Complaints Burden on Small TV Channels
Some small TV channels are blitzed by malicious complaints that Ofcom fully investigates. Sometimes these complaints are not upheld, sometimes they are, but either way the channel has a cloud over it for the 6 months it takes Ofcom to decide even the simplest thing, and the channel incurs significant internal and external costs for each complaint.
The complaints in question are widely believed to be malicious, from rival broadcasters seeking commercial advantage. In some cases the complaint is technically correct, but it comes from a rival showing comparable material – they cannot genuinely claim to be offended. Some complaints relate to obscure channels that complainants claim to have been watching at 3am!
At best channels incur unreasonable costs and suffer months of uncertainty, at worst they are fined £30,000 or even £250,000 for "material likely to cause offence" where there has been no actual offence. Broadcasters have gone out of business as a result, others are marginal.
1. Complaints from 1 or 2 people should not be given the same weight as genuine complaints for 20 or 30 independent people.
2. Broadcasters should be able to insist that Ofcom checks the credentials of a complainant, rather than relying on emails from fake addresses.
3. What is the complainants genuine address (this should be verified but need not be disclosed).
4. Does the complainant have links to rivals?
5. Why was the complainant watching a clearly signposted channel with offensive material at 2 or 3am?
Why does this idea matter?
Ofcom applied double standards. This is abuse of authority, abuse of public money, and this mechanism can be used against any channel or genre that Ofcom takes a dislike to.
Ofcom applies double standards, permitting any level of vulgarity, offence or even blasphemy on shows with large audiences that teens watch, claiming pre-show warnings make that OK (check out South Park, Lee Evans or Frankie Boyle).
Ofcom ignores literally scores of complaints about Big Brother, Jerry Springer The Musical, etc during prime time viewing, claiming freedom of speech. It ignores previously banned horror nasties (I Spit On Your Grave, etc) and the latest gore films (Saw, Audition).
But it cannot act fast enough or heavy enough on a single complaint from an industry insider about an adult channel, despite it being late at night, on a specialist channel, and on a channel that can be locked out.