Developing ICT skills and networks of support.
I work on the media team and one of our (often difficult) jobs is to try to change attitudes towards people with a learning disability in the media. So it is with a deep sigh that we hear that Frankie Boyle has been up to his old tricks again. On his Channel 4 show he has made some incredibly insensitive, vile and tasteless jokes about Katie Price’s son Harvey who has severe and multiple disabilities.
We’ve been discussing this here at Mencap and questioning where Channel 4’s sense of responsibility is. They chose to air this and give Frankie his platform for such hateful drivel. A Channel 4 spokesperson has said that ‘the joke aired in the context of a late night comedy show’. Eh? So it’s OK to make hateful jokes and encourage negative views of people with a disability as long as it’s late at night?
Frankie Boyle has said previously that ‘the number one priority today is “Don’t frighten the horses”. It’s like we’re back in the 1970s in terms of compliance.’ To be honest, I think it is in fact Frankie Boyle that is dragging comedy back 40 years, to the days when comedians revelled in racist and sexist jokes, and jokes about people with a disability.
Unfortunately Mencap often hears about the bullying and abuse of people with a learning disability, people who are the victims of ‘jokes’ and physically attacked because of who they are. The media does have a part to play generating in the negative, and often inaccurate, views of people with a disability in society.
Earlier this year Mencap worked with concerned mother (and fabulous campaigner) Nicky Clark after Channel 4 chose to broadcast Vinnie Jones and Davina McCall using the word ‘retard’. At the time both Channel 4 and broadcast regulator Ofcom didn’t seem to think that this was enough to offend and said that the word was ‘justified by the context’. In fact, Mencap polled the public and found that 3 out of 5 Channel 4 viewers find the word offensive and that only 1 in 10 thought it was ok to use the word as a joke. Ofcom announced that the use of the word in this instance was “clearly capable of causing offence” and that Channel 4 had in fact breached the Broadcasting Code. It was the first time that Ofcom had upheld upon appeal a complaint it had previously dismissed since the Broadcasting Review Committee was formed specifically for this purpose in December last year.
So after all of this, how can Channel 4 possibly say that these jokes are appropriate to air? It also makes me question how in touch Channel 4 is with their audience. More importantly, if this represents a general trend for their comedy programming, how can we expect the general public to understand and accept disability? It seems we have a long way to go.