Ofcom regulates on-demand programme services (ODPS) that are notified and based in the UK, to ensure that providers apply the relevant standards. Ofcom also has a duty to advise the Government on the need for protection of consumers and citizens in their
consumption of audio-visual services, and in particular the need to protect children.
Ofcom seeks to understand people's use of, and concerns about, notified ODPS in the broader context of all on-demand and online audio-visual
services in the UK, and has therefore carried out quantitative consumer research for this purpose. A
. Comparisons are made to the 2014 data throughout this report where relevant.
This survey covers the
full range of audio-visual content that is available on demand and online: sourced either directly via the internet, via an app, or via a provider of a service; for example, programmes on BBC iPlayer, clips on YouTube and films provided by ondemand
services from Netflix.
In this report we examine online and on-demand consumption of audio-visual content among adults and teens, and their concerns regarding that content.
The report adds about viewer 'concerns'
The top mentions in 2015 among all concerned adults include: violence (50%), welfare of children/young people (32%), bullying/victimising (31%), racism (30%), discrimination (29%), bad language (28%) and pornography
(24%). Concerns regarding violence, bullying and racism have significantly increased among adults since 2014, while concerns regarding sexually explicit content have decreased.
Irvine Beat FM is a community radio station licensed to provide a service for people in the Fullarton, Harbourside, Redburn, Vineburgh, Springside and Castlepark areas of Irvine, Scotland.
A listener complained to Ofcom that the word chinky was
used by the presenter to describe a Chinese take-away meal during the Saturday morning programme and this was a racial slur .
Ofcom noted that the word was used as part of a discussion about how cultured listeners were. The presenter
asked listeners a list of ten questions such as:
Do you read daily newspapers?, Do you watch Question Time? and: Do you host dinner parties or do you tell your pals to come round and bring a chinky? well
you're not cultured if that's the case.
Ofcom considered the use of the word chinky raised potential issues under Rule 2.3 of the Code which states:
In applying generally accepted standards
broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.
we took into account the Licensee's comments in response to the Preliminary View, namely that: Ofcom's 2010 research on offensive language did
not specifically assess the word chinky as opposed to chink , and that the Scottish Executive report from 2005/6 did not consider possible regional variations in the acceptability of the use of the word chinky .
research noted that where a word was considered to be discriminatory, but it had not received the same level of public disapproval as other racist words, some participants from across the UK considered it to be less offensive. For example, some
participants felt that chink was less offensive than the words paki or nigger because it was not as well known to be socially unacceptable . However, other participants considered that, in principle, chink was as
discriminatory as these words and should be treated in the same way even though it may not be as well known.
Ofcom considered it was likely that listeners throughout the UK would be of the view that the word chinky was a derogatory word and
that the use of the word was therefore capable of causing offence and falling short of generally accepted standards, in particular to members of the Chinese community.
Ofcom concluded that the use of the word did not meet generally accepted
standards, in breach of Rule 2.3 of the Code.
Music video: The Theme to The Master Mind Sangat TV, 13 August 2015, 20:30
Sangat TV broadcasts a religious and general entertainment service in English and Punjabi
Ofcom was alerted by
a viewer to a music video broadcast on Sangat TV featuring a song called Jinde Sukha Anthem: Tigerstyle . The complainant considered that the video glorified the actions of two Sikh nationalists Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha ( Jinda
and Sukha respectively). These two men, who were members of the Khalistan Commando Force, were hanged in 1992 for the assassination of General Arun Shridhar Vadiya, the Chief of the Indian Army responsible for Operation Bluestar in 1984. They
were also found responsible for the murder of two Indian politicians.
