Entertainment & Arts

EastEnders cleared of breaching Ofcom rules

Matt di Angelo and Kellie Bright
Image caption Dean - played by Matt di Angelo - attacked his uncle's partner Linda

Media watchdog Ofcom has cleared the BBC of breaching broadcasting rules over a rape storyline, which prompted complaints from the public.

The episode, shown in October, featured scenes from before and after the rape of Queen Vic landlady Linda Carter, played by Kellie Bright.

More than 90 people complained to Ofcom about the episode, while more than 250 complaints were made to the BBC.

But Ofcom said graphic content had been avoided and warnings given to viewers.

A spokesman for the regulator said: "After carefully investigating complaints about this scene, Ofcom found the BBC took appropriate steps to limit offence to viewers. This included a warning before the episode and implying the assault, rather than depicting it.

"Ofcom also took into account the programme's role in presenting sometimes challenging or distressing social issues."

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

Responding to the original viewer complaints last year, the BBC said in a statement: "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.

In an interview with the Radio Times published around the time the episode was broadcast, Bright was asked if she thought EastEnders should be tackling such an emotive issue before the 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 was not the first time EastEnders has featured 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), after she 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".

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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