TV Channels Have A ‘Human Right’ To Broadcast Offensive Material
Listening to Nick Ferrari on LBC 97.3 and an IPod at the same time on the drive to work this morning, I turned off my Ipod in shock in mid-song. What would make me, someone who usually much prefers music to any talk show, do such a thing, you might ask?
It was the discovery that this morning’s discussion was about the human right of TV channels to broadcast offensive language. I find this shocking. TV channels are organisations, businesses, not individual human beings. They don’t have human rights- but their viewers certainly do. They have the human right not to have to listen to offensive language while watching TV.
So, why am I bringing up this issue on a disability blog? Well, the discussion centred around a ruling made by Ofcom after they rejected the request of Nicky Clark, a mother of two DisAbled children, to discipline Channel 4 after Vinnie Jones used the word ‘retard’ on Big Brother’s Big Mouth, shown on E4 in January this year.
When asked how he knew that the person wearing a chicken costume was presenter Davina McCall and not a fellow contestant, he responded that it was because she was “walking like a retard” at which McCall laughed.
Ofcom say they “noted the word was directed at Davina McCall and not anyone with learning difficulties. There was not sufficient evidence to conclude that the use of the word was necessarily intended to be offensive to that particular group.” They add that it was “unfortunate” that the word was not censured, but claim that “the probable degree of harm and offence was minimal.”
I have to disagree. I didn’t see the programme, nor do I have a learning disability. I do, however, have walking difficulties, and even if I didn’t, as a DisAbled person I can see straight away how anyone with any disability would find the comment offensive. I find it offensive myself.
I have a question for Ofcom. Where was the ‘human right’ of Channel 4 to broadcast the racist language spoken to Shilpa Shetty on Celebrity Big Brother in 2007? Why was the channel found to have been wrong at that time and not now? I’ve said before that disablism is just as bad as racism, and that it deserves equal punishment. Whoever such comments are directed at, when they are broadcast on national TV there is every chance that people from the group they are about will be watching, and will be offended by the broadcast. What message is Ofcom sending out to viewers? Surely they don’t seriously think that Indian and South Asian people have more of a right to watch TV without hearing offensive language than disabled people do? If they think that no one finds disablist language offensive, I would like to inform them that they are very wrong.
Nicky Clark is requesting an on-air apology from Channel 4.