Watershed guidelines reaffirmed by Ofcom

EastEnders: Home to violence from time to timeOfcom, the regulator for broadcast and media in the UK has issued a reminder to the industry concerning the 9pm watershed which is in place to protect younger viewers from explicit language and imagery as well as violence.

In the past few years there has been a number of incidents which saw the broadcasting code breached by a number of broadcasters. To combat this increasing problem Ofcom have published a twelve-page document with advice on how to avoid such issues arising again.

Research by the regulator showed that pre-watershed productions on the hit list of parents were the modern day rating grabbing sensational soap operas and films in the top spot with 14% equally, followed by reality television totalling 12% of parents surveyed. Music videos were also a concern to parents.

The main concern with “soap opera” was the violent aspect to productions which air between 7pm and just before the watershed at 9pm. EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale have all been noted at one time or another for pushing the limit on what is acceptable to a ‘family audience’.

The chase for ratings, influenced possibly by Brookside, has seen serials become more and more diverted from the stories of everyday life into sensational storylines of violence and disaster.

“While soaps are not aimed at young people, they are scheduled pre-watershed and often attract a significant child audience, broadcasters should therefore ensure that material that may be unsuitable for children is appropriately scheduled.” Ofcom states.

Midsomer Muders: Killings in the former Children's ITV slotAnother concern was the repeat of prime time dramas in daytime, a regular feature of the 3pm or 5pm slot on ITV these days – a slot with was formerly home to children’s programming. Many, such as killing-spree series Midsomer Murders, have aired without any edits, as there has been found little need to, however Ofcom advise broadcasters to inspect these programmes for possible breaches closely.

Music videos containing explicit words and/or inappropriate visual content, have also been noted and the regulator reminded music channels to make sure the edited versions of such videos are aired before 9pm. Promotional trailers were also listed in the guidelines with a request that any programme airing after the watershed must have a pre-watershed version of the promotion which should contain nothing that would breach the codes of Ofcom.

Overall however Ofcom state that since 2009 there have been fewer concerns from parents about the kind of programming their children watch. This year 31% of parents expressed concern, that’s a 5% fall in the past two years.

Those with common sense of course would suggest it’s the parent that needs to govern what their children see rather than a 9pm cut off point for ‘taste and decency’. The off switch is the most powerful of options.