Ofcom to tighten sexual content rules

Friday, June 19 2009, 10:08 BST

By Andrew Laughlin

Ofcom has said it wants to strengthen the rules governing the broadcast of "strong" sexual material immediately after the 9pm watershed.

The regulator is particularly focused on protecting younger viewers from watching explicit content on the 'babe channels' such as Babeworld TV and Playboy TV.

Growing in popularity over the past few years, these free-to-air channels generally feature seductively dressed women enticing viewers to ring premium rate phone lines.

Concern is being expressed by the watchdog that explicit material could be viewed on these channels without the encryption or subscription protection put into place by other adult operators.

Ofcom has previously levied fines against Playboy TV and Babeworld TV, as well as issued warnings to Lucky Star, Get Lucky TV, LivexxxBabes, Star Bazaar and Show Off UK for transgressions of the broadcasting code.

Therefore, in its latest consultation document, the watchdog has outlined firmer rules to oversee the broadcast of "strong" scenes of a sexual nature just after the watershed.

This is because it recognises that many under-18s will often continue to watch television after the 9pm watershed has passed.

"Ofcom has found that recent material which has been transmitted without any access restrictions has featured nudity of a strong sexual nature, and sustained sex scenes and sexual language that has not, in some cases, been justified by the context in which the material was transmitted," it said.

"The proposed new rule on 'strong sex material' aims to capture material that is broadcast after 9pm on what are considered general entertainment channels, all of which have widespread appeal. The proposed rule states that images and/or language of a strong sexual nature…must be strongly justified by context."