GRAPHIC sex or drug use on television and misleading advertising are no longer considered worthy of protection as media freedoms, according to a survey of Hong Kong attitudes. The change in attitude was a disturbing development for free speech as the territory approached 1997, said Hong Kong Baptist University Communication Studies Department head, Dr Ernest Martin. While freedom of speech and a free press were highly rated, there was a growing desire to limit protection of material with which people disagreed or found offensive, according to the study. Advertising of illegal products, obscene material and guns for sale as well as the depiction of graphic sex on television and distribution of hardcore sex videos were among areas tolerated before but now frowned on. But support for political reporting in areas such as criticising leaders and the military strengthened. Limitations on political freedoms could follow the lack of support for protecting some advertising and entertainment freedoms, Dr Martin said. 'These are not things that are being asked for in the run-up to 1997, we are giving them up.' The findings are from a paper by Dr Martin and colleague Gary Wilson based on random surveys of about 950 people conducted in late 1993 and 1994. The index of public attitudes towards media rights in Hong Kong used a scale. A rating of one showed a desire for no protection; two showed protection under some circumstances and three showed expectation of continual protection. Although some restrictions exist on broadcasting and advertising standards, the survey sought to gauge public expectations of the level of protection from government restrictions which should be afforded. The survey showed four areas in advertising, which had been considered worthy of some protection, failed to attract enough support to continue freely. They were: advertising illegal products (1.23), obscene material (1.28), guns for sale (1.38) and false or misleading advertising (1.24). In the category of artistic freedom, graphic sex on television (1.47), drug use in TV music videos (1.47), distributing hardcore sex videos (1.47) and allowing teenagers to see adult movies (1.42) failed to attract enough support for protection. Another survey, conducted this month but not yet fully analysed, appeared to show similar trends, Dr Martin said. Strongest support was voiced for the media being able to criticise political leaders (2.43) or the military (2.41); siding with a foreign government (2.28); editorialising during a political campaign (2.17); and reporting material classified as secret (2.10). The Hong Kong Journalists' Association was encouraged by the results showing a desire for freedom of expression and the press, particularly in political debate. It was gaining in significance as 1997 loomed, said vice-chairman Kevin Lau Chun-po.