Hollyoaks named most violent soap

Channel 4's Hollyoaks has been named TV's most violent soap with threatening scenes occurring in excess of five times more regularly than EastEnders, according to a study by media regulator Ofcom.

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The programme, aimed at teens and young adults, has seen the number of violent scenes increase considerably in recent years and last year it was censured by Ofcom.

Hollyoaks has risen from 2.1 violent scenes per hour in 2001/2 to 11.5 scenes per hour last year. At the same time EastEnders has seen a dramatic fall from 6.1 to 2.1 over the same period.

ITV's Coronation Street has remained largely steady at 3, while Emmerdale was another programme which had seen an increase during those years, from 2.5 to 4.

The new research comes just days after one broadcaster was given a substantial fine by the regulator for screening graphic depictions of "extreme violence" including torture, a child murder and dismemberment of a corpse before the watershed.

Investigation Discovery was given a £100,000 penalty for screening eight episodes of its documentary series Deadly Women during daytime schedules.

For the new Ofcom study, researchers looked at 282 episodes of the four soaps and found that more than half of all the violent scenes they recorded were in Hollyoaks. The C4 show also accounted for all of what were classed as "strong violence", much of them coming from two storylines.

Almost three-quarters (73%) of the scenes classed as violent were made up of threats and intimidation or incidents such as pushing, prodding and tripping. Fists were used in only 5% of the incidents - slightly fewer than the slaps which made up 6% - and the shooting of firearms made up less than 1%.

In its report Ofcom said: "The conclusion must be that the amount of violence logged in a soap appears to be largely determined by the storylines running at a particular time.

"In Hollyoaks all the violent scenes with a high severity rating were either central or pivotal to the storyline in which they appeared. Violence occurred for a reason, and was used to drive the narrative along.

"In the overwhelming number of cases it was considered to add dramatic value to the plot or the characterisations."

The report pointed out that violence in the soaps - which in most cases was "quite mild" - did not trivialise, glamorise or condone it. And it said that for the most part viewers would have been aware they could expect the violent scenes and would not have been surprised by it.

Last year Ofcom ruled that Hollyoaks breached its programme code by screening a scene before the watershed in which the character of policeman Simon Walker was pushed under a train. However there have not been any major viewer complaints about violence in the series since then.

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 in 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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