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Ofcom investigation Channel 4 doc about crime in UK Traveller community did not 'misrepresent factual matters'

The programme-makers were accused of “dehumanising” the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community

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Britain’s broadcasting regulator has found that a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary about crime within the Traveller community in the UK did not “misrepresent factual matters”. 

Ofcom launched an investigation after The Truth About Traveller Crime programme broadcast attracted more than 900 complaints from viewers.

Irish and British Traveller groups had suggested that the 45-minute documentary, presented by Anja Popp, was racist.

It reported on crimes allegedly committed by a Travellers community in Leicestershire and at other sites around England.

Popp spoke to members of the public who had allegedly been victims of such crimes, as well as Travellers and their advocate groups.

The programme-makers were accused of “dehumanising” the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community after it was broadcast in April 2020.

But in a ruling published on Wednesday, Ofcom found the documentary did not misrepresent factual matters and presented potentially harmful material fairly and with appropriate context.

In a 51-page ruling, Ofcom said the programme did not breach the code of broadcasting.

“It said: “We considered that the programme did not misrepresent factual matters by suggesting that there was a causal link between Gypsy and Traveller sites and high crime rates, as the programme included sufficient material which served to contextualise the conclusions that were drawn from the statistical analysis.”

However, the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community has accused Ofcom of institutional racism over the decision to clear the controversial Channel 4 documentary

Yvonne MacNamara, the chief executive of the Traveller Movement, said the charity disagreed with the ruling in the “strongest possible terms” and suggested it was racist.

MacNamara said: “It is extremely important for Ofcom to reflect on their practices and culture, and assess the extent to which their decision-making procedures are rooted in institutional racism – that is to say the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin.”

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A spokesperson for Friends, Families and Travellers said: “Through My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and now this, it’s not the first time Channel 4 have chosen to humiliate and further marginalise Gypsy and Traveller people. It is clear that Ofcom are no longer fit for purpose and lack the ability to challenge even the most obvious forms of racism and prejudice.”

A spokesperson for Ofcom said: “We’ve nothing further to add beyond our fully reasoned, evidence-based decision and our public statement already provided.”

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