Gay TV, a digital premium adult channel, has come under fire from broadcasting standards agency Ofcom after a viewer complained that the channel’s ‘free-to-view’ promotions were too explicit for the 10pm broadcast time.

In the ad, presenters were shown fully naked, whilst brief sex scenes were shown and “explicit language” was used.

Like many other adult sex channels, GayTV also broadcasts short ‘free-to-air’ promotions usually between ten and 15 minutes in length after 8pm, so as to encourage viewers to subscribe to the encrypted service.

Ofcom was quick to say that it was not discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation, but was following up a legitimate complaint on the grounds of “generally accepted standards”.

It ruled that the channel had breached two rules of the broadcasting code on March 26th, namely generally accepted standards and that offensive material must be justified by the context.

GayTV argued that it had in the past “discussed the boundaries of the content permitted by regulation with the broadcast regulator” and stated in its response that “it was established that it would be permitted to show male genitalia in homosexual promotional programming more frequently than would be permitted in equivalent heterosexual promotions”.

It argued that as similar heterosexual channels show breasts regularly, “men do not have breasts” so GayTV should therefore be “able to show male genitals more frequently” in its promotional material “in order to compensate”.

The channel also argued that the type of language was standard in all adult promotional material and had been for years, and that it was fully justified by the context of an adult programme broadcast well after the watershed in the adult area of the EPG (the electronic programme guide on digital television services)

The channel also noted that it supplied a prominent warning before screening explicit material stating: “Warning – The following programmes are for a mature audience aged 18 or over”. It also considered that the name ‘Gay-TV’ was self-explanatory.

GayTV, which was founded in 1998, became a leading premium-serviced sex channel available on digital services such as Sky or Virgin, and until 2007 was the only gay adult channel available on the Sky digital network, joining Virgin in 2008.

Ofcom said that viewers of such channels “should expect some depiction of [explicit] content”, but said that the time of 10pm was not “well after the watershed” and was therefore not justifiable, and also that the warning provided did not “adequately convey the strength of the sexual material that was broadcast”.

Ofcom said its concerns were mainly due to the fact that the promotional material was “freely available to view by anyone who might have come across it unawares”.

GayTV have said that it reviewed a selection of equivalent promotions that it had broadcast over its history, which were all broadcast without complaints, and concluded that these earlier promotions were not dissimilar in their subject matter or strength of content from the promotion that was the subject of this current complaint.