Off the hook...

Matthew Wright and Charlie Baker not censured for joking about teen's murder

TV presenter Matthew Wright and comedian Charlie Baker have escaped censure by broadcasting watchdogs after joking about the murder of 16-year-old in the Hebrides.

The pair caused upset during an episode of Wright’s Channel 5 show in December when they discussed the death of Liam Aitchison.

In a paper review, Baker pointed out the story of the first Hebridean murder hunt for 40 years – to which Wright responded in a cod Taggart accent: ‘There’s been another murder’

As the audience laughed, Baker added: ‘The longest episode of Taggart of all time... There’s lots of down-time in between.’

Ofcom received 2,358 complaints over the comments and said ‘the degree of offence that the comments caused was considerable’. But it decided that the case was resolved after Wright made on-air apologies in two subsequent programmes.

But the presenter did himself no favours with the wording with the first apology, when he added the comment: ‘Not helped though by people running campaigns: Report Matthew Wright to Ofcom. I mean, grow up, folks... I’m very sorry all the same.’

In its ruling, published today, Ofcom said the offence in the initial broadcast ‘was mainly because Matthew Wright responded to Charlie Baker’s introduction to the news story by making a joke that made light of the murder.

‘He then went on to laugh loudly with the audience as the conversation continued. In doing so, he appeared to pay no regard to the unfortunate circumstances of this murder case concerning the killing of a 16-year-old well known to many within the local community in which he lived.

‘The potential for offence was heightened because Matthew Wright made his joke while a photograph of the victim Liam Aitchison was being shown on-screen.’

But the regulators were more sympathetic to Baker, saying that his remarks ‘were made in response to a comment by the presenter of the programme, which according to Channel 5 was unexpected to the production team and to Charlie Baker, given the briefing exercise before the programme started.’

They concluded: ‘Ofcom recognises that the comments caused considerable offence, particularly to viewers in Scotland. On balance, however, and in light of the steps taken by Channel 5 to mitigate this offence, Ofcom considered the matter resolved.’

In a separate ruling, Ofcom rapped Comedy Central for broadcasting The Dukes Of Hazzard film, which contained ‘multiple uses of the word “fuck”’ and a topless scene, at 6pm. The broadcaster said human error meant a 15-rated version went out in the early evening, instead of an edited version.

Published: 20 Feb 2012

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