Channel 4 adverts for Big Fat Gypsy Weddings has prompted about 100 complaints over alleged racism
Channel 4's billboard campaign, which feature the words Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier printed over images of Gypsy girls and children, led to complaints being lodged by the London Gypsy & Traveller Unit and London assembly members Jennette Arnold
and John Biggs.
The Advertising Standards Authority said that it has so far received 97 complaints about the ad campaign, with most concerned that it is offensive to Gypsies. Some of the complainants also raised concerns about the use of the word gypsier, which they
believe is racist.
A spokesman said that the ASA is currently assessing the complaints to see whether there is grounds for launching an investigation into whether Channel 4 has broken the advertising code.
Christine Cawley, an Irish Traveller who lives in London, criticised Channel 4's ad campaign in a piece for the Guardian's Comment is Free, arguing that the broadcaster seems to be using who we are against us in a way that feels very hard to take .
The London Gypsy & Traveller Unit delivered a letter of complaint to Channel 4 on Tuesday, addressed to the chief creative officer, Jay Hunt, and chief executive, David Abraham, raising concerns over the stereotyping inherent in the campaign.
We wonder if Channel 4 would have been so ready to use the adverts with similarly compromising phrases for other ethnic groups: 'Jewisher' or 'more Asian' or 'blacker', said the unit, which also asked Channel 4 to remove the ad campaign and
One of Channel 4's biggest sponsors admitted it was displeased with the broadcaster's controversial Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier campaign for
its hit documentary series, Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.
Honda, which sponsors all of Channel 4's documentary output, said that it had informed C4 of our unhappiness with this poster campaign in an email sent to the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain.
The billboard campaign, which features the words Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier over images of Gypsy girls and children has been criticised as offensive and racist and prompted more than 100 complaints to the advertising watchdog.
Honda had also received about 35 complaints from unhappy members of the public. Paul Ormond, Honda UK's general manager, corporate affairs, said:
We have had concerned members of the public ringing us thinking we have some control over editorial content. We have responded by saying we have no control over content but we have made our concerns known to Channel 4 that we are unhappy that we are
being linked to this through the tone of the advertising campaign.
Channel 4 has been cleared by Ofcom for running a series of posters promoting the TV series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. Billboards and other media adverts for the second series of the show used the words Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier.
More than 300 complaints were rejected after organisations such as the London Gypsy and Travellers Unit said the word gypsier in the advert was shocking and potentially racist.
January's Gypsy Blood documentary was also cleared of causing offence. More than 500 complaints were received by Ofcom about the 90-minute True Stories programme on Channel 4.
The TV censor said its rules had not been broken and that scenes, including children fighting and animal cruelty, showed context and were justified as part of the documentary.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) also rejected complaints about promotion surrounding My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding's second series.
ASA asked to think again about Channel 4's Big Fat Gypsy Wedding posters
When the ASA base their decisions on the supposed offence taken by a few easily offended complainants, then it is hardly surprising that they they have got themselves into such a tangle. I wonder if it ever occurs to the ASA that some complainants may
not be actually 'offended', and that they are just using the ASA to cause a bit of political hassle to opponents.
The advert censor has been asked to review its decision not to formally investigate a controversial Channel 4 billboard campaign for the Big Fat Gypsy Weddings documentary.
The campaign - which featured the words Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier printed over images of gypsy children - led to 372 complaints that claimed it was offensive and racist.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) decided against investigating the campaign earlier this year because it judged that although the ads might not be to everyone's taste , the images and text reflected the tone and content of the programme,
and were therefore unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The ASA's independent reviewer, Sir Hayden Phillips, has recommended that the ASA council review its decision following a request by the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (ITMB).
David Enright, a solicitor representing the ITMB, said:
The advertising campaign caused outrage. Hundreds of travellers and gypsies complained to the ASA about these adverts, which they saw as being racially demeaning and damaging to them, their communities and their children.
Travellers and gypsies now wait to see if the ASA council considers that they are entitled to equal protection by the regulator.
Update: ASA will now formally investigate complaints
The ASA is to formally investigate Channel 4's Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier advertising for Big Fat Gypsy Weddings , after the Traveller community successfully appealed the regulator's original decision.
