Attitudes towards violence, sexual content, linear and on demand services

Published: 31 October 2023

TV and video content plays an important part in people’s lives. Audiences are passionate about the content they view on their screens, whether it’s something watched live or on-demand. Despite having more choice than ever, viewers rightly expect content standards to be upheld by broadcasters and providers of on-demand services.

One of our primary duties is to protect audiences from harmful and offensive material on the television services we regulate while having regard to the need to secure standards in the manner that best guarantees an appropriate level of freedom of expression. We know societal attitudes towards harm and offence change over time and therefore it is critical that our approach to regulation also evolves to reflect the public’s changing concerns.

To help us understand viewers’ and listeners’ expectations and attitudes and to inform our future regulation, we regularly conduct audience research on a range of important issues. Today we have published two research reports that will help us understand viewers’ expectations and attitudes about the content they watch, how they watch it and how it impacts them.

Audience attitudes to violence and sexual content on television

Since Ofcom last undertook research on Violent and Sexual content on Television there has been considerable societal and cultural change in the UK. We commissioned this research to learn more about current attitudes towards this type of content, both from the perspective of adult viewers and what audiences consider appropriate for children to view.

This research explores the factors that shape what audiences find acceptable including, attitudes to the 9pm watershed, the importance of warnings and the genre of the programme.

Audience attitudes to violence and sexual content on television (PDF, 2.4 MB)

Audience expectations of linear and on demand services

Since the publication of our 2020 research exploring the changing expectations of UK audiences in a digital world, the media landscape has further shifted.

Television broadcasters are now using their on-demand platforms not only to provide catch-up services to viewers, but also to offer content before it is shown on linear television or as an alternative to their broadcast channels. The growing number of subscription video on-demand services also means that viewers have access to an increasingly diverse array of contemporary and archive content from all around the world.

This rapid shift in viewer habits, coupled with ongoing discussions about how regulation of video on-demand services may need to develop to reflect these changes, creates a need for a deeper understanding of the ways in which viewers experience audiovisual content.

We commissioned this research to better understand what audiences expect from different content on linear TV and video on-demand and how these perceptions interact with each other.

Audience expectations of linear and on demand services (PDF, 1.6 MB)

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