John Yorke defends adult storylines in soaps

EastEndersJohn Yorke, former executive producer of EastEnders, has defended soaps use of more adult storylines – such as the controversial babyswap in the BBC soap or the recent assistant suicide in Emmerdale – saying they help teach children more about the world.

Yorke is currently the BBC’s controller of drama over-seeing the Casualty, Holby City and EastEnders. While soaps are often seen as “family friendly” viewing they have sometimes provoked the anger of some parents for the issues and storylines they tackle – such as drug addiction, alcoholism and prostitution. EastEnders sparked over 8000 complaints at the start of the year for the baby-swap storyline in which Ronnie Branning (Samantha Womack) swapped her dead baby for neighbour’s Kat Moon’s (Jessie Wallace).

The storyline was heavily criticised in the press and was wrapped up early because of the back-lash against it. More recently Emmerdale has prompted complaints over its assisted suicide storyline in which Hazel (Pauline Quirke) and Aaron (Danny Miller) helped Jackson Walsh (Marc Silock) to end his life. While such subjects often fall foul of some viewers – and the press on occasion – Yorke argues they are justified providing you get the facts right.

“If you ringfence soaps and say they are not a place for adult issues, removing them, it would be like making children’s programmes….It would be like taking the wolf out of Little Red Riding Hood. They allow children to assimilate uncomfortable views about the world in a safe setting … there is a need to show complex issues.” – John Yorke quoted on Media Guardian.

There are campaigners though who want to see soaps toned down and the watershed firmly applied. However, the possibility of ban kisses being banned before the 9pm watershed much with much controversy and was eventually denied as under consideration. Yorke admitted that attitudes to language had changed over recent years with swearing less acceptable before the watershed now than it used to be.