Two viewers complained about Daley Thompson's suggestion that a tattoo in which the word Olympic was misspelled must have been the work of an Irish Tattooist .
Though the comment was unscripted and humorously-intended, it was inappropriate in this context. However, the presenters offered apologies during and at the end of the programme, and a further apology was posted on the complaints pages of bbc.co.uk. In
the view of the ECU, these measures were sufficient to resolve the matter.
When BBC News correspondent Nick Higham suggested Daily Mail readers had prejudices it prompted a complaint that went to the
corporation's highest levels.
The BBC Trust's editorial standards committee convened to decide whether Higham, in a report about Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre's evidence to the Leveson inquiry, had been unfair to readers of the newspaper.
A single complainant contacted the BBC to say that Higham's report including the prejudices claim had done readers a disservice.
But the trust's editorial standards committee (ESC), the final arbiter of appeals at the BBC, rejected the charge. The ESC said Higham's report was accurate and had not breached guidelines on due accuracy or impartiality.
Higham's report began: He's (Paul Dacre's) the man who runs Britain's second biggest daily with ferocious drive and a natural feel for his readers' prejudices -- though he prefers to call them anxieties.
The BBC, in its response, said the word prejudiced had not been used and was not the same thing as having prejudices , which could be mildly pejorative .
The BBC Trust decided that it was reasonable for the word to have been used, reflecting a certain set of preconceived views held by readers of the Daily Mail.
A spokesman for the Daily Mail confirmed that it did not make the complaint.
Upcoming TV comedy release on DVD childishly censored by the BBC
19th November 2012
18th November 2012. Thanks to goatboy
Fist of Fun Series 2 is a 1996 UK TV comedy by Nick Wood.
With Stewart Lee, Richard Herring and Peter Baynham.
The BBC have made gofasterstripe.com cut their forthcoming dvd release of the 1996 BBC2 series Fist of Fun series 2. 5 minutes from the shows themselves and 3 minutes from a Richard Herring/Stewart Lee podcast extra! The cuts are:
Episode 3 - Lady Diana segment
Episode 4 - Parents suing a theatre segment
Episode 5 - Reference to the child in episode 4
Also removed the obsolete bbc email, post and web addresses from the end of each episode and the address of the newsagent that Peter visits.
From the podcast-
Reference to drug taking
TV executives Stewart Lee's opinion of his poor treatment by the BBC
Richard Herring saying Stew would lose his audience if he had sex with a child
Section mentioning Alan Partridge rights
Section where they talk about buying back Fist of Fun for 2/3rds what the BBC paid them to do it in the first place.
There will be no jokes about pedophilia from the BBC!
Donald Trump tried to force the BBC to drop the broadcast of a critically acclaimed documentary on his alleged
bullying of residents near his Scottish golf resort.
Lawyers for the New York property magnate contacted the BBC two days before the feature-length film You've Been Trumped was screened on BBC2 on Sunday night, claiming it was highly defamatory, biased and misleading, and demanding a right
In a letter to the BBC from Dundas & Wilson, a prominent Scottish law firm which has acted for Trump for several years, and seen by the Guardian, the Trump organisation threatened to complain formally to Ofcom and the BBC Trust if the
screening went ahead.
The BBC rejected the request and gave the documentary, directed by Anthony Baxter, its network television premiere. It was watched by an estimated 1.1 million viewers and earned praise from reviewers. The film will be screened again on BBC2 on
In a short statement, the BBC said about the screening:
You've Been Trumped is an award-winning film that has been screened at international festivals around the world.
During the making of the film, Donald Trump declined the opportunity to take part. We are confident that Donald Trump was offered sufficient right to reply in accordance with BBC editorial guidelines. Donald Trump chose not to participate but
the film-maker took care to reflect his views on a number of different occasions in the film.
In addition, Donald Trump was offered the chance to be interviewed live on the BBC following the BBC2 broadcast. He has not taken up our invitation.
The BBC's coverage of religion, immigration and Europe is to be scrutinised in an independent review led by former ITV chief executive Stuart
Lord Patten, the BBC Trust chairman, said that the review was prompted by complaints that the corporation's coverage of world and religious events is not always impartial. Patten said:
We've been criticised in those areas and we think it's very important to listen to that criticism, not necessarily because it's right but because it reflects real and interesting concerns.
Prebble's review will examine whether the BBC gives due weight to a range of opinions on controversial topics, including immigration, Islamophobia, and the EU.
The inquiry will examine whether editorial decisions to include or omit certain perspectives from news coverage have been carefully reached and with consistent judgment across the corporation.
Comment: Toadying to the Powerful
12th October 2012. From Alan
Yet another example of a right-wing elite group claiming to be victims, methinks.
The BBC is certainly biased, but it ain't to the left. It's worth looking at another anti-censorshup web site, Media Lens
, which robustly identifies an acceptance by liberal media of elite discourses. For more evidence, presented in a more scholarly way with footnotes and bibliography, look at the work by Professor Greg Philo and his colleages at Glasgow
Looks like the Mail is pushing the Beeb to toady to the powerful even more than it does at the moment.