Ofcom noted that the music video in this case was approximately four and a half minutes in duration and incorporated the theme song for the newly
released Punjabi film The Mastermind Jinda Sukha. The music video consisted of clips of two artists performing a song interspersed with clips of scenes from the film The Mastermind Jinda Sukha , which showed the actors who played Jinda and Sukha
in the film as well as other Sikh symbols and imagery. For example, there were clips showing the actors in the film depicting Jinda and Sukha: triumphantly raising their hands while in handcuffs; participating in a renowned bank robbery; and embracing
one another. The music video also featured images of armed Sikh warriors and roaring lions (these animals having a particular significance in Sikhism and representing courage, majesty and strength).
the lyrics of the song included in the music video:
When cruelty and oppression reaches its peak. And when, o people, even the courts look the other way. And the respectable mothers from whose womb
martyrs are born shed their tears.
And then some brave sons rise up for the struggle. Upon meeting each other, these two sons took the destiny of the nation in their hands. Bhindranwale's brave lions roared once again.
O people, there are few as brave as courageous Jinda. They were like brave lions, O people!
Jinda and Sukha early one morning went looking for [General] Vadiya in Pune| and surrounded the car. And then
the Khalsa [i.e. the assassins] obliterated the car.
They knew what they were doing and celebrated and gave each other sweets upon hearing they had been sentenced to death. The mission of these martyrs had been
fulfilled. It is not in every person's destiny to be as courageous as Jinda and Sukha. In every house there are young men born who have such destiny
Ofcom considered Rule 2.3 of the Code:
In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context...
Sangat TV said that it had
not only checked the music video briefly prior to broadcast. It added that it was confused as to how a movie cleared by BBFC for public screening could fall foul of Ofcom guidelines and would appreciate Ofcom educating us on this matter, to
ensure that no incidents such as this recurs in the future .
Ofcom noted that the lyrics and music video contained numerous positive references that could be reasonably
interpreted as glorifying the actions of the two men who assassinated a senior member of the Indian army and two elected Indian politicians. Ofcom noted that the song lyrics variously commemorated the two men as being brave sons and like brave
lions and stated that there were few as brave as courageous Jinda . In Ofcom's opinion, broadcast content containing such positive references to two convicted killers and one of the three acts of murder they had committed, which was still
within living memory and is still an active source of dissension and controversy, had the potential to cause serious offence.
In response [to the Sangat TV query about the film being passed by the BBFC], Ofcom would like to
clarify that it is not the case that just because a music video or other broadcast material includes extracts from a cinema film or associated content which has received a certificate for the purposes of cinema exhibition from the BBFC, that it is
necessarily compliant with the Code if transmitted on an Ofcom licensed service. This is principally because the BBFC does not apply the Code when deciding whether, and if so how, to classify a film for showing in cinemas or other distribution. In this
case, the BBFC did not classify this music video. Further, because the BBFC has classified a feature film this does not mean that a licensee can broadcast extracts from that film in a different context and consider that this material would necessarily
comply with the Code. We were therefore greatly concerned that because the Licensee considered that BBFC approval for the film itself (but not the music video) was sufficient for its compliance purposes, Sangat TV only checked the music video briefly
prior to broadcast. Regis 1 had responsibility for satisfying itself prior to broadcast that the content in this video (including the lyrics and not just the extracts taken from the film) was compliant with the Code. This regulatory requirement is
irrespective of the rules of any other regulatory body, particularly where those rules relate to content delivered in an entirely different medium (i.e. cinema films).
Jekyll and Hyde was an ITV fantasy drama series inspired by the Robert Louis Stephenson novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
The first episode of the series was broadcast on 25
October 2015 at 18:30. Ofcom received 504 complaints from viewers about this episode. The majority of viewers who contacted Ofcom considered that the programme's scenes of violence and its dark and frightening tone were unsuitable for children, and a
number of complainants referred in particular to their concerns for younger children.
We noted the programme was preceded by the following pre-broadcast information:
It's time now on ITV for a brand new
adventure. It's Jekyll and Hyde which has some violence and scenes younger children may find a bit scary.
