Coronation Street’s Phelan murders did not breach Ofcom rules – despite 541 complaints

The regulator delivers its verdict on the controversial episode of Corrie

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The murders of Andy Carver and Vinny Ashford by Pat Phelan in an October 2017 episode of Coronation Street did not breach Ofcom rules, despite 541 viewers registering concern about the intense scenes.

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The broadcasting regulator investigated after fans complained about the “violent, menacing and disturbing” showdown that they felt was “unsuitable for a pre-watershed audience”.

In the episode, a fight between Phelan and his hostages resulted in the captives being shot dead, the bodies then being disposed of in a nearby lake.

The killings were broadcast before the 9.00pm watershed, with a warning made prior to transmission. Ofcom today concluded that the killings focused on the emotional suffering of the characters rather than the physical acts of violence.

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In a report, the watchdog stated: “The depictions of physical violence were appropriately limited because the point of impact of each of the three punches was not shown, the first shooting was shown as a long shot with no detail of the impact and the second shooting was not shown but represented by the sound of a gunshot.

“In our view, the stylised low lighting effects and the use of a long shot, for the scene where both corpses lay next to one another, ensured that viewers did not see any detail of the gunshots or their after-effects and only a limited outline of blood behind the corpses could be seen.”

Ofcom also reasoned that long-standing Coronation Street viewers were used to seeing storylines that included violent death, but also recognised that the level of intensity in these particular episodes could have been alarming:

“We considered that the cumulative impact of the ongoing dark and menacing tone and the implied sense of threat throughout these two episodes was significant.

“It created an atmosphere of unease which was potentially disturbing for pre-watershed viewers.”

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In conclusion, it was thought that the threatening tone of the 8.30pm episode reached “the upper limits of what audiences are likely to expect pre-watershed”, but that it was justified by the context of the plotline. Said Ofcom:

“The violence was the culmination of an established storyline which was likely to have been anticipated by regular Coronation Street viewers.

“Viewers of these episodes were given clear warnings about the nature of the content immediately before it was shown on both channels; and the violence, which followed in the later episode, was limited and neither graphic nor gratuitous in nature.”

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