Entertainment & Arts

BBC defends EastEnders rape storyline

Matt di Angelo and Kellie Bright
Image caption Dean - played by Matt di Angelo - is the nephew of Linda's partner Mick

The BBC has defended its recent rape storyline after 278 complaints were made following Monday's episode.

The episode showed the before and aftermath of a rape inflicted on pub landlady Linda Carter by Dean Wicks.

It was watched by a peak audience of 7.3m viewers and an average of 7m, according to overnight figures.

In a statement, the BBC said: "At no point have there been any scenes of a graphic nature. In fact the attack on Linda was implied and not explicit.

"We have been extremely mindful of the content within the episode and the timeslot in which it was shown."

The half-hour programme aired at 20:00, an hour before the watershed.

Viewers who complained to the BBC felt the scenes were inappropriate, with many mentioning that it was broadcast before the watershed.

Image caption Wine bar owner James Willmott-Brown featured in a rape storyline in 1988

There were also 34 complaints to media watchdog Ofcom.

The watershed begins at 21:00 and material unsuitable for children should not, in general, be shown before then or after 05:30.

The BBC added: "EastEnders has a rich history of tackling difficult issues and Linda's story is one of these. We have worked closely with Rape Crisis and other experts in the field to tell this story which we hope will raise awareness of sexual assaults and the issues surrounding them.

"We have also taken great care to signpost this storyline prior to transmission, through on air continuity and publicity as well as providing an action line at the end of the episode which offers advice and support to those affected by the issue."

In an interview with the Radio Times last week, actress Kellie Bright, who plays Linda, was asked if she thought EastEnders should be tackling such an issue pre-watershed.

She replied: "Yes. EastEnders is a programme that is supposed to be reflective of real life and this issue is part of our society. Why shouldn't it be tackled? I think it's been done in a really sensitive way. It's out there so it's not going to be a shock to viewers and they have the option to make a decision not to watch it. It's a way to educate people."

It is not the first time EastEnders has been involved in a controversial rape storyline.

In 2004, seven viewers complained to the BBC about an episode which focused on the distress of Little Mo Slater (played by Kacey Ainsworth), who was assaulted in the Queen Vic pub by a customer.

Six complaints were received by Ofcom, which said it was concerned at the content, "given the mixed age ranges in the audience".

The BBC agreed it "was a degree more adult in tone than was appropriate" for the pre-watershed time slot.

In 1988, Kathy Beale (Gillian Taylforth) was raped by James Willmott-Brown (William Boyde).

Other soaps that have featured rape storylines include Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Hollyoaks.

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