Ofcom dismisses complaints over BLM dance on Britain's Got Talent

Regulator says Diversity routine was ‘call for unity’ after receiving 24,500 complaints

Britain Got Talent has been cleared of any breach of broadcasting rules after 24,500 people complained about a Black Lives Matter-inspired performance on the ITV talent show.

The dance troupe Diversity, a previous winner of the contest, gave a special performance on the programme on Saturday 5 September. The routine, framed as a father retrospectively telling his young son about the events of 2020, included references to the coronavirus outbreak, police brutality against black people, and the death of George Floyd, which prompted global Black Lives Matter protests.

Tens of thousands of people wrote to the media regulator, Ofcom, complaining that the theme of the Black Lives Matter-inspired performance was unsuitable for a family audience, that it was racist towards white people, too critical of white police officers and was endorsing a political movement, among other complaints.

Ofcom dismissed all of the complaints in an eight-page ruling and said the dance’s central message “was a call for social cohesion and unity”.

Just 4% of the 24,500 complaints were made in the immediate aftermath of the programme being aired, suggesting these were people who were offended by the original broadcast after watching it live.

The majority were filed over the following weeks, following repeated news stories about the original number of complaints.

MailOnline alone has published more than 20 articles about the incident, with tabloid news sites regularly posting articles about the rising number of complaints to Ofcom about the Black Lives Matter dance. These articles apparently prompted even more complaints, almost a fortnight after the show originally aired.

Ofcom concluded that “freedom of expression is particularly important in the context of artistic works” and said the subject matter was handled in a way that made it suitable for a family audience.

At one point a white performer dressed as a US police officer kneeled over the dance group’s leader, Ashley Banjo, as he lay on the ground and imitated being handcuffed. Other parts of the routine on the primetime family programme included dancers taking the knee to the words “Black Lives Matter” and staged encounters between protesters and riot police.

“Any depictions of violence by the performers were highly stylised and symbolic of recent global events, and there was no explicit reference to any particular political organisation – but rather a message that the lives of black people matter,” said the media regulator.

It also noted that other performers on Britain’s Got Talent made reference to current affairs topics, such as the importance of environmentalism and responding to climate change, the impact of plastic waste on sea life and to animal welfare. These did not attract a similar number of complaints.

Banjo, standing in on the show for Simon Cowell, who is recovering after an accident on his electric bike, responded to the news on Instagram: “Creativity is always a leap of faith. All I did was what felt right and I’d do it 100 times over … Sending love to everyone that stood by us.”

His brother Jordan Banjo, also a Diversity dancer, shared a link to an article about the result on Twitter and wrote “well then” before adding a shrugging emoji.

Contributor

Jim Waterson Media editor

The GuardianTramp

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