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Marking 500 Broadcast Bulletins

Today marks the 500th edition of Ofcom’s Broadcast Bulletin – the go-to place to find out about Ofcom’s work to uphold standards on TV and radio.

Every fortnight on a Monday, it’s published on Ofcom’s website – as it has been since the very first Bulletin on 27 January 2004 (you can check that out on the National Archives website!).

Whatever the issue, channel or programme, every complaint matters to us; they’re a vital barometer for how audiences think and feel, and we consider each and every one carefully against our rules, known as the Broadcasting Code.

The Code sets standards in programmes – including rules around protection of children, harm and offence, and due accuracy and impartiality in news – as well as sponsorship, product placement, and fairness and privacy. All broadcasters are treated equally and fairly and held to the same high standards.

The Broadcast Bulletin includes a record of any new investigations that we’ve launched into programmes, as well as the outcome of those investigations. It also includes listings of any complaints we’ve looked at, but ultimately decided they don’t raise issues under our rules (categorised as ‘assessed, not pursued’).

You can navigate the Bulletin interactively and set filters to look at the compliance and complaints history of particular TV and radio services.

Importantly, under the BBC Charter, unless there are exceptional circumstances, complaints about programmes on the BBC must be handled by the BBC in the first instance. You can search the Bulletin for ‘BBC first’ complaints that have come to Ofcom and been referred to the BBC, and also complaints that have completed the BBC process and been assessed by Ofcom.

500 BROADCAST BULLETINS IN NUMBERS 770,714 complaints assessed 156,988 cases assessed  3,286 standards investigations closed 576 were resolved 545 were not in breach or discontinued   2,166 found in breach 148 statutory sanctions £15,875,250 total fines to broadcasters

Milestone moments

  • 2005 – Jerry Springer the Opera, which is ninth on the list of most complained about programmes, was the first time we had seen high volumes of standards complaints to Ofcom. Our investigation included the point that this level of complaints was ‘unprecedented for Ofcom or any previous broadcasting regulator and appears to have been the first large scale internet campaign to Ofcom on any broadcasting issue.’
  • 2007 – our next big complaints moment was Celebrity Big Brother, second on the list of most complained programmes, this crashed the Ofcom website, drove huge numbers of calls to Ofcom and received Parliamentary debate and international focus.
  • 2008 – we issued a fine totalling £5,675,000 to ITV for some of the most serious breaches of Ofcom's Broadcasting Code. The ‘premium-rate phone-in scandal’ raised serious questions about trust between broadcasters and viewers. We investigated various programmes about the use of premium rate telephone lines, and fined broadcasters over £11m in total.
  • 2009 – Ofcom fined the BBC £150,000 over the "Sachsgate" row, describing the Radio 2 broadcast of messages left by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand on actor Andrew Sachs's voicemail as "gratuitously offensive, humiliating and demeaning".
  • 2016 – we reviewed our broadcast rules on material that is likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime, introducing two additional rules to address content containing hate speech and abusive or derogatory treatment.
  • 2020 – we strengthened our rules having listened to viewers concerns about the wellbeing of people taking part in programmes. We introduced stronger protections in this area: broadcasters now have to take due care of people they feature in their programmes who might be at risk of significant harm, such as vulnerable people or those who aren’t used to being in the public eye.
  • 2021- we received 173,132 complaints making 2021 the year with highest number of complaints to Ofcom ever.
  • 2022 – we of our rules in their news and current affairs coverage in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Top 10 most complained about programmes to Ofcom of all time

1.	Good Morning Britain, ITV, 8 March 2021 – 54,595 complaints 2.	Celebrity Big Brother, Channel 4, 10 January 2007 – 45,159 complaints 3.	Celebrity Big Brother, Channel 5, 30, 31 August & 1 September 2018 – 25,327 complaints 4.	Britain’s Got Talent, ITV, 5 September 2020 – 25,017 complaints 5.	Love Island, ITV2, 6 August 2021 – 24,921 complaints 6.	Julia Hartley-Brewer, TalkTV, 3 January 2024 – 17,351 complaints 7.	I’m a Celebrity, Get me out of Here!, ITV, December 2020 – 11,516 complaints 8.	Dan Wootton Tonight, GB News, 26 September 2023 – 8,867 complaints  9.	Jerry Springer the Opera, BBC2, 8 January 2005 – 8,860 complaints 10.	King Charles III: The Coronation, ITV1, 6 May 2023 – 8,421 complaints

  1. Good Morning Britain, ITV, 8 March 2021 – 54,595 complaints about this programme which focused on the interview between Oprah Winfrey and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. In a finely-balanced decision, our investigation found that this did not break broadcasting rules. We reminded ITV of the need to take greater care around content discussing mental health and suicide in future.
  2. Celebrity Big Brother, Channel 4, 10 January 2007 – 45,159 complaints centred on the alleged bullying of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty by fellow contestants Jade Goody, model Danielle Lloyd and singer Jo O’Meara. Channel Four was found in breach of the Broadcasting Code and was directed to broadcast a summary of Ofcom’s finding on three separate occasions.
  3. Celebrity Big Brother, Channel 5, 30, 31 August & 1 September 2018 – 25,327 complaints concerning an allegation from a housemate, Roxanne Pallett, that fellow housemate Ryan Thomas had deliberately and repeatedly physically assaulted her. Our investigation found that this did not break broadcasting rules. This was clearly a very sensitive issue, which many viewers felt strongly about. On balance, we considered the majority of regular viewers would expect there to be an extended focus on this issue, and we also took into account the broadcaster’s repeated warnings to viewers.
  4. Britain’s Got Talent, ITV, 5 September 2020 – 25,017 complaints about a about a performance by the dance troupe Diversity that some viewers considered was not suitable for family viewing and expressed support for the political organisation 'Black Lives Matter'". We published our reasoning for concluding that the programme did not raise issues under our rules.
  5. Love Island, ITV2, 6 August 2021 – 24,921 complaints about Faye’s behaviour towards Teddy. After careful consideration, we decided this did not raise issues under our rules.
  6. Julia Hartley-Brewer, TalkTV, 3 January 2024 – 17,351 complaints about Julia Hartley-Brewer’s interview with Palestinian politician Dr Mustafa Barghouti. This did not raise issues under our rules but we told TalkTV to take extra care to ensure potentially offensive comments are justified.
  7. I’m a Celebrity, Get me out of Here!, ITV, December 2020 – 11,516 complaints related to the welfare of animals used in trials (complaints received as part of RSPCA petition). This did not raise issues under our rules.
  8. Dan Wootton Tonight, GB News, 26 September 2023 – 8,867 complaints about misogynistic comments made by Laurence Fox about journalist Ava Evans. Breach of Ofcom’s offence rules.
  9. Jerry Springer the Opera, BBC2, 8 January 2005 – 8,860 complaints about the programme’s representation of the Christian community. Our investigation found that this did not break broadcasting rules.
  10. King Charles III: The Coronation, ITV1, 6 May 2023 – 8,421 complaints about a comment made by actress Adjoa Andoh during the live broadcast, which focused on the appearance of the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. We published our reasoning for concluding that this programme did not raise issues under our rules.

 

Channel website: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/

Original article link: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv-radio-and-on-demand/broadcast-standards/marking-500-broadcast-bulletins/

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