A new storm of controversy has been raised in Italy over the country's virtually non-existent film classification system, after The Exorcist was broadcast in the Catholic country last week on prime time TV."

"It is a slap in the face for our children," said Italy's parents association, Moige. "The story and the film's highly violent and shocking images can cause emotional and psychological problems - not only in children but also in teenagers and even adults."

Italy's observatory on the rights of minors argued that Italy's self-regulatory code for film classification can't just be pegged on the traditional "red square" on the bottom right-hand of the screen, which is meant to alert parents to films with violent or sexual content.

William Friedkin's 1973 film, The Exorcist was broadcast at 9:30pm on Mediaset's youth-oriented Italia 1 channel.

Italia 1 chief Luca Tirabosch responded to critics by saying that the film had received the greenlight by Italy's censorship board for an unrestricted release to the general public.