Christina Aguilera’s raunchy performance during last year’s X Factor final has been described as “the very margin of acceptability for broadcast” by the media watchdog Ofcom.
The performance, which prompted 2,800 complaints, was watched by 14 million viewers, including one million children, in December 2010.
Ofcom said the show featured costumes which “were revealing, with limited coverage of the buttocks, and were of a sexualised nature because they were based on lingerie such as basques, stockings and suspenders”.
But despite admitting that the “overtly sexual” performance was “clearly capable of causing offence to some viewers”, Ofcom said the raunchy dance routines were justified by its context, as the song was drawn from the film Burlesque, in which Miss Aguilera starred.
ITV was cleared of breaching the regulator’s rules on causing offence and the protection of children, but as a result Ofcom has announced it will issue new taste and decency guidelines to broadcasters of family entertainment shows.
The same X Factor show last year also prompted thousands of complaints after a sexually provocative performance by popstar Rihanna.
Ofcom described the performance as having “mildly sexual overtones” because the singer was “gyrating and rocking her buttocks”.
But the watchdog ruled that Rihanna and her dancers were “adequately dressed with clothing covering their buttocks”, and said that her performance was not in breach of the Code.
Viewers had complained that the performances were “too sexually explicit” for broadcast before the watershed.
And about Christina Aguilera’s performance in particular, complainants said that: “the dancing, costumes and tone were sexually explicit and at odds with the watershed which should seek to protect children from sexualisation” and there were “extremely revealing background dancers performing indecent dance moves”.
At the time many critics, including equalities minister Lynne Featherstone and former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, hit out at the performances.
Miss Featherstone said: “It was a bit much because so many young kids – seven and eight-year-olds – watch it.”
Miss Widdecombe commented: “It is before the watershed so parents are entitled to some consideration from the TV bosses.”
And 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.”