Determination: NO BREACH Complaint 20101208 5 Service: 4OD (ODPS00008) Programme: Frankie Boyle Tramadol Nights Series 1, Episode 2, originally broadcast 07/12/10 http://www.channel4.com/programmes/frankie-boyles-tramadol- nights/4od/player/3144542 Introduction
The complaint concerned the programme Frankie Boyle Tramadol Nights Series 1, Episode 2 provided on the 4OD service.
4OD is an On Demand Programme Service provided by Channel 4 Television and 4Ventures Ltd. The service provides on-demand access to programmes previously broadcast on Channel 4, More 4 and E4 in the UK.
Frankie Boyle Tramadol Nights is a comedy series in which comedian Frankie Boyle performs a stand up routine in front of a studio audience interspersed with comedy ‘sketches’. Episode two of series one is a programme made available on the 4OD service.
On 8 December 2010 a complaint was received from one viewer. In accordance with ATVOD’s published complaints procedure, the complainant was requested to address the complaint to the service provider in the first instance and contact details for the service provider were given to the complainant.
On 10 December 2010 the complainant referred the complaint to ATVOD for consideration after being dissatisfied with the response received from the service provider.
The complainant stated that some of the material used in this program was highly offensive to disabled people, citing in particular jokes about Katie Price's disabled son Harvey (who is reportedly blind and suffers from Septo-optic dysplasia), Susan Boyle (a former X Factor contestant, reported to have a learning disability) and a sketch about a man with quadriplegia working as a stunt man. The complainant stated that the material was “atrocious, demeaning and degrading.[and].entirely reprehensible”,
On the basis of the information provided by the complainant, and in view of the fact that the service is covered by the Rules, ATVOD decided that the complaint did potentially raise issues under Rule 11, which states:
Rule 11 – If an on-demand programme service contains material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen, the material must be made available in a manner which secures that such persons will not normally see or hear it
As the service provider had already had an opportunity to resolve the complaint without formal ATVOD intervention, ATVOD proceeded to conduct an investigation.
Investigation and determination
The programme was viewed by a sub-committee of the ATVOD Board.
The programme comprises comedian Frankie Boyle performing a stand up routine in front of a studio audience, interspersed with pre-recorded sketches. In a section of the programme in which Frankie Boyle tells jokes to the studio audience, derogatory reference is made to a number of celebrities including Jade Goody, Heather Mills, Stephen Hawkins and Michael Jackson, as well as those mentioned by the complainant (Katie Price, her son Harvey, and Susan Boyle).
The reference to Katie Price’s son Harvey, suggests that the loser of a battle for his custody will have to keep him, and that Katie Price married a cage fighter in order to protect her from unwanted sexual attention from her son. The routine assumed that the audience had some knowledge of Harvey’s disabilities. The reference to Susan Boyle suggested that her stated lack of sexual relationships provided evidence relating to the use of alcohol in Scotland.
The sketch about a man with quadriplegia working as a stunt man showed a man being subjected to various acts of graphic violence on film sets. The intended comic effect relied on the audience understanding that a man with quadriplegia man would not be able to feel pain. The sketch appeared to be intentionally unrealistic.
ATVOD also considered the rest of the programme, including a sketch based on the children’s story ‘Five Children and It’ in which five children torture and verbally abuse a small fantasy creature. The sketch appears to be attempting to satirise both the original story and common perceptions of Glaswegians.
Rule 11 is concerned with material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen. The service provider appears to accept that the material may be inappropriate for viewers under the age of 18, and has included advice to that effect in an onscreen warning before the programme begins. However, ‘might seriously impair’ is a high test, as ATVOD’s guidance on this rule makes clear:
“Content whose broadcast complies with the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, or that has been classified by the BBFC in any category except ‘R18’, would not be considered material that “might seriously impair” and would not therefore be subject to the requirements of Rule 11.”
ATVOD has therefore considered whether the material might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen.
Given the context in which the language and actions occurred, and the nature of the language itself, ATVOD has concluded that neither its use, nor its inclusion in the programme, might seriously impair the development of under 18s. There is no direct or indirect encouragement to engage in any activity, let alone an activity that would be harmful or illegal, and the programme is unlikely to have that effect. The attitudes expressed, and the manner in which they are expressed, while objectionable to some viewers, are not intended to be taken seriously and are unlikely to have a significant impact on the beliefs, attitudes, well being or behaviour of under 18s. The content of the programme therefore does not fall within the type of material which it is considered might seriously impair under 18s.
ATVOD recognises that many viewers may regard the material as highly offensive, including to people with disabilities, and unsuitable for under 18s, but providing such content to under 18s is not a breach of the Rules if it does not fall foul of the ‘might seriously impair’ test. In such circumstances, the service provider is not under an obligation to ensure that the programme is made available in a manner which secures that it is not normally seen or heard by under 18s. We note that the service provider has nevertheless voluntarily provided a warning to users selecting this programme (which states that the programme contains ‘Very Strong language and uncompromising adult content which some viewers will find offensive’, advises that ‘This programme isn’t suitable for younger viewers’ and requests that viewers confirm they are ‘over 18 years old’).
ATVOD has therefore determined that the provision of the programme does not constitute a breach of Rule 11. No other Rule was found to be relevant to this complaint.
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