Ricky Gervais has been cleared by Ofcom over his use of the word ‘mong’ in relation to Susan Boyle.
The comedian had been under investigation when he used the word – historically a derogatory term for Down’s Syndrome sufferers – to describe the Britain’s Got Talent singer during his comedy tour ‘Science’. He went on to vigorously defend his use of the word on Twitter.
When the show was subsequently shown on Channel 4, the broadcaster received huge numbers of complaints, but the broadcasting regulator has defended Gervais and the Channel.
The ruling stated:
This involved Ricky Gervais evoking the word’s offensiveness to some extent, and challenging the relationship between the offence and the word itself. We considered, therefore, that the nature and focus of the routine provided a clear editorial context for his use of the term.
Ofcom added: “We also took into account that Channel 4 brought the challenging nature of the content to the attention of viewers with a warning at the start of the programme, which stated that it would contain ‘strong language and adult humour’.
“We therefore concluded that several aspects of this content had the potential to cause considerable offence. However, on balance, this potential offence was justified by the context of this provocative comedy routine challenging the evolution of words as broadcast with a warning as part of a late night comedy show on Channel 4.”
Penny Green, director of Down’s syndrome charity Down’s Heart Group, slammed the decision, telling the Daily Mail: “It’s very sad that in effect Ofcom is excusing Ricky Gervais because of the time the show was broadcast and a very loose warning about content, and yet they issued a warning to TV bosses about the use of the word, saying ‘their research showed it had the potential to be highly offensive’ and ‘great care’ should be taken over its use.
“It’s almost like giving carte blanche to anyone to use offensive language directed at a particular group just as long as they do it at ‘an appropriate time’.”