Eye Box

Keeping a critical eye on the world of TV and film

Child abuse on TV: Are Channel 4 courting controversy?

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Controversy at Channel 4 used to be because they pushed the boat out. Programmes such as the brilliant Brass Eye drew complaints for all the right reasons. Even Brookside’s lesbian kiss storyline in 1993 had a point. So I’m not sure what can be said about C4’s latest problematic Boys and Girls Alone. (But, of course, I’ll give it a go.)

In an open letter to The Times, 36 child psychologists, paediatricians and journalists described the show as “child abuse” and claimed C4 was “treating human beings with contempt.” Many have likened it to a modern day Lord of the Flies.

The programme’s makers were forced to respond with a letter which denied child cruelty charges and contended (contentiously) it had “an important educational purpose.” Quite what that purpose was or is, is still unclear to pretty much everyone (we should have more kids sent to fend-fer-yerself camps in the hope they kill each other?) but a few of the parents have come out and defended the show, so maybe it does somehow. Or maybe they’re mortified they allowed their children to be involved. Not for me to say. Well, this is my blog, so, yes, it is. I think they’re embarrassed.)

Lord of the Flies with better picture quality?

Boys and Girls Alone: Lord of the Flies with better picture quality?

The nature of controversies at C4 have changed over time and can be traced to a number of points, but perhaps the onset of Big Brother at the turn of the millennium is accountable. (The first series was actually quite good, though.) Derren Brown’s Russian Roulette raised eye brows and the hairs on people’s necks simultaneously – the idea being a live death on television is something that should have never have been commissioned. It was, of course, a con.

The question is, though, why C4 keep putting such obviously risky programmes on. It’s not like Boys and Girls Alonewas massively successful: not a failure by any means, but not a real ratings winner. So why take the risk?

It very much seems like the execs over at Horseferry Road might just be courting the controversy. Indeed, Andrew MacKenzie, the head of factual entertainment (uncomfortable term), even went as far as calling the programme a “happy and stimulating experience.”

Have a look at the kiddy carnage below and tell me if these are happy and stimulated youngsters. I contend no.



Written by jessewhittock

February 17, 2009 at 11:35 am

One Response

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  1. By far the most concise and up to date information I found on this topic. Sure glad that I navigated to your page by accident. I’ll be subscribing to your feed so that I can get the latest updates. Appreciate all the information here

    Cleo Foust

    March 10, 2010 at 1:51 pm

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