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) is engaged in a battle with the BBC over a storyline in EastEnders .
The TV soap featured a social worker removing a baby from a teenage mother, Lola, apparently without sufficient grounds to do so.
Many social workers took to Twitter and Facebook to say the episode made a mockery of their profession.
Bridget Robb, acting chief of the BASW, called the storyline shabby and said it had provoked real anger among a profession well used to a less than accurate public and media perception of their jobs .
The BBC responded to complaints:
It is not our intention to portray social workers in a negative light. Whilst the audience has seen how much Lola loves Lexi, and seen her behaving responsibly in caring for her baby, her social worker has not. Each time the social worker
visited, she regularly saw worrying behaviour that concerned her. The social worker also witnessed a series of other incidents and, under these circumstances; we believe the audience will have understood why she had to act quickly to remove
Lexi when Lola was arrested for assault. There was no suggestion that the social worker's actions arose from anything other than a genuine desire to protect Lexi, or that her concerns about Lola were unreasonable given the picture she and the
previous social worker had formed over a substantial period of time. Although EastEnders tackles many social issues and always carefully researches the details, it is a drama and Lola's story and that of the social worker are not intended to be
representative of everyone in the same situation.
An appeal to the Editorial Standards Committee concerns an episode of Top Gear which included comments about people with growths on their faces in an item about a new campervan.
The complainant said that the item was offensive, prejudicial and unacceptable . The complainant also expressed the view that the BBC's Editorial Guidelines should be updated to include specific consideration for under-represented groups
of people in British society, including those with facial disfigurements.
The Committee concluded:
that the audience would have understood the connection which the presenters drew between the character played by John Hurt in The Elephant Man and the design of the Prius campervan, and that the joke at this point was about the vehicle's
that the slurred speech used by Jeremy Clarkson was also part of this reference to The Elephant Man, but that this mimicry was on the margins of acceptability.
that, while most of the comments made about the campervan would have not exceeded the expectations of the audience, a remark about talking to a car at a party and not being able to look at a person with a facial disfigurement, taken
with the reference to …one of those really ugly things … I'm talking about a growth… , strayed into an offensive stereotypical assumption not confined to The Elephant Man.
that the programme was in breach of the Guidelines on Harm and Offence as the exchanges about facial disfigurement noted above were not editorially justified and did not meet generally accepted standards in the context of their portrayal of a
that the Editorial Guidelines and corresponding Guidance together give sufficient and appropriate guidance to programme-makers on the issue of the portrayal of minorities and vulnerable social groups and it was not necessary to change the
Guidelines in the way that the complainant had suggested.
Edinburgh Comedy Fest Live,
BBC Three, 22 January 2012
A complainant wrote to the BBC about the performance of a song in the above programme. The song was Christians in Love by Dead Cat Bounce.
It's pretty clear, they've no idea what they're doing
But it's their wedding night, and they're determined to get through it
Christians in love
Rolling around like a couple if pigs in a barrel
Christians in love
Flapping about like a couple of trout in a Puddle
Like a chimpanzee at a buffet car,
They're just grabbing at things before they know what they are
And seeing if they can fit them in their mouths
Like a pony trapped in a broken lift,
They've no idea what buttons they've pressed
They're just enjoying going up and down
And they're making neighing sounds
And as the daybreak looms, their crazy passion knows no limit
Cause neither one of them, know how they're meant to know they're finished
Christians in Love
Compliant to BBC Audience Services
The complainant quoted some of the lyrics stating that they were offensive to Christians and questioned whether any other religion would be treated the same way.
In reply, BBC Audience Services explained that the BBC provided programmes for a whole range of viewers with different tastes in humour. Some programmes would occasionally strike some viewers as distasteful. The BBC did not believe that religion should
be off- limits for humorists. Such depictions were often exaggerated and far from the truth and there was no intention to mock the essence of religion.
The complainant wrote again on two further occasions asking for the content to be removed from the programme on the grounds that it was offensive to Christians.
BBC Audience Services replied saying that the complaint had been discussed with the BBC's Executive Producer. They explained that Dead Cat Bounce was a comedy rock group who covered a diverse range of subjects and their brand of musical comedy fell into
the silly fun category, rather than cruel or degrading . The song Christians in Love portrayed a newlywed Christian couple who were somewhat naive about sexual mores. The song was not meant maliciously and was rather benign in its portrayal
of a well established stereotype. The BBC went on to explain that this show had been broadcast around a dozen times and they had only received six complaints about this particular performance which indicated that the majority of viewers took it in the
Compliant to the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU)
The complainant then wrote to the Editorial Complaints Unit saying that he found the song offensive and asking for it not to be broadcast in future. He said the song portrayed Christians as dopey and animalistic, comparing them to pigs . The
complainant was also concerned that the BBC was practising double-standards, and he asked whether this song would be broadcast if the word Muslim was substituted for Christian .
An ECU Complaints Director considered the complaint in relation to the BBC Editorial Guidelines on Harm and Offence, specifically Portrayal. However, the Complaints Director said the questions raised about alleged double-standards at the BBC did not fall
under the Guidelines and consequently were not part of the ECU's remit.
