New research from Ofcom looking at violence on television has found that Hollyoaks contains the most violent scenes of all British soaps.

However, Ofcom did also note that over half the violent scenes in the Hollyoaks sample were from just 2 storylines in 2013.

“The conclusion must be that the amount of violence logged in a soap appears to be largely determined by the storylines running at a particular time,” the report stated.

A scene from the offending Hollyoaks episode

A scene from the 2013 Hollyoaks episode

“In Hollyoaks all the violent scenes with a high severity rating were either central or pivotal to the storyline in which they appeared. Violence occurred for a reason, and was used to drive the narrative along. As the storyline analyses confirm, the violence can hardly be described as gratuitous since it was so rarely incidental. In the overwhelming number of cases it was considered to add dramatic value to the plot or the characterisations.”

The papers from Ofcom examined how violence had changed since it had issued guidelines to broadcasters in 2011 to avoid programmes being shown before the watershed that may be unsuitable for children.

The first paper looked people’s attitudes towards violent content. That demonstrated that viewers considered the timeslot of the programme to be the most important factor in determining the acceptability of violence. Those questioned were prepared to tolerate some, moderate scenes before 9pm, but strong scenes with a vulnerable victim were unacceptable.

Regarding soaps, 79% of those surveyed said the violent scenes were “credible” and “rarely surprised” them, as they were clearly indicated in advance.

However, the second paper, which looked at the trend of violence within soaps did show that it has increased over the years.

Eastenders has actually decreased from 6.1 violent scenes per hour in 2001/2001, to 2.1 in 2013. Coronation Street has remained at 3; Emmerdale has increased from 2.5 scenes to 4; while Hollyoaks has shot up from 2.1 scenes to 11.5 scenes in 2013.

The proportion of violent scened judged as incidental – so not adding anything to the plot or characterisation has dropped from 26% to 11%. The last figure is down to Hollyoaks, because it contributed to the majority of all violent scenes in the soaps, but these were deemed an essential part of the plotline.

A Channel 4 spokesperson told Prolific North:

“We are committed to ensuring that all Hollyoaks storylines are appropriate for a pre-watershed audience. The portrayal of violence is appropriately limited and is shown within the context of long-running storylines and programmes that include scenes which some people may find upsetting are clearly flagged to viewers at the beginning of the broadcast.  Hollyoaks has a track record of tackling issues affecting its audience and has worked alongside government and leading charities on subjects such as domestic abuse and bullying.”

In 2013 Hollyoaks’ producer, Lime Pictures teamed up with the Home Office to promote its This is Abuse campaign, using a plot line within the soap.