Article

“The Sickest Television Show Ever:” Paedogeddon and the British Press

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Abstract

This paper explores the controversy caused by Paedogeddon, a one-off special of the Channel 4 series Brass Eye broadcast on July 26, 2001. Although the program sought to satirize inconsistencies in the way the British media treats and sensationalizes child sex offenders and their crimes (Clark, 20018. Clark , C. 2001. Hysteria is a threat to research. The Times Higher Educational Supplement, August 13: 16 View all references), it offended many viewers and caused considerable controversy. More than 900 complaints were made to the Independent Television Commission, almost 250 complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Commission, and 2,000 complaints to Channel 4, “officially” making Paedogeddon the most complained-about television program in British television history at that time. This paper examines the nature of the objections to Paedogeddon as played out on the pages of the British national press and contributes to debates about morally acceptable television. Three themes are identified in the press objections to the mock-documentary: aesthetic arguments; moral and ethical implications; and consequences of ministerial intervention. The nature of these press objections served to prevent an engagement with Paedogeddon's critique of the media. Further, the analysis illustrates how media discourses and scripts can fix and limit debates surrounding controversial television programming.

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