In the past we have been vocal about the way in which television programmes aimed at family audiences have featured increasingly sexualised content. Over the past few years we have seen a contestants stripping and lap dancing on Saturday evening talent shows and, on each occasion, the programme would be cleared by Ofcom of breaching the Broadcasting Code which is in place to protect children from unsuitable material.
Over the past year we have written expressing our concern to the programmes, the regulator and the Prime Minister’s special advisor on preventing the sexualisation of childhood.
We have pointed out 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. We am delighted to report that finally our concerns have been noted.
This week Ofcom at last rebuked ITV for showing nudity before the watershed in one of its flagship reality shows. The regulator found that ITV had crossed a ‘clear line’ when it showed a burlesque dancer’s naked bottom before the watershed. Ofcom said the scenes were seen by a ‘significant child audience’ and concluded the episode breached its code, which states: ‘Children must…be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable’.
As our Director, Vivienne Pattison, told the Daily Mail this week, ‘it is a victory for parents who are concerned about what their children are being exposed to before the watershed. Finally we have a clear signal that it has got to stop.’
We are delighted that this judgement has now been made and we hope that, should further similar breaches occur, Ofcom will not hesitate to fine broadcasters. This is not just about a bare bottom on television – however undesirable that may be in a programme aimed at children.
This is about our society taking stock and saying, no, we want a public space which is free from overtly sexual images. We don’t want our children to be forced to grow up prematurely. Tiny incremental changes over the years have led us to the position in which we find ourselves today; images which were once considered to be soft-core porn are now called advertising and sexual freedoms which once looked empowering now seem oppressive. It’s time to apply the brakes.
Ofcom’s decision follows the Government’s announcement of measures to protect children from pornography and the Co-op’s decision not to carry material with sexualised cover images. There is still much to be done but we sense a sea-change in public attitudes and that can only be a good thing.