mediawatch-uk responds to an important Office of Communications Consultation
n July 2000 the Independent Television Commission conducted a consultation on this subject and in January 2001 the findings were published in an ITC Research Publication entitled 'Public Service Broadcasting: What Viewers Want'.
This ITC consultation established that there was broad public agreement that Public Service Broadcasting should include: diversity, high quality, education, innovation, entertainment, information, original productions, pluralism and accessibility. The vast majority of respondents believed that the key principles of PSB were still valid in the multi channel age.
The consensus across all respondents was that PSB requirements were pre-requisites for good, quality television and that without them certain strands of programming would disappear altogether and that quality itself would diminish. Few were confident that market forces alone could deliver diversity, high quality or innovative programming.
There was widespread public support for regulation and common across all regions were complaints about bad language, sex and violence on television.
ediawatch-uk agrees with the sentiments outlined above expressed by those who contributed to the consultation.
We also believe that in a mature democracy it is essential that the system of broadcasting in operation provide information, education and entertainment in which a passion for excellence is the obvious and overriding consideration. We recognise, however, that excellence is achieved at a price and adequate funding is necessary if these objectives are to be achieved and maintained.
However, it is difficult to see how this ideal can be sustained indefinitely in a competitive environment where audiences are steadily fragmenting as more and more households opt for multi channel packages. The danger we envisage is that the high price of excellence will be difficult to justify if audiences are small.
s the ITC research showed, viewers and listeners expect Public Service Broadcasting to provide a diversity of quality programming of a high standard that does not assault the senses and insult intelligence. This is especially so in respect of the BBC because of the obligatory licence fee method of funding and the reputation the corporation enjoys. Accordingly, public expectations of the BBC are higher than for other broadcasters. We believe that the unique position of the BBC as began to be undermined in the 1950s when Independent Television was permitted. It was further undermined by the deregulation that occurred in the 1990s when other providers were given access to Britain via cable and satellite networks. The extension of choice in terms of broadcasting providers has given rise to a legitimate grievance about paying for BBC services that are not a priority in some households. Choice in this regard is uniquely lacking. The availability of pre-recorded videos and DVDs adds to this grievance, as does the coverage of important national and international events, for which the BBC rightly has a renowned reputation, by commercial TV and radio competitors.
It is evident from ratings and the latest figures for audience share published by the ITC, that the main Public Service Broadcasters in Britain are losing viewers to specialist, or niche, channels not bound by public service requirements but which nevertheless provide programming that people want. This drift is an inevitable consequence of a much greater choice of channels made possible by technical innovation and political deregulation.
espite launching a public consultation the Culture Secretary has made it clear that the BBC's future remains secure because it is a Public Service Broadcaster 'par excellence'. However, the question is whether the Government can realistically continue indefinitely to support a system of funding for one broadcaster, however important and good it may be, whilst at the same time it has allowed competing providers access to the same viewers and listeners who are increasingly choosing programming that they want and are prepared to pay more to receive.
There is no doubt that the BBC has been part of the fabric of Britain for many years. Increasingly, however, the loyalty the corporation has been able to count upon in previous years is waning especially among those who are growing up in the multi channel environment. This process has been accelerated by the BBC's emphasis on ratings and competing with the commercial sector. This has led to a rather undignified scramble for audience share and the production and transmission of programming that other channels also provide.
Viewers and listeners do expect high standards from the BBC not only in technical quality but also in programme content too. In our experience people resent paying, through the licence fee, for programmes that include violence, sexual conduct and obscene or profane language. This is rightly regarded as a misuse of funds especially in the light of obligations, set out in the Licence and Agreement with the Government, not to offend public feeling.
As a public service broadcaster the notion of 'service' seems not to apply on taste and decency issues about which viewers and listeners feel particularly keenly. Many people also feel that although the BBC and Commercial TV and Radio producers have Public Service obligations they are largely unaccountable, not only in terms of expenditure, but also in terms of the programmes commissioned and transmitted. In our experience 'Public Service' should imply greater accountability to the people who are the subject of the service - just like any other industry.
xperience indicates that the BBC, through its television and radio channels, certainly provides a broad range of quality programming. All these and more are expected within a public service framework. Domestic Public Service Broadcasting is not immune from the influence of other providers whose agenda may be different and whose vested and other interests are not always for the common good. We highlight a relevant observation made by Will Wyatt in his autobiography entitled 'The Fun Factory'. The BBC's job, he said, is to deliver a wide range of good programmes to audiences. The programmes are an end in themselves, whereas ITV's job is to deliver audiences to advertisers by means of programmes. Whilst this is true, Parliament has given Commercial Television public service requirements too but these seem not to be the highest priority because advertisers expect maximum exposure for their goods and services and this inevitably delivers programming, where quality is often compromised in favour of mass appeal.
