The 13 most complained-about moments in British TV history

The 13 most complained-about moments in British TV history

Piers Morgan has finally left his prominent position as a daily broadcaster (for now) after his comments about Meghan Markle and the state of her mental health incensed the nation.

According to Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, his comments received upwards of 40,000 complaints after Good Morning Britain aired. In fact, it was one of the most complained about British television moments of all time.

So from reality TV to explosive interviews, here are some of the most controversial and complained about moments – ranked. 

Big Brother in 2015: 2,024 complaints

The hit reality show received many complaints about bullying during its 2015 series, after housemates Helen Wood and Marc O’Neill described fellow contestant Brian Belo as looking “like a murderer and a rapist.”

The offensive remarks led to Belo leaving the show, calling Wood and O’Neill “bullies”. While Big Brother issued a warning to its housemates, Ofcom decided not to open a formal investigation.

Love Island, 2018: 2,644 complaints

In 2018, Ofcom received more than 2,500 complaints after Love Island’s Dani Dyer cried because she thought Jack Fincham was going to cheat on her. People believed the producers of the show allowed her to believe Jack was going to cheat on her only for the drama of making her upset.

Jon Snow’s comments on a Brexit rally, 2019: 2,717 complaints

In 2019, Jon Snow said “I’ve never seen so many white people in one place” speaking about a Brexit rally. Channel 4 later issued an apology, and it was the most complained about TV moment of that year.

Rhianna and Christina Aguilera’s X-Factor performance, 2010: 2,868 complaints

Way back in 2010, Rihanna and Christina Aguilera performed during an episode of The X Factor. People thought the performances were “too explicit” – all though we’re not sure a performance like that now would get nearly as many complaints.

Brass Eye mocking paedophilia: 3,000 complaints

In a 2001 episode of the comedy satire series Brass Eye, Chris Morris mocked media coverage of paedophilia. While the show was based around mocking celebrities, they still received 3,000 complaints.

Tommy Robinson interview on Sky News, 2018: 3,643 complaints

In 2018, some viewers complained because they felt an interview on Sky News with far-right and anti-Islam activist Tommy Robinson was “biased” and “defamatory”.

Ofcom later decided there were no grounds for an investigation on the interview with Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. 

The UKIP documentary, 2015: 6,138 complaints

In 2015, more than 6,000 people complained about the one-off show, UKIP: The First 100 Days. People called it “biased” and “misleading”.

This mockumentary imagines a world in which UKIP won a General Election and ascended to power, as seen through the eyes of a fictional MP. The Guardian reported, however, that a “significant number” of complaints had been sent as part of a copy-and-paste email campaign organised by the far-right group Britain First.

Kim Woodburn interview on Loose Women, 2018: 8,002 complaints

In 2018, the ITV chat show Loose Women received over 8,000 complaints after Kim Woodburn walked out of her interview. She had been invited on the show to speak with panellist Coleen Nolan – after they fought on Celebrity Big Brother. People felt Woodburn had been “bullied” and ganged up on during the interview after she stormed offstage, calling her co-star “trash”.

‘Punch gate,’ Celebrity Big Brother, 2018: 25,327 complaints

Here’s where the complaints really start to rack up: the 2018 “Punch gate” scandal lodged 25,327 complaints.

Also on Celebrity Big Brother, Roxanne Pallett falsely claimed that fellow contestant Ryan Thomas had assaulted her. She called him a “woman beater” after they were seen play fighting. She has since said that she got it “massively wrong”.

Ghostwatch leaving viewers ‘traumatised,’ 1992: 30,000 complaints

All the way back in 1992, an episode of the spoof horror show Ghostwatch left viewers “traumatised” after witnessing what they believed was one of the hosts actually being killed by a ghost. 30,000 people complained, and it was later reported that at least two children had suffered from PTSD after watching the show. It was banned from broadcast for a decade - yikes!

Jade Goody and Shilpa Shetty, Celebrity Big Brother, 2007: 44,500 complaints

Back to Celebrity Big Brother once again, in 2007 Ofcom received a staggering 44,500 complaints over a fight between Jade Goody and Shilpa Shetty. During this season, housemates said they couldn’t pronounce Shetty’s name and instead called her “Princess” and “the Indian”.

The height of the racist comments came when Goody said Shetty needed “a day in the slums”.

The Jerry Springer musical: 55,000 complaints

The second-most complained about TV moment in British history happened when the Jerry Springer show was turned into a musical on BBC Two called ‘The Opera’.

It received 55,000 complaints about its provocative themes, swear words, and jokes about Jesus being “a bit gay”. In fact, a Christian lobby group tried to take a BBC director to court for blasphemy.

Piers Morgan’s comments on Meghan Markle, Good Morning Britain, 2021: 57,121 complaints

And of course, now we arrive to the most complained about segment in Ofcom’s history: Piers and his comments on the Oprah interview with Meghan and Harry. During the interview, Meghan reflected on her mental health, and spoke about how at one point she “didn’t want to be alive”. After this aired, Piers Morgan hosted Good Morning Britain where he said he ‘didn’t believe’ Meghan’s claims.

And as of 2pm that day, Ofcom had received 41,015 complaints and launched an investigation. Later that day, Morgan quit the show. As of Wednesday, the figure went up to 57,121.

More: As an American, the Piers Morgan news this week has been a bizarre learning curve

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