Britain’s got talent in breach

August 1, 2015

Britain’s Got Talent in Breach. Ofcom rules that viewers were ‘materially misled’ Following 1,175 complaints after it emerged that the winning act of Britain’s Got Talent involved a ‘stunt double’ Ofcom, which regulates broadcasters, ruled that the ITV programme had breached the code.

Under Section 2.14 of the Ofcom BroadcastingCode broadcasters ‘must ensure that viewers and listeners are not materially misled about any broadcast competition or voting’. Ofcom ruled that the use of an alternative dog ‘Chase’ as a double for the titular dog of the act ‘Matisse’ misled viewers to make the act appear more impressive and as a consequence the act gained more votes. Voters complained that if they had realised that the act involved more dogs than originally advertised, they would have voted differently. Around 2%ofthevoting share separated Jules O’Dwyer and Matisse (the act in question) and therunner up, Jamie Raven (a voting percentage of 22.6% compared to 20.4%).

ITV is not the first broadcaster to be in breach for misleading viewers. In 2008, Ofcom fined the BBC £400,000 when it emerged that many of their television and radio programmes which hosted competitions had mislead viewers and listeners. The misleading conduct in those cases was often very clear as winners were either substituted by production staff orothersposing to be the winner or completely fictitious. The BGT case, however, is not quite so obvious. O’Dwyer never stated that Matisse would be performing the entire routine and in a previous performance Chase (the ‘stunt double’) was used as a partner in the routine.

Ofcom noted in their decision that they “have no reason to believe that there was any intention to deceive viewers”; however, the volume and content of the complaints indicates that ITV “did not take sufficient steps to ensure that the broadcast was not materially misleading”. They found that there had been a series of failures in this incident, including the presentation of the performance as a ‘double act’, and the actual name of the act being ‘Jules and Matisse’, with no mention of any other dogs. At the very least, it was implied that there would only be one dog performing. O’Dwyer has since commented on the issue, stating “I was disappointed when people said I allegedly hid Chase and I was trying to make it like Chase was Matisse. That’s not so”.

ITV has apologised to viewers and offered voters a refund of their voting charge; however, they have no intention to strip the winners of their title, cash prize, or spot at the Royal Variety performance.

For more information about the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, contact Francesca Shepherd.

By intern Arian Thomas and JWSS