In summary, says John Beyer (left), our members raise a number of issues that spoil their viewing:
Strong language/blasphemy/swearing, poor diction, general coarseness, nudity/pornography/over explicit imagery, voyeurism, violence/uncivilised behaviour, human relationships/wife swapping, too many repeats of repeats, pornography channels, background music.
Our members show concern about perceived harmful influences on our children and young people and on society generally. They also show that they are discerning and discriminating viewers and listeners who take great care over their choices. No one wishes the concept of Public Service Broadcasting to be abandoned because all recognise the benefits in the range and quality of programming.
With certain exceptions the range and quality of programmes available on BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five is good. However, it is evident that the commercial channels, if they discover a ratings success, exploit this to the full. Formats such as 'Big Brother', 'I'm a celebrity get me out of here', 'Shattered' are regurgitated ad infinitum despite falling audience ratings.
All channels suffer from audience fatigue or 'jaded palates' and originality and innovation are becoming ever more illusive and difficult to achieve. BBC1 recently screened 'Big Cat Week' which demonstrated that the risk of showing such programmes on consecutive evenings did work. Wild life programmes are generally appreciated, as are animal welfare series like 'Animal Hospital' and 'Vets in Practice'. BBC wildlife series like 'Life in the Freezer' and 'The Blue Planet' are technically brilliant, spellbinding and widely appreciated.
Drama, such as 'Shameless' on Channel 4, sets the worst possible example by normalising dysfunction. Costume dramas like 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' were widely appreciated as are one-off dramas like 'Mr Tom', 'The Railway Children' and 'Carrie's War'.
Feature films on television are appreciated but our monitoring shows that they are frequently vehicles for the worst violence, language and sexual conduct. As such many people simply avoid this genre of programming. 'Natural Born Killers', 'Reservoir Dogs', 'Pulp Fiction', 'Once upon a time in America' and 'Goodfellas' are typical examples of films which in our opinion cannot be reconciled with the codes and guidelines and so should have no place on television.
Lifestyle programmes like, 'No going back', 'Grand Designs' and 'Location, Location' are also appreciated but there is an over emphasis on cookery, gardening and DIY programmes. These are no longer original or innovative.
We also believe that there is currently an over emphasis on continuous drama or 'soaps'. These have become a battle ground for ratings and audience share. By showing them almost every evening and repeating at weekends we believe choice is narrowed and creativity stifled.
Consumer programmes, such as 'Holiday', 'Wish You Were Here', and 'Working Lunch' provide good and useful information as do other programmes like 'Watchdog'. We particularly commend socially helpful programmes like 'Crimewatch UK' whose record in assisting police and the battle against crime is exemplary.
The provision of news and current affairs is also critical in a democracy. We note that serious programming like 'Panorama' has been pushed to the margins of the schedules. Programmes such as Daily Politics are important and highlights should be shown at peak time. Such scheduling would assist the task of educating and informing citizens.
Apart from the promenade concerts little time is afforded to classical music. Ballet and opera performance is also rare. Many people feel that there is an over emphasis on pop music in programmes such as 'Pop Idol', 'Fame Academy', 'Stars in Their Eyes', 'Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes' as well as 'Top of the Pops' in order to attract younger viewers.
All Sport is widely appreciated and is well represented in the schedules.
Science and Religion are presently under represented and any such programmes tend to be scheduled awkwardly.
Children's programmes are well represented and the balance is right. However, concern has been expressed about behaviour, portrayed in 'Grange Hill' and in 'Hollyoaks' which has the occasional 'adult' feature length special.
Regional programmes like 'Country Ways' and 'Coastal Ways' and 'Inside Out' are also appreciated because they focus on local matters. In general there is an under emphasis on programmes made outside London.
Click here for ‘Promoting a Culture of Violence 2’
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For news and information visit: www.ofcom.org.uk
he following comments from mediawatch-uk members show that there is broad appreciation of good programming and a desire that offensive content, which may also be socially harmful, is not included in public service broadcasting. Being a 'service' implies being aware of and avoiding content which people dislike. Good drama can be spoiled by the inclusion of bad language or violence or sexual conduct. People do have imaginations and resent having their intelligence insulted by over explicit imagery.
