LONDON — The creators of "Brass Eye" say it was satire of the media. Its critics, who have spurred the government into action, say the TV program about child sex abuse was sick.
Scotland Yard, responding to public complaints, is reviewing a tape of the program.
The result may be tighter regulation of Britain's television industry, which continues to press at the boundaries of taste in pursuit of higher ratings.
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, the Cabinet member whose department is responsible for broadcasting, said the Independent Television Commission needs more power to regulate commercial television.
"If this is considered acceptable material, then we are tearing down all the boundaries of decency on television," she said.
"Brass Eye," created by notorious hoaxer Chris Morris, elicited 2,000 complaints after airing Thursday and Saturday on Channel 4 television, the station said.
To produce the show, various celebrities were asked to read nonsensical scripts on camera. They claim they were told it was part of an educational video for children on the dangers of pedophiles and that the scripts would make sense to the target audience.
"Chris Morris was not making light of pedophilia; his target was the dangerous sensationalism and exploitation that can characterize media coverage of the issue," Channel 4 said.
Pedophilia has been a big concern in Britain following prominent campaigns against sex offenders in the past year. Last summer, a tabloid newspaper started printing pictures of sex offenders after an 8-year-old girl was found dead in a field in southern England.
The front-page campaign by the News of the World, better-known for stories about celebrities' sex lives, was followed by vigilante attacks on people identified in the newspaper and on innocent people mistaken for them. The tabloid abandoned the campaign under police pressure.
As part of "Brass Eye," which the creators said attempted to satirize media treatment of pedophilia, disc jockey Neil Fox told viewers that pedophiles were genetically more like crabs than humans. "That is scientific fact. There is no real evidence for it, but it's scientific fact," Fox said, apparently following a script.
Rock star Phil Collins appeared endorsing a fictitious pressure group called Nonce Sense. "Now I'm talking Nonce Sense," he said.
Former England soccer star Gary Lineker showed a picture of a hillside with a tiny, blue speck representing a child. "If you attempt to show this to a pedophile, he will try and attack it in an attempt to get to the child," Lineker said.
After getting complaints, Scotland Yard said its Internet and Obscene Publications Unit had obtained a copy of the program "for reviewing purposes. There is no investigation at this stage."
The Daily Mail, the influential middle-market tabloid, led the charge against the program, branding it "the sickest TV show ever."
The Daily Telegraph, however, said it was dismayed to see government ministers joining the critics.
"'Brass Eye' was a parody, not of pedophilia, but of the low-grade investigative programs that seem to dominate evening television: the kind where self-important presenters set out to 'expose' some vice or other, while knowing all the time that their appeal rests on the audience's salacious interest in that vice," The Daily Telegraph said.