Ofcom raps Big Brother 2012 over Conor, Facebook voting
Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has ruled that Big Brother 2012 breached guidelines over Conor’s argument with Deana, and the suspension of Facebook eviction voting.
The watchdog recieved 2,085 complaints in total regarding this summer’s normal series of the show, 1,139 of which concerned Conor’s threats of physical and sexual violence towards Deana.
In the episode broadcast on 25th June, housemates were challenged to eat various ‘gross’ foods, disguised as pleasant treats. Deana was the only person to fail, and although the group was rewarded, they speculated that the prize would have been better had Deana succeeded.
Later in the show, Caroline accused the Indian beauty queen of using an epilator at the kitchen table, which prompted Conor’s remarks:
Caroline: Deana, your leg hair is on the kitchen table!
Deana: What are you saying, that I used my epilator on the kitchen table?
Caroline: You can see it!
Deana: Oh shut up… [Pause]… I think it’s your pubes!
[Laughter from the Housemates]
Arron: How inappropriate.
Caroline: So inappropriate.
Conor: [starts to rap using a hairbrush as a microphone] It’s your epilator, stick it up your arse, we don’t give a fuck because I’m going to fucking smash your face in you little piece of shit.
Ashleigh: Maybe you need to play fun games with her tonight.
Conor: With who? I’ll give her a fun game. I’ll stick this [indicates the hair brush] up her fucking minge, the stupid bastard. I’ll give her a fucking epilator [gestures thrusting the hairbrush into his groin]. I’m going to play loads of pranks on her because she’s a fucking piece of shit, I don’t give a fuck if I get pulled up to the Diary Room so it could be…
Ashleigh: Yeah, but what if she gets you back with water?
Ashleigh: What if, say you got her with water like Arron?
Conor: And she threw it over me, I’d punch her in the face, just knock her out, just get up from that you piece if shit just… [Makes punching sound].”
Big Brother promptly called Conor to the Diary Room to discuss the incident, and the next day he visited of his own accord to give an apology. However, he was never given a proper warning, or threatened with punishment, such as expulsion from the house.
Channel 5 argued that these Diary Room visits, and subsequent discussions he’d had with other housemates, demonstrated that “he regretted the incident and knew that it had been a stupid thing to say”. They also said they did not believe Conor had any intention to act on his threats.
However, Ofcom felt that these actions this did not limit the potential offence to viewers, and even suggested that Conor had been challenged more by host Brian Dowling in his eviction interview – five and a half weeks afterwards – than he had by Big Brother in the Diary Room.
Taking in to account all of the circumstances, Ofcom concluded that the incident breached rules in the broadcasting code regarding ‘generally accepted standards’.
Channel 5 was also rapped for suspending Facebook voting halfway through the series, after the system was hit by server outages caused by an excessive amount of traffic.
They explained that Big Brother’s online editorial content – such as news articles and videos – was formerly split between their official website, and the Facebook application. However, prior to Big Brother 2012, the decision was taken to host all content on the Facebook application.
With the online traffic for previous series peaking at 110 page views per second, C5 believed that this would not be exceeded this year, and ordered 23 dedicated servers for the application. Third party testing pre-series did not identify any potential performance issues.
C5 admitted that launch night statistics showed that the traffic level was ‘considerably higher than anticipated’, but the system was able to withstand demand for the first six weeks.
Prior to the seventh eviction vote – Lauren vs. Luke A – traffic spiked to 900 views per second, resulting in a short period of downtime. They responded by more than doubling the number of servers from 23 to 50. But after further brief outages, they became concerned about the application’s ability to support both editorial content and voting.
Although they had considered several potential solutions, these could not be sufficiently tested within a suitable time frame, so the decision was taken to suspend Facebook voting.
Having calculated that 10,056 votes owned by 1,363 viewers had been left left unused, C5 said that they had been in contact with all but 45 viewers regarding refunds, and that monies from any unrefunded votes were donated to charity.
They claimed that they had not ‘materially misled’ viewers over Facebook voting, pointing out the infancy and technologically complex nature of the system and arguing that it had sought to ‘limit and address the situation quickly’.
However, while Ofcom accepted Channel 5’s arguments, they ruled that, as viewers had paid for their votes on the basis that they would be able to use them until the end of the series, C5 had indeed misled viewers and again ruled them in breach of the broadcasting code.
C5 was previously cleared of wrongdoing after a technical error during the Big Brother 2011 live final resulted in users being unable to cast Facebook votes.
Meanwhile, there were more positive outcomes for three other investigations.
Ofcom ruled that the incident in which Caroline referred to Adam as a ‘gorilla’ was not in breach of the code as, unlike Conor, Caroline was issued with a formal warning and told that explusion from the house was a possibility if she continued to use such potentially offensive language.
They also stated that, although the term could have been percieved as racist by viewers, there was no evidence to suggest the outburst in question was racially motivated.
Similarly, the incident in which Scott and Ashleigh allegedly made stereotypical, potentially racist remarks about Indian culture after spotting Deana eating with her hands was also ruled not in breach as both of them were properly warned by Big Brother.
And ex-housemate Victor Ebuwa’s appearance on spin-off Big Brother’s Bit On The Side, where he referred to this year’s contestants as ‘functioning retards’, was considered resolved as – although the remark was in breach of the code – Channel 5 appropriately responded by making an on-air apology, and editing it out of the on-demand version of the episode.