Many people also resent the lack of real choice of programming across numerous channels offering similar material. People of the older generation, who have been funding television for many years, find their choice of programming limited because so much is now targeted at people under 35. Surveys show that older people watch more television than younger people and yet more and more programmes and channels are tailored for younger audiences.
We watch the 10.00pm news when we are in, which whilst informative we do occasionally feel is biased. There are some documentaries which we enjoy, especially those of a scientific nature. Others on more political or social issues leave us questioning their impartiality, though sometimes there does seem to be a rightness in their pursuit of the truth of a matter.
With regard to dramas, we used to enjoy some of the serial dramas, but we rarely watch these now. The combination of the ubiquitous presence of background music, poor diction and rapidity of speech means that we loose the thread of the plot so often that it becomes pointless.
We are increasingly concerned with the nature and content of many programmes. Fortunately in some guides to programmes it does indicate that the transmission contains 'strong language/nudity/violence etc. This should be encouraged, but is their any justification for programmes of this sort?
What we would like to see is:
1) newspapers carry listings of programmes include warnings (some do)
2) early warning on schedules (Teletex, Ceefax)
3) prior to films etc being shown warnings are clear and unambiguous
Additionally, we believe a category should be included identifying 'blasphemy'. The use of 'God', ' Christ', 'Jesus', or a compilation of same are frequent. The use of 'my God' has become a buzzword. Often these names are preceded by the 'f***' word. We find all this highly offensive It should be noted that broadcasters do not exclaim 'Allah, Mohammed' or the like against the Muslim religion. Why is this? Are programme makers aware of the outcry that would arise from the latter, but consider the former only reflects life today? Are they saying that Christian society will swallow it, so the so-called boundaries can be pushed out?
Also, the minority grouping of same gender (homosexual/lesbian) activity, in prolonged kisses (like in Casualty, Emmerdale etc), or in bed etc. is surely ill-advised. Although whilst again we are told it reflects life today, is in general, offensive to the majority of viewers. Many have said to me it is hopeless complaining as no-one will take any notice!
The 'watershed' is not enforced. It has become flexible. Programmes that at one time would be shown late because of their content have crept earlier and earlier to even the pre watershed. The 21st century has witnessed a growing increase in 'latch-key' kids and children having televisions in their bedrooms. Control of what is watched is consequently difficult. Children are left to fend for themselves and the bedroom is their 'personal space' not to be policed or monitored by parents or family elders. Many youngsters are viewing television well after the watershed in any case. It must also be stressed that many programmes like Eastenders, Emmerdale etc. have scenes that are disturbing and children can go to sleep with such scenes playing over in the mind.
There is, we suggest, a complacency on the part of film makers, who seeks to present a film, soap, or whatever, where ratings and income are the predominant considerations - not, sadly, the harmful repercussions that are possible on young impressionable minds. Subjectivity to blasphemy, swearing, violence, bad behaviour long enough convinces hearers that it is okay and normal behaviour. It is akin to brain-washing. There have been many studies and reports on this subject. A recent article "The damning proof that TV DOES corrupt our young", by Professor Robert Young (Daily Mail Friday 9th January) clearly and poignantly illustrates the point. The street evidence is abounding of behavioural problems, both on what is said and done by the young. For example, youngsters swearing at their peers, lack of respect for people's property etc. etc. Who is to blame? Sadly, the adults who lead by bad example!", but also the constant bombardment from television has to share a large percentage of the blame and responsibility. Blasphemy, swearing and bad behaviour becomes the norm. is good and in vogue. Violence is acted out some way in the play ground as second nature. We are sure there is a direct link between bad language and bad actions on television etc. and actions of the young in and around our streets and homes in today's society. One of the benefits of the re-showing of the old films etc. is that one came be more relaxed, in that, the language will be not generally be offensive, nor will it be subjected to nudity or simulated sexual intercourse etc. They were safer family viewing.
There are occasionally excellent programmes after this, often from BBC4. For example there were 'Holidays in the Axis of Evil' which were superb in the reality and background information they gave of life in these four countries. Apart from that, we enjoyed 'The Lost Prince', and another Stephen Poliakoff drama and one costume drama on BBC. There have also been some excellent programmes on BBC1 on disability, for example, dwarfism. We do enjoy good drama but generally we find that the acting is poor and unconvincing. Also there is rather too much blatant sex where nothing is left to the imagination. I tried to watch Auf Weidersehen Pet as it can be very funny, but was so offended, not just by Jimmy Nail's disgusting pants and bare buttock, but by the endless stream of foul language from the start, that I quickly switched off.
On ITV, I watch Heartbeat and The Royal - rather mild programmes but heartening and cheery. They make me feel good and draw me in to the story. We also enjoy Foyle's War although it does tend to drag on for rather too long.
That unfortunately cannot be said about the majority of dramas, especially police/detective ones. The crimes portrayed now are just so horrific and invariably sexual - the pictures and descriptions quite sickening. The behaviour of the characters is often poor with no respect for each other, let alone the victims. Helen Mirren's character for example is most unpleasant in the Prime Suspect series she has been doing over the years.
I feel that Ofcom and the Public Service Broadcasters should take a look at the original ideas Lord Reith had. How much being broadcast nowadays can be said to enhance our lives? I am sure my husband and I are not alone in wanting to watch something in the evening after a very hard and often distressing day, which leaves us feeling positive about what we've seen, ourselves and the world in which we all live! Yes, we do have the option to turn the TV off, but nowadays wonder why we are paying our licence fee for perhaps 5 hours a week maximum viewing.
I come across a wide range of people every day and find that generally there is a mood of cynicism and despair. I feel that there is an increase in anger, aggression and selfishness in the nation. In the USA there have been many studies linking poor behaviour with TV/film viewing. I really think we ignore these studies at our peril. Once our TV was acclaimed throughout the world as being of the best quality. I feel we are rapidly losing that reputation as our screens are filled with game shows and 'reality TV' which is basically voyeurism. Our language is being destroyed too by the constant flow of swear words which are invariably just not necessary. I think we should take advantage of this time of consultation to take stock of where we are and where we want to be in the future.
The General Media, Television Radio and the Press, are very powerful tools of communication. It conquers language barriers and can bring individuals and nations together in harmony or rend them apart through misinformation due to lack of good reliable output or malicious meddling and ‘mind bending’.
Programme providers, in particular Television, because of its intimacy (mainly in the home) visual and sound presentation, are morally bound to adhere to strict codes of good conduct. Viewers, listeners and readers, do not wish to be presented via these three Media forms with what is still considered bad taste and harmful, negative content.
Unfortunately there exists a body of individuals in the General Media with enormous power over what is broadcast and written and heard that are heavily committed to promoting their own agendas. Current trends indicate that it not for the good!
I can't recall when I realised that some television programme and a lot of TV advertising content had taken a definite ‘down -slide’ in quality. A lot of adverts are very mediocre and sometimes offensive in their message. It has been what seems a slow process over the decades but its escalation has been rapid! Since the introduction of Sky, BBC 3, Channel 4 and five there has been a definite degeneration of programmes.
On a positive note there are many excellent viewing opportunities on all of the nation's television channels. Why do we have to put up with what is ‘fed’ to us in large doses of filth and corrupt content in the guise of ‘thought provoking and challenging programme content’? It does not wear well with ordinary decent people for the programme providers to tell us in such arrogant patronising tones that ‘times have changed, views and opinions have shifted, etc… Yes, times have changed and views have shifted, but why do they accentuate the worst side of human nature? This is the voice of corruption and warped philosophy!
I strongly feel that ‘OFCOM’ can (but will it?) now take up the challenge of turning the tide and standing up for good standards.
In conclusion, we as individuals must speak out and defend what we consider right, don’t be lazy or ‘brainwashed’. Our children and future generations rely on us all to pave the way for a better world. Public Service Broadcasting as a people-serving body has a moral duty to make positive strides in this direction.
There are an increasing number of programmes that use strong swearing frequently and routinely. This is completely unnecessary and usually a result of poor quality scripting. The sentiments expressed by foul language, where that is the intention, can be expressed by the creative director/producer using other means than swearing.
There are an increasing number of programmes that depict gay and lesbian relationships. I have no objection to honest and sensitive exploration of gay/lesbian issues and experiences but object strongly to the implicit propaganda that seeks unquestioningly to 'normalise' gay/lesbian relationships in the minds of viewers.