We noted the following scenes in the programme in particular:
1) Street attack: In the
programme's opening scene, set on a dark and gloomy night in London in 1885, Edward Hyde (i.e. the alter ego of Henry Jekyll, Robert Jekyll's grandfather) was shown arguing with and then violently attacking a man in a dimly lit street. When the man
started walking away from Mr Hyde, Mr Hyde knocked him to the cobbled street with two blows from his walking stick. Then, when he was lying on his front seemingly unconscious on the ground, Mr Hyde struck the man again across the back. These shots were
interspersed with an eyewitness seeing the attack and screaming. When police whistles were heard, Mr Hyde scurried away, and while escaping, threatened to hit a young girl with his stick. At the conclusion of the scene, when someone called out to him
when he has arrived at his front door, Mr Hyde turned around to roar at those pursuing him. This revealed, in close-up, his disfigured face with gnarled teeth and veins protruding from his skin.
Ofcom considered the
programme raised issues warranting investigation under Rule 1.3 of the Code, which states:
Children must...be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them.
Ofcom Decision: Breach of rule 1.3
Firstly, we noted several scenes that predominantly featured acts of violence. We considered these various scenes, as described in the Introduction, had a notably dark, menacing and violent
tone. One of the factors cited in the Ofcom violence research as determining the audience's attitude towards depiction of violence was the cumulative/overall impact scenes of violence when taken together, and influenced for example by other elements such
as music or an 'atmosphere of unease' 9. The dark and menacing tone of the scenes of violence in this first episode would, in our view, have distressed some younger viewers in particular.
We considered that the dark, menacing tone was
established in the programme's opening scene (scene 1: Street attack ). This was set at night-time, accompanied by ominous music and depicted the original Dr Henry Jekyll (as Mr Edward Hyde) arguing with another man in a London street. As the man
was shown trying to walk away, Mr Hyde struck him twice on the back with a walking stick (with a third blow heard but not seen by viewers). With the man knocked to the ground and apparently unconscious, Mr Jekyll struck him again across the back. An
eyewitness screamed as she observed this brutal attack from a first floor window. Having threatened to violently attack a young girl he had knocked while escaping, at the conclusion of the scene, Mr Hyde suddenly turned around and roared, revealing to
the audience in close up for the first time his disfigured face.
We considered that the manner in which this attack was depicted and the sudden revelation of Mr Hyde's unnatural and frightening features, resulted in a scene that would potentially
distress younger viewers. We agreed with ITV's point that this scene did not depict explicit or graphic violence and contained no bloodshed. We also noted the Licensee's comment that the revelation that the murder had been committed by Mr Hyde
introduced an element of the fantastical to the scene. However, we considered that the depiction of a man being bludgeoned to the ground, the witness' reaction, and the overall tone of the scene, created as the Licensee said an element of horror .
We did not consider that any alarm or distress caused to younger viewers by the violence in this scene would be materially mitigated by the potentially frightening revelation that, as the Licensee described, the blows were struck not by a normal man
but by Hyde a disfigured superhuman monster . In our view the impact of this scene would have been substantially increased by the fact that it was the opening scene of the programme (and indeed the series) and therefore viewers may well have been
caught unawares by both its content and tone.
In Ofcom's view, the dichotomous and unpredictable personality of the programme's central character (as demonstrated in this scene at start of the episode shown around six minutes in to the episode)
had the potential to scare some younger children. ITV argued that this was counteracted by Dr Jekyll's role in defeating the forces of evil . We disagreed. In our view, any such role was not at all clearly established in this opening episode of
the series so as to effectively counteract the likely level of distress caused to some younger children, caused for example by Mr Hyde's behaviour in the scene where he seemed on the verge of letting a small girl be crushed to death by a truck. Viewers
would have been left with the overall impression of Robert Jekyll as a character was unable to control his alter ego, who unpredictably behaved in a cruel and violent way. We considered this aspect added to the potential for some of the content in this
programme to cause distress or concern to younger children.
