TOO explicit, vulgar and in poor taste.'' That's how the Broadcasting Authority described the January 18 episode of the TVB Jade drama series Glittering Moments last week, justifying its decision to fine the channel $25,000. The episode in question, entitled Metropolitan Girl, attracted 15 million viewers and showed in the 7.30 pm prime-time viewing slot. The fine referred to two separate conversations that took place in the show, both concerning the sexual activities of lesbians. The Broadcasting Authority is not obliged to explain its decisions, but a spokesman said the programme had been considered unsuitable for broadcast during the family viewing hours of 4 pm to 8.30 pm. Did this fine reflect an appropriate concern on the part of the authority for the moral well-being of viewers? Or was it homophobic and simply symptomatic of the prudish attempts of Hong Kong's censors to suppress anything to do with sex? The Sunday Morning Post gave a copy of the offending episode to a selection of viewers to see whether they thought the authority's judgement was fair and what it reflected about the state of censorship in Hong Kong. Barrie Brandon, editor of Contacts, a local magazine for gay people, thought the ruling demonstrated ''a clear case of homophobia'', as well as hypocritical double standards. ''I think they've just overreacted. It seems to me the scenes are simply people talking. Maybe it's in poor taste, but do we fine people for poor taste now? Really, full marks to TVB Jade for actually airing the subject. I think there's far too little exposure of homosexuals in Hong Kong, especially during the peak hours.'' He believed the territory's censorship laws were ''unnecessarily stringent''. ''The censors here are scared that people will find out about homosexuality,'' he said. ''Maybe they will find that 10 per cent of the population is gay so they're sort of burying it.'' Mr Brandon also described the differing attitudes displayed towards sex and violence as a ''double standard''. ''Here were these very innocuous scenes where actors were just talking about lesbianism and yet any child can watch gratuitous violence to the end of the day and that's fine,'' he said. ''We tell people how to kill each other but God forbid we should show people how to love each other, especially if it's an alternative lifestyle.'' LEGISLATOR Peggy Lam Pei Yu-dja, former head of the Family Planning Association and a participant in government inquiries into censorship, said the authority had made the right decision. ''I would absolutely agree with the ruling,'' she said. ''I think the scenes were in very poor taste really. I think at 7.30 pm it's family time and I don't think we can accept that sort of thing when families are watching. ''Actually, I think adult programmes should be scheduled at a later time of the night. And that programme is all right for adults. But family time is not suitable.'' Bambi Watkins, publicist and former TVB programme executive, agreed the scenes might not be appropriate for ''family viewing'' but disagreed with the reasons given for the fine. ''If the programme was aired at 7.30 pm then this is clearly defined by the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority as family viewing time. According to this guideline, the scenes would not be suitable for airing in this time frame and accordingly, TVB, knowing the ruling, should have been accountable,'' Ms Watkins said. ''Personally, I find nothing explicit, nor vulgar in the transcripts.'' Like Mr Brandon, Ms Watkins felt Hong Kong censorship in terms of sexuality was too stringent, and that there appeared to be a double standard. ''Why is there such paranoia over anything remotely sexual while by comparison, violence seems to hold free reign over the airwaves? The criteria seems to have no discernible logic,'' she said. She also felt the fact that the subject of the offending conversations was lesbianism had contributed to the judgment against the broadcasters. ''Having worked in the broadcasting industry for over 11 years, I am quite certain that homophobia did play a part in the fine against TVB,'' she said. ''Knowing the workings of TVB, I am almost inclined to applaud them for their daring. It could have been an attempt by them to try to broaden the realms of the possible, or it could indeed have been simple negligence. ''Assuming the programme did go through in-house censorship, isn't it reasonable that the person on whose desk it landed genuinely thought it was acceptable within the guidelines as he or she understood them?'' Ms Watkins said. ''The public airwaves could do much to educate people as far as 'alternative' lifestyles are concerned and who knows, in time lead to a little more tolerance and a lot less prejudice. I'm not hugely hopeful, but a little hope goes a long way.''