There are a number of documentary programmes, particularly those dealing with wildlife, such as those presented by David Attenborough, that uncritically project evolutionary theory as fact rather than hypothesis. This portrayal is unscientific and simply betrays underlying ideological preferences.
There are an increasing number of programmes that depict explicit sex, particularly on channels 4 and 5. I question strongly whether this is really necessary on TV for entertainment purposes and feel concerned about the on-going effects on our humanity and relationships, particularly in a society already characterised by massive levels of relationship-breakdown.
Our news programmes are incredibly UK-centric. In a globalising world, it would be great to see news items exploring international issues from other national perspectives, too.
I hope these comments are helpful and that the consultation will bring genuine change.
Wildlife programmes, 'Animal Hospital' etc., Gardening, Art and so on are excellent and the makers are to be congratulated. Great viewing. 'Heartbeat', 'The Royal', 'Countdown' and 'Fifteen to One' - good viewing. The Soaps - I have only watched 'Coronation Street' which is like the curate's egg!
Like all programmes nowadays it is taken for granted that if you are sixteen then you can immediately sleep around. And if you are older then a few one-night stands are in order. Children can be as rude as they like without reprimand, and the Church is always misrepresented. Even this week there was a quite exciting episode regarding a child and the church tower but surely everybody knows that churches are kept locked at all times except when manned, and health and safety laws are very rigid especially regarding dangerous places like towers. (I work in Truro Cathedral and am well aware of the regulations.)
'The Bill' is fairly true to life I should imagine, but the other side of a policeman's life leads one to believe that it is all drugs and wife swapping, whereas when I was Chairman of an organisation concerned with troublesome children we had endless help from the police, who gave a lot of their spare time running classes, sports, camps, etc,. for them. 'Holby', 'Casualty', etc. again show disgusting behaviour from the Staff and I should be scared stiff if it was really like that in hospital. Luckily my daughter is a nurse and reassures me! I find 'Fame Academy' and 'Pop Idol' very sad - what an outlook for these kids. Far too many quizzes for money and we need better comedians.
It is obvious that there has been a general trend of liberalism in our country over the years and this has been reflected, if not emphasised, in the content of many radio and TV programmes. I believe that pictures seen on our screens have a powerful effect on us all as viewers and to that extent violence, bad language and immoral sexual behaviour does have an influence on people's actions. There must be, therefore, at least some connection between the lowering of the nation's moral standards and similar standards which programmes show these as something that is normal and acceptable today. This is something that does worry me about our broadcasting set-up. However, there are many programmes that are beneficial and which I can enjoy.
I would now like to comment upon the programmes under the following
1. SPORT. I am a keen viewer of sport, particularly rugby union, cricket and athletics and usually find the commentaries very good, especially by BBC. It was therefore a disappointment when the Six Nations matches at Twickenham were taken over by Sky.
2. HISTORICAL. I find most of these programmes educational and interesting and I am glad that there seem to have been more showings on this subject in the past year.
3. NATURE. These, again, are well worth viewing. The photography is often superb and leave viewers spellbound at the wonder of creation and nature.
4. NEWS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS. This is, perhaps, the most important function of the media broadcaster as it is a main means of information about vital matters world-wide. Therefore it has to be seen as being impartial - which is not always easy to establish. I can accept that, in general, the BBC and ITV news is the best of any country. In particular I regularly enjoy the 'Today' and 'World at One' radio programmes. Channel 4 news at 7pm is also good.
5. MUSIC. I listen to music mostly on the car radio on the Channel. However, the TV Leeds 'Young Musician of the Year' contest is quite brilliant.
6. RELIGION. There are fewer religious programmes today and many of these have little content. Services are often formal and they need to be more relevant and alive. 'Songs of Praise' led by Aled Jones lack spiritual content and Pam Rhodes is the best presenter to make them meaningful. I was pleased to see that Jonathan Edwards was brought into the Religious broadcasting team as he brings a new dimension to it. The series 'The Hand of God' in which Michael Buerk was the interviewer was quite negative and thus very disappointing.
7. COMEDY. I do enjoy a good humorous programme but sadly, some are spoilt by the use of bad language (which oddly brings a laugh and encourages producers to think this is necessary) and too-obvious sexual innuendo.
8. DRAMA. I would venture to look at more films and plays if I could be sure there was nothing in the content likely to cause me offence. Unfortunately, I cannot be sure so I may miss out on some enjoyable programmes. There is nothing worse that having to turn off half way through a play or film for the sake of decency and even then the harm has already been done.
