BBC's Mock The Week 'breached guidelines' with Olympian humour, say corporation's Trust

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Comments made about Olympics swimmer Rebecca Adlington on British television programme Mock the Week "breached guidelines", the BBC Trust has said.

Rebecca Adlington in 2008.

Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle, at the time a panelist on the satirical gameshow, made the comments about the swimmer. The episode the comments featured on was originally broadcast in August 2008 on BBC Two. The episode caused a total of 75 complaints to be made to the BBC. The producer then apologised four months later, saying, "[t]he ribbing may have gone a tad too far on this occasion."

Now the BBC Trust has said that the comments "breached guidelines". They commented that the jokes "risked offending the audience" and were "humiliating". Speaking about the comments, BBC Trustee Richard Tait made a statement saying: "For Mock the Week, the [Trust's Editorial Standards] committee felt that the comments about Rebecca were humiliating, and this was exacerbated by the fact that she had not sought celebrity status or courted media attention. There was no clear editorial purpose for the joke's inclusion."

Boyle's specific comments were quoted in The Daily Telegraph and were as follows: "The thing that nobody really said about Rebecca Adlington is that she looks pretty weird. She looks like someone who's looking at themselves in the back of a spoon...When she arrived back on the flight [from Beijing] she met her boyfriend. Did you see her boyfriend? He was really attractive. He was like a male model. So from that I have deduced that Rebecca Adlington is very dirty."

This information came through seventeen days after the BBC announced that Frankie Boyle would be leaving the panel of the show after being a regular panellist since the show started in June 2005 due to "other television commitments". The show had been running for seven series, and will continue to run for another two seasons, despite his absence. A spokesperson for Mock the Week had said that he had been "a brilliant member of the team" and that "the door is always open for him to come back".