Viewers were left horrified by the sexually provocative dance routines of two pop stars screened on ITV’s X Factor show this weekend.
The channel’s flagship show, which aired between 7pm and 9pm on Saturday night, was watched by millions of people, including up to an estimated four million children.
But many viewers were left stunned by the sleazy performances of Christina Aguilera and Rihanna.
Their controversial routines have attracted thousands of complaints and critics have called for Ofcom, the media regulator, to launch an inquiry.
Vivienne Pattison, director of radio and television watchdog Mediawatch UK, said: “I don’t think it was suitable for a pre-watershed broadcast, I think that’s quite clear.
“It was the simulated sexual stuff, that was the problem. I think Ofcom should look into this.”
She added: “We have a broadcasting code that expects certain things to be post-watershed and I think that one crossed the line.”
Her concerns were echoed by equalities minister Lynne Featherstone who said: “It was a bit much because so many young kids – seven and eight-year-olds – watch it.”
Ann Widdecombe, a former Conservative MP, said: “It is before the watershed so parents are entitled to some consideration from the TV bosses. I think it is a pity. It isn’t necessary and it should be a family show.”
And a spokesman for the Mothers’ Union said: “Do you want a society where young people think their worth is defined by sex appeal – because this is what is being normalised.”
Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who wrote a Home Office report on the sexualisation of children, said: “Children are being bombarded with the message that being sexy and being sexual is the way to be appreciated or to be validated. This is a terrible message to be sending out.”
Mike Stock, one third of the well known pop factory Stock, Aitken and Waterman, said that Saturday’s show was “scraping the bottom of the barrel”.
He added: “I have young relatives and there is no way I would let them watch the X Factor if they were my children”.
Christina Aguilera appeared on stage in a tiny black dress accompanied by a number of female dancers wearing underwear as they danced suggestively.
Rihanna took to the stage in a full length gown which she removed before performing the remainder of her routine in her underwear.
Ofcom is reported to have received 1,500 complaints with ITV receiving a similar number.
The routines also appear to breach Ofcom’s broadcasting code which states that “children must be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them”.
It adds: “Material that is unsuitable for children should not, in general, be shown before 9pm or after 5.30am.”
A spokesman for the media regulator said: “Ofcom has received complaints about Saturday night’s X Factor. Like all complaints we will assess them against the broadcasting code and consider whether to investigate.”
Last night a spokesman for ITV said: “We are confident that the performances given by our guest artistes on Saturday were appropriate for the show.”
In September anti-prostitution campaigners accused The X Factor of glamorising prostitution after the programme’s bosses decided to keep an escort girl, Chloe Heald, on the show.
Tessa Wright, from Choose Life, a group which helps women escape from prostitution, said that “putting this girl on TV and making her an icon is not something we’d advocate.
“Millions of kids watch X Factor – and, in a way, Chloe being on the show will glamorise the sex industry. The further she goes in the programme the worse it will be.”
And Andie Young, from the campaign group Women Not Sex Objects, said Miss Heald “needs counselling and support, not parading on TV.”