The Complaints Director explained that the Guidelines did not prohibit the broadcasting of offensive material, but did require editorial justification which in this case the comedic context provided. He said that Christianity itself was not being mocked,
but a perceived stereotype about Christian attitudes to sex. The metaphors used in the song were designed to provoke laughter through absurd images and not provide any serious comparison with Christians having sex. On this basis, the ECU did not believe
that these absurd observations would have caused any serious offence and any residual offence was more than offset by comic effect. This kind of humour fell well within the established audience expectations for a comedy programme like this.
Appeal to the BBC Trust'
The complainant escalated his complaint to the BBC Trust, quoting the lyrics from the Dead Cat Bounce's performance which he said, as a Christian, he found offensive. He said that:
The lyrics were dehumanising, describing Christians as animals sexually and were aimed directly at Christians, not their beliefs and attitudes. The song was snide and mocked Christians portraying them as wet and incompetent.
The editorial justification used by the ECU was unjust and hypocritical as this material would not be allowed by the BBC if it had been aimed at other groups.
The complainant reiterated that he wanted this performance removed from broadcast.
The Head of Editorial Standards noted that the group Dead Cat Bounce had established a reputation on the comedy circuit, performing at many festivals and winning awards. They were known for their outlandish lyrics which set out to poke fun at stereotypes
and banal situations. Recent examples had included driving lessons and orthopaedic shoes. She said that whilst some viewers may not be aware of this background, the majority of viewers would not be surprised at this group appearing in a programme
covering the Edinburgh Comedy Festival, featuring alternative comedy.
The Head of Editorial Standards said that, whilst the lyrics of the particular song which the complainant had highlighted may not be to every viewer's taste, they did not appear to be attacking the faith and belief of Christianity, but used simile and
metaphor to create an absurd picture of naive love-making. Given this context, the Head of Editorial Standards believed it was unlikely that the majority of viewers would have found the song offensive.
Editorial Standards Committee Decision
The Committee noted that the ECU and the Head of Editorial Standards had noted the audience expectations for BBC Three and the group who performed the song and argued that there was editorial justification for the broadcast of such material. The
Committee agreed that the BBC had demonstrated the editorial justification for including the group and this song in the programme. The Committee considered that the song was not attacking the faith and belief of Christianity, or Christians in general,
but could be seen as using similes to play on the familiar comic construct of incompetent lovers on their wedding night. The Committee did not agree that the use of such comic similes as trout flapping in a puddle and pigs in a barrel was necessarily
dehumanising to Christians, intentionally or otherwise. The Committee was mindful that in the second half of the song the object of the comedy was clearly the absurd image of a four-piece band, which had been playing at the wedding, somehow ending up
singing unnoticed in the en-suite bathroom of the newlyweds. The Committee agreed that there was no reasonable prospect of success for an appeal on the basis that there had been a breach of the Guidelines on Harm and Offence or Portrayal.
The Committee therefore decided this appeal did not qualify to proceed for consideration.
We've received complaints from some viewers who were unhappy about Citizen Khan's portrayal of the Muslim community.
We have received a number of appreciations from members of the Muslim community in praise of the show and for creator Adil Ray, who like the family portrayed, is a British Pakistani Muslim. Alongside these appreciations, a small percentage of
viewers have complained to the BBC regarding the show's portrayal of the Muslim community. New comedy can provoke differing reactions from the audience, and as with all sitcoms the characters are comic creations and not meant to be
representative of the community as a whole.
The creator of the BBC's controversial new comedy series Citizen Khan has insisted that it does not stereotype Muslims. Writer Adil Ray, who also takes the lead role, said it is simply a British family sitcom.
More than 700 people have complained to the BBC and 20 people have made representations to Ofcom, prompting the regulator to consider launching an inquiry into whether the broadcasting code has been broken.
Family Guy: Not All Dogs Go to Heaven
BBC 3, 17th December 2011
The complainant wrote to the BBC saying that he had watched the programme from about half way through until its conclusion and found it offensive. He said it was an unmitigated attack on Christ and Christians. In particular, he highlighted
scenes showing a dog chewing a cross, Christ being portrayed as a rapist and Christians burning books.
In response, BBC Audience Services explained that Family Guy was an irreverent comedy which joked about many topics, including religion, gender, sexual orientation, politics, history and disability. They said that they did not believe any of the
programme's jokes carried the message that one group of society should be openly despised and that Family Guy's humour fell into the category of exaggerated, silly satire. It was not to be taken too literally and the majority of the show's
viewers appreciated that it was not trying to attack a section of society.
Audience Services apologised that the complainant found the programme offensive but concluded that it did not go beyond the bounds of what was acceptable comedy for the BBC Three audience.
The Editorial Complaints Unit then considered the complaint. It said that the context of Family Guy was such that the relationship between aspects of the real world and their portrayal in the series was so distant that it was more a case of
fantastical allusion than portrayal.
In relation to a dog being made to chew a cross, the ECU said that this was an example of an absurd premise that a dog could be converted to Christianity by using a cross as a stick to be retrieved and that in itself rested on the more
fundamentally absurd premise that a dog might be capable of conversion to Christianity when it professed itself an atheist.