In conclusion, Ofcom considered that the programme's content was not so strong that, with appropriate scheduling, it could not be broadcast pre-watershed. However, in the specific
circumstances of this case, we considered that the content would have exceeded the expectations of viewers, and in particular parents and carers, at this time and on this channel. Therefore, while acknowledging this was a finely balanced decision, Ofcom
concluded that children were not in this case protected from unsuitable material by appropriate scheduling, and there was a breach of Rule 1.3.
ITV have now cancelled the series and noted that they received 380 complaints about the
The One Show is a daily magazine programme broadcast every weekday in the early evening on BBC1.
A total of 11 complainants alerted Ofcom to a joke made by the comedian
Jimmy Carr, when he appeared on this programme. In summary, complainants objected to Jimmy Carr making a disgusting and offensive joke about a particular disabled group i.e. those who have dwarfism. Three of the complainants either
themselves, or had family members who, have dwarfism.
We noted the following exchange at approximately 19:26, between one of the programme's presenters, Matt Baker ( MB ), and Jimmy Carr ( JC ):
MB: Which joke were you most surprised by that you thought was funny that you didn't realise at the time?
JC: I don't know, I'm just trying to think of my favourite all-time joke which might work on
this show: 'I've got a Welsh friend of mine. I asked him how many partners he had in his life. And he started to count and he fell asleep' . [Laughter in the studio]
JC: [Looking into the camera and smiling] That's just
about alright, isn't it... [Looking at presenter] I tried to write the shortest joke possible, so I wrote a two word joke, which was: Dwarf shortage . Just so I could pack more jokes into the show. [Looking into the camera] If you're a dwarf
and you're offended by that: Grow up!
We considered that Jimmy Carr's joke ( Dwarf shortage ) and his follow-up statement ( If you're a dwarf and you're offended by that: Grow up! ) raised potential
issues under the following rule of the Code: Rule 2.3:
In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context... Such material may include,
but is not limited to, offensive language, violence, sex, sexual violence, humiliation, distress, violation of human dignity, discriminatory treatment or language (for example on the grounds of age, disability, gender, race, religion, beliefs and sexual
orientation). Appropriate information should also be broadcast where it would assist in avoiding or minimising offence.
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 2.3
In coming to a Decision in this
case, we therefore assessed first whether the material in this programme had the potential to cause offence. During this programme, Jimmy Carr referred to his attempt to write the shortest joke possible . The joke in question was Dwarf shortage
. He then made the statement: If you're a dwarf and you're offended by that: Grow up! We considered that, as both the joke and the follow up statement attempted to derive humour from dwarfism (a medical condition causing restricted growth
which often causes a person with the condition to be regarded as disabled), these statements clearly had the potential to cause offence.
In reaching our Decision, we noted the BBC statements that The One Show's Editor takes the
view that [Jimmy Carr's] joke was not appropriate for The One Show and The One Show production team takes a particular view on the tone they would like to adhere to, and feels this joke was inappropriate in light of that . We also noted that
the BBC would be amending the letter that guests are asked to sign prior to appearing on the One Show to make clear they should refrain from making jokes at the expense of minorities . Nonetheless, the BBC argued that Jimmy Carr's comments did not
amount to a breach of Rule 2.3 of the Code.
However, on the facts of this particular case, we considered that Jimmy Carr's jokes intended to derive humour from people with dwarfism were likely to cause offence, and for all the
reasons set out above were not justified by the context. Therefore, our view was that there was a breach of Rule 2.3 of the Code.
Offsite Comment: Should anything be 'beyond a joke ?'
Ofcom has announced the appointment of two new, non-executive members to its Board. Non-executive directors are appointed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Ben Verwaayen and Bill Emmott will take up their positions
from this month, each for a period of four years.
Bill Emmott will also take on the role of Chairman of Ofcom's Content Board.
