ITV has been criticised by the broadcasting regulator Ofcom for showing the famously gruesome ‘chest-bursting’ scene involving John Hurt, from the 1979 film Alien, on a Saturday morning.
The 10-second clip in which Hurt’s character begins convulsing before a baby alien bursts from his body was aired at 9:25am on 28th January, as part of a news report on the actor’s death, immediately after ITV’s strand of dedicated children’s programming, Scrambled!, which on the morning in question included shows ranging from Dino Dan: Treks Adventures to What’s New Scooby Doo!
After Scrambled! had finished, an advertising break featured various commercials for children’s toys before the news bulletin, which led with Hurt’s death and the report featuring the notoriously bloody scene.
In its ruling, Ofcom noted that ITV News is not a programme which “normally has a particular appeal to children” but said that, given the scheduling, 19,000 people aged 4 to 15 were potentially watching the news, 16% of the total audience.
“Ofcom considered that parents and carers were unlikely to have expected material of this nature to be shown on ITV before the watershed and immediately after children’s programming had finished,” it said. It found ITV in breach of the programming code.
ITV apologised for the clip, which it said was shown “in error”, adding that the editorial decision to refer to Alien was “made in good faith”.
However, the broadcaster accepted its news provider ITN “had failed to consider sufficiently the suitability of the material for children, given the violent imagery and time of broadcast”.
It added: “Although news bulletins are not of particular interest to children… we accept that the clip chosen was unsuitable for children who may have been available to view at this time, and was therefore wrongly scheduled”.
ITV said “the error was recognised by the editorial team very shortly after the report went out” and the clip from Alien was not repeated in subsequent pre-watershed ITV News reports.