The ASA has said its original decision to clear the campaign was flawed and admitted it never knew that one of the complainants was the Irish Traveller Movement of Britain, a material fact to which they should have had regard .
Legal representatives of the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain, and several co-complainants, appealed to the ASA's independent reviewer, Sir Hayden Phillips, to reassess the decision and consider an investigation. Phillips, who cannot force the ASA to
conduct a formal investigation, told the regulator's council he believed that the ad campaign should be subject to a full investigation.
The ASA council, which met on Friday, has now asked the regulator to open an investigation to see if Channel 4's ad campaign is in breach of advertising rules relating to supposed widespread offence. The ASA will investigate the ITMB complaint, and the
issues raised by co-complaints submitted for review by the traveller body's solicitors, but not the 371 other complaints the advertising also watchdog received.
Four posters for the Channel Four documentary, Big Fat Gypsy Weddings:
a. The first poster featured a close-up of a young boy looking directly at the camera. Large text across the ad stated BIGGER. FATTER. GYPSIER .
b. The second poster showed a man leading a horse across a field. Caravans were visible behind a fence in the background. Large text across the ad stated BIGGER. FATTER. GYPSIER .
c. The third poster showed two young women wearing low-cut bra tops. Large text across the ad stated BIGGER. FATTER. GYPSIER .
d. The fourth poster showed three young girls dressed for their first Holy Communion standing in front of a caravan. Large text across the ad stated BIGGER. FATTER. GYPSIER .
These ads were previously considered by the ASA Council in February 2012, at which time the ASA had received 372 complaints about the campaign. The ASA Executive assessed the ads and recommended to the Council that the complaints
did not warrant investigation. The Council agreed that recommendation. The Irish Traveller Movement in Britain and eight co-complainants sought Independent Review of Council's decision and, as a result, the case was re-opened and investigated.
The Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (ITMB) and eight other complainants challenged whether:
the ads were offensive because they believed they were racist, denigratory and portrayed Gypsies and Travellers in a negatively stereotypical way;
the ads were irresponsible because they believed they depicted negative stereotypes of Gypsies and Travellers and endorsed prejudice against them; and
ads (a), (c) and (d) were likely to cause physical, mental or moral harm to children from Gypsy and Traveller communities, including those featured in the ads, because the ITMB believed they portrayed them in a negatively
The ITMB, who understood that one of the young women featured in ad (c) was under 16 years of age, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and harmful because they believed it depicted a child in a sexualised way.
The ITMB, who believed that the children featured in ad (d) had been unfairly portrayed in an adverse and offensive way, challenged whether the ad breached the Code because they believed that the advertiser did not have written
permission to portray them in that manner.
The ASA took advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) who had undertaken specific work into the issues affecting Gypsy and Traveller communities.
The EHRC said research had shown that Gypsies and Travellers (which was the appropriate term when referring to those groups) were often subject to suspicion and disapproval because of negative public perceptions which in turn led to members of the
community experiencing prejudice and harassment. They said, although racism from members of the public towards most ethnic minority groups was now widely viewed as unacceptable, it remained persistent and common towards Gypsies and Travellers and was
generally seen as justified and the last respectable form of racism. The EHRC said they continued to receive complaints about No Travellers signs.
1. & 2. Upheld in relation to ads (a) and (c)
In relation to ad (a) we noted that the boy in the image was shown in close-up and had his lips pursed in a manner that we considered was likely to be seen as aggressive. We considered that negative image, when combined with the strap-line which
suggested that such behaviour was GYPSIER , would be interpreted by many members of the Gypsy and Traveller communities and some of the wider public to mean that aggressive behaviour was typical of the younger members of the Gypsy and Traveller
community. We considered that implication was likely to cause serious offence to some members of those communities while endorsing the prejudicial view that young Gypsies and Travellers were aggressive. We therefore concluded that ad (a) was offensive
We understood that the photo in ad (c) was an accurate depiction of how the young women had chosen to dress for the occasion at which they had been photographed and we considered that it was clear that they were dressed for a night out. However, we noted
that they were heavily made-up and wearing low cut tops and we considered that, when combined with the strap-line and in particular the word GYPSIER , the ad implied that appearance was highly representative of the Gypsy and Traveller community in
a way that irresponsibly endorsed that prejudicial view and was likely to cause serious offence to the Gypsy and Traveller community.