In relation to the scene in which the complainant said that Christ was about to commit rape, the ECU said that the scene was capable of more than one interpretation. It could not be said with certainly that Christ was about to commit rape,
although it was clear his intentions were not honourable.
Finally, in relation to the scene where Christians were portrayed as burning books on logic, the ECU said that this was hyperbolically exaggerated.
The ECU therefore did not uphold any aspect of the complaint.
Appeal to the BBC Trust
The complainant escalated his complaint to the BBC Trust, saying that he understood Family Guy was an animated cartoon but nonetheless the three elements referred to in his complaint were offensive because of the fact that they were scripted and
The Editorial Standards Committee noted that the relevant guidelines on Harm and Offence and Religion both allow for editorial justification and audience expectations to be taken into consideration. The Committee noted the background to the
series and this episode in particular which had been provided by the ECU and the Head of Editorial Standards. The Committee agreed that, given the context of the programme and the likely expectations of regular viewers of Family Guy and BBC
Three viewers in general, there was sufficient evidence to show that any risk of offence was editorially justified.
While the Committee was sorry that the complainant had been offended by the programme, it agreed that there was not a reasonable prospect of success for this complaint on appeal.
The Committee therefore decided this appeal did not qualify to proceed for consideration.
Newsnight is BBC Two's flagship news and current affairs programme. Jeremy Paxman is one of Newsnight's four regular presenters.
On 13 September 2011 the programme included a live studio interview conducted by Jeremy Paxman with Professor Richard Dawkins about Dawkins' new book The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True . It was preceded by a brief studio
introduction followed by a scripted segment of the item which featured narrated extracts from the book accompanied by Dave McKean's illustrations and commentary from Mr Paxman.
The transcript included:
Book extract: Of course no-one really believes that it would be possible to turn a pumpkin into a coach. But have you ever stopped to consider why such things would be impossible??
Jeremy Paxman: You probably haven't because from our earliest years we learn to suspend disbelief. And that apparently is also how we condition impressionable brains to absorb religious hogwash.
Book extract: According to the modern version of the Big Bang model the entire observable universe exploded into existence between 13 and 14 billion years ago. Some scientists will tell you that time itself began in the big bang and we
should no more ask what happened before the big bang than we should ask what is north of the North Pole.
Jeremy Paxman: But therein lies Richard Dawkins' problem. Even with him setting them up as Aunt Sallies the myths remain the better stories carrying an imaginative charge that makes nonsense easier to understand than fact. Fairy tales of
whatever world religion retain an untarnishable beauty more easily followed by a small and impressionable Tasmanian child for example.
A complainant wrote to the BBC and alleged that its presentation of what he described as Dawkins' new anti-creation/religion book was biased and offensive. He referred in particular to Jeremy Paxman's description of all belief/religion as
myth and hogwash ; his statement that nobody believed in, for example, Lot's wife in the Bible or creationism, neglecting the millions around the globe who do so and his description of those with belief as stupid people even
though Dawkins said in his interview that 40% of the US public believe the Genesis creation account.
The first response from the BBC concluded that the BBC believed the interview was conducted in an impartial and appropriate manner.
The second response from the BBC came after the complainant explained that he found its first response unsatisfactory because it ignored his main concerns about the item. These were that Mr Paxman had conveyed his own personal belief/disbelief
in the account of creation, belief in God and religion in general. The BBC said that Newsnight's style is to provoke debate and reaction and that neither the programme nor the BBC passed judgement on religious belief in any way
Later, the Editorial Complaints Unit felt one part of the interview did apply to religion in general rather than the imaginative appeal of religious myths and therefore into an area where Professor Dawkins' views were notoriously controversial.
However, given the ECU's view that most viewers of Newsnight would already have been aware of Professor Dawkins' views in this area and would not have been likely to be influenced by another iteration of them, they did not feel this constituted
a breach of editorial standards.
The complainant then appealed to the Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) of the BBC Trust.
BBC Trust Decision
The Committee concluded that there was a clear editorial purpose for the use of the term myth in the context of the item about Professor Richard Dawkins' new book which was aimed at children and intended to teach them how to replace myth
However, the Committee recognised that some Newsnight viewers were unlikely to have expected Jeremy Paxman's typically robust and confrontational interviewing style to extend to the use of the terms religious hogwash when introducing the
story of Genesis, and stupid people when talking about those with a literal belief in the Old Testament in the context of the item about religious myths.
Although the Committee did not agree with the complainant that Mr Paxman's use of the terms religious hogwash and stupid people were intended to cause deliberate offence, particularly to those with religious views and beliefs, it
nevertheless agreed that they were offensive to some of the audience and that there was no clear editorial purpose for their use in the context of this Newsnight item, taking account of generally accepted standards.
The Committee therefore concluded that the item breached the Editorial Guidelines on Harm and Offence. It added that it regretted the offence caused to some viewers by the use of the terms religious hogwash and stupid people on
Finding: Not upheld with regard to Impartiality. Upheld in part with regard to Offence
A viewer complained that archive material in a tribute to the late Ginger McCain (the trainer of Red Rum) included an offensive and homophobic phrase.
