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Fights and philandering rile region’s TV viewers

By Mark Andrews | Entertainment | Published:

We're the region that gave the world Mary Whitehouse, the guardian of the nation's morals who fought the battle against smut, violence and debauchery on our television screens.

Mary Whitehouse led the campaign to clean up television in the 1960s

And it seems that 55 years since the launch of the Claverley schoolteacher's Clean Up TV campaign, we are still a region which loves to complain about impropriety on the small screen.

Over the 12 months up until May, people in the West Midlands lodged a total of 3,500 complaints with Ofcom about what we had seen on TV. The nature of what we complain about has changed: while it was Alf Garnett, Dave Allen, The Sweeney and Benny Hill that rattled Mary Whitehouse's cage, today's viewers are more likely to object to Big Brother, Love Island and, er Loose Women. Sky News appears to have ruffled a few feathers, too.

As one would expect, Birmingham yielded the most complaints, with 1,042 people contacting Ofcom to complain. The Second City certainly punches above its weight when it comes to complaining about TV, with 0.94 people in every 1,000 venting their spleen, it is by no means the angriest place in the West Midlands. Shrewsbury came eighth in the table, with 114 complaints, but in a town with a population of around 72,000 people that represents a complaint rate of 1.59 per 1,000, putting it close to the top of the table in the outrage stakes.

Mary Whitehouse led the campaign to clean up television in the 1960s

For a comparatively small town, Tipton packs a pretty big punch, too, recording 53 complaints from its population of about 39,000. When it came to the number of complaints, Wolverhampton took fourth spot, with 201 complaints, followed by Walsall with 188 complaints.

Mrs Whitehouse education career saw her teach art at a school in Lichfield, and sex education at Madeley Modern School in what is now Telford. And it seems they have taken her moral standards to heart, with Telford coming seventh in the complaints table, with 139 complaints, and Lichfield folk also lodged 39 complaints – quite impressive for a city with 32,000 inhabitants.

So what is it that upsets people of the West Midlands so much? Well, the final series of Celebrity Big Brother accounted for almost half of the complaints, provoking 1,644 people to complain to Ofcom. The series was billed 'The Eye of the Storm' on its launch in August last year, which perhaps gave an early hint that it wasn't going to be an entirely harmonious affair. In the opening episode, contestant Rodrigo Alves provoked a fury with his racist language, for which he received a formal warning, but was allowed to remain in the show. He caused further controversy when he walked in on fellow contestant Ben Jardine while he was taking a bath, and asked to see his genitals. Alves was eventually removed after 10 days, for an unspecified off-camera incident.

Mary Whitehouse led the campaign to clean up television in the 1960s

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But it appears it was not Alves's antics which caused the most anger among viewers. Nationally the series attracted a total of 27,250 complaints, with the largest number coming on August 31 after former Coronation Street star Ryan Thomas, appeared to lightly punch former Emmerdale actress Roxanne Pallett in a playfight.

Last year's series was not the first time Celebrity Big Brother was at the centre of a race row, either. A dispute between Jade Goody and the Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty in 2007 attracted the all-time second highest number of complaints to Ofcom.

At first glance, the second most complained about programme, ITV chat show Loose Women comes as a bit of a surprise, particularly given its daytime slot and relatively small audience share. What probably comes as less of a surprise is that it was the result of an ongoing dispute which began on, yes, you guessed it, Celebrity Big Brother.

The Loose Women debacle was actually an attempt at reconciliation between regular host Coleen Nolan, and How Clean Is Your House? presenter Kim Woodburn, who had clashed when they both appeared on Celebrity Big Brother. Kim claimed former pop singer Coleen had ganged up with seven other housemates to bully her during their time on the reality series, but the supposed reconciliation did little to heal the wounds. Perhaps, with hindsight, asking Janet Street-Porter to mediate while dressed as a judge and brandishing a gavel was not the most tasteful way to deal with the allegations, and it certainly did little to heal the wounds.

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The reunion didn't get off to the best of starts when Coleen said her biggest mistake was not telling Kim "how vile she was from day one", and Kim's voice began to falter as she replied "I was very upset in that house and I pretended I wasn't."

Becoming increasingly agitated, Kim added: "I don't want to draw a line under it...I will never forget what the likes of this one and seven others put me through...I will never forget it because it was sad, awful and it was bloody cruel." She then got out of her seat and walked out of the studio, shouting at Coleen: "I wouldn't want to sit and talk to lying trash like you."

The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by BuzzBingo, showed that the reality series Love Island was more a case of Loathe Island with 268 viewers in the West Midlands making their feelings known. News programmes caused a lot of anger, too, with Sky News attracting 309 complaints in the region, Channel 4 News 162 complaints, and Good Morning Britain 62 complaints.

Interestingly, people in Stafford appeared to be particularly offended by Coronation Street, with 2.6 people in every thousand lodging a complaint about the soap – one of the highest complaint rates in the country.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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