Mencap celebrates Big Brother 'r-word' victory
Monday 24 May 2010
Ofcom reverses decision over offensive Channel 4 broadcast
Communications regulator Ofcom has today ruled that Channel 4 broke the Broadcasting Code by airing the offensive word ‘retard' during ‘Celebrity Big Brother's Big Mouth'.
The decision reverses Ofcom's two previous rulings that Channel 4 had not breached rules, and is a major victory for hundreds of learning disability campaigners who protested over the January incident.
"We would like to thank all those supporters who wrote to Ofcom's chief executive as part of Mencap's e-campaign," said Esther Foreman, Mencap's campaigns manager. "Your response has contributed to this important victory for the rights of people with a learning disability."
In March, more than 750 Mencap supporters protested online after Ofcom dismissed an official complaint about the incident made by Nicky Clark, a mother of two disabled daughters. The regulator found that the use of the word by two celebrities was 'justified by the context' – but a Mencap poll found that 61% of Channel 4 viewers considered the 'r-word' offensive.
Today, Ofcom's Broadcasting Review Committee ruled that the incident was "clearly capable of causing offence" and decided to uphold Clark's complaint.
Nicky Clark said: "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 who love them to be listened to."
"We are delighted that that Ofcom has changed its mind," added Mark Goldring, Mencap's chief executive. "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."
Photo: Inga Tillere
Download the Ofcom ruling [see pages 31-34]
Read more about the worldwide campaign against the 'r-word'