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'Enders rapped over "harrowing" burial

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'Enders rapped over "harrowing" burial
Communications regulator Ofcom has ruled that two episodes of EastEnders were "seriously disturbing" and lacked sufficient contextual warning.

The episodes of the BBC soap, broadcast on March 21 and 24, saw Max Branning (Jake Wood) being buried alive by his wife Tanya (Jo Joyner) as revenge for his affair with daughter-in-law Stacey Slater (Lacey Turner).

Ofcom received 116 complaints over the episode concerning the unsuitability of such scenes for the time of transmission.

The BBC preceded its response by stating that "the storyline had been crafted in a responsible manner with recognition of its potential sensitivity for a pre-watershed audience", and that Tanya's actions in the context were "an appropriate act of revenge by a wife driven to the extremity of desperation". It also believed there to have been adequate pre-transmission announcements in a bid to "further minimise offence".

However, the broadcaster conceded that the emotional impact of the storyline had been "greater than expected", admitting that the "handling of the storyline went beyond the expectations of some of the audience and was not justified by the context", therefore accepting two of the three breaches.

In its decision, Ofcom made clear that the "subject matter itself did not exceed the boundaries of acceptability for a pre-watershed drama", rather the way in which the material was handled was of concern.

Ofcom branded the burial scenes in the first episode as "harrowing and dark in nature", while the two instalments of the drama together had a "seriously disturbing element to them". In addition, the regulator ruled that the announcements prior to the episodes "did not adequately prepare viewers for the extent of the distressing scenes that followed".

The episodes were also found in breach of generally accepted standards, the scenes being held as "offensive and not justified by the context".

Prior to Ofcom's ruling, an internal BBC report by the broadcaster's Editorial Complaints Unit held that the material "was too strong".

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