‘EastEnders’ cleared over babyswap storyline

Ofcom says plot “not handled in an offensive manner”

The controversial EastEnders storyline, that dealt with a bereaved mother swapping her baby for another, has been cleared by Ofcom.

The episode, which aired on New Year’s Eve, drew 13,400 complaints to the BBC from viewers. Ofcom, the regulatory authority for broadcasting, received a further 1,044 complaints.

Many of the complaints centred around the belief that:

The storyline appeared to suggest that a mother who has suddenly and tragically lost a baby through cot death would react by stealing another baby to replace that loss.

In the episode, Ronnie Branning found her baby dead, carried it through Albert Square to the Queen Vic pub and swapped the corpse for Tommy, Kat Moon’s baby.

Ofcom decided that the storyline would not have “exceeded audience expectations” and that scenes were “not unduly disturbing or graphic”. In response to the accusation that the storyline suggested all mothers would react as Ronnie did, Ofcom said:

The broadcaster did not intend the storyline to suggest that her actions were a typical response of a mother who had experienced Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and therefore sufficient editorial context was provided to viewers.

The storyline came to an end when Ronnie Branning gave Tommy back to Kat Moon, before turning herself in to the police. The character is now serving a three-year prison sentence for her actions.

EastEnders airs on BBC One on Monday and Friday at 20.00, and Tuesday and Thursday at 19.30.