Thursday, November 15, 2012


Ofcom to investigate potential racial stereotyping in Big Fat Gypsy Weddings

Watchdog to assess whether Channel 4 programme unfairly racially stereotyped UK's Gypsy and Traveller communities


Gypsy Weddings unfairly racially stereotyped the UK's Gypsy and Traveller communities.

Ofcom has launched an investigation into whether Channel 4's Big Fat Gypsy Weddings unfairly racially stereotyped the UK's Gypsy and Traveller communities.

The media regulator has decided to investigate a complaint lodged by lawyers representing the Irish Traveller Movement of Britain and a number of individuals that the communities were "unjustly and unfairly" portrayed and treated by Channel 4.

Ofcom has launched the investigation into the second series of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and spinoff show Thelma's Gypsy Girls.

The regulator will formally investigate the complaint lodged by ITMB's law firm, Howe & Co, which said that people from the Traveller and Gypsy communities were "unfairly portrayed in an untrue and damaging racially stereotypical manner".

Howe & Co cited examples of "unfair negative images" include showing the sexual assault of females as a cultural norm in these communities, depicting highly sexualised behaviour, and showing children as ""wildly behaved, uncontrollable, foul-mouthed, illiterate, uneducated, violent and dangerous".

Boys and men were "almost exclusively shown as being feckless, violent, and/or criminal," according to the complaint.

Ofcom has also decided that the complaint warrants a separate investigation into harm and offence, which is being handled by the media regulator's standards team.

Last month the Channel 4 chief executive, David Abraham, was forced to offer a public apology for its "Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier" ad campaign for the second series of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, after it was condemned as offensive and irresponsible by MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee.

The Advertising Standards Authority also recently criticised the ad campaign, ruling that it depicted a child in a sexualised way and reinforced negative stereotypes.

The ASA ruled that the campaign was irresponsible, offensive and reaffirmed negative stereotypes and prejudice against the Traveller and Gypsy communities.

"The matters that Ofcom are investigating are of the most serious nature," said David Enright, a partner at Howe & Co. "If Ofcom concurs with its fellow regulator, the ASA ... the consequences could not be more serious."

In March Ofcom dismissed complaints that Channel 4's "Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier" TV ad campaign breached any aspects of the broadcasting code.

A Channel 4 spokesperson said: "We will be robustly defending this complaint."

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