A Family At War
Talking Pictures TV, 19 November 2017, 20:15
Talking Pictures TV is an entertainment channel broadcasting classic films and archive programmes.
A Family At War was a British period
drama series made between 1970 and 1972, about the experiences of a family from Liverpool during the Second World War. The episode Hazard was produced in 1971 and showed one of the main characters, Philip Ashton, serving in the British army in Egypt in
1942, focusing on his encounter with another soldier, Jack Hazard.
We received a complaint about offensive language in this episode, as follows:
in a scene set in an army mess in the Egypt desert, Hazard, a white British soldier, ordered some drinks and asked the barkeeper to get a waiter to bring the drinks over to where Hazard and Ashton were sitting by saying: “Send the
wog over with them, will you?”. When the Egyptian waiter brought the drinks to Hazard and Ashton’s table, Hazard said to him, “And how’s the war going for you, Ahmed, you thieving old wog…you old thief…you thieving old sod?”;
in a scene set in Hazard and Ashton’s tent on their army base, Hazard asked Ashton to accompany him to the army bar by saying: “Let’s go down to the woggery, there’s bound to be a fair bit of skirt out of bounds… Or perhaps Ahmed could fix us up with a
female wog? [laughs] I bet he rents out his kid sister”; and
in a later scene set in Hazard and Ashton’s tent Hazard said the following to Ashton: “You know what I think I’ll do on my next leave? I’ll pay a visit to the wog
Ofcom considered rule 2.3:
“In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context…”.
Talking Pictures said that it believed the inclusion of the potentially offensive racist language in this episode was justified by the context. It explained that the creator of the series, John Finch, had intended it to challenge the
1970s audience's understanding of the Second World War by being honest to the realities of the war time period206 shocking as that may be, and broadcast within the constraints and conventions of the time.
Talking Pictures said
that it had suspended any further broadcast of this episode. It also said that it had contracted a third-party expert to conduct a review of all content containing racial language to complement its existing compliance system
Ofcom Decision: Breach of rule 2.3
We first considered whether the language had the potential to cause offence. Ofcom's 2016 research on offensive language makes clear that the word wog is considered by audiences to be a derogatory term for black people and to be
among the strongest language and highly unacceptable without strong contextualisation.
We considered that the word wog was used in a clearly derogatory way towards an Egyptian character Ahmed, both directly to Ahmed's face and
later when he is not present. The Licensee argued that some of Hazard's offensive statements related to actual Second World War references, namely the term WOG [which] was originally 'Working on Government Service' before it became an ethnic and racial
slur. We understand that the derivation of wog is contested, but irrespective of its origins, and as acknowledged by Talking Pictures, the term today is considered highly offensive.
We acknowledged that the Licensee's audience
would have recognised that they were watching a programme made several decades ago when attitudes to language were different. However, we considered that the repeated use of highly offensive racist language without direct challenge carried a high risk of
causing significant offence today.
It is Ofcom's view that the broadcast of this offensive language exceeded generally accepted standards, in breach of Rule 2.3 of the Code.
Talking Pictures was previously
found in breach of the Code for the broadcast of racially offensive language without sufficient contextual justification on 9 January 20173 and 8 January 20184 (for material broadcast on 24 August 2016 and 13 September 2017 respectively). Ofcom is
requesting Talking Pictures to attend a meeting to discuss its
A little background about Talking Pictures
24th February 2018. See
article from express.co.uk
Talking Pictures TV, a family-owned, father and daughter-run station with only three members of staff, launched on Freeview less than three years ago but it already has over two million viewers.
Its unashamedly nostalgic diet of mainly old
black-andwhite films, documentary shorts and TV series of yesteryear has proved a huge hit with the public and - we are informed - the Queen.
Alas not everyone is happy about the great service to film and vintage TV buffs that the channel is
providing. Media regulator Ofcom has summoned Talking Pictures TV managing director Sarah Cronin-Stanley and her father Noel to a meeting to discuss compliance issues after the channel was found in breach of rules regarding the broadcasting of offensive
language. Sarah commented:
There are some films that are too horrible to show. But our view of context is different to Ofcom's. The word used in A Family At War is one that quite rightly we don't use today but it
was one the character - who wasn't very likeable - would have used at the time in which the drama was set, which is why we didn't censor it. He was in Egypt during the war and was talking to squaddies.
The Express writer commented:
It's also worth bearing in mind that A Family At War was hugely popular when first shown on ITV in the 1970s.
The Ofcom intervention raises serious issues about censorship and attempts to
rewrite history. The fact is that terms we regard as offensive today were used by people every day in the past.
Ofcom can't censor British TV history - surely we are meant to learn from the past
24th February 2018. See article from dailymail.co.uk
And of course a few colourful comments from
the Daily Mail. See article from dailymail.co.uk