ITV has been criticised for airing an episode of 'The Only Way Is Essex' when children would have been watching.

Characters discussed getting drunk and their sex lives in the episode of the constructed reality show, which features stars including Sam Faiers and Joey Essex.

The instalment, which also featured bleeped and partially bleeped language, was originally broadcast at 10pm but repeated at Sunday lunchtime on ITV2 during the school summer holidays.

Ofcom said it was "concerned about the frequency of bleeping" in the programme, with 20 instances in the half-hour show.

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Gemma Collins, Lauren Pope, Sam Faiers, Joey Essex and Cara Kilbey of The Only Way is Essex

It said that the "bleeping of the words was not always sufficient to mask the language or its impact".

The watchdog concluded that the episode "was not appropriately scheduled so as to protect children".

It said: "We took account of the prominence of these adult themes throughout the programme, and the impact and frequency of the masked language. We concluded that the programme was therefore unsuitable for children."

ITV said it would now attempt to edit out offensive language entirely rather than use bleeping for pre-watershed broadcasts. It has also decided to stop scheduling the show in weekend daytime or school holiday daytime slots.

Ofcom also ruled that the broadcast of Channel 4 speed-dating show 'Love Shaft' on a Saturday morning breached broadcasting rules because of sexual language and references.

The original TOWIE cast...

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  • Kirk Norcross

    Kirk's got the rich dad, the swanky sports car and the club... no wonder he's attracting such classy ladies.

  • Lauren Pope

    Popey possesses possibly the poutiest of all pouts in the land of TOWIE and she's not afraid to use them.

  • Gemma Collins

    TOWIE's token larger lady brings endless laughs. Not one to sweep things under the rug or avoid the awkward questions, Gemma once asked Greek twins Dino and Georgie if they look at each others penises.

  • Nanny Pat

    Everyone wants a nan like nanny Pat and everyone wants a bit of her sausage plait.

  • Harry Derbidge

    "Shuuuuuurp!" Harry not only has one of the best catchphrases on the show, he's also on the same level as the girls when it comes to tans, bleached hair and posing.

  • Mark Wright and James Argent

    Mark and Arg, Arg and Mark, The troublesome duo have one of the best bromances reality TV has ever seen - Mark even sat through Arg's colonic irrigation!

  • Mark Wright

    Mark's been branded just about every name going when it comes to his alleged philandering, but that hasn't stopped the TOWIE girls going near him. Anyone would think he's the only man in Essex.

  • Lydia Bright

    Lydia gets credit for having the most tasteful dress sense on the show, think more Chanel and less Agent Provocateur. She's also a hero for putting up with Arg and Mark's bromance. Not one to shy away from a fight, she's pretty good at putting Arg in his place.

  • TOWIE girls glammed up

    See, they <em>can</em> look demure. You've just got to give them a Bafta.

  • Sam Faiers and Amy Childs

    Amy may have left the show for "bigger and better" things, but in our mind she'll always be a TOWIE girl.

  • Joey Essex and Sam Faiers

    Joey Essex, you really can't get more Essex than him. He's also the closest thing to a male Barbie on television at the moment. Here's a rare picture of the "reem" ladies man wearing trousers and not short shorts. We think it's time he faced up to the fact that they're NEVER going to catch on.

  • Lauren Goodger

    It feels like we've seen Lauren cry more times than she's laughed on TOWIE (that will be the ex-boyfriend's fault of course), but here she is doing what she does best - looking pretty in a beautician's.

  • Jessica Wright and Maria Fowler

    Mark's sister Jessica and bubbly Maria know how to party (when the cameras are around).

  • Chloe Sims

    Plastic fantastic, Chloe's not ashamed to admit all the work she has had done to look <em>so</em> good. Her latest mission involves <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/10/25/towie-star-chloe-sims-bum-implants_n_1029986.html" target="_hplink">getting bum implants to improve her "flat screen" derrière. </a>

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