These reports are case summaries of complaints which appeared to raise issues of substance in relation to the interpretation of the ITC Programme Code. Summary statistics of non-substantive complaints can be found in the full reports which are obtainable from the ITC.
Showing Complaints & Interventions Report for SQUADDIES ON THE RAMPAGE
Channel: Channel 4
Date & time: Monday 7 July: 9.00pm
Complaint from: 5 viewers
This programme documented a number of violent attacks over the past ten years by drunken British army personnel stationed on Cyprus - directed at both those who live on the island and those who visit as tourists. The most serious of these crimes was the abduction, rape and killing of Louise Jensen, a 23-year old Danish tour representative, in 1994. One of the three soldiers responsible had one month before slashed the face of a British tourist with a broken beer glass. The programme argued that these continuing attacks were the outcome of an endemic 'drinking culture' in the British Army, which the authorities failed to confront.
Five viewers complained that the programme was one-sided insofar as it denigrated the reputation of the professional British soldier by concentrating on a few exceptional incidents. They also said that it made no reference to the wider social problem of 'binge drinking' nor looked at the social and other pressures that contribute to it in the Army, and that it made no reference to attacks on British servicemen by Cypriot nationals.
The ITC believed that the editorial line the programme took was not unfair or unreasonable in the light of the well documented cases of physical violence inflicted by drunken soldiers that formed the core of the programme. As when television exposes crime and corruption in other walks of life, viewers do not need to be reminded that concentration on a few bad apples does not mean that the whole barrel is rotten. The inclusion of a reference to hostile behaviour towards army personnel in Cyprus (alleged but not documented by one complainant) was not necessary in order to preserve fairness - indeed, it could have been seen as unfair in appearing to justify the violence by the soldiers. However, the ITC was concerned that the charge that the attacks documented by the programme stemmed from a tolerance of alcohol abuse that ran from top to bottom in the army appeared not to be put to any appropriately senior army representative in the programme. The ITC asked Channel 4 why.
The broadcaster responded that the producers had in fact made a number of approaches to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) for an interview. After initially expressing an interest in taking part, the MOD declined to provide a spokesman, offering in place (as described by the producers) "only very limited [written] information", and this at a very late stage of the programme's production. The MOD had stated that the Cyprus base's policy in respect of alcohol consumption was the same as service policy generally - namely, that all personnel received briefings about alcohol but that the regulation of the consumption of alcohol by personnel in their free time could raise issues of restricting a person's rights. Channel 4 argued that this position was fairly represented in the commentary in the second part of the programme during the discussion of the culture of heavy drinking and the Army's response to it.
The fact that since the programme was broadcast, neither Channel 4 nor the ITC has received any complaint from the MOD suggests that official military opinion did not regard the programme as materially unfair. Nevertheless, the ITC believes that it would have been helpful to the viewer to be told something of the background to getting an MOD response, and the outcome.
The broadcaster was not in breach of Section 2.7 of the ITC Programme Code (Opportunity to take part where a programme alleges wrongdoing or incompetence).