Poor Ofcom. Their job is a crazy one. They have to listen to the demented ramblings of the general public all day long. It’s their job, their purpose. And like some sort of standards of good taste demi-gods, they eventually make the decision as to whether or not the ramblings (or complaints, as they are known) are reasonable. I remember I used to sit near some IT guys once, and they used to let me look at the profanity folder on the email server to cheer me up. We’d gleefully decide which emails could go through (like when someone wrote ‘shite’ instead of ‘shirt’) and which would not (people calling their boss a cockwomble). I kind of imagine that’s what it’s like working for Ofcom – both entertaining and soul crushing in equal measures.
“I feel that I should specify that it was Doctor Who, as if it was on, say, David Attenborough, the complaints might have a degree of viability”
People complain en masse about some bonkers things. Last year, 200 people took it upon themselves to voice how annoyed they were that the dog that won Britain’s Got Talent was, in fact, 2 dogs – a show dog and a stunt dog. They weren’t just annoyed, they actually took the time to make complaints to the ever weary Ofcom agents. Six people complained about a lesbian, interspecies kiss on Doctor Who (I feel that I should specify that it was Doctor Who, as if it was on, say, David Attenborough, the complaints might have a degree of viability.) The 6 people were brushed off, and Jenny and Vastra lived to love another day. Only recently, but one week ago, more people complained about Celebrity Big Brother than anything else on TV. I say more people, it was actually me calling them over and over again, begging to know why it’s still on TV…
But (in my opinion) the most ridiculous complaint I’ve come across in the last few months, maybe years, is the 17 complaints Ofcom received about Channel 4 news’ reporting of the Nice terror attacks. You may remember what happened – some people were minding their own business celebrating Bastille Day in a French town, when some extremist bastard drove a truck into the crowd, killing at least 84 people. News outlets around the world reported on it including (but not limited to) established purveyors of sensitivity and good taste The Sun, The Mail, The Express and (of course) The Star. Surprisingly, I don’t remember a single complaint about the story sharing a page with some tits and a coupon for Special Brew.* In fact, all appeared to go without significant comment or complaint, unlike Ch4, who allowed their report to be delivered by journalist Fatima Manji. Was she insensitive, misinformed, rude or unprofessional at all in any way? No, but she was wearing a hijab while she did her job.
17 human beings thought that was an acceptable thing to complain about.
“This was reported on the North East news by national treasure Colin Briggs, and as far as I’m aware it wasn’t complained about”
Now, a few years ago, a guy called Raoul Moat killed 2 people and injured 2 others in Northumberland. This was reported on the North East news by national treasure Colin Briggs, and as far as I’m aware it wasn’t complained about, even though he was white and northern – just like Moat. I would assume some bald men reported on the terrorist attacks committed by Anders Breivik in 2011 – I wonder if that was considered insensitive? However, because a crack pot (who happened to be Muslim) chose to commit a terrible act, a professional reporter was considered offensive because she demonstrated the fact that she is also a Muslim via an item of clothing. Not shared ideals. Shared clothing. Let’s just examine this – because she is a Muslim, it was considered to be insensitive to report on a crime committed by someone in a different country, just because they happen to be the same religion. Is that not just wrap your head in tin foil crackers? Am I not allowed to write blog posts about Caitlin Moran because we are both feminists? Of course I am. And because the world isn’t completely insane, Ofcom called bullshit on the complaints and that was that.
Or was it…?
“Is that not just wrap your head in tin foil crackers?”
As a nice little post script to this, a columnist for vile twaddle peddlers The Sun wrote a piece about whether or not a Muslim presenter should have appeared on the bulletin. Essentially, he suggested that a professional journalist should have been stopped from doing her job because of her religion. 1,700 people complained about his comments and the Independent Press Standards Organisation (the print version of Ofcom) have ruled that his article breached rules around discrimination, harassment and inaccuracy. He, and indeed The Sun, will face a ruling in the autumn.
*May not have actually happened – description created for comic effect