Monty Python and the relevance of a Watershed in 2014

While watching the final live performance of Monty Python on Gold , viewers found their experience of the performance interrupted , not by a technical hitch nor a stage mistake but by the ever-present existence of the state media regulator Of-com. It was through no fault of Pythons’ nor Gold’s that the performance was subjected to censorship. The Watershed which restricts “adult content” from being shown on tv until 21:00 was first formally introduced in the Television Act of 1964. At that time there was an arguable case for such a rule , this is because of the very limited number of content channels meaning these channels should appeal to the widest audiences( and social attitudes were much stricter , whereas now the public is increasingly liberal as can be seen in a report from Ofcom noting a shift in attitudes (2012)).Additionally, television sets were still a far way off from the high tech , “computer-lite” sets we get today with built in parental content locking features. However flash forward to 2014 and the role of such a system seems out of date. There are 100s of channels to chose from , accessible through services like Sky and Free-view which have parental lock features , and yet this abundance of channels all fall under the same regulatory system of watershed(excluding PIN channels such as Sky Movies). In addition the increase of “On-Demand” services such a Netflix , Blinkbox and Sky on Demand in which any user can access all types of age ranged content at any time further makes a nine pm watershed look redundant(as it does traditional television programming). Surely it is a better solution to do as the on demand services do and rely on the individual parent(s) to decide what content they want their child to access , this not only means that other peoples experiences are not lessened but also means that the parent(s) can tailor the content that their child consumes , for instance a parent could make the decision to allow their child access to the strong language humour of `The Thick of it `, but not the violence seen in shows like `Game of Thrones`.

Getting rid of the watershed wouldn’t mean that Frankie Boyle’s stand up would be played at 2pm on BBC One. The “main” channels would remain family friendly because that is what their target market wants however, what it would do is give smaller more niche channels more freedom in what they show. So long as the channels gave sufficient description of what the content entails surely it is the perrogative of the viewer to chose to watch content that might offend them. Relaxing watershed rules could lead to a situation in which stations choose to opt in or out of watershed , thus allowing for parental locks to be easily applied(a setting that blocks non watershed channels). Put simply its time television gets with the times. There is no watershed on the Internet and the burden of censorship will only further hasten the demise of “traditional telly” as viewers will go elsewhere to see their shows in their purest uncensored format. The Mary Whitehouse mentality is done.


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