AN education group wants a new legal watchdog to control news coverage of obscene subjects, following the lurid news reports over the Clinton sex scandal. The call followed a survey by the Education Convergence which found most education workers thought reports of encounters involving US President Bill Clinton were obscene and too explicit. Of the 57 polled, including principals, teachers, school social workers and counsellors, up to 96 per cent deemed headlines obscene and the articles too explicit. About 65 per cent said the pictures, graphics and cartoons were indecent and 88 per cent agreed the reports failed to discuss whether Mr Clinton had abused his power or given false accounts. More than half cited 'problematic' reports in mass-circulation Chinese dailies. Education Convergence vice-chairman Ho Hon-chuen condemned the extensive coverage as an abuse of press freedom, saying the reports concentrated on intimate encounters rather than the political implications of the matter. An independent, statutory body should be formed to enforce press ethics, the group suggested. It could decide whether to suspend or end the operating licence of newspapers, based on a demerit system, Mr Ho said. But journalists and editors said such a powerful body would suppress press freedom and encourage censorship. 'I agree that some of the reports are problematic, but I have reservations about the setting-up of a press council, since it can put press freedom in a dangerous situation,' said Journalists' Association chairman Liu Kin-ming. 'The best way to deal with the issue is to encourage self-discipline but not self-censorship' among people working in the press. Apple Daily editor Francis Li Kwok-kay, whose newspaper was among those criticised, said he saw no problem with the coverage, which consisted of excerpts from special prosecutor Kenneth Starr's report. But he said the newspaper would review whether its articles about the affair had been too explicit, based on complaints from readers. The Obscene Articles Tribunal is looking into press coverage of the Starr Report carried in Apple Daily, Oriental Daily News and Sing Pao Daily News after dozens of complaints were filed.