It is a fact that the BBC and Channel 4 have both broadcast some pretty hard-core sex in dramas and in ‘reality’ shows, and have been doing so, on and off, for the last two decades. Some would call it porn. Since Michael Grade was accorded the dubious honour of ‘pornographer in chief’, Channel 4 cannot be said to have looked back.
What is less well acknowledged is the frequency of sex and porn broadcast in the guise of ‘documentaries’ on the sex ‘industry’ or current affairs analyses of certain practices by consenting individuals.
Yes, the graphic imagery may be selectively blurred but the imagery itself, as are the items, is salacious and unnecessary and is almost without doubt included for cheap audience views. Sexually explicit vocabulary and sex discussions that were never heard on Radio 4’s Today programme at one time, and are certainly inappropriate to transmit while children are eating their breakfast, are now commonplace.
It is not clear why the state broadcasters feel the need to do this. The argument that this is public service broadcasting is pretty thin. It is more plausible that they are chasing ratings. Tapping into the burgeoning market for pornography is tempting.
On Tuesday Victoria Derbyshire promoted her daytime television programme with an ‘exclusive’, a segment filmed in a British brothel, where a prostitute was interviewed in her underwear while the camera slowly panned up and down her body.
Here was the BBC literally promoting prostitution, with the 9pm watershed many hours away.
When the BBC and Channel 4 broadcast their ‘documentaries’ depicting such ‘nigh on’ pornographic output a few years back, they had the decency to do so not just straight after the watershed, but well after this time.
It could be argued that in the internet age, and with households possessing video recording technology, that such time limits are all but immaterial. This is bogus. When people access imagery using playback systems or web browsers, they make an explicit choice to do so. In this case, that explicit choice was made by a BBC producer and imposed on the viewing public. It is facile to suggest that any concerned member of the viewing public could just switch off or change channels.
A new standard in broadcasting has been established. A low standard. It breaks the intention, if not the word, of the BBC’s guidelines on taste and decency.
If prostitutes are to be interviewed on state television, especially in skimpy underwear as was the case here, it should be after the watershed. The worst part of the Derbyshire show decision is that it is likely that there was no effective dissent among the production team.
But then, this is the organisation that looked the other way for decades while some of their most famous personalities raped children on their premises and when this was exposed, tried to cover it up, costing the Director-General his job. He did receive a handsome pay-off, thanks to the unique way the BBC is funded.
The BBC’s purpose is to ‘inform, educate, and entertain’. Showing prostitutes at 10am does not fall into any of these categories.