Most complained about TV programmes of 2018

27 December 2018

Celebrity Big Brother was the television programme that attracted most viewer complaints to Ofcom in 2018.

During 2018, Ofcom received almost 56,000 complaints about programmes from viewers and listeners.1 The figures reveal that the ‘top 10’ most complained about television shows together prompted more than 47,000 audience complaints to Ofcom – accounting for 85% of the total for the year.2

Ofcom is responsible for securing standards on television and radio to protect audiences from harm. Each complaint made to Ofcom is carefully assessed against our broadcasting rules to determine whether further action against the broadcaster might be necessary.

The ‘top 10’ TV shows for complaints 2018

Celebrity Big Brother on Channel 5 attracted the most complaints in 2018 (27,602). The majority related to an allegation of physical abuse made by Roxanne Pallett against Ryan Thomas.

Loose Women on ITV attracted the second highest volume of complaints this year (8,002). The majority related to an interview with guest Kim Woodburn.

Ofcom is investigating both programmes to determine whether potentially offensive content was editorially justified and placed into appropriate context.

ITV reality shows Love Island, I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here and The X Factor also featured in the top 10 (ranked 4th, 9th and 10th respectively), along with storylines on Coronation Street (5th) and Emmerdale (6th) which prompted viewers in their hundreds to get in touch with Ofcom. Sky News (3rd), Good Morning Britain (7th) and This Morning (8th) complete the rankings.

With many complainants now also taking to social media to voice their opinions, many of the programmes that feature in Ofcom’s ‘top 10’, are also among the ‘top tweeted’ programmes of the year, according to Kantar Media research.

Tony Close, Ofcom's Director of Content Standards, Licensing & Enforcement, said:

“Viewers are as passionate about what they watch as ever, discussing programmes with their friends and family, and with other people on social media. They complain to us when they think programmes have fallen below the standards they expect, and we carefully assess each and every complaint we receive.

“This year, we’ve taken action on many occasions where programmes have fallen short of the standards required by our rules.”

Securing standards on TV and radio

Viewers and listeners can complain to Ofcom about content on the TV, radio and video-on-demand services we regulate. Complaints, which can be submitted by phone, online or by post, are each carefully assessed against our broadcasting rules.3

This year, Ofcom’s Content Standards team assessed almost 56,000 audience complaints, and reviewed around 8,200 hours of footage and audio to determine whether our broadcasting rules might have been broken.

Ofcom launched 137 investigations into TV and radio programmes in 2018. Of the 129 investigations concluded this year, we found our broadcasting rules were broken in 80 cases.4Sixteen cases were resolved, while 33 cases were found not to have breached our rules.


Notes to editors:

  1. There were 55,842 complaints about programmes in 2018.
  2. Key issues prompting audience complaints about the top 10 programmes in 2018:
    • Celebrity Big Brother: 27,602 complaints (of which 25,327 related to the incident involving Roxanne and Ryan (30, 31 Aug and 1 Sept); and 1,101 related to Rodrigo Alves using a racial slur (17Aug)).
    • Loose Women: 8,002 complaints (of which 7,912 related to an interview with guest Kim Woodburn which resulted in her walking off set (29 Aug)).
    • Sky News: 4,251 complaints (of which 3,462 alleged bias in the editing of Tommy Robinson in an interview (27 Sept); and 592 related to comments by Kay Burley’s comparing Simon Weston’s injuries to a woman wearing a burqa (7 Aug)).
    • Love Island: 4,192 complaints (of which 2,644 related to Dani Dyer’s reaction when shown a video of boyfriend Jack reacting to his former partner entering Casa Amour (1 July); 632 raised concerns about the emotional wellbeing of contestant, Laura Anderson (10 July); and 540 related to perceived unfair editing of contestant, Samira Mighty (12 July)).
    • Coronation Street: 1,098 complaints (of which 214 related to the storyline involving the date-rape of David Platt and its aftermath (16,19 March); 211 related to Billy Mayhew taking drugs in a church (26 Feb); and 95 related to Pat Phelan’s murder of Luke Britton (5 Jan)).
    • Emmerdale: 759 complaints (of which366 complaints related to an acid attack storyline (8 Feb); and 116 related to the murder of Gerry Roberts (17 May)).
    • Good Morning Britain: 548 complaints (of which 86 considered that Piers Morgan displayed bias in favour of President Trump during an interview with Ash Sarkar (12 July); and 74 related to Adil Ray’s introduction of the show as “Good Morning Asian Britain” (13 August)).
    • This Morning: 402 complaints (of which 133 raised concerns that a guest who featured in a segment about breastfeeding was not sufficiently expert (12 Sept); and 30 related to a discussion about donor breastmilk which complainants considered did not support breastfeeding and promoted formula milk (12 Apr).
    • I’m a Celebrity…Get me Out of Here: 335: The majority of these complaints (180) related to the use of animals in Bushtucker trials.
    • The X Factor: 286 complaints (of which 104 related to Cheryl’s routine (18 Nov); and95 related to sound issues affecting the performances of Danny Tetley and Anthony Russell (3 Nov)).
  3. Under the BBC Charter and Framework Agreement, as set by Government and Parliament, generally Ofcom can only accept a complaint after the BBC has completed its complaints process. This is known as the ‘BBC First’ process.
  4. A breach of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code is recorded on a broadcaster’s licence. Repeated, serious or reckless breaches can result in Ofcom imposing a statutory sanction. This might include a financial penalty, or in extreme cases, revocation of a broadcast licence. In 2018, Ofcom imposed five statutory sanctions which included the revocation of Ausaf UK Limited’s licence, and financial penalties against JML Media Limited, Karamia Limited, Al Arabiya News and Radio Ikhlas Limited.
  5. There were 16,068 complaints about TV and radio programmes in 2017. The difference year on year is driven by two programmes in particular, Celebrity Big Brother and Loose Women.