3. Upheld in relation to ad (a) only
We considered, for the reasons given in points 1 and 2 above, that the boy in ad (a) was depicted in a way that was offensive and endorsed negative stereotypes about him and his community. We considered that the ad reaffirmed commonly held prejudices
about Gypsy and Traveller children in a way that was likely to cause distress and mental harm to children from those communities, including to the boy featured in the ad, by suggesting that was an acceptable way to portray him.
We noted that the ad accurately depicted the girl as she had dressed for the party at which the photograph had been taken. However, we noted that she was heavily made up, her bra was visible and that she was wearing a low cut top that revealed much of
her cleavage and raised her breasts. Although we understood that the girl was depicted in her own choice of dress we considered that, in choosing that image for use in a poster, Channel 4 had acted irresponsibly by depicting a child in a sexualised way.
For that reason we also considered that, irrespective of any consent Channel 4 may have held, the ad was also likely to be harmful to the girl featured.
A campaigning group representing the Gypsies and Travellers is seeking a judicial review of an Ofcom ruling dismissing concerns about unfair racial stereotyping in Channel 4' s Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.
The Traveller Movement claimed the TV censor treats powerful broadcasters more favourably than ordinary people. It is seeking a judicial review over Ofcom's decision in November last year to dismiss complaints that Big Fat Gypsy
Weddings and spin-off Thelma's Gypsy Girls perpetuated racist stereotypes, broke regulations regarding consent to be filmed and reinforced misconceptions and prejudices towards the Gypsy and Traveller communities.
Ofcom's ruling followed a year-long investigation, after receiving about 340 complaints about the show.
The Traveller Movement claimed Ofcom's ruling was reached following a "flawed investigation", with Channel 4 named as an "interested party" in the proceedings. It is also complaining that under Ofcom's standards procedures
only the broadcaster, in this case Channel 4, is allowed to see and challenge a draft report of the investigation findings.
The Traveller Movement, a campaign group supporting gypsies and travellers, has won permission to seek a judicial review against the TV censor Ofcom.
The group claims that Ofcom conducted a flawed and biased investigation into accusations by the movement and eight individual women that the The Big Fat Gypsy Weddings series on Channel 4 perpetuated racist stereotypes.
They also complain the Channel 4 series broke broadcasting regulations regarding consent, sexually exploited traveller children and caused untold harm to social cohesion by reinforcing misconceptions and prejudices.
Ofcom has indicated it will defend its actions and contends the gypsy case is unarguable.
Ofcom were in court today being accused of treating broadcasters more favourably than the public. The TV censor was the subject of a judicial review at the High Court on the way it dealt with complaints around Channel 4 programme Big Fat Gypsy Wedding
The Traveller Movement, which is bringing the case on behalf of the traveller and gypsy communities, has accused Ofcom of favouring broadcasters, highlighting its decision to send draft harm and offence complaint reports to them, but withholding
the documents from the people complaining.
The case revolves around complaints made by the Traveller Movement concerning C4's airing of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and Thelma's Gypsy Girls. According to the Movement the shows breached the Broadcast Code for depicting children in a sexualised manner
and depicting violent sexual assault of girls and young women as normal in traveller communities.
Ofcom rejected the complaints in November 2013.
The judge heard the case and reserved judgement until a later date.
Gypsy campaigners have lost their high court challenge over Ofcom's handling of their complaint about Channel 4's Big Fat Gypsy Wedding television
Mr Justice Ouseley on Friday dismissed a judicial review brought against the TV censor by theTraveller Movement, a group supporting 300,000 gypsies and travellers.
At a hearing in London at the end of last year, its lawyers said that Ofcom unlawfully dismissed its complaint in November 2013 after conducting a procedurally unfair investigation into accusations that the Channel 4 programmes gave a negative portrayal
of Traveller communities and confirmed social prejudices in a way likely to cause harm to children in those communities. The charity had claimed that the Channel 4 broadcasts of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and Thelma's Gypsy Girls had depicted children
in a sexualised way and portrayed men and boys as feckless, violent and criminal.
An Ofcom spokesperson said: The court has agreed that Ofcom thoroughly investigated the complaints made against Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and Thelma's Gypsy Girls. We are pleased our decision was upheld.