The programme-makers had intended to illustrate Mr McCain's reputation as a character and a joker , but the selection of a clip in which he used the phrase poof's paradise was not an appropriate illustration in this context.
The programme-makers have been reminded of their duty to exercise caution when considering the use of material that could cause offence to some viewers.
We've received complaints from some viewers unhappy with a comment made by Daley Thompson during The One Show on Thursday 19 July 2012.
At the beginning of the show Matt & Alex introduced Daley Thompson to the show and discussed the Olympic Torch, showing a picture of an unfortunate spelling mistake on a torchbearer's tattoo. Daley's comments about this were clearly meant as
a joke but we apologise if any offence was caused, it certainly wasn't our intention. Matt corrected Daley straight away and Alex offered an on-air apology at the end of the show.
The BBC Trust has said that Terry Wogan's Radio 2 show breached BBC guidelines, after the presenter made light of the Costa Concordia tragedy.
Nine days after the cruise ship ran aground in January, Wogan made a joke after disco track Rock The Boat was played on his two-hour live Sunday morning show, Weekend Wogan.
As the song faded, he mused on whether it had been an appropriate song and joked about the ship's captain and wanting to be the first in the lifeboat if the BBC went down.
Frankly if I had my time over again, and given the boating tragedy in Italy, I mightn't have picked that as an opening song.
Rock The Boat, argh, Captain Coward.
Later, after the news bulletin he said to the announcer:
I don't know about you ... but I'll be the last to leave the BBC.
Not sinking is it? Me first, never mind the women and children, I'm not even Italian.
The comments were referred to the BBC Trust after the Editorial Complaints Unit ruled that they did not warrant a public apology.
The trust's Editorial Standards Committee, which acts as the final arbiter of appeals if complainants are unhappy with the way their initial complaints have been dealt with by BBC management, said it was surprised that there had not been an on-air
apology. The trust said that Wogan's remarks were:
characteristically self-deprecating, joking about his own lack of bravery rather than the victims of the tragedy itself,
In this context the committee did not believe there had been any intention to cause offence. The committee, however, did conclude that there was a real risk of causing offence and in this context the guidelines had been breached.
The committee expressed surprise that the BBC did not apologise on-air on the day.
However the BBC Trust ruled out the need for further sanction.
We've received complaints from some viewers unhappy with certain aspects of the EastEnders storyline involving Michael Moon and Jean Slater.
We acknowledge that some viewers have concerns about the Michael and Jean storyline, and that some feel the depiction of bi polar, as portrayed through Jean Slater, is unrealistic. It is important to note that Jean Slater is not
intended to be representative of everybody with bi polar disorder. We treat all of our characters as individuals, with their own sets of behaviours and opinions, and there's no suggestion that all of Jean's characteristics are linked to her condition.
We work closely with a number of experts in the mental health field to ensure that we are as accurate as possible when it comes to Jean's bi polar, her medication, the impact it has on her and those around her, and attitudes and
prejudices towards her.
Michael is a well-established villain, intent on destroying others for his own twisted motives, and the current storyline is completely in keeping with his character. The audience were aware from the start that it was Jean who
was telling the truth even when other characters doubted her. In Friday's episode Alfie, Kat and Janine learned the truth, and Jean was completely exonerated.
The complainant contacted the BBC having seen a clip from the BBC Two comedy Lead Balloon played on the BBC Breakfast programme. The complainant said that the clip treated a funeral service in an irresponsible manner and ridiculed the Catholic
The complainant said that this was offensive to Christians and questioned whether other religions would have been treated similarly. The complainant also wondered whether consideration had been given to the feelings of those who had been recently
bereaved and had sought consolation in their faith. The complainant was concerned that all religions should be treated equally and respect shown, particularly in relation to the Crucifixion and the Holy Sacraments.
BBC Audience Services responded saying that the BBC recognised that many people had strong religious sensibilities and some might argue that religion should be off limits for humorists. The response said that while the BBC would never seek to mock
the essence of religion or to cause offence, it was difficult to impose a single set of standards on which everyone could agree. The only realistic and fair approach was to ensure a broad range of comedy so that all viewers felt they were catered for at
least some of the time.
The complainant wrote again, saying that he had been given what was probably a standard reply to anyone who made a complaint about the portrayal of religion in a programme. He said that he had not suggested that religion should be off limits for
humorists but objected to the mockery of those things which were at the heart of a particular religion, as the Sacrament of Holy Communion was for almost all Christians.
The Executive Editor, Comedy Commissioning, wrote to the complainant having discussed the complaint with the producers of the show. He explained the context of the scene, including details of the storyline and character development during successive
series. He explained that the joke was firmly on Rick (the central character) whose vanity and sense of victimhood frequently led him to lie or dissemble in an attempt to manipulate his situation to his advantage, ending invariably in his own comic
The episode in question had made it clear that Rick's behaviour was unacceptable, other characters had expressly stated that he was wrong and he was punished for his behaviour by the storyline.
