More than 200 viewers have complained over an Eastenders episode which saw a paedophile seduce his 15-year-old stepdaughter.

In the episode, broadcast last Friday, actor Chris Coghill's character passionately kissed Shona McGarty, who plays 15-year-old Whitney Dean.

Coghill's Tony King had only just been released from a one-year jail term, with the show heavily suggesting he had groomed Whitney before being imprisoned.

"You look just like the same 12-year-old girl I fell in love with," Tony said to Whitney – the stepdaughter of his girlfriend Bianca, played by Patsy Palmer – before kissing her and falling together on to her bed.

A spokeswoman for the show told at the latest count 163 complaints had been received, while Ofcom said 42 viewers had contacted the watchdog to complain the episode should not have been shown before the 21:00 BST watershed.

A BBC statement defended the episode, saying: "EastEnders has a rich heritage of tackling difficult social issues such as domestic violence and mental health.

"The Tony and Whitney child abuse storyline is another such issue which had been created in association with the NSPCC and in accordance with BBC editorial policy."

The EastEnders spokeswoman said that 25 million people had watched the episode but admitted that the BBC was between a "rock and a hard place" in tackling serious issues.

"The storyline is not salacious or titillating – that would be obscene," she told

"We have very, very carefully worked on this storyline – it is far too important not to have done so."

18/09/2008 13:36:19