Ofcom commissioned a public survey of 1830 UK viewers aged 16 and over. A similar survey is published each year so as to be able to track trends.
Ofcom’s summary of results of relevant topics is as follows:
Levels of offence on TV
Less than a fifth of UK adults say they have been offended by something on TV in the previous 12 months a similar proportion to the previous year.
- Almost a fifth (18%) of respondents said they had been offended by something on TV in the previous 12 months, a similar proportion to the 2011 results.
- Older respondents were more likely than younger people to say they had been offended (27% of over-65s compared to 13% among 16-34s).
- As in the two previous years, among those offended, language (47%), violence (33%) and sexual content (32%) were the most common causes of offence. But among those offended, fewer people (10%) said they were offended by nakedness than in 2010 (14%) and 2011 (16%).
- Among those who had been offended, four in ten (39%) agreed with the statement such things should only be shown when viewers are likely to expect them (e.g. after a clear warning), followed by 36% who agreed that others should be allowed to see these things , whereas 20% thought that it should not have been shown .
- The main reaction on seeing something that caused offence was to switch channel (50%). Almost a quarter (22%) said they switched off, 15% continued watching the programme and 15% discussed it with others.
- Audiences today are less likely than in 2008 to switch off when they see something that offends them (32% in 2008 vs 22% in 2012) and more likely to continue watching (5% in 2008 vs 15% in 2012).
Attitudes towards sex, violence, swearing and harmful content on TV
- Opinions about the amount of sex, violence and offensive language on TV look to have shifted since 2005; with the proportion saying the amount is about right having steadily increased for each type of content, while the proportion stating too much has declined.
- The majority of respondents felt that current levels of sex (67%), violence (56%) and swearing (56%) on TV are about right . One in four (24%) felt there was too much sex and just over two in five felt there was too much violence (39%) and swearing (39%). This compares to 36% of adults saying there was too much sex on TV in 2005, with 56% for violence and 55% for swearing.
- Older respondents were more likely than younger respondents to think levels were about right for each type of content.
- 16% of respondents said they had seen something on TV in the past 12 months that they thought was harmful, either to themselves, to other adults or children; a similar proportion as in 2011.
Protection of children and the TV watershed
Audiences today are more likely than in 2005 to think the 9pm watershed is at about the right time
- 50% of respondents felt it was the responsibility of both broadcasters and parents to make sure that children do not see unsuitable programmes. Just under half (45%) felt it was mainly parents responsibility and 4% mainly broadcasters .
- Parents were more likely than those without childcare responsibility to feel it was the responsibility of both broadcasters and parents to ensure that children do not see unsuitable programmes (53% vs 48%), and less likely to say mainly parents (42% vs 46%).
- Most (96%) were aware that broadcasters are required to show television programmes that are not suitable for children only after a certain time in the evening.
- Audience today were more likely to think the 9pm watershed was at about the right time, with three-quarters (75%) of respondents saying so. This compares to 64% in 20052 .
Opinions that the amount of censorship for the internet is too little have increased since 2010.
- The majority of respondents (88%) thought TV programmes were censored, an increase from 85% in 2010. 74% felt that current levels of TV censorship were about right .
- 40% thought the internet was censored. Almost half (47%) felt that current levels of internet censorship were too little , (increasing to 54% among parents), 23% said about right and 28% said they didn’t know whether it was about right or not. Since 2010 the proportion of respondents who said they did not know has declined (from 38%).
- Since 2010 opinions that the amount of censorship for the internet is too little have increased from 41% in 2010 to almost half (47%) of UK adults in 2012. This rises to more than half (53%) among parents.
- 73% of respondents were aware that it is possible to watch/download programmes online. Awareness declined with age (81% of 16-34s vs 53% of 65+) and parents’ awareness was higher than among those not responsible for children (80% vs 70%).
- Among those aware that it is possible to watch/download programmes online, 55% thought that the content was censored and 10% thought that it was not. Awareness was higher among 16-34s (57%, compared to 50% of over-65s)