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Channel Four criticised over cannibalised baby show

Channel Four has been accused by TV watchdogs of showing a "lack of respect for human dignity" over a programme which showed a Chinese artist eating the flesh of a dead baby.

The programme, Beijing Swings, prompted 42 complaints to the Independent Television Commission from viewers.

It included a still photograph of artist Zhu Yu's work Eating People, in which he cannibalised the body of a dead baby.

Viewers were also upset by another section of the programme which broadcast images of performance artists Peng Yu and Sun Yuan smearing their blood over the dead bodies of a pair of Siamese twins.

The ITC ruled: "Channel 4 exceeded the boundaries of acceptability in including photographs showing the mutilation of the babies' bodies, which it considered were contrary to good taste or decency and which showed a lack of respect for human dignity.

"The broadcast of such images raises serious questions, not only about the morality of the artists in using dead babies in pursuit of their artistic expression, but of the broadcasters' responsibility not to infringe their dignity."

Channel 4 had compounded the potential for offence by including a "sometimes frivolous" commentary and a jokey storyline about two other artists.

The ITC concluded that the programme had breached its code on taste and decency.

Broadcast in January, Beijing Swings was part of a season of programmes looking at contemporary China.

Channel 4 defended its content to the ITC, arguing that it had "a right and obligation under its remit to explore and examine challenging and difficult subjects".

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