Channel 4 rapped by Ofcom

Media regulator publishes its findings on Celebrity Big Brother racism row

Ofcom today published its Adjudication on Channel Four’s broadcast of Celebrity Big Brother in January this year. The regulator instigated its investigation after receiving just over 44,500 complaints about the series, fuelled by intense media coverage. The complaints centred on the alleged bullying of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty by fellow contestants Jade Goody, model Danielle Lloyd and singer Jo O’Meara.

In considering whether C4 had breached the Code, Ofcom’s starting point was not whether material which was potentially offensive or harmful had been transmitted, but whether Channel Four had appropriately handled such material. Ofcom singled out three occasions where it considered the Channel had failed. One was where Jade Goody referred to Shetty as “Shilpa Poppadom”; the second Lloyd telling Shetty in foul language that she should go home; and the third centred on an argument over Shetty cooking a chicken.

Ofcom concluded that Channel Four made serious editorial misjudgements, compounded by a serious failure of its compliance process. Channel Four was found in breach of the Broadcasting Code and has been directed to broadcast a summary of Ofcom’s finding on three separate occasions. 

In another regulatory development, the Secretary of State has today referred BSkyB’s purchase of a 17.9% stake in ITV to the Competition Commission to consider whether BSkyB’s shareholding reduces competition in general and whether it threatens the public interest in terms of limiting the number of groups that control media companies.