MINISTERS are to crack down on broadcasters who show violent and sexually explicit material before the 9pm watershed.
Details of proposals to get tough with TV channels showing unsuitable material when children are watching will come in a broadcasting White Paper published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport next month.
"Violent and unsuitable
material is being broadcast in ever-earlier slots," broadcasting minister Janet Anderson told a conference on children's TV, organised by the Voice of the Listener and Viewer in London last week.
"Parents cannot always monitor every minute of their children's early evening viewing, and have a right to expect broadcasters to act responsibly," she added.
The White Paper will restate the importance of the 9pm watershed, she said. It should be a "line in the sand" before which broadcasters schedule unsuitable material at their peril.
Ms Anderson echoed the VLV's concerns that quality programme-making for children was under threat, with the market being swamped by cartoon-based satellite and cable channels.
"It is unfortunately true that while some broadcasters offer excellent drama and informaion programmes for children, not all broadcasters are providing the range of quality programming we and our children want."
And she attacked terrestrial channels which were prepared to "dumb down" their output in order to compete with the unregulated satellite and cable channels.
"There are genuine concerns over the violent content of some children's programmes such as Power Rangers.
"Although it is not a matter on which the Government has powers to intervene directly, we believe that film-makers and broadcasters need to think very carefully about their wider responsibilities to society."
The Voice of the Listener and Viewer - - an independent pressure group - - wants the Government to set up a task force to monitor output on children's television.
Anna Home, chief executive of the Children's Film and Television Foundation, said that terrestrial broadcasters would deny that they were being forced to "dumb down" their content.
But she said they were under pressure when raising money to make programmes, with funding often coming from foreign sources. "It is sometimes advantageous, but sometimes it means compromises. It can mean that because two-thirds of the money comes from Canada the programme has to be made in Canada."