Brass Eye row escalates

Ministers react to tabloid disgust

The row over Brass Eye is continuing to escalate with ministers now threatening new curbs against broadcasters in the wake of record complaints.

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell is to ask watchdogs at the ITC if they want new powers to react to such complaints, after 2,500 people expressed their disgust at Chris Morris's spoof paedophile documentary.

And Beverley Hughes, the minister with responsibility for child protection, said parts of the Channel 4 show were "unspeakably sick" - even though she has not watched it.

Mrs Hughes said that, by inflaming public opinion, the programme had made it harder to have a proper debate.

However, the very point of the show was to highlight the hysterical media reaction to the issue that makes reasoned discussion impossible.

The programme even depicted a murderous mob burning a paedophile in a wicker phallus on his release from prison, echoing the real-life scenes of violence sparked during the News of the World's campaign to "name and shame" offenders, which culminated in an attack on a paediatrician.

A Channel 4 spokesman, said: "It is part of the channel's remit to ask hard questions about the way society and the media deal with its most difficult problems.

"The channel stands by its decision to commission and broadcast this programme, which, through savage satire, sought to make a serious point.

"Chris Morris was not making light of paedophilia; his target was the dangerous sensationalism and exploitation that can characterise media coverage of the issue."

However, such argument is unlikely to dampen politicians' resolve after tide of headlines about the programme. The Daily Mail, for example, called it "The sickest TV show ever".

Home Secretary David Blunkett condemned Channel 4 for turning the subject of child abuse into a comedy show.

And Ms Jowell said it was "tearing down all the boundaries of decency on television".

Published: 30 Jul 2001

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