20 December 2023

Laurence Fox comments about Ava Evans tops Ofcom complaints list for 2023

20 December 2023

Laurence Fox’s “misogynistic comments” about female journalist Ava Evans, in which he asked “who would want to shag that?”, was the most complained-about TV event of the year, Ofcom has revealed.

The remarks made by actor-turned-politician Fox about political correspondent Ms Evans during an episode of GB News’ Dan Wootton Tonight on September 26 received 8,867 complaints.

Fox and presenter Wootton, who both later apologised, were suspended by the channel after the broadcast and Fox has since been sacked from the channel while a probe by Ofcom into the episode is ongoing.

Responding to his comments topping the media watchdog’s annual list, Fox wrote on social media: “Saying you don’t want to shag someone is the most complained about TV segment of the year? How hilariously British.”

The incident narrowly beat Bridgerton star Adjoa Andoh’s comments made during ITV’s coverage of the King’s coronation to the top spot.

The coverage received 8,421 complaints, with the majority relating to her remarks “which focused on the appearance of the royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace”.

Andoh, who plays Lady Agatha Danbury in the Netflix show, said at the time: “Looking at all those young people, there is a bit of me that has gone from the rich diversity of the Abbey to the terribly white balcony. I’m very struck by that.”

The actress later appeared on BBC Radio 4 to clarify what she meant and apologise for remarking on the moment Charles and Camilla appeared on the balcony at Buckingham Palace to wave at the public with their family.

After conducting an assessment into the comments, Ofcom said it would not be taking further action on them.

The media watchdog said: “While we understand some viewers had strong feelings about this comment, after careful consideration we concluded that the comment was a personal observation which was part of a wide-ranging panel discussion which also touched on other diversity-related topics, and which contained a range of viewpoints.

“Our decision to not pursue these complaints further also took into account the right to freedom of expression.”

An episode of ITV’s Good Morning Britain in which TV presenter Richard Madeley questioned MP Layla Moran about her family in Gaza City was in third place in the list with 2,391 complaints made by viewers.

During the October 17 episode, the broadcaster asked the Liberal Democrat MP if “there was any word on the street” before Hamas launched its attack on Israel.

A spokesman for the ITV show later said Madeley was “sorry that he upset viewers” and Ms Moran accepted the apology as she thought the line of questioning came from a “place of… ignorance” but was not asked out of malice.

The media watchdog acknowledged that Madeley’s remarks were “potentially offensive” but said after it had taken the entire interview and preceding discussion into account it had decided to not pursue the complaints further.

In fourth place was an episode of Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine on March 13, with 2,302 complaints, mostly relating to a discussion on the junior doctors’ pay dispute.

Sky News’ Breakfast with Kay Burley took fifth place after a November 23 episode received 1,880 complaints after Israeli spokesman Eylon Levy was interviewed on the show.

The figures do not include complaints about the BBC, which are handled by the corporation in the first instance.

Over the year, Ofcom received 69,236 complaints about more than 9,638 cases, a jump from 2022’s total of 36,543 complaints.

The watchdog also launched 57 new broadcast standards investigations, finding in 35 of these cases that its rules had been broken.

In 2021, Ofcom received more than 150,000 complaints, driven in part by Piers Morgan’s comments about the Duchess of Sussex on Good Morning Britain.

– The most complained-about programmes of 2023:

1. Laurence Fox’s on-air remarks about Ava Evans on GB News’ Dan Wootton Tonight (8,867 complaints)

2. Adjoa Andoh’s comments about the royal family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace during ITV’s coverage of the King’s coronation (8,421)

3. TV presenter Richard Madeley questioning MP Layla Moran about her family in Gaza City on ITV’s Good Morning Britain (2,391)

4. A discussion on the junior doctors’ pay dispute on Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine show (2,302)

5. Questioning of Israeli spokesman Eylon Levy on Sky News’ Breakfast with Kay Burley (1,880)

6. Lee Anderson’s GB News interview with Suella Braverman relating to them both being Conservative MPs (1,697)

7. Kay Burley allegedly misrepresenting comments made by the Palestinian ambassador on her Sky News show (1,640)

8. Concerns about Channel 4’s Naked Education, including pre-watershed nudity (1,285)

9. Comments made by Vanessa Feltz about coeliac disease on ITV’s This Morning (1,092)

10. Bullying of Scott van-der-Sluis on ITV’s Love Island (992)

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