A local council has asked Channel 4 to scrap a reality show which 'emotionally abuses' its child participants.

Boys and Girls Alone, which began last month, features 20 children aged behind eight and 11 left to fend for themselves in a Cornish cottage.

The youngsters have been shown fighting and in states of distress over sleeping and cooking arrangements and Cornwall County council has called on media watchdog Ofcom to put pressure on Channel 4 to cancel the programme.

Ruby Parry, the council's assistant director of social care and family services, said the local authority may seek an injunction to prevent the broadcast of the remaining two episodes in the series.

In a letter to Channel 4, she said the council had serious concerns over the possible "emotional and physical abuse" inflicted upon the children by the programme, which sees them split into two "villages" on gender lines.

Ms Parry added the social care and family services board did not condone the programme's "experimentation with the emotional and psychological welfare of children" and was critical of the broadcasting of scenes showing the children in tears.

"This distress has now been publicly broadcast to all of these children's peers, and is therefore likely to have long term consequences for some of them," she wrote.

"It is in our view highly irresponsible for Channel 4 to broadcast a programme which demeans and to some extent demonises children and thus re-enforces negative public perceptions of children and their vulnerability," she added.

Andrew Mackenzie, Channel 4's head of factual entertainment at Channel 4, said the children's welfare was the broadcaster's "first priority when filming" and stressed Boys and Girls Alone abided by Ofcom guidelines.

"All the children were carefully chosen and screened by appropriately qualified experts, including a clinical psychologist, to make sure they could cope well with the experience of being in the series," he added.

He also categorically denied any claim that Channel 4 may have breached performance licensing legislation as the children were "not performing".

A spokesman for Ofcom said the regulator would conduct an investigation into the show and monitor any complaints received.

12/02/2009 18:06:02