Ofcom criticises Discovery for watershed breach

A Discovery channel has breached UK regulator Ofcom’s code on pre-watershed broadcasting, and the broadcaster has had to tighten up its compliance processes.

Investigation Discovery is the channel in question, and a programme ‘Scorned: Crimes of Passion” was transmitted at 5pm (on Sept 24 last year). The problem were the graphic scenes of a sexual nature that were contained within the programme which involved a particularly grisly murder.

“The programme began with a preview featuring short clips from scenes in the programme. The first of these depicted Devon and Michelle, aged 19 and 18 at the time, wearing just their underwear and kissing passionately on a bed,” said the Ofcom report, which then describes sexual activity with “female moaning” and the like followed by a graphic reconstruction of the murder.

Discovery apologised, and admitted it had subsequently recertified the programme only for showing after 9pm. Discovery also told Ofcom that it had toughened up its own compliance operation.

However, Discovery said that “only one” complaint had been received and that the channel had a low child audience between the hours of 4pm and 7pm and that the representations of sexual activity were “impressionistic rather than graphic”.

Ofcom disagreed saying that official BARB measurement data showed that 47 per cent of the audience of this particular programme were aged between 10 and 15.

Ofcom states in its report on bthe matter: “The fact that the dramatic reconstructions were labelled in this way did not mitigate materially the fact that material which was unsuitable for children was broadcast at this time of the day. The labelling of the content as ‘reconstruction’ or ‘dramatization’ would not have been sufficient to alert viewers to the strength of the material within those sequences.”

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