Love Island and Matt Hancock provided the most complained about commercial television moments of the year, as Britons once again attempted to get the media regulator to intervene in reality programmes.
Ofcom, which oversees the regulation of British broadcasting, said it received the most complaints about alleged misogynistic and bullying behaviour by some contestants in the Love Island villa. This was closely followed by the former health secretary’s appearance on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here – although in that case the complaints were split between people who did not think he should have been on the show and those who felt he was being treated unfairly by other contestants.
In both cases Ofcom concluded there was no breach of the broadcasting code, due to the context provided and broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
“When considering complaints about both of these programmes, we also took into account that these are long-running shows whose format is well-established,” said Adam Baxter, Ofcom’s director of standards and audience protection.
“So viewers tuning in would expect to see couples’ relationships being tested during the course of Love Island and celebrities being subject to repetitive public votes to carry out trials on I’m a Celebrity.”
The list only covers broadcasts on commercial television and radio stations, as the BBC continues to have an in-house process for dealing with complaints. This has come under growing scrutiny in recent years, with the BBC reforming the process under pressure from Ofcom and the government following its handling of complaints over its coverage of an antisemitic attack on Jewish students.
Of the 10 most complained about moments, almost all were driven by substantial attention from news outlets or social media campaigns after the show had been broadcast. Ofcom said “complaints are a vital barometer for how audiences think and feel”.
In many cases it is not clear how there could have been a breach of broadcasting rules and the complaints appear to be more about people publicly registering their opposition to what they have just seen.
Eight of the most complained about broadcasts were ultimately found to be within the rules. Complaints about Gary Neville drawing parallels between Qatari migrant workers and striking British nurses on ITV’s World Cup coverage have yet to be assessed, while Ofcom is still considering whether Sky News breached accuracy rules when it mistakenly suggested marchers protesting against the killing of Chris Kaba were on their way to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II.
Many of Ofcom’s biggest punishments were handed out to programmes that attracted only a handful of complaints, such as suspending the licence to broadcast of the Sikh channel KTV for inciting violence. The complaints list also exposes how the regulator has no power over the content of online sites such as TikTok and YouTube, which are essentially self-policing with their own policies on what is allowed.
Top 10 Ofcom complaints in 2022 about commercial television programmes
Love Island, ITV2, 17 July – complaints related to alleged misogynistic and bullying behaviour by some contestants in the villa.
I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, ITV, 6-27 November – viewers objected to the inclusion of Matt Hancock in the series.
Friday Night Live, Channel 4, 21 October – complaints related to a performance by trans performer Jordan Gray.
Love Island, ITV2, 19 July – complaints related to alleged misogynistic and bullying behaviour by some contestants in the villa.
Good Morning Britain, ITV, 15 February – complaints related to comments made by Richard Madeley about death threats made to Keir Starmer.
Jeremy Vine, Channel 5, 24 January – viewers complained about a health consultant’s inaccurate statement about numbers of unvaccinated people in hospital with Covid-19.
Love Island, ITV2, 18 July – complaints related to alleged misogynistic and bullying behaviour by some contestants in the villa.
I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, ITV, 13 November – viewers objected to bullying behaviour against Matt Hancock.
Fifa World Cup final 2022: Argentina v France, ITV, 18 December – complaints related to comments by Gary Neville about striking British workers.
Sky News, 10 September – a Justice for Chris Kaba walk was reported as people on their way to pay tribute to the late Queen.