ECU Decision: Complaint not upheld
The complainant escalated his complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) at Stage 2 of the BBC's complaints process, reiterating his view that it was inappropriate to ridicule a service of Holy Communion, the Mass, that this sacrament lay at the
heart of Christian worship and that Christianity was not being treated equally with other religions.
The ECU's Head of Editorial Complaints said that although the Mass depicted in the programme was briefly disrupted by the behaviour of the central character, Rick, it was he – not the ceremony or what it represented to believers – who was the
object of ridicule. The Head of Editorial Complaints looked in more detail at the story, setting out the ways in which Rick's hypocrisy was revealed during the episode, and concluded that there was nothing that ridiculed the Mass itself.
The Head of Editorial Complaints therefore did not uphold the complaint.
BBC Trust Decision: Appeal Not Pursued
The complainant wrote to the BBC Trust, observing that the previous stages of the complaints system all involved responses from BBC employees who, in the complainant's view, had a vested interest in taking sides with the editorial team and delaying
complaints in the hope that complainants would give up.
The Head of Editorial Standards thought it could reasonably be argued that the audience would have known what to expect of the series and, in particular, of the lead character, Rick, played by Jack Dee. The Head of Editorial Standards accepted that this
type of humour would not have been to everyone's taste, but suggested that there were plenty of signposts that would have allowed those likely to be offended to have selected alternative viewing ahead of the programme.
Turning to the Guidelines on Religion, the Head of Editorial Standards considered that the complainant had already received well-reasoned responses from both the Executive Editor, Comedy Commissioning, and the Head of Editorial Complaints. As they had
both highlighted in some detail, it would be difficult to argue that the point of the episode was to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.
The Head of Editorial Standards regretted that the complainant was offended. However, she did not consider that the appeal had a reasonable prospect of success or that there was a case for the BBC Executive to answer.
The Committee agreed that the complainant had already received well-reasoned responses from the Executive Editor of Comedy Commissioning and the ECU's Head of Editorial Complaints. The Committee noted the complainant's view that the programme made a
mockery of the act of taking the wafer during Mass; however, it agreed that it would be difficult to argue that the point of the episode was to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. The Committee did not agree that in portraying the main character
choking on a wafer the Christian faith had been treated with contempt. The Committee concluded that an appeal on the grounds that the Editorial Guidelines on Religion had been breached did not have a reasonable prospect of success.
The Committee therefore decided this appeal did not qualify to proceed for consideration.
Sorry I've Got No Head and School of Silence
BBC One, 24 August 2011
The complainant wrote to the BBC regarding three sketches which he had watched the previous day on BBC One at about 3.10pm.
The first sketch portrayed a man joining the front of a queue at a bus stop and producing ice cream and sauce from his nose;
the second sketch featured a man putting food onto children's heads; and
the third sketch involved a man using a trump machine to simulate the sound of flatulence in order to make children laugh.
The complainant felt that these three sketches depicted unhealthy and depraved behaviour, unsuitable both for the children involved in the broadcast and for those watching at home.
In reply, BBC Audience Services said that the BBC believed it offered a wide range of imaginative children's programmes but accepted that not every programme would appeal to every child. The response explained that over the years there had been a
substantial change in the style and presentation of children's programming. Such changes tended to be a reflection of changes in society and it was important that the BBC remained in touch with its audience.
In response, the complainant said that he was very disappointed that the BB's reply had not referred to the specific incidents he had raised.
After a delay of several months the complainant received a response from the Executive Producer of Sorry I've Got No Head. He said that he wanted to put the issues the complainant had raised into context. He explained that over three series he had
endeavoured to create a comedy universe which suited and reflected the world of the audience and that the three sketches were intended to be viewed as heightened and ridiculous examples of human behaviour with comic consequences. He was confident that
viewers would perceive these sketches as comedy rather than negative social comment.
The complainant then escalated the complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit The complainant replied that he felt his concerns were of wider scope than the guidelines quoted, and included dishonesty, cheating, disgusting unnatural behaviour, obscenity
and moral failure.
ECU Decision: Complaint not upheld
The ECU replied that they had watched the episode concerned and previous programmes in the series. The programme in question showed a man joining the front of a line of people at a bus stop, having asked if it was the back of the queue. A comet fell from
the sky into his neighbour's hand. The man then produced ice cream and chocolate sauce from his nose.
The ECU noted that this was the eighth episode of the third series of Sorry I've Got No Head. In their view, regular viewers would have been very familiar with the anarchic tone of the programme and the ridiculous nature of the characters within it
– for instance, a man with remote-controlled legs. Regular viewers would also have been aware that this was a returning sketch within the programme, and that the same man had at other times produced from his nose such unlikely items as tennis
balls, a balloon animal and an elephant. The ECU accepted that, if taken literally, a new viewer might have understood the ice cream to be made of bodily fluids. However, despite its origin, the ice cream was clearly made up of single scoops of
strawberry, chocolate and vanilla.
The ECU also explained that the guidelines on Harm and Offence did not require that the BBC never offended. They did require that the programme makers judge the suitability of content against the context of when it was broadcast and the likely
expectations of the audience. The ECU believed that the sketch was entirely absurd in premise and expectation and very much in the tradition of surreal slapstick humour that audiences might expect from a comedy programme aimed at younger people.
