So That's All Right Then
Anyone who has been with me from the beginning may recall that I complained to Ofcom about Jeremy Clarkson making a joke about the Germans who died in the Concorde crash. (See Archives: Pass The Green Ink, 20th October)
Ofcom have now replied. The bulk of their letter is reproduced below:
"We have now had the opportunity to review the programme [Parkinson]........We do not feel that on this occasion the codes have been breached.
In our experience offence is most likely to be caused by a show such as Parkinson when comments made exceed viewers' expectations of particular guests. Jeremy Clarkson is widely recognised as being outspoken, controversial and politically incorrect. We do not feel that his remarks would come as a surprise to many viewers given Clarkson's tendency towards provocative and sometimes insensitive comments.
Clarkson was primarily concerned with promoting his book which happens to include a section on Concorde. The comment made about Germans and the Concorde tragedy was not intended to be taken seriously. He acknowledged the poor taste of his remark by pausing and then starting his next sentence with 'now I'll be serious'. We would also consider the time that has elapsed when considering matters such as this, as recent events are much more likely to provoke widespread offence if referred to in this way. The fact that we have received only three complaints on this issue appears to demonstrate that this was not the case here. We do recognise that not everyone will appreciate this type of humour and certainly can understand why some would view this as being distasteful."
Now I never doubted that his comments about the horrific deaths of 100 Germans, including 3 children, were intended as a 'joke'. I'm not that fucking stupid, Ofcom. My whole point was that this was not an appropriate subject for a joke on primetime television.
The principle of 'viewers' expectations' of particular people is an extraordinary one. Blatantly racist jokes are a trademark of Bernard Manning. Nobody is surprised when he tells them but he would never be allowed to tell them on television. Some reggae artists, as is now widely known, sing songs that urge people to murder gay men. I don't think we'll see them singing them on Parkinson.
The next extraordinary guideline they follow is the length of time that has elapsed since the event that is the subject of the joke. It's now several years since the Dunblane shooting of 16 schoolchildren. So if I went on television and said 'we were more concerned at the damage to the school, particularly as the kids were Scottish', you wouldn't find that offensive, would you, dear reader? Again, it's now 50 years since millions of Jews, gay men and others were gassed in the Nazi concentration camps. Quite long enough, Ofcom might conclude, for us all to have a good laugh about that.
Finally, the number of complaints received should be irrelevant. Most of us can't be bothered to write to Ofcom and I'd never done so before. But either it's offensive or it isn't and if Ofcom took a poll I'm sure they'd find most people thought it was.
Last night on Newsnight, 'Doctor' John Reid repeatedly called this organisation 'OfCON'. He was nearer the truth than he realised.