'We have less of a problem with sex on TV'
A sexually explicit advice show will air on German television on Sunday. What is it with the Germans and sex? The Local takes a look at the country's watershed rules in the first part of our series.
"We do not have as many problems with nudity on television as in most English-speaking countries,” Claudi Mikat told The Local. Working for the FSF, the non-governmental organization that helps broadcasters decide what is suitable for television, Mikat is an expert in what can be shown and when.
There are two watersheds on German television, one at 8pm and another at 10pm. But nudity can be shown at any time, as long as it not considered damaging to a child's development. “Showing a naked person in a sauna is not damaging, for example,” said Mikat.
Having a staggered watershed means that different degrees of programmes can be shown, said Mikat. Between 8pm and 10pm there can be some sex and nudity, generally gauged to be suitable for children above the age of 12.
This means that the country's ever-popular crime series such as Tatort often feature sex scenes that, to the foreign eye, seem somewhat graphic for just after 8pm.
“The sex in these shows is not intended to stimulate,” explained Mikat. She said rather, what you see at that kind of time would be included to add to the plot. Despite the country's reputation for producing erotica, actual pornography is not allowed on German television.
German freedom of speech laws bar government organizations from forcing media to submit their content to censors being published. But broadcasters submit their shows to the FSF voluntarily. Watershed times are set by the government.
A team of media and child experts work to decide whether a show is suitable. “A programme is judged by a panel of five people,” said Mikat. She added that over the past two years, the number of complaints channels had received from unhappy viewers had dropped considerably.
“I like to think that's down to our work,” she said. If a channel for example, shows erotic sex during the daytime, they will face a fine.
The explicit sex advice show Make Love set to air for the first time on Sunday at 10pm promises to include real sex, full nudity and graphic computer images of genitalia.
But these aspects “will not be let pass without comment,” more they will be used to “explain anatomy and the process that takes place during intercourse,” Susanna Odenthal of broadcaster MDR told The Local.
Airing the show was, MDR said, intended to be educational and not to “satisfy sensationalists.”
It is a five-part series in which presenter and sex therapist Ann-Marlene Henning hopes to inspire Germans to get back to business.
Even for German television, with its earlier watershed than neighbouring countries, “Make Love” may raise eyebrows.
The show focusses on Jessica and Ollie, whose love life has been fading for some time, Henning will use a “model couple” and sit with them, pointing out common problems and guiding them to have better sex.
“Making love can be learned”, Henning believes. For the couple in question, it will be a “very special journey,” according to the state-run channel it will be shown on, MDR.
Surprisingly, “Make Love” was not on broadcast advisor Mikat's radar. “I can see that there might be a problem with it though,” she said.
MDR spokeswoman Odenthal said she was happy with the positive reaction Make Love was garnering ahead of broadcast.
Head of the channel Peter Dreckmann added that he hoped the programme would “break barriers and enable open conversation about sexuality.”