Has Ofcom ruled lies can’t hurt us? Rory Bremner has the last laugh.
Britain’s broadcasting watchdog ‘Ofcom’ has rejected complaints about the documentary series ‘Big Trouble in Thailand’ brought by the series producer himself.
In rejecting the complaint Ofcom says that Gavin Hill was not entitled to complain as he did not feature in the series, nor was he connected to the subjects of the series, Thai police, tourists, police volunteers etc.
A complaint by Hill that the series also falsely repeatedly stated that last year 288 Brits were killed in Thailand, when in fact that was the number of Brits who had just died in Thailand, was also rejected as Ofcom judged that this ‘would not result in material harm to viewers ‘
The controversial series ‘Big Trouble in Thailand’ was originally sold by Hill as ‘Thai Cops’ to comedian Rory Bremner’s company Vera Productions and went out earlier this year on the ‘Bravo’ Channel in Britain.
Hill, former APTV chief in Singapore, had complained that the company had failed to fact check when they edited in London and had made some unethical cuts to alter the reality of situations.
Roger Riach, the son of a Scots woman who died after being mugged in Bangkok has also complained about the television series. Despite the London executive producer Dean Palmer having been notified of her death, which in any case was widely reported in the press, the programme reported two weeks ago that Lydia Riach was still alive and Thai police were hot on the trail of her killer. They also named Dougie and Roger Riach, her husband and son, as ‘ Tony’ and ‘John’ without any explanation.
Said Gavin Hill: ‘This is just the sort of stuff I have been up against. I emailed Dean Palmer with the full update about Lydia’s death.’
It is believed the report was included to replace another jet-ski incident, after a showdown with Royal Marines in Phuket and a jet-ski operator, caused wide controversy in Thailand
The text of the Ofcom rejection follows below:
Wed, 28 Oct 2009 23:51
Subject: Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand: Bravo Ref: 1-129444255
Dear Mr Hill
Thank you for submitting a fairness and privacy complaint form.
I note you are the programme maker of the series Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand but that you do not appear in nor are referred to in the programme.
In order to bring a complaint of unfair treatment in the programme as broadcast or unwarranted infringement of privacy in the making or broadcast of a programme, our criteria for ‘person affected’ must be satisfied. In accordance with our procedures for handling fairness and privacy complaints (copy attached), the ‘person affected’ is a person who is a participant in a programme and is the subject of the alleged unfair treatment or unwarranted infringement of privacy or has a direct interest in the subject matter of the alleged unfair treatment or unwarranted infringement of privacy and if a direct interest then that the interest is sufficiently direct.
Having read your complaint, I note you were not a participant in the programme nor were you referred to. The subject matter of the programme complained of appears to be the work of the Thai Police authorities. As the programme maker you therefore do not have a direct interest in the subject matter of the programme. Furthermore, the issues you raise are potential issues of unfairness in the making of the programme and this falls outside of Ofcom’s remit. Broadcasters have the right to editorial freedom when making programmes providing, in the case of fairness and privacy, it does not result in unfairness in the broadcast programme or unwarranted infringement of privacy in the making or broadcast of the programme to a ‘person affected’.
With regard to your complaint about accuracy relating to the opening statement in the programme that last year 288 Britons were killed in Thailand, this has been assessed under the Standards section of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code (‘the Code’) under Harm and Offence.
We assess such matters against Rule 2.2 of the Code, which directs that factual programmes or items or portrayals of factual matters must not materially mislead the audience, but is intended to deal with content which materially misleads the audience so as to cause harm rather than accuracy per se.
While we acknowledge your distinction between describing someone being killed and dying, in this particular context, which was simply a factual reference to the number of deaths, we don’t judge this would result in material harm to viewers in the sense of our rules.
I am sorry that we cannot consider your complaint further but thank you for contacting Ofcom.
Fairness & Privacy,Content & Standards
Comment: No surprises here but its nice to know that Ofcom appears to support the notion that false information cannot harm us.
But whatever happens these chaps will not be sitting in the same love-seat anymore.
The shot here was taken in happier times before Dean Palmer left to supervise the edit in the UK.
The R in Vera is Rory Bremner and the A is Geoff Atkinson, Bremner’s producer and partner in the company. Actually Geoff, with whom I have been in correspondence over BTIT, is one of Britain’s top comedy writers and producers and has written for Cannon and Ball, Ronnie Barker, as well of course from Bremner.
He has also made some serious investigative docs.
His series ‘Heil Honey I’m home’ based on Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun sharing a house in the suburbs was however taken off after one episode.
Well I can see the humour there, after all we have had the ‘Producers’, ‘Allo Allo’ and ‘Hogan’s Heroes all taking the fun out of the Nazis. Perhaps it was ahead of its time.
Dean Palmer is a different sort of fish to track down although his background on zoominfo includes such greats as ‘I’m a Celebrity Get me out of here’, ‘Survivor’, Dispatches etc, Assignment and The Big Story further searches have revealed little more. However on Vera’s website he is listed as one of the company’s ‘two thinkers’. One of his programme’s ‘Sky Crimes’ was apparently short-listed for an Emmy, but when I looked up Sky Crimes he was not on the list of major credits which included producer or director.
Gavin Hill has more of a news background starting as sound broadcaster in Picaddily Radio, Manchester, he went on to be APTV’s man in Singapore and has reported from Afghanistan, Peru, and umpteen more places and we were both on the hunt for Nick Leeson.
He has also been a Hollywood TV reporter based out of LA, an instructor in television journalism, worked for ‘Real TV and subsequently even gave a talk once entitled: ‘Quality TV – My part in its downfall’, though I think (I hope) that was self effacement rather than a real statement of fact.
Mind you he does have a dark television secret involving a giant rubber ball and the Grand Canyon, I believe. I haven’t got to the bottom of that yet.