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OfCom Censures Channel 4 and Frankie Boyle Over Boyle’s Harvey Price Comments

April 4, 2011

Good news.

Media regulator Ofcom has censured comedian Frankie Boyle and Channel 4 for broadcasting “offensive” jokes about Katie Price and her son Harvey.

Ofcom upheld 500 complaints about Boyle’s routine, broadcast in December.

Ofcom said it appeared to “target and mock the mental and physical disabilities” of the eight year-old.

Channel 4 said it was “wholly justified in the context”. Chief executive David Abraham personally sanctioned the jokes before they were broadcast.

Katie Price was among those who complained to Ofcom about the comments in Boyle’s comedy series Tramadol Nights, saying they were discriminatory, offensive, demeaning and humiliating.

In response, Channel 4 said: “Nothing he says is intended as a slur on any particular community – everyone is fair game in Frankie’s eyes.”

One remark about Harvey was not “a joke about Harvey Price’s disability, or about rape or incest – it is simply absurdist satire”, Channel 4 said.

“We do not believe that any viewer would have taken this particular joke literally,” it added.

‘Erroneous decision’

The broadcaster also said Boyle’s remarks on his Tramadol Nights show were meant to satirise Price’s alleged “exploitation of her children for publicity purposes… her behaviour as a mother and her cavalier attitude towards relationships”.

The show was preceded by adequate warnings for the audience, the broadcaster argued, and said it had a job to “champion pioneering and distinctive voices in British comedy and bring them to a wider audience”.

But the regulator ruled that allowing the jokes to be screened was “an erroneous decision on a matter of editorial judgement on the broadcaster’s part”.

Ofcom said Price and ex-husbands Alex Reid and Peter Andre had “consciously exposed their and their children’s lives to the media” and must expect to be the targets of humour and criticism.

But it continued: “The fact that a public figure chooses to expose some aspects of his or her child’s life in the media does not provide broadcasters with unlimited licence to broadcast comedy that targets humour at such a child’s expense.

“This position applies even more firmly in a case in which the child is as young as eight years old, and has a number of disabilities which are specifically focussed on as the target of that intended humour.”

The ruling also said: “Ofcom was of the view that the material in question appeared to directly target and mock the mental and physical disabilities of a known eight year-old child who had not himself chosen to be in the public eye.

“As such, Ofcom found that the comments had considerable potential to be highly offensive to the audience.”

The ruling relates to the second episode of Boyle’s comedy series, aired on Channel 4 on 7 December.

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