May 23, 2005
Ofcom rejects BBC programme complaints
Regulator issues two pro-media decisions
Two adjudications on complaints about BBC television programmes released today by media watchdog Ofcom represent victories for the media. The cases consider the issues of fairness, the right to reply, privacy and public interest.
In the first, Mr Gareth Cross on behalf of Oceanarium Ltd had complained that the BBC television programme “UK’s Worst …. Days Out” had unfairly criticised an aquarium run by the company and had not given it an opportunity to respond to the criticisms. Rejecting the complaint, Ofcom found that the programme had fairly reflected the experiences of the presenter and the family accompanying her, and had given Oceanarium Ltd sufficient opportunity to respond. The programme-makers had written to Mr Cross about the programme, and he had replied in a lengthy email. He had also been given an opportunity for further comment.
The second concerned Mr Payne’s complaint about a BBC Wales consumer programme, “X-Ray”. He complained that the show was poorly researched and unfairly portrayed the activities of his second-hand car parts business. He further alleged that his privacy had been infringed by the programme-makers “doorstepping” of him and the inclusion of footage of this in the programme.
After a hearing, Ofcom found that all reasonable care had been taking in researching the programme and that Mr Payne had not been unfairly represented. In an interesting ruling on the privacy complaint, Ofcom found that the doorstep interview and its inclusion in the footage did infringe Mr Payne’s privacy, but that, given the concerns raised about him by customers and Trading Standards, this infringement was, in the circumstances, warranted by the overriding public interest it found in investigating and exposing Mr Payne’s activities.
Separately, Channel Four’s programme School Dinners presented by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver was cleared of a breach of Ofcom’s programme code following complaints about swearing. In its latest bulletin, Ofcom held:
“While we have some reservations about the editorial justification for the use of some of the strongest language, we note that audience figures for the series indicate that the child audience was not significant and consider that, on balance, the programmes did not breach the code.”