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Reactions To The OfCom Review

May 24, 2010

Ofcom has ruled that Channel Four breached broadcasting guidelines by using the word “retard” on its Big Brother programme – after twice previously rejecting complaints that it was offensive. The word was used by actor and ex-footballer Vinnie Jones and by presenter Davina McCall on Big Brother’s Big Mouth show in January. Ofcom accepted today that the context in which the word was used had the effect of:

“…ridiculing those with a physical or learning difficulty”

Nicky Clark, a mother with two disabled daughters, who had seen her two previous complaints turned away by Ofcom on the basis that “many regarded the use of the word as not a issue” and that “the probable degree of harm and offence was minimal”, welcomed the ruling:

“I am so pleased that Ofcom has upheld my complaint. This is not a call for censorship or to block free speech. It is simply a call for the matter to be dealt with fairly and for the views of disabled people and those of us who love them to be listened to. The word must be judged by the context, and in this case it was derogatory.”

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Mencap, which had helped orchestrate protests against the original rulings, added:

“The groundswell of protest and emotion caused by Channel 4’s broadcasting of this insulting word has demonstrated just how offensive and degrading a term it is.”

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