Traveller Movement "threatened" by TV watchdog over Big Fat Gypsy Weddings campaign

4 November 2014


News reporter

The Traveller Movement has said it has to "make a stand" against OFCOM's "flawed" 14-month long investigation of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings


THE Traveller Movement have launched Judicial Review proceedings against Ofcom’s “flawed” investigation of their complaints about the Channel 4 series ‘Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’, despite being told by Ofcom that they will seek to recover costs if they lose.

The Judicial Review follows the dismissal by Ofcom; the TV regulator, of a complaint lodged by the Traveller Movement and eight Gypsy and Traveller co-complainants, who said that the programmes “perpetuated racist stereotypes, broke Ofcom regulations regarding consent, sexually exploited Traveller children and caused untold harm to social cohesion by pandering to popular misconceptions and prejudices towards Gypsies and Travellers”.

The Traveller Movement are represented by David Enright from Howe and Co solicitors, who represented the TM and six Gypsy and Traveller co-complainants in a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority about Channel 4’s “Gypsier” billboard advertising campaign for Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.

As the result of an appeal, two of the billboards were banned with the Advertising Standards Authority finding that the billboards where ruled “offensive” and “likely to increase negative attitudes” towards the UK’s Gypsies and Travellers.


Above: the logo of The Traveller Movement, who say they are "determined" to seek justice over shows like Big Fat Gypsy Weddings which "stir up conflict and hatred"

Yvonne MacNamara of the Traveller Movement said that because Ofcom had refused to consider re-running their “flawed 14 month investigation” into the complaint; the Traveller Movement believed it has no choice but to “make a stand and look for justice in the High Court”.

She said Ofcom had “threatened” to seek costs if the Judicial Review was not successful “in a bid to silence a small charity seeking justice.”

“We are determined to pursue our complaint about Big Fat Gypsy Weddings until we have justice. We believe that Channel 4 is commercially exploiting racism and we have direct evidence of the harm caused by these programmes,” she said.

“Ofcom needs to get its act together. The aggressive independent TV production companies that are making these lucrative and offensive new ‘observational documentary’ series for Ch4 are effectively unregulated. They flout moral decency, the Ofcom code, and exploit vulnerable groups to make populist car-crash TV.”

“They are not observing reality; they are creating a new one, and one that damages social cohesion by stirring up conflict and hatred. This is a stand for all vulnerable and often demonised groups affected by this new type of exploitative TV. Ofcom needs to take action. We hope that a judicial review will persuade them because reason has so far failed.”

David Enright from Howe and Co said: “The Traveller Movement is asking for a judicial review because we believe that Ofcom failed to follow its own procedures in investigating the Traveller Movement complaint and because it also failed to follow natural justice by favouring Channel 4. Ofcom investigators also refused the offer of help from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and dismissed the expert reports provided by the Traveller Movement.”

Above: an OFCOM spokesperson has said the TV regulator "stands by" its decisions and "will defend them in court"

An Ofcom spokesman said: "We can confirm that the Traveller Movement has served Ofcom with an application for judicial review.

"This relates to Ofcom's decisions in November 2013 that Channel 4's series Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and Thelma's Gypsy Girls were not in breach of Ofcom's broadcasting code. We stand by our decisions and will defend them in court."