Ofcom have cleared BBC1's Catherine Tate Show of breaching broadcast regulations with an expletive-littered Christmas Day episode that became the most complained-about programme of the festive period.
Forty-two people complained to Ofcom about the number of four-letter words and stereotyping in the show, which featured a sketch in which a Northern Ireland family exchanged presents including a knuckleduster, balaclava and chocolate penis.
More than 100 viewers also complained to the BBC about the show, including the excessive use of the word "fuck" by Tate's foul-mouthed character Nan Taylor in the first sketch of the show. Nan's catchphrase is "what a fucking
The regulator cleared the show, saying viewers were already aware that the show was likely to contain offensive language. It said it had been preceded with a warning about offensive language and was broadcast 90 minutes after the watershed.
Overall this episode was typical of the Catherine Tate Show and would not have gone beyond the expectations of its usual audience, said Ofcom in its ruling: For those not familiar with the show, the information given at the start was adequate.
The regulator said the depiction of the Northern Irish family, who discover that their son is gay, did not breach broadcast standards: In Ofcom's view it would have been clear to the audience that, in a comedy show such as this, exchanging Christmas
gifts of terrorist paraphernalia was absurd in the extreme . Comedy has a long tradition of engaging with challenging subjects and confronting taboos.
The Catherine Tate Christmas Special, which guest-starred George Michael, was broadcast at 10.30pm on Christmas Day and was watched by 6.4 million viewers. In all it received more than 100 complaints.
The regulator reported: As for the use of this language on Christmas Day, the BBC said that it does not regard any word as being more obscene on one day than on another. It did take account of the different audience expectations on different
occasions, but in its view it was not the general expectation of audiences that everything broadcast on Christmas Day should reflect its character as a religious festival.
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Speaking today John Beyer, director of Mediawatch-uk said that this finding “is a disgrace” and “seriously inconsistent” with Ofcom's finding last week about the obscenities used in the Live Earth concert.
No wonder the viewing public is confused and have lost confidence in the regulation of broadcasting. Considering that Ofcom has itself found that the majority of viewers believe there is too much swearing on television, this finding is all the more
extraordinary. The Communications Act 2003 requires that “generally accepted standards” are applied to the content of television and radio services and it seems to me that Ofcom is failing to take public opinion into account - and that is a breach of
trust and certainly not what Parliament intended when setting up the new regulatory regime.