How Early Is Too Early for TV Nudity?


Full frontal nudity on public television "“ before 9 p.m.?

Well, if it's in the name of art, it's fine with the BBC. This summer, BBC 4 will be running a five-part series called Life Class: Today's Nude and will absolutely feature full female and male frontal nudity starting at 6 p.m. The show is an attempt to encourage a return to traditional art study (and it'll no doubt inspire at least a few teenage boys to take an interest in art), and will, in addition to the nude of the night, feature an expert doling out advice. Evidently, nude figure drawing has declined in recent years in Britain, as many students have opted to stay away from classical training in favor of more technical and graphical based art skills.

The naked before 9 p.m. aspect of the show caused a bit of a stir "“ but not nearly as much as you'd think. BBC 4, for example, had no problem deciding to air the program because the nudity was "non-sexualized" and "educational." As most people in America probably know, Britain's rules regarding nudity on television (and in most other media) are a bit more lax than in the States. But what exactly are those rules?

According to the BBC's editorial guidelines, nudity before the "watershed" hour of 9 p.m. at night "“ the time after which programming geared towards adults may be aired "“ must be justified by context. And representations of sex are not allowed, unless there is a serious educational purpose, when broadcast before the watershed. Post-watershed, the program must be able to justify the "frank and realistic portrayal of sex" and the discussion of themes around it.

But What About Profanity? Drug Use? Rock-Climbing?

The BBC's guidelines also dictate how their programs handle: Offensive language (not allowed in preschool programming, and only under special circumstances for children's programming); rock-climbing and other extreme sports (with a disclaimer); alcohol and drug use (don't glamorize it, unless warranted); hypnotism (according to the 1952 Hypnotism Act, hypnotism must be licensed); and exorcism, the occult and the paranormal (entertainment programs about these subjects "should not normally contain advice about health, finance, employment or relationships which could encourage people to make life changing decisions").

Not Anything Goes

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