Therefore the ECU did not uphold the complaint
BBC Trust Decision: Appeal Not Pursued
The complainant escalated his complaint to the BBC Trust
The Head of Editorial Standards believed that two of the complainant's points related to the same sketch in which a man knowingly went to the front of a queue at a bus stop and dispensed a stream of ice cream and then chocolate from his nose. She said
that Sorry I?ve Got No Head had been variously billed as anarchic , surreal and Little Britain for children . She said that it was clearly labelled as a comedy sketch show for children and
some of the actors featured were amongst Britain?s best-known comedians. There were regular appearances from characters who found themselves in extraordinary situations: Tony who lived down the back of a sofa, headless Bill who took up tennis, and the
helpful bees who found themselves in space. As the ECU had observed, the man who produced objects from his nose was one of these regular characters and previous objects produced included animals and tennis balls.
Given the fantastical context of the programme, and the unlikely possibility that children might use these surreal characters as literal role models, the Head of Editorial Standards did not believe that the appeal had a reasonable prospect of success in
proving that this material might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of children and young people.
The Committee agreed with the Head of Editorial Standards that there was no evidence that the actions portrayed in either programme might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of children and young people. The Committee also agreed
that the scenes complained of did not breach generally accepted standards .The Committee therefore agreed that there was no reasonable prospect of success for an appeal on the grounds that the programmes had breached the guidelines on Harm and
The Committee therefore decided this appeal did not qualify to proceed for consideration
The BBC is just about to revitalise its complaints service to make the process faster, simpler and easier for all concerned.
The plans follow a report from the House of Lords last July that strongly suggested improvements are made to the convoluted and overly complicated complaints process at the BBC .
The BBC will remain handling their potential issues in-house, with the planned new system, which will go live on 26 June, designed to feature a central point to better organise what are defined as complaints, with messages coming in from several
areas of their websites. Additional features will include the provision of a phone number and weblink alongside the complaints e-mail address, and plans to respond to same-subject complaints with a same response being sent to all matching queries, as
opposed to answering one-by-one.
While the trivial complaints will be given the right of appeal, the main focus of the reform is the substansive issues raised towards them, as the BBC claim that as per standard, they will be responded to within 30 days, although this limit
will not be applied to their online-only content, such as news stories.
The BBC Trust Complaints & Appeals Board chairman Richard Ayre states:
We have agreed improvements to the complaints system to speed it up, simplify it, and focus resources where they are genuinely needed. If the BBC gets something wrong, these changes should ensure complaints get more quickly to the people best placed to
deal with them. And, if the BBC sometimes gets things badly wrong, it should deliver a remedy that's timely and unambiguous.
Two people appealed to the BBC Trust against the BBC's response to complaints regarding a dance routine on the Strictly Come Dancing Halloween special.
The appeals were consolidated and considered together across the range of issues raised. The complainants said that a dance routine performed by Robbie Savage to the Michael Jackson song Bad was sexually explicit (particularly in relation to its
ending, when the contestant jumped onto the judges' desk in front of one of the male judges) and was inappropriate for the programme's audience.
The Committee concluded:
that the routine in question was not sexually aggressive and would have been viewed more as pantomime behaviour, a caricature of Michael Jackson's dance routine, and would not have had a harmful effect on children.
that, while some viewers may have found elements of the routine tasteless and vulgar, overall the routine did not exceed audience expectations.
that the audience would be familiar with the nature of Robbie Savage's on-screen relationship with the male judge and would take that into consideration as part of the narrative of the show.
that the dance routine met generally accepted standards, but that the final hip thrust on the judges' desk was at the margins of acceptability in a programme appealing to a wide family audience.
A complainant said that a sex scene in episode seven of the BBC One drama series Torchwood was inappropriate for its target audience (which the complainant considered to be children under 16 years of age). The complainant said that, although the
programme was shown after the watershed, it would attract 13-15 year olds who watch Doctor Who. The complainant also complained about the existence of a link between the Doctor Who and Torchwood websites.
The Committee concluded:
that the sexual content was appropriately handled taking into account the lead-up to the scene and that the development of the scene gave no doubt as to the ultimate outcome.
that the scene itself was not prurient or exploitative and was not sexually explicit.
that most viewers are aware of the 9pm watershed and, given the nature of the drama and its scheduling, the scene did not exceed audience expectations.
that, given the ultimate outcome of the scene was clear for some time, carers and parents were able to decide to switch off if they wished.
that, while specific content advice regarding the sex scene would have been useful, the development of the scene and the established context of the programme meant that viewers would have had sufficient information to decide whether they wished to view
that, taking into account the information provided online about any challenging content, and the scheduling of the series, the Committee did not consider that a link between the Doctor Who and Torchwood websites was of sufficient concern in encouraging
children to watch this post-watershed drama.
A listener complained that humorous references to the sinking of the Costa Concordia by Sir Terry Wogan were offensive and insensitive to those affected by the disaster, and called for a broadcast apology.
