Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Family viewing

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1970-02-23 Telegraph.jpg

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Two small girls, aged four and six, were introduced to an Underground escalator. They screamed was terror and absolutely refuse to venture on it.

Why? Because they had been watching the Dr. Who story that involve hair-raising adventures in the Underground tunnels.

There's not much convincing evidence about the effect of television terror and violence on young children and I offer this small authentic piece with due reservations.

The Silurians featured in the current "Dr. Who" series are a cross between walking gargoyles and scaly Calibans; there are also weird dragon-like creatures.

The curious thing is that Independent Television would not put on a programme like "Dr Who" because it would contravene the ITA policy that all programmes up to 8.30 or 9:00 p.m. must be suitable for family viewing.

Parliament's doubts

Under the 1964 Television Act the ITA is required to satisfy itself that's "nothing is included in the programmes which offends against good taste or decency or is likely to encourage or insight to crime or to lead to disorder or to be offensive to the public feeling." Also the Authority was required to draw up a code giving guidance "as to the rules to be observed in regard in the showing of violence particularly when numbers of children and young persons may be expected to be watching."

The Act was the product of Parliament's doubts about the methods and motives of commercial television operators and it does not apply to the BBC, supposed to be free from the contamination and wickedness of money making. But the BBC has, in fact, voluntarily produced its own code of violence which does not differ greatly from that of the ITA.

The Corporation also claims to observe a similar "watershed" marked by the ending of the 8.50 p.m. news, but has more elbow room to cock a snook with its alternative programmes. There is no doubt that, whatever their obligations, both of the BBC and ITV offend against the family viewing principle from time to time. The BBC, for instance, Has "Panorama" at 8 p.m., essentially an adult programme (which incidentally this year will not be suspended as usual for a six week summer break as in previous years).

Sometimes the method is adopted of given spoken and print of warnings on the screen about the unsuitability of upcoming programme for family viewing. The perverse result of this is often to increase the size of the audience. An extra three million people watched the programme about contraception.

Johnny Speight's "Curry and Chips," which with its crudely outspoken send up of low-level race bigotry nevertheless offended many immigrants, was put on by London Weekend at 8.30. Then the Authority objected to a homosexual rhyme and the show was put back to 10.30 in London.

Both the BBC and ITA consider that Westerns are suitable family viewing despite the constant carnage. As the BBC explains, shot cowboys and Indians "do not bleed." In contrast, since the coming of colour to BBC 1 and ITV, producers and directors of home products cannot resist incarnadine touches.

The methods of the BBC and the ITA for controlling programme material differ radically. There is no systematic submission to the Authority of all scripts in advance. In the case of film series or feature films, many of which are imported, The ITA first relies on the judgment of the companies but, as all programmes are watched by a staff panel, offenders are liable to be wrapped over the knuckles afterwards. In the case of plays are series, some synopses are submitted in advance and the authority intervenes occasionally.

But apart from the code on violence there is no published document defining the criteria for treatment or subject matter. There are constant discussions with the companies and sometimes notes for guidance are circulated, treated as confidential.

Middle ground

The BBC in contrast, is a programme producing as well as transmitting organisation and therefore sits in judgment on its own products. In addition to the code and violence there are directives on the handling of sexual themes and on drugs. Liberally interpreted, it seems.

Detailed control over material is exercised in the first instance on a specific production by a director and a producer vested with both artistic and public responsibility. In case of doubt, says the BBC, the matter is referred to a Department Head or Programme Controller.

For example, Ken Russell's savagely angled programme on Richard Strauss "Dance of the Seven Veils," was seen beforehand by David Attenborough, the director of programmes, who apparently saw nothing offensive in it. I have not asked Mrs. Whitehouse about it.

What the BBC argues is that its programmes "necessarily inhabit middle ground." No BBC drama production would risk the extremes of the National Theatre or the Royal Shakespeare. Neither satire or documentary realism can go as far on BBC programmes as the writings of Norman Mailer, D H Lawrence or of the most contemporary novelists

I am not myself suicidially concerned about the supposed restrictions on the family viewing period. What does depress me is the sudden outbreak of foul language, after the prescribed period, as in the initial programme of the revived "This Week" magazine on Thames. Does vocabulary have to be as limited as all that?

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  • APA 6th ed.: Gander, L. Marsland (1970-02-23). Family viewing. The Daily Telegraph p. 9.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Gander, L. Marsland. "Family viewing." The Daily Telegraph [add city] 1970-02-23, 9. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Gander, L. Marsland. "Family viewing." The Daily Telegraph, edition, sec., 1970-02-23
  • Turabian: Gander, L. Marsland. "Family viewing." The Daily Telegraph, 1970-02-23, section, 9 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Family viewing | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Family_viewing | work=The Daily Telegraph | pages=9 | date=1970-02-23 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=16 December 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Family viewing | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Family_viewing | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=16 December 2019}}</ref>