Marking 500 Broadcast Bulletins


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Published
Jun 17th '24
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Today marks the 500th edition of Ofcom’s Broadcast Bulletin – the go-to place to find out about Ofcom’s work to uphold standards on TV and radio.

 

Every fortnight on a Monday, it’s published on Ofcom’s website – as it has been since the very first Bulletin on 27 January 2004 (you can check that out on the National Archives website!).

 

Whatever the issue, channel or programme, every complaint matters to us; they’re a vital barometer for how audiences think and feel, and Ofcom consider each and every one carefully against our rules, known as the Broadcasting Code.

 

The Code sets standards in programmes – including rules around protection of children, harm and offence, and due accuracy and impartiality in news – as well as sponsorship, product placement, and fairness and privacy. All broadcasters are treated equally and fairly and held to the same high standards.

 

The Broadcast Bulletin includes a record of any new investigations that Ofcom launched into programmes, as well as the outcome of those investigations. It also includes listings of any complaints Ofcom looked at, but ultimately decided they don’t raise issues under the rules (categorised as ‘assessed, not pursued’).

 

You can navigate the Bulletin interactively and set filters to look at the compliance and complaints history of particular TV and radio services.

 

Importantly, under the BBC Charter, unless there are exceptional circumstances, complaints about programmes on the BBC must be handled by the BBC in the first instance. You can search the Bulletin for ‘BBC first’ complaints that have come to Ofcom and been referred to the BBC, and also complaints that have completed the BBC process and been assessed by Ofcom.

 

 

Milestone moments

  • 2005 – Jerry Springer the Opera, which is ninth on the list of most complained about programmes, was the first time Ofcom had seen high volumes of standards complaints to Ofcom. Investigation included the point that this level of complaints was ‘unprecedented for Ofcom or any previous broadcasting regulator and appears to have been the first large scale internet campaign to Ofcom on any broadcasting issue.’
  • 2007 – Next big complaints moment was Celebrity Big Brother, second on the list of most complained programmes, this crashed the Ofcom website, drove huge numbers of calls to Ofcom and received Parliamentary debate and international focus.
  • 2008 – Ofcom to ITV for some of the most serious breaches of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code. The ‘premium-rate phone-in scandal’ raised serious questions about trust between broadcasters and viewers. Ofcominvestigated various programmes about the use of premium rate telephone lines, and fined broadcasters over £11m in total.
  • 2009 – Ofcom  over the “Sachsgate” row, describing the Radio 2 broadcast of messages left by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand on actor Andrew Sachs’s voicemail as “gratuitously offensive, humiliating and demeaning”.
  • 2016 – Ofcom , introducing two additional rules to address content containing hate speech and abusive or derogatory treatment.
  • 2020 – Ofcom strengthened rules having listened to viewers concerns about the wellbeing of people taking part in programmes. Ofcom  in this area: broadcasters now have to take due care of people they feature in their programmes who might be at risk of significant harm, such as vulnerable people or those who aren’t used to being in the public eye.
  • 2021- Ofcom  making 2021 the year with highest number of complaints to Ofcom ever.
  • 2022 – Ofcom rules in their news and current affairs coverage in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

 

Top 10 most complained about programmes to Ofcom of all time

 

  1. Good Morning Britain, ITV, 8 March 2021 – 54,595 complaints about this programme which focused on the interview between Oprah Winfrey and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. In a finely-balanced decision,  found that this did not break broadcasting rules. Ofcom reminded ITV of the need to take greater care around content discussing mental health and suicide in future.
  2. Celebrity Big Brother, Channel 4, 10 January 2007 – 45,159 complaints centred on the alleged bullying of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty by fellow contestants Jade Goody, model Danielle Lloyd and singer Jo O’Meara. Channel Four was found in breach of the Broadcasting Code and was directed to broadcast a summary of Ofcom’s finding on three separate occasions.
  3. Celebrity Big Brother, Channel 5, 30, 31 August & 1 September 2018 – 25,327 complaints concerning an allegation from a housemate, Roxanne Pallett, that fellow housemate Ryan Thomas had deliberately and repeatedly physically assaulted her. Investigation found that this did not break broadcasting rules. This was clearly a very sensitive issue, which many viewers felt strongly about. On balance, Ofcom considered the majority of regular viewers would expect there to be an extended focus on this issue, and also took into account the broadcaster’s repeated warnings to viewers.
  4. Britain’s Got Talent, ITV, 5 September 2020 – 25,017 complaints about a about a performance by the dance troupe Diversity that some viewers considered was not suitable for family viewing and expressed support for the political organisation ‘Black Lives Matter'”. Ofcom for concluding that the programme did not raise issues under the rules.
  5. Love IslandITV2, 6 August 2021 – 24,921 complaints about Faye’s behaviour towards Teddy. After careful consideration, Ofcom decided this did not raise issues under the rules.
  6. Julia Hartley-Brewer, TalkTV, 3 January 2024 – 17,351 complaints about Julia Hartley-Brewer’s interview with Palestinian politician Dr Mustafa Barghouti. This did not raise issues under the rules but Ofcom  to ensure potentially offensive comments are justified.
  7. I’m a Celebrity, Get me out of Here!, ITV, December 2020 – 11,516 complaints related to the welfare of animals used in trials (complaints received as part of RSPCA petition). This did not raise issues under the rules.
  8. Dan Wootton Tonight, GB News, 26 September 2023 – 8,867 complaints about misogynistic comments made by Laurence Fox about journalist Ava Evans. .
  9. Jerry Springer the Opera, BBC2, 8 January 2005 – 8,860 complaints about the programme’s representation of the Christian community. Investigation found that this did not break broadcasting rules.
  10. King Charles III: The Coronation, ITV1, 6 May 2023 – 8,421 complaints about a comment made by actress Adjoa Andoh during the live broadcast, which focused on the appearance of the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Ofcom for concluding that this programme did not raise issues under Ofcom rules.

 

Source:  Office of Communication (Ofcom)

 

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