BBC Complaints Adjudication: Resolved
The remarks in question (which were made immediately after Rock the Boat had been played as the programme's opening track, and, later, after a news bulletin which included a report related to the disaster) were inappropriate. However, the
programme-makers, in response to the complaint, had acknowledged that the remarks, taken together with the selection of the opening track, represented a major failure , had apologised and had discussed how such mistakes could best be avoided in
the future. In the view of the Editorial Complaints Unit, this sufficed to resolve the matter.
A listener complained that Chris Evans expressed a one-sided attitude to the protestors outside St Paul's Cathedral.
Outcome: Complaint upheld
Chris Evans made critical comments about the protestors on a number of occasions during the programme. The producer reminded him of the requirements of due impartiality while the programme was on air, and he agreed to express no further opinions on the
subject. Nevertheless, in the absence of balancing comments, what had already been broadcast was not duly impartial.
The Compliance Editor of Radio 2 is conducting a series of briefings with the main presenters and their programme teams which cover issues of impartiality, and the Controller of Radio 2 has been asked to raise impartiality issues in his routine meetings
with presenters and their representatives.
The BBC has said religious exclamations are part of everyday language and refused to apologise to a vicar who complained about comments made by Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson.
Clarkson was filmed shouting Jesus wept while driving a KTM X-bow open top sports car and said: God Almighty while driving a Bentley powered by a Spitfire engine.
Graeme Anderson, the vicar of St Mary's church in Radcliffe-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire accused the BBC of double standards where religion was concerned. He whinged:
I found his comments very, very offensive and I think many Christians would also. Related.
They belittled, trivialised and cheapened Jesus Christ and Christianity. I was really quite surprised as he is a BBC presenter and it is blasphemous.
In a statement, the BBC said:
We're aware that blasphemous language, including the casual or derogatory use of holy names or religious words, can be a source of particular offence to some members of the audience, but judgements about its use are difficult because they depend on tone
There is no consensus about words that are acceptable, when, and by whom, as different words cause different degrees of offence to different people. Some of the words and phrases that can cause offence have, whether we like it or not, become part of
everyday language and it would be unrealistic for broadcasters to suggest they are not widely used in a range of contexts.
The BBC has admitted it was overcautious in editing the word Palestine from an artist's performance on Radio
1Xtra and has said it is looking to learn from the way it handled the situation.
However the BBC Trust said the final content that was broadcast on the music programme Charlie Sloth Hip Hop M1X , was not biased and therefore did not breach its editorial guidelines.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has spent eight months trying to find out why the decision was made to censor the lyrics of a freestyle performance by the rapper, Mic Righteous. Appearing on the Charlie Sloth show in February 2011, he
sang: I can scream Free Palestine for my beliefs .
BBC producers replaced the word Palestine with the sound of breaking glass, and the censored performance was repeated in April on the same show.
Amena Saleem, of PSC, said: In its correspondence with us, the BBC said the word Palestine isn't offensive, but 'implying that it is not free is the contentious issue , and this is why the edit was made.
Families settling down to watch the Corporation's latest Sir Arthur Conan Doyle adaptation, Sherlock , were shocked to see actress Lara Pulver, playing the great detective's romantic interest Irene Adler, strolling around with no
clothes on a full 25 minutes before 9pm.
And of course to back up their claims of 'shocked' families they could no better than find a few random tweets on the subject.
Now the Guardian reports that the BBC have received 100 complaints about the nude scenes. The BBC also adds that it will not edit out nude scenes from the new series of Sherlock when the hit drama is repeated from 7pm this weekend on digital
The Guardian also points out that perhaps the scenes weren't quite so nude as we were led to believe:
In the New Year's Day episode, A Scandal in Belgravia , Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes meets his match in the form of Adler, who is naked when they first meet. However, thanks to the camera angles and Pulver's carefully placed arms
and hands, viewers do not see her completely naked.
The footage of actress Lara Pulver, who plays dominatrix Irene Adler, led to criticism from the Daily Mail for showing the scenes before the 9pm watershed. Sherlock was broadcast on BBC1 over 90 minutes from 8.10pm on Sunday.
The Guardian also asks whether the complaints were in response to the actual TV showing or perhaps more to do with the Daily Mail story:
A spokesman for the BBC said that due to the bank holiday it could not tell when the complaints had been made, or how many came before and after the Daily Mail story.
We've received complaints from some viewers who felt certain scenes in Sherlock, which was broadcast on 1st January 2012, were unsuitable before the watershed.
We were very careful to make sure the portrayal of any nudity was discussed during the early stages of planning for this episode of Sherlock, in order to ensure it was appropriate for a pre-watershed audience.
The sequence where Irene Adler meets Sherlock for the first time was filmed in such a way as to offer a suggestion of her nudity. Each scene was carefully framed and the actors positioned so any explicit nudity was avoided, the aim being a
slightly flirtatious and humorous encounter between the characters.
With regards to any suggestive language and innuendo which featured in the episode, this was also carefully considered and we believed was sufficiently mild enough and wouldn't exceed the expectations of a pre-watershed audience.
It certainly wasn't our intention to cause offence and in large we've received very positive feedback from viewers.