Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ofcom launch probe into Frankie Boyle's Channel 4 show over vile sexual slur about Katie Price's disabled son Harvey

By Jody Thompson

-Model gave C4 chance to apologise over 'despicable' jibes

-Station refused to say sorry so star complained to Ofcom

Despicable: Katie Price, pictured today in Los Angeles, has complained to Ofcom about Frankie Boyle's 'despicable' mocking of her son Harvey on his Channel 4 show Tramadol Nights

Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has launched a formal investigation into Frankie Boyle's Channel 4 show after Katie Price complained following comments he made about her disabled son.

Price accused the comic of being a 'bully' after he made jibes about eight-year-old Harvey, who suffers from septo-optic dysplasia and autism and other debilitating conditions, on his show Tramadol Nights.

A spokesman for Ofcom told MailOnline today: 'We can confirm that we have received a complaint from Katie Price. Having considered this and other viewers' concerns, we have now launched an investigation into the show.'

Katie Price called in her lawyers yesterday after comedian Frankie Boyle made a vile sexual slur against her son on Tuesday night's show.

Watched by one million viewers, former Mock The Week star Boyle, 38, said: 'Jordan and Peter Andre are still fighting each other over custody of Harvey - eventually one of them will lose and have to keep him.'

He then added: 'I have a theory about the reason Jordan married a cage fighter - she needed a man strong enough to stop Harvey from f****** her...'

No laughing matter?: Frankie Boyle telling the jokes about Harvey on the Tuesday night edition of Tramadol Nights

Laughing: The audience reaction in the studio immediately afterwards

A furious Katie told MailOnline yesterday: 'To suggest, let alone think funny, that Harvey may sexually attack me is vile and deeply unfair.

'Mr Boyle clearly has serious issues and those that give him a TV platform to say such disgusting things need to look at themselves very honestly.

'To bully this unbelievably brave child is despicable, to broadcast it on television is to show a complete and utter lack of judgment.'

Katie, 32, told MailOnline that a request for an apology over the 'vicious' comments had been 'dismissed' and that she had received the same statement that the Mail Online had received.

Boyle had hinted he was about to cause uproar on Sunday night as a live gig at London's Hammersmith Apollo.

A source who was in the audience told MailOnline the Scottish comic seemed to be almost boasting onstage when he said: 'Watch the show this week, 'cos I've got a feeling that it's going to be cancelled afterwards.'

A Channel4 spokesperson defended their decision to broadcast the material, telling MailOnline yesterday: 'Frankie Boyle is one of the highest profile comedians in the UK; he’s well known for his controversial humour and the programme carried appropriate warnings as to the nature of the material.

'The joke aired in the context of a late night comedy show. The joke itself has been performed by Frankie as part of his stage show and, as with much of his material, is an absurdist and satirical comment on high profile individuals whose lives have been played out in the media.'

Borrowed time?: Boyle joked on Sunday during a live comedy gig in London that Tuesday's show, seen here, could be his last

However, today, they said: 'Channel 4 has replied directly to Katie Price's lawyer. Given this has now gone to Ofcom it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.'

Ofcom told MailOnline that they would in particular be scrutinising whether or not these sections of the Broadcasting Code had been breached :

'2.1 Generally accepted standards must be applied to the contents of television and radio services so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in such services of harmful and/or offensive material.

2.3 ...generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context...'

Family outing: Katie with husband Alex Reid and Harvey on a day trip to Alton Towers in April this year

Katie and Harvey’s lawyer Mark Bateman of Archerfield Partners told MailOnline he felt the comments were more serious than the sexual comments made by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross on Radio 2 in the Sachsgate scandal.

'Channel 4 have got this horribly wrong if they think their actions are defensible because Boyle is high profile or because he has made this so called joke before.

'To ridicule disability in general is bad enough but to single out a young child as courageous and vulnerable as Harvey is cowardly. This attack is not an attack on a high profile individual it is an attack on a disabled child.

'With free speech comes responsibility and Channel 4 have shown themselves to be plainly irresponsible. Channel 4 seem to think issues of disability are less deserving than issues of racism or sex but this is simply discrimination.'

Eight-year-old Harvey, Katie's son with footballer Dwight Yorke, 39, suffers from septo-optic dysplasia which has left him blind and he also has a condition that makes him gain weight easily meaning he finds walking difficult.

He also suffers from autism which leads to behavioural problems.

Angry: Peter Andre, pictured here at the opening of a Skechers shop in Dublin last night, said he was 'digusted' by the jibes

Katie's ex Peter Andre, who has been a father figure for Harvey, was 'absolutely disgusted and sickened' to hear that Harvey had been made fun of.

His spokeswoman said: 'Peter is angry and very upset at Harvey being mocked in this way. Children, especially a disabled youngster, should be off-limits.'

Users of mothers' website Mumsnet have also reacted with fury and are encouraging viewers to complain to Ofcom.

As one Mumsnetter put it: 'I don't mind 'near the knuckle' comedy, but I think that "joke" has just severed my arms."

Even the few who admitted to liking Frankie Boyle think he has crossed the line.

One user wrote: 'This is aimed right at a real life child and his family and that is wrong... What exactly is humorous about suggesting an eight year old boy with difficulties isn't wanted, loved or is likely to rape his mother?'

It's not the first time Boyle has caused outrage with his comedy, in which no target is off limits.

In April, the BBC Trust's editorial standards committee (ESC) was forced to issued an apology over an anti-semitic joke made by Boyle which which compared Palestine with a cake being 'punched to pieces by a very angry Jew' on Radio 4.

Off message: Frankie Boyle, top left, with his former Mock The Week co-stars in 2007, from left to right, Hugh Dennis, Dara O'Briain, Andy Parsons (top) and Russell Howard

Last year Boyle was also condemned by the BBC after saying on Mock The Week that swimming champion Rebecca Adlington looked like she was 'looking at herself in the back of a spoon' and that she must be 'very dirty' to be able to keep her boyfriend.

The BBC Trust condemned Boyle for his 'humiliating and offensive' remarks and 'unnecessary innuendo'.

He later quit the show in fury over what he saw as an attempt to tone down his brand of humour.

He also found himself in hot water again recently when the mother of a child with Down's syndrome criticised him for making fun of people with the condition during a gig in Reading.

Harvey himself has found himself under attack before.

In November 2007, Heat magazine gave away a sticker bearing a picture of Harvey next to the words 'Harvey wants to eat me'.

The then editor Mark Frith apologised and said 'no offence was intended.'


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