Broadcasters Accused of Cynical Use of Sex in the Ratings War Titillation Television

Daily Mail (London), January 7, 1999 | Go to article overview

Broadcasters Accused of Cynical Use of Sex in the Ratings War Titillation Television


Byline: SEAN POULTER

VIEWERS have delivered a highly-critical verdict on TV's increasing tendency to use sex to boost ratings.

They accuse soaps such as Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale, and daytime talk-shows like Jerry Springer and Kilroy of cynically exploiting the subject.

Advertising is also in the dock, with Claudia Schiffer's strip for the Citroen commercial branded gratuitous.

The proportion of people who believe there is too much sex on TV has jumped from 32 per cent to 36 per cent in a year, according to a report commissioned by the Broadcasting Standards Commission.

Women and older viewers are particularly alarmed, while there is a general fear that the trend has a desensitising effect. A middle-aged woman among the interviewees said: 'People have been bombarded with it, so they're immune to it now.' An elderly male fan of Emmerdale and Coronation Street, said: 'It all seems to be about sex nowadays, to titillate people.' An older woman added: 'It's getting more explicit.

Nothing is left to the imagination.' The report comes in the wake of heavy criticism about the crude content of Christmas programmes, with Men Behaving Badly a prime target.

Confessional talk shows have the worst image, the study reveals, with 47 per cent of those questioned saying Jerry Springer, Kilroy and Vanessa concentrate too heavily on sex.

The Citroen commercial polled 37 per cent while Brookside, East-Enders, Coronation Street and Heartbreak High were criticised by 29 per cent. Men Behaving Badly offended 21 per cent.

Yet despite the evidence of increasing concern in the report, Sex and Sensibility, the BSC has given the green light to still more TV sex.

Chairman Lady Howe said: 'Attitudes towards the portrayal of sexual activity on our screen has relaxed. That has already been reflected in our codes of guidance.' She insisted that most viewers were more tolerant and denied the watchdog had misjudged the mood.

'People accept sex as a fact of life,' she said.

She admitted, however, that the report's findings 'may be the start of a warning that people think it is going too far'.

'It is a grave concern to quite a number of people that the soaps, which are before the watershed, are dealing with more and more difficult issues. …

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