ITV1, 7 October 2011, 10:45
This Morning is ITV1′s weekday morning topical magazine programme which is hosted on a Friday by presenters Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford.
This programme featured an item at 10:45 about a survey which reported that one third of Britons do not know the location of the three largest cities in the UK. Studio guest Jonathan Wilkes said he believed that he was in that third because he thought Manchester was one of the three. Eamonn Holmes responded incredulously:
what are you … retarded? Don’t be stupid, don’t be stupid … if you follow football, which you do, you know from the league tables … where everywhere is.
Several viewers contacted the broadcaster directly to complain about Eamonn Holmes using the word retarded and, following the commercial break, he made the following on screen apology at 11:10:
Very good to see you again. Sorry to the three or four of you who have got in touch this morning because I have used the word retarded during the newspaper review – and you seem to take it personally…or you seem to say that I am insulting all sorts of people who have all sorts of conditions. I used it as a term…that someone…so, I don’t know what you would use instead of the word – but obviously I would never want to do that – cause any sort of offence for that and having done so much work – particularly, there is this the man who has an autistic child, who says that somehow I have insulted his child, so I really hope it hasn’t. I certainly wouldn’t use it in that context but sorry if that caused you offence sir. I’ll get your name and address in a moment and reply to you.
A complainant alerted Ofcom to the use of the word retarded. Ofcom considered the word was capable of causing offence and raised potential issues under Rule 2.3 of the Code, which states:
In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.
ITV accepted that the word retarded did have the potential to cause offence. However, in the context of a spontaneous reaction made during a live discussion programme, the Licensee did not consider it exceeded generally accepted standards. Insofar as any offence was caused, ITV said it took rapid and effective steps to mitigate that offence by broadcasting a prompt apology. ITV considered the apology was appropriately worded to convey Eamonn Holmes’, and the Licensee’s, sincere regret for any offence caused.
Ofcom Decision: Resolved
Ofcom took account of the fact that This Morning is a live programme, and the comment made by Eamonn Holmes was clearly unscripted and made in response to a spontaneous situation. However, on balance and in the circumstances of this particular case, Ofcom considered that this was insufficient context to justify the offence that the word retarded was capable of causing to the audience.
Ofcom, however, took account of Eamonn Holmes’ broadcast of a personal apology as soon as practicable after the subsequent commercial break, in which he stated that he had not intended to cause any offence. On balance, Ofcom considered this case to be resolved.