Entertainment & Arts

Hollyoaks overtakes EastEnders as UK's 'most violent soap'

Rick Spencer (Victor Gardener) in Hollyoaks Image copyright Channel 4
Image caption A recent Hollyoaks storyline saw Rick Spencer (Victor Gardener) fighting for his life after a brutal attack

Hollyoaks has overtaken EastEnders as the UK's most violent soap, according to new research from Ofcom.

The media watchdog found that Channel 4's teen drama had 11.5 violent scenes per hour in 2013, up from 2.1 in 2002.

By contrast, violence in EastEnders has dropped, from 6.1 scenes per hour in 2002 to 2.1 per hour today.

Across all four main soaps, including Coronation Street and Emmerdale, 70% of episodes depicted at least one violent incident.

The violence logged by Ofcom's researchers ranged from intimidation and menace to drownings and shootings.

Pushing, prodding and grabbing were the most common acts, accounting for 35% of all violent scenes across the 11-year period of research.

Strong violence which might make the viewer uncomfortable was very infrequent, Ofcom noted, accounting for 6% of the total.

"Violence appears to be quite prevalent," the report said. "It occurred in the large majority of episodes and even the remainder may be considered to have had an evident potential for violent scenes to develop.

"However most of the violence portrayed was quite mild. Indeed, in the majority of cases, the violent act portrayed was judged as too mild to result in any evident injuries."

The study found soaps usually indicated when violence was likely to occur, so viewers were "rarely surprised" by it.

Carried out in four "waves", over a 12-year period, the research reflected an upward trend in soap opera violence, but noted the incidence of aggressive acts fluctuated widely between programmes.

Violent scenes per hour, by soap
Coronation Street EastEnders Emmerdale Hollyoaks
2001 - 2002 3.4 6.1 2.5 2.1
2006 - 2007 2.9 5.5 4.0 1.9
2011 - 2012 3.0 3.9 4.6 5.5
2013 2.4 2.1 4.1 11.5

The research comes a year after Hollyoaks was censured for a scene in which a character was pushed under a train and killed.

Ofcom ruled the "violent and shocking" scene was unsuitable to be shown before the watershed.

In its ruling, Ofcom highlighted official Barb figures which showed 10% of the total audience of the episode were aged between four and nine years old.

Watershed still important

Alongside the research into soaps, Ofcom revealed a new survey of viewers attitudes to on screen violence.

It found the watershed was still an important factor in people's expectations, with many prepared to tolerate only moderate violence before 21:00.

All of those surveyed agreed children should not be exposed to sexual violence on TV before and straight after the watershed and that "strong scenes with a vulnerable victim" were also unacceptable in the early evening.

Ofcom also found the likelihood of older children watching television after 21:00 "underlined the importance of a gradual transition of content change between 21:00 and 22:00 for some parents".

Other viewers, however, commented that on-screen violence "contributed to their TV viewing experience" because it made action and drama programmes "seem realistic and provided tension" and "keeps you watching".

Overall, Ofcom found the number of viewers who said there was excessive violence on TV fell from 55% in 2008 to 35% in 2013.

The regulator said the research would be used to update its guidance to broadcasters and would inform decisions when "investigating TV programmes with violence shown before, or soon after, the watershed".

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