An episode of last year’s Celebrity Big Brother was the most complained-about TV show of the decade, new Ofcom figures reveal.
As the 2010s draw to a close, Ofcom has published1 the ten television programmes that drew the most complaints from viewers over the last ten years.
More than 25,000 people complained about last year’s Celebrity Big Brother on Channel 5, when Roxanne Pallett alleged assault by fellow housemate Ryan Thomas. The episode accounted for around half of all broadcasting complaints in 2018, making it by far the most complained-about programme of the decade.
Behind it was an episode of Loose Women on ITV, also from last year, which drew almost 8,000 complaints about an interview with guest Kim Woodburn.The rest of the list is dominated by reality shows and news programmes.
Tony Close, Ofcom’s Director of Content Standards, commented on the findings in a blog post today. He explains:
“People expect particular standards from TV and radio shows. Quite rightly, they feel passionately about programmes and want to have their say.”
“Ofcom’s job is to hear those views and protect the public from harmful and offensive content.”
“Overwhelmingly, the most contentious programmes of the 2010s were either reality shows – like Love Island, Big Brother and The X-Factor – or news and current affairs.”
“Why is that? One important reason might be the rise of social media over the decade. We know people like to discuss reality shows online. And in a time of political change, social media has also shaped increasingly passionate debate around news coverage.”
“While the overall volume of complaints we receive about a programme is certainly a good indicator that it needs examining, it’s not necessarily a sign that broadcasting rules have been broken. For example, shows with large audiences often generate more complaints because more people are watching. And we don’t need to receive any complaints to step in if a programme breaks our rules.”
“When we consider complaints, we take into account a range of factors. We think about generally-accepted standards, and what viewers or listeners might expect from a particular programme.”
“We examine the context that content was presented in – including the type of programme, the channel it was on and the time of broadcast. We look at who was likely to be watching or listening, and how the content was explained to people to help them understand it and decide whether to stay tuned in.”
“And importantly, we take into account broadcasters’ freedom of expression – and the rights of audiences to receive a range of ideas and information without unnecessary interference. Often, that means striking a careful balance in our decisions.”
“If we find a broadcaster in breach of our rules, we might also provide them with guidance or require them to put things right – for example, by changing their processes or broadcasting a summary of our decision. We can also issue fines.”
“When the breach is extremely serious, we can take a channel’s licence away. In recent years, for example, Ofcom has revoked two broadcasting licences because of concerns around hate speech.”
Viewers and listeners can complain to Ofcom about content on the TV, radio and video-on-demand services we regulate.
Complaints can be submitted by phone, online or by post, and each is carefully assessed against our broadcasting rules.
This year, Ofcom assessed almost 28,000 complaints from TV and radio audiences, and reviewed almost 7,000 hours of programmes. We launched 121 investigations, and found our broadcasting rules were broken in 55 cases.
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