Ofcom accused of institutional racism over Dispatches Traveller episode

Regulator cleared Channel 4 documentary The Truth About Traveller Crime after thousands of complaints

The Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community has accused Ofcom of institutional racism over a decision to clear a controversial Channel 4 documentary about Traveller crime.

The programme-makers of the Dispatches documentary The Truth About Traveller Crime were accused of “dehumanising” the GRT community after it was broadcast in April 2020.

Ofcom received about 900 complaints from the public and a further 7,391 complaints submitted by the charity Friends, Families and Travellers. Complainants said the programme presented only negative views of the GRT community and gave a misleading impression that there was a causal link between Gypsy and Traveller sites and high crime rates.

They also pointed to a rise in hate crime against the GRT community after the broadcast.

But in a ruling published on Wednesday, Ofcom found the documentary did not misrepresent factual matters and presented potentially harmful material fairly and with appropriate context.

Yvonne MacNamara, the chief executive of the Traveller Movement, said the charity disagreed with the ruling in the “strongest possible terms” and suggested it was racist.

The programme reported on crimes allegedly committed by Travellers living on a site in Lutterworth, Leicestershire, and analysed statistics on recorded crimes near Traveller sites around the country.

In a 51-page ruling, Ofcom said the programme did not breach the code of broadcasting. It said: “We considered that the programme did not misrepresent factual matters by suggesting that there was a causal link between Gypsy and Traveller sites and high crime rates, as the programme included sufficient material which served to contextualise the conclusions that were drawn from the statistical analysis.”

It added: “Consistent with the right to freedom of expression of both the broadcaster and the audience, it is important that investigative documentary programmes such as Dispatches are able to explore all aspects of human life and behaviour, including controversial issues relating to minority communities, provided that they do so within the parameters of the code.”

MacNamara said: “It is extremely important for Ofcom to reflect on their practices and culture, and assess the extent to which their decision-making procedures are rooted in institutional racism – that is to say the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin.”

A spokesperson for Friends, Families and Travellers said: “Through My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and now this, it’s not the first time Channel 4 have chosen to humiliate and further marginalise Gypsy and Traveller people. It is clear that Ofcom are no longer fit for purpose and lack the ability to challenge even the most obvious forms of racism and prejudice.”

A spokesperson for Ofcom said: “We’ve nothing further to add beyond our fully reasoned, evidence-based decision and our public statement already provided.”


Matthew Weaver

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Channel 4 Dispatches report accused of 'dehumanising' Travellers
Ofcom receives hundreds of complaints about The Truth About Traveller Crime

Jessica Murray

02, May, 2020 @7:00 AM

Article image
Channel 4's Skint to be investigated over F-word binge
Viewers complain after hearing swearword 16 times in first 15 minutes of documentary after 9pm watershed. By Mark Sweney

Mark Sweney

03, Jun, 2013 @11:26 AM

Article image
Benefits Street cleared of breaching rules on welfare of child participants
Channel 4 series will not be investigated further following 900 complaints about ‘negative and offensive portrayal’, Ofcom rules. By Mark Sweney

Mark Sweney

30, Jun, 2014 @10:38 AM

Article image
Paul Dacre to front TV series on Daily Mail and modern Britain
Channel 4 signs up former editor for documentary on media influence in UK politics

Jim Waterson Media editor

18, Aug, 2019 @11:01 AM

Article image
Friend of Diana urges Channel 4 to scrap 'intrusive' documentary
Rosa Monckton will tell the broadcaster that use of the ‘Diana tapes’, revealing conversations recorded by the Princess of Wales’s speech coach, is ‘outrageous’

Robert Booth

31, Jul, 2017 @4:52 AM

Article image
Jon Snow cleared by Ofcom over 'white people' comment
Channel 4 News presenter was at ‘predominantly white’ pro-Brexit rally on 29 March

Jim Waterson Media editor

05, Aug, 2019 @3:45 PM

Article image
Channel 4's Ukip docudrama sparks nearly 1,000 complaints
Nigel Farage calls Ukip: the First 100 Days a ‘biased, partisan depiction’ of his party as broadcaster defends programme, watched by 1m people, as part of its remit to engage viewers in politics

John Plunkett

17, Feb, 2015 @2:25 PM

Article image
Romanian ambassador ‘bitter’ over C4’s migrant series
The Romanians are Coming documentary incited ‘hatred and discrimination’, say Bucharest MPs

Daniel Boffey policy editor

07, Mar, 2015 @10:13 PM

Article image
Ofcom investigating 'white people' remark by Jon Snow
Channel 4 News presenter made comment at Westminster pro-Brexit protest on 29 March

Frances Perraudin

08, Apr, 2019 @12:06 PM

Article image
Muslim Drag Queens activist voices fears of backlash over Channel 4 film
Narrator Sir Ian McKellen hails Asif Quaraishi and other stars of documentary on the UK’s gay Asian community as ‘pioneers’ in battling prejudice

Mark Sweney

18, Aug, 2015 @1:26 PM