Strike Back: Project Dawn
Sky 1, 21 August 2011, 4 and 11 September 2011, 21:00
Strike Back: Project Dawn is a drama series focusing on covert army operations concerning anti-terrorist operations around the world.
Three complainants alerted Ofcom to scenes in three separate programmes in this series. Complainants objected to scenes of sexual intercourse being broadcast just after the watershed.
21 August 2011:
At approximately 21:06, there was a scene featuring one of the male lead characters, Damien Scott, who was naked and depicted having sexual intercourse with a naked female character. The scene lasted ten seconds in total and included a full body side shot, lasting four seconds portraying Damien Scott having sex with the female character from behind.
4 September 2011:
At approximately 21:22, there was a scene lasting about 58 seconds featuring a naked couple depicted having sex. The scene started by showing the naked female character on top of the male character in long shot and from behind the female character. The majority of the scene then showed the couple either from the side or from behind the male character, and continued until the couple was portrayed reaching a sexual climax.
11 September 2011:
At approximately 21:09, Damien Scott was depicted partially clothed having sex with a female character, while standing up. The whole scene lasted approximately 30 seconds and cut away to other characters, but included three side shot sequences of the couple: the first two sequences lasted approximately five seconds each and were full body side shots, portraying Damien Scott having sex with the female character whilst her legs were wrapped around his waist; and the third scene lasted approximately two seconds, showing the couple?s heads and shoulders, and ended with the couple portrayed reaching a sexual climax.
Ofcom considered Rule 1.6 of the Code, which states:
The transition to more adult material must not be unduly abrupt at the watershed (in the case of television)…For television, the strongest material should appear later in the schedule.
Ofcom Decision: Resolved
Each of the programmes in question was preceded by the following pre-broadcast announcement:
The following programme contains scenes of strong violence, sex and very strong language from the outset and throughout.
We took into account Sky’s view that the scenes were judged to be in line with what would be permissible at a BBFC 15 rating and, therefore, not beyond what may be expected at the 21:00 timeslot on Sky1. We acknowledge that BBFC 15-rated films are often broadcast at or soon after 21:00. However, broadcasters must still ensure that the transition to any type of adult material is not unduly abrupt after the watershed.
Sky argued that the child audience for these three programmes was low, with the percentage of children in the audience for the three programmes in question being 4%. However, we took into consideration that: all three programmes were immediately preceded by editions of The Simpsons, a programme that would have been likely to attract a family audience, including a large amount of children; and it was likely that children would still have been watching the programme segments in this case given their proximity to the watershed.
We noted Sky’s arguments that: in the scene broadcast at 21:06 on 21 August 2011, there was no explicit detail; and that the scene broadcast at 21:09 on 11 September 2011 was not graphic or explicit. Ofcom considered however that these scenes, albeit relatively brief, clearly depicted couples engaging in sexual intercourse. In addition, in the latter scene, the fact that the couple were partially clothed did not dilute the fact that the scene unambiguously depicted sexual intercourse.
Ofcom acknowledges that broadcasters are of course permitted to show sex scenes after the watershed. However, given all the factors above, we considered that the material broadcast on 21 August 2011 and 11 September 2011 was of a sufficiently strong sexual nature and extended that it was clearly unacceptable for broadcast within the first ten minutes following the 21:00 watershed on a general entertainment channel. Therefore, the transition to more adult material was unduly abrupt on these two occasions, and was not compliant with the Code.
Ofcom however took into account the various significant steps that the Licensee said it would be taking in response to the concerns Ofcom raised in relation to the broadcast content in this case. We therefore concluded on balance that this matter should be resolved.