Tonight interview censured

By Wale Azeez

The Broadcasting Standards Commission has censured the Tonight with Trevor McDonald programme for an “exploitative and prurient” interview with a pregnant girl.

The watchdog upheld a viewer’s complaint against an edition broadcast on 2 December, 2002, looking at teenage pregnancy.

The BSC acknowledged the subject was in the public interest, but said the commission’s code on standards advised broadcasters of their responsibility “to preserve the dignity of individuals who should not be exploited needlessly”, stressing it was especially important where children were involved.

Granada Television, which makes the programme insisted there was no violation of the girl’s rights and that it had approached the subject responsibly, “without voyeurism or unreasonable intrusion on the teenage expectant mother, or her family”.

“She was fully prepared and happy to take part in the programme. Her family agreed and were present throughout filming,” the broadcaster told the commission.

However, the BSC concluded: “The way in which the vulnerable young girl had been interviewed was exploitative and prurient.”

But a Granada spokesman said: “We’re astonished that the BSC upholds the views of the solitary viewer who did complain, from the millions who watched the programme.”

Meanwhile, a complaint against ITV News for showing “disturbing” footage of an Iraqi torture chamber was not upheld. A viewer complained about an item on the Early Evening News bulletin on 8 April.

But because the report did not include any gruesome details and was also preceded by a clear warning, and an on-screen caption for the opening shots, the watchdog ruled in its favour, saying it had not exceeded acceptable boundaries for a news report.

lA complaint against an edition of BBC Breakfast aired on 18 March, accusing it of glorifying drug use, was not upheld, while in commercial radio, a complaint against TalkSPORT about racism was also not upheld. On the Charlie Wolf phone-in show on 14 March, 2003, the presenter gave his views on the Middle East, and invited audience response. The watchdog acknowledged callers expressed strong views on the show but said they did not amount to racism.

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