Celebrity Big Brother tops decade’s TV complaints

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A 2018 episode of Celebrity Big Brother was the most complained-about TV show of the decade, new figures from broadcast watchdog Ofcom reveal.

As the 2010s draw to a close,  Ofcom has published the ten television programmes that drew the most complaints from viewers over the last ten years.

More than 25,000 people complained about last year’s Celebrity Big Brother on Channel 5, when Roxanne Pallett alleged assault by fellow housemate Ryan Thomas. The episode accounted for around half of all broadcasting complaints in 2018, making it by far the most complained-about programme of the decade.

Behind it was an episode of Loose Women on ITV, also from 20188, which drew almost 8,000 complaints about an interview with guest Kim Woodburn. The rest of the list is dominated by reality shows and news programmes.

In a blog post Tony Close, Ofcom’s Director of Content Standards, says that people expect particular standards from TV and radio shows. “Quite rightly, they feel passionately about programmes and want to have their say,” he notes.

“Ofcom’s job is to hear those views and protect the public from harmful and offensive content. Overwhelmingly, the most contentious programmes of the 2010s were either reality shows – like Love Island, Big Brother and The X-Factor – or news and current affairs,” he reports.

“Why is that? One important reason might be the rise of social media over the decade. We know people like to discuss reality shows online. And in a time of political change, social media has also shaped increasingly passionate debate around news coverage.”

“While the overall volume of complaints we receive about a programme is certainly a good indicator that it needs examining, it’s not necessarily a sign that broadcasting rules have been broken. For example, shows with large audiences often generate more complaints because more people are watching. And we don’t need to receive any complaints to step in if a programme breaks our rules.”

“When we consider complaints, we take into account a range of factors. We think about generally-accepted standards, and what viewers or listeners might expect from a particular programme. We examine the context that content was presented in – including the type of programme, the channel it was on and the time of broadcast. We look at who was likely to be watching or listening, and how the content was explained to people to help them understand it and decide whether to stay tuned in.”

“And importantly, we take into account broadcasters’ freedom of expression – and the rights of audiences to receive a range of ideas and information without unnecessary interference. Often, that means striking a careful balance in our decisions.”

“If we find a broadcaster in breach of our rules, we might also provide them with guidance or require them to put things right – for example, by changing their processes or broadcasting a summary of our decision. We can also issue fines. When the breach is extremely serious, we can take a channel’s licence away. In recent years, for example, Ofcom has revoked two broadcasting licences because of concerns around hate speech,” he advises.

Most complained-about shows of the decade

  1. Celebrity Big Brother, Channel 5 – 30, 31 August, 1 September 2018
  2. Loose Women, ITV – 29 August 2018
  3. UKIP: The First 100 days, Channel 4 – 16 February 2015
  4. Sky News – 27 September 2018
  5. The X Factor, ITV – 11 December 2010
  6. Channel 4 News, Channel 4 – 29 March 2019
  7. Love Island, ITV2 – 1 July 2018
  8. The Wright Stuff, Channel 5 – 6, 7, 8 December 2011
  9. Big Brother, Channel 5 – 24 June 2015
  10. Sky News with Kay Burley, Sky News – 5 June 2015

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