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Watchdog rejects Irish Traveller complaint about Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

The Irish Traveller Movement in Britain had argued that episodes of the Channel 4 programme contained negative and damaging stereotypes.

One of the weddings featured in Big Fat Gypsy Weddings
One of the weddings featured in Big Fat Gypsy Weddings
Image: Channel 4

Updated 15:20

THE BRITISH BROADCASTING watchdog has rejected a slew of complaints from a group representing Irish Travellers in the UK over two Channel 4 programmes.

The Irish Traveller Movement in Britain said that episodes of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and Thelma’s Gypsy Girls contained negative, racist and damaging stereotypes and endorsed prejudice against Travellers, Gypsies and Romany.

However in a ruling published on Monday, Ofcom rejected the complaint and said that while some of the portrayals of participants in the shows had the potential to cause offence, there was ‘sufficient context’ to justify any potential offence.

The Traveller Movement said it was an ‘astounding conclusion that [the programmes were] a fair and harmless representation of the UK’s Gypsy and Traveller minorities”.

Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, described as an ‘observational documentary series’,  followed Travellers and Romany communities across Britain as they prepared for weddings. Thelma’s Gypsy Girls followed a dress maker from Big Fat Gypsy Wedding as ten Traveller and Romany women served a six-month apprenticeship with her.

However the Traveller Movement said that the programmes were not documentaries and were more like a Traveller version of Made in Chelsea or The Only way is Essex.

“To claim it is a factual representation of three diverse minorities is absurd,” said Yvonne McNamara, the head of the Traveller Movement.

The Traveller Movement in Britain and four co-complainants had complained to Ofcom over standards and fairness and also over privacy in some of the programmes, all of which were broadcast in 2012.

In its ruling, Ofcom said it was satisfied that none of the programmes breached the broadcasting code, noting that Channel 4 had taken sufficient steps ‘to ensure that due care was taken of the emotional welfare of under-18s featured in the programmes, including the young women contributors featured involved in ‘grabbing”.

Ofcom also ruled that the portrayals of Travellers, Gypsies and Romany in the programmes “were not materially misleading.

“Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and Thelma’s Gypsy Girls were observational documentary series highlighting aspects of the life of particular [Traveller/Gypsy/Romany] people and did not depict negative stereotypes applicable to [their] communities as a whole,” Ofcom said.

Yvonne McNamara said the decision compounded the negative media portrayal of Traveller, Roma and Gypsy minorities.

Column: Just words? Anti-Roma and Traveller rhetoric has serious consequences >

Read: “A 12-year-old Traveller boy attempted suicide because he was being bullied at school” >

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