Wednesday 20 April 2011

Is the watershed working?

Last week the details of a survey of parents undertaken as part of Reg Bailey’s government-commissioned review into the sexualisation of children were published.  They revealed that almost nine out of 10 UK parents felt their children were being forced to grow up too quickly; nearly half were unhappy with pre-watershed TV.

Mr Bailey said “Parents are disappointed that some of the existing regulation and self-regulation is starting to let them down.   They feel that traditionally trusted controls like the television 'watershed' have become less rigorous and the lines have become more blurred.”

It’s a problem that has been becoming increasingly obvious as broadcasters’ continually push the boundaries of the watershed.

Last December The X Factor featured highly sexualised performances from global music stars Rihanna and Christiana Aguilera.  The programme was watched by almost 20 million people, nearly a quarter of whom are believed to children.  Ofcom subsequently received 2,868 complaints and today they published the results of their investigation into the broadcast.

The regulator deemed the dance routines to be ‘at the limit’ of acceptability for a pre-watershed broadcast but found that they did not breach the Broadcasting Code.

Ofcom considered Christina Aguilera's performance was justified as she was singing a song from her film Burlesque.   It said the performance taken as a whole was sexualised due to the nature of the dancers' revealing costumes but as it reflected the theme of the film - which she was promoting - it was editorially justified.

Is it any wonder that parents feel let down?

Ofcom has committed to “shortly…issuing new guidance about the acceptability of material in pre-watershed programmes that attract large family viewing audiences”.  The makers of the programme and all the major broadcasters who transmit shows like The X Factor are to be called to attend a meeting at Ofcom to discuss the issue.

Ofcom has found that this broadcast was ‘at the limits’ of acceptability; they must ensure that such incidents do not happen again.