Complaints Reports

Programme Complaints & Interventions Report

These reports are case summaries of complaints which appeared to raise issues of substance in relation to the interpretation of the ITC Programme Code. Summary statistics of non-substantive complaints can be found in the full reports which are obtainable from the ITC.

Showing Complaints & Interventions Report for BROOKSIDE

Channel: Channel 4

Date & time: Thursday 7 November: 8.00pm and Saturday 9 November: 12.00pm; BROOKSIDE trailer: Thursday 14 November: 4.15pm

Category: Violence

Complaint from: 4 viewers

Background

During November, over a two week period, the dominant story in this 'soap' was a siege on Brookside Close. Four armed bankrobbers held residents hostage after a police chase.

Issue

Viewers were concerned about the level of violence involving guns and the drug-fuelled behaviour of one of the armed criminals. They did not believe this was suitable for children to view before the watershed on weekday evenings at 8.00pm nor when repeated in the Saturday omnibus at lunchtime, when younger children are available to view as well. Viewers also believed a trailer shown in the afternoon was too violent and threatening to be acceptable when children might be watching.

Assessment

ITC staff asked Channel 4 how they believed this level of violence and associated sexual harassment was acceptable during family viewing time. The emphasis on guns and drugs had added to the generally adult tone of these episodes and the trail.

The licensee explained that Brookside had a reputation for tackling contemporary social issues. In this case drug-fuelled gun crime was a very real fear in inner city areas. To show this fear the unpleasant and unacceptable behaviour of these criminals needed to be portrayed. However, Channel 4 believed that they had not shown any graphic violence, relying on the menace and fear to convey the situation. One character had been portrayed extreme and dependent on drugs. His harassment of the young girls had not shown any sexual assault but had been deliberately ambiguous in its portrayal.

Although the siege had created a menacing atmosphere, other events and characters outside this situation had reduced the dramatic tension. In Channel 4's view, rigorous editing had made sure that the violence and any threat of violence had been kept to the absolute minimum.

The ITC took into account Brookside's established reputation for dealing realistically with social issues. Subjects such as gun crime and drugs have been explored before in pre-watershed drama in an appropriate manner. However, in this case the unremitting nature of the threatening behaviour, drug-induced violence and sexual harassment went beyond what viewers would normally expect during family viewing time. Even though no sexual assault was seen, the psychotic behaviour of Terry towards the two girls reduced them to abject fear not least because of the sexual overtones. The violent acts were not a frequent occurrence. However, the prevalence of the threatening behaviour, which did overspill into some violent reactions and shootings, could be disturbing to children, especially as a child and teenagers were swept up in the siege. The ITC considered that the
level of menace in this violent situation was inappropriate when children are available to view.

Channel 4 agreed the trail was dramatic, but argued that it had not contained any acts of violence. The decision had been taken not to schedule it, though, during any programmes with direct appeal to children. In their view, it had been appropriate to show it during such adult programmes as Fifteen to One and Countdown.

Although the trail was shown at a time that children would most probably be watching other channels, it was still scheduled during family viewing time. The ITC Programme Code advises that special care should be taken in the scheduling of trails as viewers do not specifically choose to see promotional material. In the ITC's view, this trail was not suitable for scheduling before the 9pm watershed and especially at a time when large numbers of children, including the very young, would be available to view, and could be switching around channels without supervision by parents.

Conclusion

The ITC concluded that these episodes and the trail were in breach of Section 1.2 (Family Viewing and the Watershed) of the ITC Programme Code.