Ben Verwaayen has 30 years' experience in running major telecoms, technology
and media companies in executive and non-executive roles. He is currently a General Partner at investment fund Keen Venture Partners and holds various Board positions, including Akamai in the US and mobile operator Bharti Airtel in India. Ben is a former
Chief Executive of BT, KPN in the Netherlands and Alcatel Lucent, and has served as a Chairman of Endemol.
Bill Emmott is a journalist and editor who spent 26 years at the Economist, with 13 years as Editor-in-Chief and as a main
Board Director. He is also a documentary film maker and an author of non-fiction books. Bill was Chairman of the London Library from 2009 to 2015, is one of Swiss Re's panel of advisers, Group Economic Adviser to Stonehage Fleming wealth managers and a
visiting professor at Shujitsu University in Okayama, Japan.
Ben Verwaayen and Bill Emmott have replaced Tim Gardam and Mike McTighe, who are stepping down from the Board having each served two terms.
Update: Another new TV censor, previously from ATVOD
Ofcom has appointed Robin Foster, previously an independent member of the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) Board, to its Content Board.
Robin brings over 20 years' experience of the UK media sector. He has held
senior level strategy positions at the BBC and the Independent Television Commission, and is currently a member of the Advertising Advisory Committee to BCAP at the Advertising Standards Authority and a founding director of media consultants,
Ofcom has a new name for its complaints bulletin reflecting the recent sacking of the internet video on demand censor, ATVOD. Ofcom has now taken over from ATVOD and will publish the results of any VoD complaints in the newly re-titled: Ofcom
Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin.
Impractical Jokers Comedy Central, 6 August 2015, 16:00
Impractical Jokers is a hidden camera practical joke reality series, following four comedians, as they
perform various pranks on members of the public.
During monitoring of an episode of Impractical Jokers shown before the watershed in the school holiday period we noted that at certain points when bleeped offensive language was
used in the programme, the following subtitles were shown to viewers:
He's gonna beat the f***ing s**t out of me. God, I'm f***ing shaking.
Ofcom considered the subtitles raised
issues warranting investigation under Rule 1.3 of the Code which states:
Children must be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them.
stated that the broadcast in subtitles of partially obscured expletives was a regrettable oversight by our Compliance team . The Licensee added that following contact from Ofcom about this issue, the Licensee had withdrawn all 72 episodes of
Impractical Jokers from UK daytime schedules pending a review of their subtitling.
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 1.3
We noted that a three minute sequence which was repeated on one occasion during the
programme contained two bleeped uses of the word fucking . Although the word was not audible in either case, we considered the accompanying subtitle ( f***ing ) made clear the language used.
Ofcom's research on
offensive language notes that the word fucking is considered to be among the most offensive by audiences. In our view, the repeated display of partially obscured examples of the most offensive language, particularly because they were broadcast at
the same time as bleeping on the programme's audio track, made clear the specific offensive language being used, and were unsuitable for children.
We noted both that the Licensee had apologised for the error and the steps it taken
to ensure that it the issue was not repeated. Nevertheless, for the reasons set out above, we concluded that the broadcast was in breach of Rule 1.3.
ATVOD was sacked from its job as the Video on Demand censor a few weeks back. Ofcom has now taken over the role from 1st January 2016.
Ofcom has just published a paper outlining transitionary arrangements for Video on Demand Censorship and has
outlined proposals for future changes to processes. Ofcom is consulting on these proposals and invites responses by 1st March 2016.
Ofcom will take on some employees from ATVOD and in the first instance the ATVOD censorship rules and processes
will be continued. However Ofcom makes the following proposals for the future:
Service providers will still be required to register for censorship using more or less the same impossibly convoluted rules that currently exist (perhaps with improved explanation).
Ofcom proposes that service providers should no longer be
charged a fee. (Ofcom note that the marginal cost to extend current TV censorship processes to Video on Demand are not great).
Ofcom will reorganise the complaints procedure along the lines of that used for broadcast complaints
will rewrite the censorship rules in the style of the TV broadcast rules but substantive content will not be likely to change much as it is basically derived from EU and UK decrees.