ITV News and Weather
ITV1, 26 February 2012, 13:30
This news bulletin included an item on racism and homophobia in British football and reported on an anti-discrimination summit chaired by the Prime Minister at Downing Street that day about how to combat discrimination in the sport.
Four complainants alerted Ofcom to the reporter using the term coloured to describe some football players and coaches during this pre-recorded news item, indicating that they found it offensive.
During the item the reporter said in voiceover:
… Football has certainly come a long way since bananas were routinely thrown at coloured players. But one shameful statistic remains – only three of the 92 League clubs employ a black manager, and one of those Keith Curl, was only appointed at Notts County a few days ago. The Government are funding a scheme to promote more coloured coaches and are also tackling the issue of homophobia in the sport.
Ofcom considered the material raised issues warranting investigation 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 … . Such material may include, but is not limited to, offensive language, … discriminatory treatment or language….
ITV said that the reporter’s use of the term coloured was inappropriate and we do not defend its use. It was an editorial misjudgement and we apologise to those who were understandably offended by the use of this term.
ITV said that once the report was broadcast, the Licensee recognised very quickly that inappropriate language had been used and took swift action to mitigate the potential for further offence by: editing the reference from the news programme
scheduled on ITV1 +1; issued an apology that was distributed to the press that afternoon; published an apology on the ITV News Twitter account within the hour of the broadcast; and removed the report from the ITV News website. The Licensee said that approximately 20 viewers had contacted ITV News and ITV Viewer Services directly and apologies were made to all these complainants.
Ofcom Decision: Resolved
Ofcom recognises that the use of language changes over time and likewise the impact of offence it may cause will also be subject to change. However, broadcasters are required to ensure that potentially offensive material is justified by the context.
In this case we noted that the pre-recorded news report concerned: the issue of racism in British football; an anti-discrimination summit at Downing Street; and two recent high profile cases regarding racism and Premier League football players. Ofcom noted that on two occasions the reporter used the term coloured during this news item.
Although the word coloured has various meanings, Ofcom understands that it is potentially offensive when used to describe certain individuals from ethnic minority groups because it fails to recognise adequately their specific differences and also has associations with racial segregation. Therefore in Ofcom’s view the use of the word twice in a news report was clearly capable of causing offence to viewers.
However, we noted that ITV recognised the editorial mistake almost immediately after broadcast, and took swift and appropriate action to mitigate the potential for further offence by for example: editing the report prior to its repeat on the ITV1 +1 service and issuing apologies via the press, the social media site Twitter and to those viewers who contacted it directly.
On balance, and in light of the steps taken by ITV to mitigate this offence, Ofcom therefore considered the matter resolved.