It is the reality show notorious for its bed-hopping, bare bottoms and brazen sexual exploits, but ITV is said to have toned down sex on Love Island to protect the programme in the wake of the Jeremy Kyle scandal.

The reality dating show is the most-watched programme for those aged 16-34 in the UK and makes huge amounts of money for ITV.

In previous years it has been criticised for its graphic scenes and the salacious behaviour of its contestants, who are generally in their early 20s and hungry for fame.

This year, however, the makers are understood to have reduced the raunch both to retain its younger viewers and avoid any scandal with the contestants that could harm the profitable franchise.

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Contestant Anna Vakili, 28, who left the show last week, claimed bosses purposefully sought out islanders who would avoid sex on screen. "The funny thing is that they asked me in an interview beforehand, 'Would you...?' And I didn't even let them finish. I said, 'I wouldn't have sex on TV,'" she told The Sun.

"So they put me in there, knowing I didn't want to have sex on TV. And that was true of the entire cast. Everyone said they didn't want to have sex while they were in the villa. They strongly didn't want to do that."

ITV's embattled boss Dame Carolyn McCall is understood to be desperate to secure the future of the programme after the broadcaster was hauled in front of a parliamentary committee.

The decision to reduce the sexual content was a "necessary evil" to protect the show, which came under fire following the deaths of former contestants Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon, insiders claimed.

A source said: "The bosses are concerned that it remains in a precarious position as a result of the storm it faced this year over their duty of care standards. They have decided to err on the side of caution and limit the raunchier content that is aired."

ITV bosses recently appeared in front of MPs to answer questions about its controversial reality programmes, including the Jeremy Kyle Show, which was cancelled following the death of a guest days after he reportedly failed a lie detector test.

Love Island has ditched its own lie detector game. Producers insisted it has a strong aftercare policy with contestants able to speak to therapists before, during and after the programme.

Last night ITV denied imposing an explicit ban on contestants having sex. A spokesman said: "The only stipulation for applicants is that they are over 18, single and looking for love."

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