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Pornography on Radio 4

Friday 28 June 2013, 17:18

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton

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Editor's note: Feedback is available to listen to online or to download and keep.

The Moral Maze is the most difficult programme I have presented.

Mind you, I was only in charge for three editions as its regular presenter, Michael Buerk, is a remarkable fit and healthy man who loves the programme so much he arranges the rest of his life around its transmissions.

Pornography on Radio 4 Is any subject - like pornography - too taboo for the Moral Maze?

Did I ever hope Michael would fall under a bus or at least be struck a glancing blow? Perish the thought.

Nontheless, if asked I would certainly do it again for the sheer rush of adrenaline caused by the excitement and danger involved.

For a start the show is live, so no retakes, no editing.

Then there is the job of corralling 4 panellists and up to four witnesses who are all strong minded and determined to have their say. It is particularly difficult to get the panellists to shut up since, when interrogating the witnesses, they turn their backs on the presenter, and so are unable to see his "cut throat" signals.

When David Starkey, "the rudest man in Britain", was on the panel a previous producer was reduced to walking into the live studio and putting his hands around the good Doctor's neck, in order to shut him up. He failed of course.

The Moral Maze studio in January 1994 Michael Buerk and guests in the Moral Maze studio in January 1994.

Finally, having steered the witnesses in and out of the studio, the presenter has to pick up the key points of the interrogations and chair a final discussion before getting out on time.

I suppose I had it easy, however, since I did not have to chair an edition devoted to the issue of pornography, which inevitably involved difficult decisions having to be made about taste and decency.

On Feedback this week listeners had very mixed reaction to last week's edition of the Moral Maze which dealt with internet porn, some even questioning whether it was an appropriate issue for the programme to deal with.

Here is our feature, which includes an interview with the producer, Phil Pegum.

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Is any subject too taboo for the Moral Maze?
The BBC's annual report will soon be published. If you would like to explore the facts behind the figures do let us know. We're hoping to recruit a panel of listener reporters to go where others fear to tread and tell their fellow licence fee payers just what goes on behind the scenes.

Happy Listening.

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    Comment number 1.

    The Moral Maze's treatment of the incendiary subject of pornography was excellent. The usual attempts by anti-porn campaigners to focus on criminal activities associated with pornography such as violence against women and the use of under-age participants were cut short. The point was made repeatedly on the programme that no reliable evidence exists to demonstrate that watching pornography makes people sexually violent. Too many people object to pornography simply because they feel disgust at something that gives pleasure to millions. It was good to listen to a programme that put the shrill voice of this killjoy minority into perspective. Also, it was revealed that many women enjoy watching pornography.

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    Comment number 2.

    Porn is a vampire, it sucks the spiritual life force out of humanity, reducing us as beings. This middle class explanation serves no purpose other than the gratuitous fulfillment of self, it is the best reason I know for not watching television and subsidizing the overpaid producers at the BBC. Forget the violence, forget the morals, just sit there and watch it together with your mothers and Fathers then discuss it among yourselves like the middle class adults you are. I was brought up and educated in Hayes, the council estate where we lived was basic, but I never heard my dad swear once, not even while working with him as a man, he was a giant among men who new how to say no!

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    Comment number 3.

    As there are two clear & exact opposite views above, before me, all I can add to this is the following weak point :- there will always be pornography because there will always be people who want to look at it. It has the same controversy as prostitution ........., will it always continue because of the people who PERFORM/ SUPPLY it or because of those who USE it ?!
    The Moral Maze is a first class programme & sorely missed when it is off the air. Thank you.

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    Comment number 4.

    Its all about the green pumpkins isnt it? I sneer at you lot!! Stop planning your oil extraction methods, please. And maybe then the palmistry peddlers will cease.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Last night's Analysis programme on pornography presented by Jo Fidgen dispelled many of the myths surrounding the industry.


    BBC man Mark Ward grapples with porn figures in this article. He questions the ubiquity of porn on the web.


    Louis Theroux made a great documentary for the BBC that I would recommend. It included an interview with the legendary Tommy Gun who has won more awards for his acting than Daniel Day Lewis! He is still going strong and was described as "reliable".


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Identifying the top ten game changers operating in the UK today.


See the latest on our blog


Find out about this year's panel and theme