I trust these comments may be of some help in producing your response to Ofcom. I do appreciate all you are doing to provide a media environment we can all enjoy.
It seems that PSB covers just about everything and one can see that the general terms 'education' and 'entertainment' as defined in The Communications Act 2003 mean that most genres and types of programming will fall into one or the other. I don't know how specific you would like us to be but I think the words 'integrity' and 'truth' need to be prerequisites. I am also particularly keen that we should question the constant emphasis on TV aimed at young people. With an ageing population older people's opinions and tastes should be given much more prominence than at present. This would also be of immense benefit to younger people who need good role models and to realise that the older generation has something of interest to offer them.
Regarding programmes made outside London - they should be as independent as possible to reflect local issues and communities and talents.
I would make the following points that I hope will be considered:
1. In comparison with what is on offer for the younger generation, there is very little for retired folk to enjoy either on television or radio.
2. There are virtually no pre-war films shown on any channel.
3. There are only a few pre-1950 post-war films shown.
4. There are only a few pre-1960 post-war films shown, especially those in black and white, which are almost entirely suitable for families.
5. There is a good deal of bad language before the watershed.
6. The credits to good productions are invariably interrupted and ruined by a continuity announcer breaking in to tell us "Stay tuned for Graham Norton" or something else equally distasteful.
7. So called stand-up comedians are almost entirely naff and get their cheap laughs by mocking others. This is not funny to a vast number of people.
8. Radio 4 comedy shows, with the exception of Giles Wemmbley-Hogg (two 'm's two 'g's!, are quite nasty in their approach. I include 'The News Quiz' which was once a very funny programme but which has now been turned into a forum for unpleasant people like to Andy Hamilton to simply poke fun at others.
9. Tuneful music has all but been abandoned by Radio 3 which has been hijacked by politically correct gurus such as Michael Berkeley who openly despise those who prefer melody. It is not surprising that Classic FM has taken such a share of the R3 market.
10. Apart from Brian Kay and Richard Baker, there is virtually no time given over to British Light Music or any form of tuneful serious music on BBC Radio or television.
11. The following tuneful radio programmes have all been cut back:
a) Malcolm Laycock and dance band music
b) Frank Renton and brass band music
c) Nigel Ogden and organ music
d) Hubert Gregg and theatre music
12. There is almost no radio or television time given over to anything
pre-war, specifically music and films.
The over-50s have been almost entirely disenfranchised which is ridiculous when one considers that they make up the sizeable majority of the country!
It is difficult to bring to mind any current TV programme that we really like and we find ourselves looking for repeats of old favourites.
There does not seem to be any good comedy series anymore like 'Time Goes By' or 'The Good Life' and 'Only Fools and Horses'. The recent Costume dramas leave a lot to be desired. We looked forward to seeing Pepy’s but were very disappointed and turned it off after ten minutes. In our view it was a wasted opportunity to produce what should have been an epic programme.
As a general view there is too much explicit sex on our screens, we suggest that it is better to keep the bedroom door closed and allow us to use our imagination, which is usually better than what follows. Is sex used to blind the viewer to the poor quality of British TV? Some programmes verge on the pornographic for instance 'Between the Sheets' was an absolute waste of the talents of Brenda Bethan and Alun Armstrong.
In almost every programme these days there is gratuitous violence which, often ends up with a victim on the floor having his head kicked in! There are too many programmes about cooking, real estate here and abroad and gardening.
These comments apply to all TV channels we have no criticism of radio the programmes are varied and generally interesting. We would love to see some clean comedy on TV and some first rate drama that the BBC has been very good at.
We hope that the review by Ofcom will result in some badly needed improvements.
Whilst there is much to appreciate on BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, many Christians, Muslims and other people are becoming increasingly concerned that the shift from terrestrial to satellite broadcasting is exposing millions of people to unwanted and harmful pornography. In June 2003, I wrote to Sky on three occasions expressing the following concerns but did not receive any response, therefore our family cancelled our subscription.
Since 1999 we saw Sky's pornography channels increase from two to nearly 20, their "freeview" advertising now starts at 7pm (back in 1999 it was 10pm) and more recently Sky has made it easier for men to take-out a pornography subscription. Sky's removal of monthly postal statements, replaced by on-screen viewing, now hides any subscription to a pornography channel. Clearly there's money to be made out of pornography and at this rate of growth by 2009 Sky will have more pornography channels than all the others channels put together!
Millions of families like us, who have never subscribed to any of Sky's pornography channels, must be disturbed by the explicit images shown from 7pm onwards to advertise these channels. It is simultaneously compelling and revolting: not even zoo animals behave like those actors/prostitutes on TV. Sky's pornography channels are playing on the malleability of peoples' minds, making things that should shock and repel appear to be attractive and seductive.
Biblical teaching and the legislation of virtually every civilised culture have certain prohibitions or taboos about sexual intercourse in public. The sacred experience of making love is meant to be private. Sex is not a spectator sport. Similarly, while there is nothing inherently wrong or sinful about the human body, the nakedness of a person is for their marriage partner's delight no-one else - because it is part of the couple's total sharing. Any kind of pornography or voyeurism denigrates and perverts that intimacy. It is a warped and depraved substitute for the joy God intended to be found in marriage. Sky is promoting sex as a form of recreation - akin to watching football. Some would argue that you are just giving people what they want, but we believe SKY is playing an active part in destroying the moral fabric that holds our families and British society together. Sky really should act more responsibly by limiting this output and cutting it back before it gets completely out of control.
This is no small 'hole in the corner' concern since Sky is a key part of a huge multi-million international business empire in which the men at the top make huge profits by exploiting a basic human frailty. Scientific research is proving beyond doubt that pornography destroys character, wrecks marriages and distorts the mental image of woman within every culture. This is greater than any society has seen before and is a powerful force destroying marriage and family life.
Whilst Sky's computer system includes safeguards to reduce the risk of children accessing this material, some adults are more impressionable than others. A significant minority will become addicted to pornography and, for some, their ultimate frustration in not finding satisfaction will be expressed by abusing themselves, their wives, children and other vulnerable people in society.
Although Sky may be operating within the law, just knowing what's happening elsewhere on Sky makes Christians feel compromised. Ofcom should force Sky to adopt one or more of the following:
a. the pornography channels are to be excluded (eg. BBC and freeview
b. the technology must completely hide them from view, or
c. ‘freeview’ porno advertising is to be banned, or
d. this advertising is to be only allowed after 11pm.
These are the reasons why we cancelled our Sky subscription and in future thousands of Christians, Muslims and others will do the same unless Ofcom get a grip on this problem
I feel so strongly that half of the ills of our society are, in part, caused by the irresponsible attitude of the television companies, especially the BBC. Public service broadcasting, should be just that, and not, as it is now a recipe for much of what is decadent in our society. Decency, tastefulness, has been replaced with the explicit and the vulgar. The "F" word is commonplace to the disgust of many who phone to register their anger, only to be told that the item took place after the watershed. Never mind that many adults deplore such language broadcast into their homes and that millions of children have TV's in their bedrooms. The country, our country has many problems, violence, under age sex, crime gets worse and more vicious every year. Much of television compounds our problems. In my opinion, television has been usurped by the pro permission irresponsible minority to the detriment of society as a whole! Yours son, my daughter are being badly influenced or influenced badly and irresponsibly and I do not think it is good enough for the Government to wash its hands of the powerful influence of our televisions. The watchdogs of the past have proved to be toothless bulldogs. It may not be in the remit of the BBC to provide good wholesome decent entertainment to the exclusion of the vile, of the vicious and harmful, then perhaps it is about time it was in their remit! I ask for more late night decency from the BBC, after all, I must pay for their decadence with my licence fee and I do not like it, nor does my wife. I have 50 years experience of television I know how it used to be. I know what it is like now, much damaging to our society. I am not religious but do believe in right and wrong. It seems to me that there is so much more propaganda for crime, for anger, for lust, for cheating, than there is for reticence, for niceness and for love and decency and our society is suffering.
H.R., Ebbw Vale
Sadly, I reckon standards appear to be dropping alarmingly, year by year, because I am increasingly being sickened and offended by what is broadcast. In particular, the f-word, which I had never heard broadcast, say up to 3 years ago, is now being broadcast. I read in the newspaper about the f-word being used emphatically on Newsnight, and sadly I heard the f-word on the last Panorama programme I watched (by U.S troops to Iraqi civilians I think) on 28 September 2003. I don't watch much TV after 9pm. I avoid watching any possible offensive programmes. I find TV weekly guides useful, informative, clear etc. Now I've stopped watching programmes like Newsnight and Panorama because I no longer trust them.
