Friday 22 November 2019

Comic Relief escapes Ofcom investigation for profanity in Red Nose Day telethon

By Sherna Noah

The Comic Relief show was criticised on social media for pre-watershed profanity and sound problems.

TV watchdog Ofcom has decided not to investigate the Red Nose Day telethon, despite it sparking more than 300 complaints, branding the comedy sketches “consistent” with the BBC show’s live format.

The Comic Relief show was criticised on social media for pre-watershed profanity and sound problems.

Several moments, including when Vic Reeves flashed a fake penis at Susanna Reid before the 9pm watershed and when host Russell Brand responded to a technical glitch by saying “f***ing hell” live on air, created controversy.

But Ofcom said, after assessing complaints numbering 338, it has decided not to investigate the March broadcast.

“We carefully considered a number of complaints about some scenes in Comic Relief,” a spokeswoman said.

“We recognise that some of the comedy sketches were not to everyone’s taste, but found they were inexplicit and consistent with the live, unpredictable format of this established charity programme.

“We also found that images of a child suffering from malaria, while potentially distressing, were suitably limited and likely to have been within most viewers’ expectations of a fundraising programme.”

Ofcom (Yui Mok/PA)

Highlights of the telethon, on BBC1 and BBC2, included the Love Actually sequel, starring Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley and Colin Firth.

But viewers complained on Twitter about the use of swearwords before the watershed, including during a Mrs Brown’s Boys skit with former JLS star Aston Merrygold.

One viewer said: “The worst Red Nose Day I’ve ever watched. Not one funny sketch and two different ‘comedians’ swearing before watershed. Disgusting.”

A skit involving Good Morning Britain star Reid, in which she was jokingly interviewed by Reeves and Bob Mortimer in character as The Stotts, drew negative comments after Reeves flashed a fake penis between his legs under a kilt.

“So Reeves and Mortimer exposing a fake penis to Susanna Reid, talking weird and making her uncomfortable is supposed to be funny?” a viewer said.

Some of the segments were difficult to hear due to the “diabolical” audio. Host Sir Lenny Henry was even forced to ask the studio audience at London’s O2 Arena to be quiet.

Many viewers complained they could barely hear what was happening on their TV screens.

Comic Relief co-founder Richard Curtis later defended the use of “frivolous comedy” in the telethon, saying: “I don’t see any contradiction.”

Ofcom also “resolved” a complaint about a February broadcast of Sky News Tonight, which contained live footage of an anti-Trump protest, in which a placard with the words “Trump is a c**t” was visible.

“We investigated live footage of a protest which included offensive material. We found that Sky News took swift action to remove the offensive material from future broadcasts, and we now consider the investigation resolved,” it said.

And it ruled that Good Morning Britain did not breach broadcasting rules when a four-year-old was included in a live feature concerning early onset puberty on the ITV show, saying that “ITV had considered the child’s welfare and dealt with the subject sensitively.”

PA Media

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