British TV Standards in Decline, Say Viewers

14 March 2003

Britain’s television broadcasters have often dismissed accusations by politicians and media commentators that standards are slipping – but it seems viewers agree.

In a survey into TV habits undertaken by the Broadcasting Standards Commission and the Independent Television Commission, 47% of adult respondents said the quality of TV declined last year, with just 12% reporting an improvement.

The BBC appears to be the biggest culprit, as over half of viewers said the Corporation’s programming went downhill in 2002, compared with a mere 7% who thought it got better.

Things were little better at commercial rivals ITV, Channel 4 and Five – around 46% of the sample saying that standards fell on these channels, against 13% who thought they had risen.

Other findings include:

• Almost 20% of viewers think there is ‘not enough quality’ on TV.

• Over half thought taste and decency standards fell last year. Nearly 60% said there was too much violence, while 44% claimed there was too much sex.

• Channel 4 was named ‘most likely to offend’, with 53% saying it carried offensive content. C4 was followed by ITV (45%), Five (40%), BBC1 (37%) and BBC2 (25%).

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff