Brass Eye is a series produced and presented by Chris Morris which was first broadcast in 1997 on Channel 4. It was actually a sequel of his earlier programme "the Day Today". Each of the six episodes questioned important society's controversial issues. All of them were highly satirical and sensationalist, and featured celebrities who acted in the episodes thinking they took part in a serious documentary.
The series tackles those following issues: animals, drugs, science, sex, crime, and decline. The episode on drugs presents the dangers of a new drug called “Cake” and is considered as the most successful one. On the other hand, the spoof on sex is considered as the most offensive episode. The series was repeated in 2001, despite all the controversy raised by the use of famous public figures, including politicians, who were fooled into supporting absurd charities or causes. For this occasion, a new episode called “Paedogeddon!” was broadcast.
The paedophilia special episode provoked much criticism because it was offensive to laugh about abused children and to use child actors. Moreover, the concept of paedophilia raised many concerns in the UK at that moment, mainly because it followed the abduction and murder of Sarah Payne, a 9-year-old girl. Soon after it was discovered, the newspaper “The News of the World” published the names, pictures and addresses of alleged paedophiles. As a consequence, some people were accused while they were totally innocent.
There are five main topics in this episode, viz. media hysteria, misinformation, sexualisation of children, media hypocrisy and public debate. Harsh comments emerged about the series since it “crossed the border of acceptable satire”. The Daily Mail even said that it was “The sickest TV show ever” and the then Child Protection minister described it as “unspeakably sick”. Nevertheless, Channel 4 decided to defend the programme which was repeated later in spite of the many complaints that the broadcaster received (about 2,000). The main goal of the series was to use humour as a manner of warning people against the sensationalism and exploitation used in the media.
After the broadcast, the Independent Television Commission and the Broadcast Standards Commission (both now being included into the Ofcom, the Office of communications) released a report. According to the ITC, Channel 4 had to make an apology for “insufficient warning and gratuitous offence”. As for the BSC, it did not charge the channel for the use of child actors and the complaints of the MP’s about the intrusion in their private life were not retained either. They agreed to take part in the programme and had therefore to check what the programme was about.
In conclusion, this series is recommended because it was a powerful satire at the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the Noughties. As an example, here follows an excerpt of the famous Drug episode.
Caroline Stoquart & Sylvie Cujas.