When it comes to violence in soap operas, no-one is beating Hollyoaks.
According to Ofcom research, the soap set in a fictional Chester suburb has a seen a rise from 2.1 violent scenes per hour 12 years ago to 11.5 scenes per hour in 2013.
The soap, known for its racy storylines involving its cast of predominantly younger (and good looking) characters, is easily the most violent according to the research.
This may be surprising given that the show which first aired on E4, enjoys a 6:30pm repeat on Channel 4, the earliest in the weekday schedule for the evening soaps. But storylines have recently included the harrowing domestic abuse by Patrick Blake (Jeremy Sheffield) on wife-to-be Maxine Minniver (Nikki Sanderson) and the murder of Fraser Black earlier this year.
EastEnders, meanwhile, has become a lot less violent, showing a decline from 6.1 violent scenes per hour in 2001/2002 to 2.1 scenes per hour in 2013.
The level of violence in Coronation Street has remained fairly steady, at around three scenes per hour over the same period and there was a slight increase in Emmerdale, from 2.5 to over 4 scenes per hour.
The study, called Violence in UK Soaps: A four wave trend analysis, examined four weeks of output with 60 episodes of Coronation Street, 63 episodes of EastEnders, 83 episodes of Emmerdale and 76 episodes of Hollyoaks coming under the spotlight.
It looked at violent scenes, but also measured those with menacing or threatening behavior and violence that was implied off-screen.
It found that violence in soaps was usually clearly indicated in advance meaning viewers were unlikely to be surprised when it took place.
The research showed 79% of violent scenes were judged “credible” and “rarely surprised” viewers. It praised broadcasters for using violence in soap operas to help raise awareness and generate public debate around social issues such as domestic abuse.
Instances of strong scenes, portraying violence that might make the viewer uncomfortable, were very “infrequent” the report noted.
Depictions of terror during violent scenes, such as the imbalance of power in a fight, near fatal violence and post-traumatic stress flashbacks, varied between 3% and 5% in the soaps covered.
Responding to the research, a Channel 4 spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring that all Hollyoaks storylines are appropriate for a pre-watershed audience. The portrayal of violence is appropriately limited and is shown within the context of long-running storylines – and programmes that include scenes which some people may find upsetting are clearly flagged to viewers at the beginning of the broadcast. Hollyoaks has a track record of tackling issues affecting its audience and has worked alongside government and leading charities on subjects such as domestic abuse and bullying.”
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