Ofcom has fined Discovery Europe £100,000 (US$171,292) for transmitting graphic and disturbing violent content in slots where children could be watching.
Several episodes of Discovery’s serial killer series Deadly Women went out between 6am and 5pm, during the school holidays at the end of last year, putting Discovery at odds with media regulator Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code. Violent content is restricted to after the 9pm ‘watershed’ in the UK.
True-crime factual series Deadly Women is produced and distributed by Beyond and went out on the Investigation Discovery channel in the UK.
Ofcom noted that Deadly Women was shown on a specialist crime channel, but pinpointed prolonged reconstruction of mutilation and murder in its ruling that Discovery should not have shown Deadly Women before 9pm.
It highlighted scenes in which individuals were attacked with hammers and knives as well as electrocutions, whippings and the dismemberment of a corpse with a circular saw. It also cited a verbal description of a victim’s eyeball rolling across the floor as examples of content that would upset children.
“After an investigation, Ofcom ruled that the repeated broadcast in the daytime during the school holidays of very violent material – in the form of prolonged graphic and disturbing dramatic reconstructions of torture, mutilation and murder – resulted in serious breaches of the Broadcasting Code and warranted a statutory sanction,” the regulator said in a statement.
It added that the breaches of the code were repeated with multiple showing of episodes of the show.
Elsewhere in its ruling, Ofcom said there was a significant likelihood that children would be watching the channel during the school holidays and that ‘broadcasts were highly likely to have caused distress to any children in the audience’.
Discovery said that the Deadly Women transmission was a mistake and it had put in place new procedures to ensure this type of scheduling transgression did not happen again. It issued its statement this morning in the wake of the Ofcom ruling.
“We sincerely apologise for accidentally breaching the code and transmitting episodes from season six of Deadly Women before the 9pm watershed on ID. It was a genuine error and all previous seasons were correctly classified and shown post-watershed only,” it said.