Ofcom dismisses binge drinking privacy complaint

No expectation of privacy in publicly shot footage

A complaint about an ITV documentary about binge drinking in the UK that briefly pictured the complainant in a state of intoxication in a public street has not been upheld.

Graham Nixon complained that the programme The Truth About Binge Drinking, which showed him twice in a montage of shots of individuals drinking or becoming inebriated was an infringement of the privacy provisions of the OFCOM broadcast code. Mr Nixon was shown needing the assistance of a friend to stand up and then sitting on the pavement. The overall impression was that he was intoxicated. His face had been blurred in the first shot but not the second. He argued that he had not consented to the filming or indeed known of it.

Ofcom found that Mr Nixon did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that his actions took place in a public place and were visible to all around him. Nor was his behaviour of a particularly private nature. The film crew had been filming openly not surreptitiously, from a vantage point viewable to Mr Nixon (even if he had not noticed). The regulator did not take the view that Mr Nixon’s state of intoxication rendered any greater expectation of privacy than normal, non-alcohol influenced behaviour in public.

The Ofcom ruling does not discuss possible public interest justifications for filming drunkenness in public places, as determining that there was no legitimate expectation of privacy was sufficient to dismiss the complaint. Neither does the complaint address whether a level of intoxication where an individual is in some distress in public may be capable of raising an expectation of privacy.