Charities Fear Lure of TV Dope Opera

By Adam Sherwin Media Reporter

DRUGS charities have expressed concern at a new drama series produced by the MTV network, billed as ‘a dope opera’.

Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator has advised the youth channel over the series, Top Buzzer, in which the central characters are two drug dealers. MTV Europe’s British- made comedy-drama is aimed at 16 to 24-year-olds, who make up the majority of MTV Europe’s 17 million viewers.

It follows the fictional “lives and laughs” of cannabis dealers Lee and Sticks’ and the characters who drop by their flat to “score”. Sticks’ believes that his dealing will make him the next Sir Richard Branson, while Lee’s aspiration is to be the Malcolm Gluck (the wine critic) of “superpot”.

After the reclassification of cannabis from a class B to class C drug, MTV said that the time was right for a series that treats the drug as the relatively harm less hobby of “typical young urbanites”, “Our audience does not see cannabis as greatly different from beer,” said Chris Sice, Vice-President of NITV Networks UK and Europe. He insisted, however, that the series, made by Johnny Vaughan’s World’s End production company, would not glamorise drugs.

MTV Europe’s lawyers have taken advice from Ofcom, whose code of standards states:

“Care needs to be taken to avoid any impression that illegal drugs are an acceptable feature of modern British society, particularly in programmes of special appeal to children and young people. Drug abuse should not be shown in such a way as to appear problem-free or glamorous.”

Darrell West, of the drugs education charity DARE, said:

“One programme on a youth channel like MTV which says cannabis is acceptable could wash away a year of education through DARE that all drugs are harmful.”

Figures from the charity DrugScope show that 31 per cent of British l5-year-olds smoked cannabis in the past year: The British Crime Survey 2002-03 found that nearly 26 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds smoked cannabis. Terrestrial channels in Britain have expressed an interest in screening Top Buzzer and is hoping to sell the format around the world.



Source: Times 26.8.04

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