Thursday, 6 June 2013

Family viewers are being failed

In the news over the last week has been the backlash against Jennifer Lopez’s extremely sexualised performance in the family show Britain’s Got Talent.  Her lewd routine resulted in 161 (so far) complaints to Ofcom and many column inches condemning the broadcast.  But haven’t we been here before?

In 2010 The X Factor final featured highly sexualised performances and provoked around 3,000 complaints to Ofcom.  The regulator ruled that the broadcast was ‘at the very margin of acceptability’ but did not censure the broadcaster.  This effectively re-defined family viewing and such material became mainstream.  

The 2011 Bailey review found almost half of parents were concerned about pre-watershed television.  The report concluded ‘the industry needs to act and, in the case of pre-watershed family viewing, take a slightly more cautious approach than is currently the case’ citing the sexualised dancing on the 2010 X Factor final as particularly problematic.

Shortly after the report was published Ofcom issued new guidance for broadcasters stating that ‘particular areas of concern include the sexualised clothing and dance routines of performers’.  However since this guidance was published we have seen a burlesque stripper on Britain’s Got Talent (justified because the dance ‘required skill and training’), a contestant on The X Factor straddling a judge dressed only in a bikini and fishnet bodystocking (justified because it was ‘presented in a style which sought to derive humour from the participant’s conduct’) and most recently a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent lap-dancing for Simon Cowell.

The reaction to the broadcast last weekend shows that many viewers are not happy with this.  The government has tasked Ofcom with the responsibility to ensure that children are ‘protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them’ (Broadcasting Code 1.3) but we are of the opinion that Ofcom are failing to act in the best interests of children.

We are delighted that last year the Prime Minister appointed Claire Perry MP as his special advisor on preventing the sexualisation and commercialisation of children.   It is good that this government is serious about protecting childhood and Mrs Perry has been doing some excellent work to ensure that children are adequately protected online.

It is our opinion that television programmes which are marketed at children yet contain explicit material are making a significant contribution to the culture in which children are becoming increasingly sexualised.  In our experience most parents want to take responsibility for protecting their children but it is increasingly difficult to do so when even pre watershed television is contributing to the problem. 

We’ve written to Claire Perry pointing this out and asking her to consider broadcasting within the scope of her remit.  We’ve offered to provide further information and material to help her in her work.

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