RAUNCHY billboard posters would be banned from sites near schools and steamy pop videos blocked from early slots on television under a set of proposals aimed at putting a stop to the “pornification” of childhood.
A government-commissioned review of the sexualisation and commercialisation of young people also recommended that magazines featuring sexualised images should be covered up on retailers’ shelves and that steps should be taken to make it easier to block adult content on mobile phones.
The report, carried out by Mothers’ Union chief executive Reg Bailey, comes in the wake of parental concern about the highly sexualised content of TV shows and music videos by artists such Katy Perry, who shoots whipped cream from canisters on her breasts in her California Gurls promo.
But while the proposals were backed by Prime Minister David Cameron, the recommendations stopped short of legislation, angering campaigners.
The Mothers’ Union welcomed Mr Bailey’s recommendations but called for more robust action from the government than the report recommended.
President Rosemary Kempsell said: “We cannot agree with the review that a purely consensual approach will be the most effective and that further regulation or legislation would necessarily disempower parents.”
However, children’s minister Sarah Teather said “an enormous amount of goodwill” had been generated by the report.
“It’s not necessarily the case that you always change everything by regulation,” she said. “I think there’s a real commitment across the board to make sure we address these issues.”
But the government was not ruling out regulation altogether, she added.
The proposals also include the introduction of a website to help parents complain about the sexualisation of children.
Ms Teather added: “Once we empower parents to be able to complain and air their views without being seen as prudes, I think you’ll find appropriate things (rather than sex] also sell.” Mr Bailey agreed that parents did not want a “nanny state” solution to the problem.
“They said ‘we want to do that job of being parents’,” he said. “All we can do is whatever we can to take away the things that make that more difficult.”
He admitted that the problem went beyond the kind of products and media being marketed at children and extended to the whole of society.
“We’re actually talking about a heavily sexualised environment that all of us live in,” he said.
By Angus Howarth, News Scotman.com
Now, PM gives order for drastic change in saving children
Television watchdogs have until October to launch a crackdown on sex and violence screened before the 9pm watershed, Downing Street said last night.
David Cameron threw his weight behind calls for action by Mothers’ Union boss Reg Bailey, who yesterday published a report into the sexualisation of children.
Mr Bailey said that regulator Ofcom needs to rewrite the broadcasting code to prevent raunchy performances before the watershed, following public uproar about the ‘soft porn’ dance routines of singers Rihanna and Christina Aguilera in the X Factor final last year.
Echoing the Mail’s campaign against the sexualisation of children, Downing Street said Mr Cameron supported an overhaul in broadcasting rules.
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A spokesman said the Prime Minister would demand action before a summit in October on the Bailey report recommendations.
Launching his report, Mr Bailey said of the X Factor final: ‘That really came back very strongly that a programme that was essentially family viewing, a lot of parents felt very uneasy about some of the acts on there.’
Ofcom sparked anger by refusing to condemn the programme.
And Mr Bailey said the problem was that the guidelines were not strong enough.
He said: ‘My argument is the broadcasting code doesn’t really take enough notice of the views of parents. Ofcom needs to ensure it really connects with the views of parents and takes their views into account.’
A Downing Street spokesman told the Mail: ‘Reg Bailey has made a very clear recommendation to Ofcom and that’s what the Prime Minister wants to see.
THE KEY RECOMMENDATIONS
- Make Ofcom ensure the 9pm watershed better meets the concerns of parents.
- Put ‘lads mags’ in plain wrappers or behind modesty screens.
- Ban celebrities under 16 from advertising products to children.
- Introduce cinema-style age ratings for pop videos.
- Give parents greater powers to block internet pornography.
- Develop a new retail code on the sale of suggestive clothes to children.
- Ban raunchy adverts near schools and places where children gather.
- Create a website where parents can complain about sexualised products, adverts and broadcasts.
‘Ofcom has said it will look at it. We now expect it to act on that recommendation.
‘What we want to see is sensible decisions being taken to ensure that children are protected when they watch television. The Prime Minister and ministers will keep a close eye on it.’
In his report, Mr Bailey also accuses broadcasters of ‘actively working against parents’.
Ofcom, branded ‘toothless’ after its previous ruling on The X Factor, said it recognised the ‘critical importance’ of parents’ views about what children watch.
But Group Director Chris Woolard added: ‘Are we going to tell programme-makers what they shouldn’t make in detail? The answer’s No.’
The watershed is enshrined in the broadcasting code policed by Ofcom.
In general, material that would be rated 15 in a film is not to be shown before 9pm.
Programmes suitable for over-18s are not shown before 10pm, unless they are on pay-per-view channels.
But Ofcom is a largely reactive organisation, only taking action once programmes have aired.
The Bailey report also recommended age ratings for music videos, tighter parental controls on internet pornography, a ban on raunchy adverts near schools and ‘modesty wrappers’ for lads mags in newsagents.
Children’s Minister Sarah Teather and Mr Bailey were shown some of the kinds of graphic music videos targeted for greater restrictions.
They included a raunchy performance by singer Katy Perry – criticised for her overly-sexualised routines – of her hit California Gurls.
In a further move against the sexualisation of children, the British Retail Consortium yesterday released new guidelines for high street stores, banning the sale of padded bras and children’s clothes bearing sexually-suggestive slogans.
Miss Teather said parents would have access to a single website where they can complain about sexually-charged content in shops.
She said: ‘Once we empower parents to be able to complain and air their views without being seen as a prude, I think you’ll find appropriate things also sell.
‘The Government would like to encourage all retail organisations to sign up to this.’
FAMILY MAN FROM DEL MONTE
The man behind the report, Reg Bailey, is best known as the first male chief executive of the Mothers’ Union – but there was a time when he was the Man From Del Monte.
A committed Christian since he was 16, he has been chief executive of the family values group since 1999.
He was the unanimous choice of the 22-strong all-female board.
Mr Bailey is also a former managing director for Del Monte Foods in North Europe.
He started his working life as a graduate trainee with Sainsbury’s. After working for Del Monte, he earned a six-figure salary as chief executive of the Danish Bacon Company Food Service. His appointment at the head of the Mothers’ Union was an attempt to modernise the image of the group, which once banned divorced women and became associated with tea, cake and jam.
When he was appointed, Lady Christine Eames, then worldwide president of the group, praised Mr Bailey’s ‘considerable experience in management’ and ‘very successful business career’.
Married with two children, Mr Bailey is one of just 150 men in the organisation, which has one million members worldwide.