The current controversy about the TV watershed in Britain looks destined to be a footnote in television history.
As Guardian critic Mark Lawson has argued, even if such a watershed were to be strictly imposed, the principle is ultimately meaningless now that viewers young and old are able to watch shows on their computers whenever they want.
In the UK, since the days of Lord Reith, the BBC has always taken the moral high ground and stood for their notion of decency and good taste. If they slipped up crusaders like Mary Whitehouse were on their backs.
Nowadays, what Lawson calls the on-screen “slaying, swearing or shagging” may still occur after 10pm but anyone from the age of 9 to 90 with an internet connection and an ounce of curiosity can be ‘corrupted’ the following morning.
The BBC, and other TV channels throughout the world, have to pay lip service to the idea of upholding moral standards but thankfully their influence gets weaker by the day.
Censorship in any shape or form ,whether it be Lady Chatterly’s Lover or a Rihanna video, always carries with it a high measure of hypocrisy and double standards.
Aside from parental filters, the internet is largely immune from censorship so the debate about ‘suggestive dancing’ in music videos looks like small fry compared with the numerous hardcore porn sites that can be accessed so long as you claim to be over 18 (who checks?).
As far as public broadcasting goes, I think it is right that programmes contain warnings of strong language or sexually explicit scenes. Common sense also tells anyone that these should not be shown until late in the evening.
But the question as to what is unacceptable to viewers is always highly subjective. Personally,when I watch TV in Italy (which these days is hardly ever) I find ‘family entertainment’ shows where women in swimsuits are used for decorative purposes more offensive than raunchy sex scenes and would be happy to see public warnings placed before any TV address by The Pope or Berlusconi.