Big Brother cleared over language

Ofcom rejects complaints over housemate's use of racist remark

Channel 4 has been cleared over this summer’s Big Brother race row after Ofcom ruled that the broadcaster was right to show student Emily Parr using the word “nigger” in a conversation with other housemates because the programme made clear that her comment was offensive and unacceptable.

The conversation, involving Charley Uchea, Nicky Maxwell and Parr began with Parr commenting, in what appeared to be a light-hearted way, on Charley Uchea’s dancing, “You pushing it out you nigger…” The other two housemates reacted in a shocked and surprised manner and Emily Parr insisted that she used the word jokingly. Parr was evicted from the house for using the word.

However, Ofcom also rejected viewer accusations of double standards over the programme’s decision to remove Parr while keeping in a housemate who used “homophobic” language.

Contestant Laura Williams twice used the term “poof” on the show – but the first comment went unchallenged and the second earned her only a reprimand in the Diary Room.

The media regulator received over 450 in relation to Parr’s comments and a further 200 in relation to what Williams had said. A number of viewers complained that the word “poof” is just as offensive to gay people as “nigger” is to black people.

But in today’s ruling, Ofcom cleared the programme of discrimination and double standards, adding that the word presented some difficulties for regulators.

“In our view, it is not possible or appropriate at present to establish definitively the degree of offence use of the word ‘poof’ can cause in all contexts. For example, it is clear that within the gay community itself, the word ‘poof’ can be used in a playful, affectionate or self-deprecating way… In Ofcom’s view, there is insufficient or no evidence to suggest that Laura Williams used the word complained of in a denigratory way.”