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No threesomes at teatime, please: why the watershed is leaking

The TV watchdog has ruled that Two and a Half Men's threesome episode shouldn't have been aired at teatime, when children could have been watching. But Ofcom has no power over television catch-up services.

Children watching television. Photo: Getty
Ofcom can't protect children from watching post-watershed TV on catch-up services online. Photo: Getty

Communications watchdog Ofcom ruled yesterday that an episode of Two and a Half Men aired in December last year with a plotline about threesomes should not have been aired at teatime, when children may have been watching. But this mole sees the regulator increasingly fighting a losing battle, as even it can't use its wagging finger to plug the hole in the watershed that catch-up television is causing.

Ofcom, so fastidious in the business of protecting us from inappropriate, or unsuitably-scheduled, broadcasts – it's acted over 300 times since 2003 against broadcasters breaching watershed regulations – actually has no legal duty or power to enforce the watershed on catch-up services supervised by the Authority for Television on Demand.

With recent figures showing 10 per cent of all TV watching "time-shifted" rather than watched according to television schedules, on-demand TV viewing has increased fivefold over the past five years.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is even considering legislating, in light of the rise of on-demand and online viewing.

So catch up on the teatime threesomes while you can...