising Standards Authority has received just two complaints from the public about the new campaign, both of which were from viewers who saw the unedited version on the Women's Aid website. Similarly, the ASA received no complaints about the Women's Aid 2007 poster campaign, which included stars such as Honor Blackman and Anna Friel made up to look as if they had been beaten.
Ms Knightley was not available for comment.
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