Ranked: The TV moments which have received the most Ofcom complaints ever
Piers Morgan has gone straight into the top three
It’s official: Piers Morgan has quit as a host of Good Morning Britain, after his comments about Meghan Markle and her mental health became one of the most complained about TV moments with Ofcom.
Ofcom is the UK’s communications regulator, with one of the broadcast elements it regulates being TV shows. Ofcom works with the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and basically keeps an eye on what goes out on TV, and investigates any controversies.
From the soaps, to reality series and controversial interviews – a whole range of TV shows get complained about. Here’s a ranking of the moments which have been complained about the most to Ofcom.
CW: Some of these moments contain references to racism, assault, suicide, paedophilia and upsetting themes.
15. Producers allowing Dani Dyer to think Jack Fincham was cheating on Love Island – 2,644 complaints
In 2018, Ofcom received 2,644 complaints after Dani Dyer was brought to tears because she thought Jack Fincham was going to cheat on her with his ex in Casa Amor. People claimed the producers allowed her to believe Jack was going to cheat on him to stir up drama and upset her, despite him actually doing nothing wrong and sticking by her.
14. Jon Snow on Channel 4 News – 2,717 complaints
The 2019 moment where Jon Snow said “I’ve never seen so many white people in one place” at a Brexit rally received 2,717 complaints. Channel 4 then issued an apology. This was the most complained about TV moment of that year.
13. Rihanna and Christina Aguilera on The X Factor – 2,868 complaints
In 2010, Rihanna and Christina Aguilera performed during one episode of The X Factor. Ofcom got 2,868 complaints because people thought the performances were “too explicit” to be shown before the 9pm watershed.
12. Brass Eye mocking paedophilia – 3,000 complaints
In a 2001 episode of Brass Eye, Chris Morris was seen mocking media hysteria over paedophilia. The show was based around mocking and ridiculing celebs, and in this episode Gary Lineker and Richard Blackwood were among the celebrities who were duped into fronting a fake charity named Nonce Sense. Ofcom had around 3,000 complaints.
11. Tommy Robinson on Sky News – 3,643 complaints
In 2018, 3,643 viewers complained because they felt a video interview with far-right and anti-Islam activist Tommy Robinson was “biased” and “defamatory”.
10. Channel 4’s UKIP documentary – 6,138 complaints
6,138 people complained about a Channel 4 UKIP documentary, UKIP: The First 100 Days, which aired in 2015. Most complaints centred around the documentary being “biased” and “misleading”.
9. Kim Woodburn’s interview on Loose Women – 8,002 complaints
In 2018, Kim Woodburn walked out of her interview on Loose Women. She had been invited on the show to patch things up with panellist Coleen Nolan, after they fell out whilst on Celebrity Big Brother. 8,002 complaints were made about the episode, with many feeling as though Kim Woodburn had been “bullied” and ganged up on by the panel – who obviously were going to stick up for their colleague.
ITV said in a statement: “Kim agreed to come onto the panel today at the invitation of the producers on the understanding it was for a reconciliation with Coleen Nolan. Kim becoming upset was never the intention and the panel did endeavour to comfort her. She was offered counselling after the show, which she declined.”
8. EastEnders’ baby swap storyline – 8,400 complaints
In 2011, EastEnders received 8,400 complaints over its controversial storyline about a baby being swapped at birth. In the storyline, Ronnie Branning swapped her dead son with Kat Moon’s healthy newborn.
7. Diversity’s Black Lives Matter performance on Britain’s Got Talent – 24,500 complaints
In October 2020 Diversity came back and performed on Britain’s Got Talent. This was shortly after the death of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests. The performance, which got 24,500 complaints, saw a police officer kneeling on Ashley Banjo – similarly to how Floyd was killed. Viewers called the routine “too political” and condemned it for being racist against white people. Diversity responded that they were “proud” of their performance and ITV backed the routine too.
6. ‘Punch gate’ on Celebrity Big Brother – 25,327 complaints
A huge 25,327 complaints were made to Ofcom after Roxanne Pallett falsely claimed that fellow CBB contestant Ryan Thomas had assaulted her. She called him a “woman beater” after they were seen play fighting. She has since said that she got it “massively wrong”.
5. Ghostwatch left viewers ‘traumatised’ – 30,000 complaints
A 1992 episode of Ghostwatch, where hosts went on “live ghost hunts”, was said to have left viewers “traumatised” after witnessing what they believed was one of the hosts, Sarah Greene, being genuinely killed by a ghost named Pipes. 30,000 people complained, and it was later reported that at least two children had suffered from PTSD after watching the show. As a result, it was banned from broadcast for a decade.
4. Jeremy Clarkson’s appearance on The One Show – 31,000 complaints
Jeremy Clarkson is no stranger to controversy, but his 2011 appearance on The One Show is one of the most complained about TV moments ever. The November 2011 UK Public Sector Pensions Strikes were a series of strikes over the whole of the United Kingdom. 60 per cent of schools in England were closed and 6,000 hospital operations cancelled as up to two million public sector workers went on strike. Clarkson joked that striking public sector workers should be “executed in front of their families”.
3. Piers Morgan’s comments about Meghan Markle – 41,015 complaints
The most recent addition to the most complained about TV moments in history comes curtesy of Piers Morgan. During an interview with Oprah, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle spoke openly about their experiences as part of the royal family and eventually stepping back from their duties. Meghan reflected on her mental health, and spoke about how at one point she “didn’t want to be alive”. After this aired, Piers Morgan hosted Good Morning Britain where he said he didn’t believe Meghan’s claims about having suicidal thoughts.
And as of 2pm that day, Ofcom had received 41,015 complaints and had launched an investigation. An Ofcom spokesperson said: “We have launched an investigation into Monday’s episode of Good Morning Britain under our harm and offence rules.” Less than an hour later, it was announced that Piers Morgan had quit the show.
2. The Jade Goody and Shilpa Shetty race row – 44,500 complaints
In 2007, Ofcom received 44,500 complaints over the race row between Jade Goody and Shilpa Shetty during Celebrity Big Brother. During this season, many housemates clashed with Shilpa Shetty, saying they couldn’t pronounce her name and instead called her “Princess” and “the Indian”. Housemates accused Shilpa of undercooking chicken for the house, saying that might be how they cook it in India because the people there are “all thin” and “look ill”.
The height of the controversy was a huge argument between Shilpa and Jade Goody, where Goody said Shetty needed “a day in the slums” and fellow housemate Danielle Lloyd said Shetty should “fuck off home”. The next day Goody referred to her as “Shilpa Poppadom”.
Channel 4 showed daily “highlights” shows and on many occasions repeated the offensive language and racist comments.
1. Jerry Springer: The Opera and its ‘provocative’ themes – 55,000 complaints
The most complained about of all TV moments in history happened when the Jerry Springer show was turned into a musical. It was on BBC Two, and received 55,000 complaints over provocative themes. There were hundreds of swear words, and the show made a joke about Jesus being “a bit gay”. A Christian lobby group attempted to take a BBC director to court for blasphemy. There were also tap dancing KKK members.