ITV drops TOWIE repeats after Ofcom criticism of “adult themes and sexual language”

Sunday repeat deemed to break rules in place to protect children against watching unsuitable material, says media watchdog

ITV has pulled repeats of their hit structured reality TV show The Only Way Is Essex after Ofcom deemed the show unsuitable for pre-watershed viewing.


Although each new episode of the Essex-based reality show is shown after the watershed (usually at 10pm), all broadcasts of The Only Way is Essex – which is famed for its filthy language, short-lived relationships and vajazzled nether regions – are then repeated on Sunday lunchtimes on ITV2.

However, following a Sunday afternoon screening of an episode in August, Ofcom has ruled that the show breaks rules put in place to protect children from viewing unsuitable material.

In the offending episode characters joked about sex, sexually transmitted diseases and binge drinking, as well as making sexual gestures with their hands. The half-hour episode also contained 20 bleeps used to block out offensive vocabulary which Ofcom stated was “not always sufficient to mask the language or its impact.”

ITV did try and defend the decision to air the programme on a Sunday during the school holidays, explaining that “care is taken to obscure all of the strongest and most offensive language,” and “words and phrases such as ‘boobage’ and ‘junk in that trunk’ would not have been generally considered inappropriate for a pre-watershed audience”.


But they have since “decided to no longer schedule The Only Way Is Essex in weekend daytime or school holiday daytime slots, in view of Ofcom’s concerns about children being more likely to view unaccompanied at such times.”