I believe the 'watershed' should be moved later as 9pm-10pm is too early and I believe certain programmes like The News, Newsnight and Panorama should lead the way by declaring themselves free in future from offensive material. I think if you conducted a survey of viewers and asked "do you want cleaner TV?", then over 95% would vote yes. And if you asked about the f-word being broadcast and watershed timings I think you'd get a majority in favour.
These are some of the programmes I like because they are family viewing, well presented, well prepared, containing the feel good factor, containing all nice characters, informative, an insight into situations, nice background music, educational, old films because values were far higher. I think we should return broadcasting to the high values of the past.
Songs of Praise, Open All Hours, Only Fools and Horses, The News, Merseybeat, Animal Hospital, Wimbledon tennis, Golf, City Hospital, Under the Hammer, Michael Palin's journeys, Heatbeat, The Royal, Countdown, A Place in the Sun, Watercolour Challenge.
I see little harm in "repeats" and think there should be more repeats broadcast. I think there must be loads of programmes I've seen in the past 30 years or so, that I'm never likely to see again but would deserve another showing. I also think weekly shows could be repeated at other times in the week as okay.
I feel that my reply should take the form of informing you of what I choose to watch.
Drama : 'Midsomer Murders', 'Foyle's War', 'Miss Marples' -type plays........
Reason: Mind-teasing, pleasing setting,
Soaps etc: Casualty; 2000acres of sky
Reason : Medically instructive, pleasant characters, consistent acting
Setting, characters, presenting decent values
Comedy : 'Have I got news for you', 'Bremner', 'Bird and Fortune'
Reason : Topical, fast, witty, satirical and acceptable level of ' ludeness'
Music : Normally supplied by Classic FM
Feature Films: Rare - maybe once over Christmas period
Arts: Recent programmes on particular painters and paintings have been instructive
News and current affairs: 'News at 10', 'Newsnight', 'Question Time'
Reason: Desire to keep up to date and hear informed opinion and different sides to arguments
Complaint: Not nearly enough of 'From Our Own Correspondent' type material
Sporting and other leisure interests
National Rugby, Figure skating, gymnastics, occasional equestrian/circus feats and similar pursuits requiring immense skill. Also set spectacles, when I marvel at the organisation and input of effort.
Education: Nature, gardening, archaeology, history, even 'Antiques Road Show'
Peace and justice (not nearly enough of this)
Science: There could be much more on this subject too - particularly in relation to benefits or ill -effects on humanity and the environment.
Religious social issues: I see very little on this subject on TV although I would like to see more.
I suppose that there are plenty social issues screened on soaps but I fear that it is the unedifying subjects which get most viewing time to such an extent that that behaviour comes to be taken as the norm. To retain our cultural identity there should be more time devoted to informing citizens of their God-given responsibilities - in the most dramatic and appealing way of course. I do not hold with the belief that watching TV does not influence behaviour (otherwise why are there so many advertising slots?!)
International Significance: MORE, MORE please. We are after all living in a global village and we should know our 'neighbour'. LESS, LESS please of celebrity stuff, that really has no significance.
Children's Programmes: Our only grandson lives on the Continent and so we have no experience of these programmes although I suspect that the same comments will apply: some excellent creative, educational, imagination encouraging, topical, and uplifting programmes but also violence by heroes, flaunting by heroines, blatant consumerism, and little in the way of direction for world citizenship.
I hope from the above that you gather what I deem bad, good, unnecessary and wish addressed, what is not covered adequately and what receives too much attention, what I wish to see more of, or less, and what I consider bad taste and what is decent. In the main the programming my wife and I enjoy the most include some natural history productions, documentaries, vintage comedy repeats and current affairs. Unfortunately, news programmes can almost be presented in an 'entertainment' style and can focus on certain politically correct topics to the exclusion of other valid news items
In terms of drama, we enjoy the 'Miss Marple' series with its gripping plot and no shortage of nostalgia yet with an absence of bad language, sex/nudity and violence. The presence of such factors as these prevents us viewing soaps and much of the drama output on tv and many films.
Religious programming we feel is mixed. 'The Heaven and Earth' series we feel concentrates too much on New-Age spirituality to the exclusion of orthodox Christianity. On the other hand, some editions of Songs of Praise can be inspirational.
Hope this is helpful
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