In Defence of Sex and Violence on Television
Hensher, Philip, The Independent (London, England)
Quite what qualifies Mr Jonathan Edwards, the champion hop-skip- and-jumper, to be appointed the English representative on Ofcom's Content Board, overseeing "standards of decency and fairness in broadcasting" is far from clear. "I don't watch a massive amount of television," he said. "What I don't like is gratuitous sex and violence." His favourite programmes? Well, he quite likes Have I Got News For You and Jonathan Ross, but wouldn't watch them with the children. "You have to be careful with comedy. Some of Jonathan Ross's stuff is near the mark."
The really telling admission Edwards made, however, was to confide that he didn't care for The Simpsons. In my view, not to like The Simpsons is quite close to not liking life. But then, to Edwards, the character of Ned Flanders with his two priggish children and neurotic puritanism must seem very close to a personal insult.
The Edwards anklebiters, however, are permitted to watch Fame Academy and Pop Idol, though even there, "If something comes on that we don't like" - I suppose he means Cilla Black in a spangled bolero, though who knows? - "we normally wouldn't change the channel but we would talk about it with them." By "talk about it," naturally, Mr Edwards means "drone on until everyone agrees with me," which doesn't bode well for his contributions to the committee's debates.
In short, Mr Edwards has been appointed to the committee, despite knowing nothing about television or, apparently, liking it very much, because he is a nutty God-botherer. He has, we are told, "a clearly-defined Anglo- Saxon, Christian perspective". You could have fooled me. He sounds like someone from the Taliban Ministry of Culture.
Surely, by now, we have all grown out of the belief that Christians had any particular expertise or authority when it came to questions of morality. We all possess a moral code, and it seems absolutely bizarre that in cases like this one we are happy to accept even very ignorant religious people as spokespersons for morality.
The trouble is that the alternative arguments are never openly stated, and the Christian argument, even when it is as extreme as this, goes unchallenged. It is as if morality had become a special interest, like triple-jumping, which the rest of us had no right to comment on.
But in fact, there is another argument to be made about the morality of television, or about what television ought to be providing. The duty of television is, surely, to provide a broad spectrum of entertainment to interest all its viewers. …