C4 welcomes 'Boys and Girls Alone' ruling

Tuesday, October 20 2009,

Channel 4 has welcomed an Ofcom ruling that its controversial Boys and Girls Alone reality show did not harm the children who participated in it.

Over 180 viewers and organisations, including the NSPCC and Cornwall County Council, submitted complaints about the show - which saw boys and girls aged 8 to 12 looking after themselves for two weeks without adults - when it was broadcast in February this year.

Most complainants were concerned about the emotional, physical and psychological welfare of the children, who at times appeared to be distressed or even bullied.

After a "detailed investigation", Ofcom ruled yesterday that the children did not experience undue anxiety or distress, and that Channel 4 had taken care to employ "an extensive range of measures and procedures".

Despite the positive ruling, the regulator rapped Channel 4 for failing to make clear to viewers in the first episode of the series about the extensive safeguards which were in operation.

"Ofcom considers that Channel 4 - and all other broadcasters - should be particularly mindful of the sensitivities of viewers with regard to factual programming of this nature involving children," it said.

"They must balance the editorial narrative of the programme with providing adequate information so as to protect viewers from offensive material."

Welcoming the verdict, Channel 4 head Julian Bellamy said: "As a broadcaster, Channel 4 takes its responsibilities towards the welfare of children in its programming extremely seriously.

"Careful consideration and preparation was undertaken to ensure that the welfare of the children who participated in Boys and Girls Alone was paramount at all times and we are extremely pleased that this has been confirmed by Ofcom's investigation.

"Channel 4 notes Ofcom's recommendation to be particularly mindful of the sensitivities of viewers with regard to factual programming of this nature involving children."

Richard McKerrow, creative director of Boys and Girls Alone creator Love Productions, added: "We are very pleased that Ofcom has confirmed that there was no breach of child welfare issues in the making of Boys and Girls Alone.

"Ofcom has highlighted in its report the enormous care taken by Love Productions of the children and their families before, during and after production of the programmes. The feedback from the participating children and parents has been overwhelmingly positive, and the children involved enjoyed and benefited from the experience."