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Piers Morgan’s Meghan remarks among most complaints received in Ofcom history

Piers Morgan (James Manning/PA)
Piers Morgan (James Manning/PA)

Piers Morgan’s controversial comments about the Duchess of Sussex on Good Morning Britain remains the most complained about programme in Ofcom history, as Julia Hartley-Brewer’s show enters the top 10.

The media watchdog has marked the 500th edition of its fortnightly broadcast bulletin, first started on January 27 2004, by reflecting on milestone moments across the last two decades.

Hartley-Brewer’s heated exchange with a Palestinian MP on her TalkTV show is the only programme from 2024 to make the top 10 list, coming in at number six after it garnered 17,351 complaints in January.

Ofcom ruled that the episode, in which the broadcaster discussed the Hamas-Israel war with Dr Mustafa Barghouti, did not raise issues under its rules but it told TalkTV to “take extra care to ensure potentially offensive comments are justified”.

Morgan still holds on to the top spot after 54,595 complaints were made when he said he did not believe claims made by Meghan about her mental health during her interview with Oprah Winfrey.

After clashing with a co-presenter on the show, Morgan departed the programme for good.

The media watchdog later ruled that the episode on March 8 2021 was not in breach of the broadcasting code, saying Morgan’s comments were “potentially harmful and offensive” but that it also “took full account of freedom of expression”.

One of the most controversial moments in Celebrity Big Brother history – when the late Jade Goody, S Club 7 singer Jo O’Meara and model Danielle Lloyd directed abuse at Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty – came in second place with 45,159 complaints.

Some of the behaviour included Goody referring to the star as “Shilpa Poppadom”, Lloyd telling Shetty, in foul language, that she should go home to India, and an argument over Shetty preparing a chicken in which offensive comments about Indian cooking were made.

Ofcom ruled against Channel 4 and the broadcaster apologised on air.

Zee Cine Awards 2008 – London
Shilpa Shetty (Joel Ryan/PA)

Another Celebrity Big Brother moment when former Emmerdale actress Roxanne Pallett accused former Coronation Street star Ryan Thomas of hurting her took the third spot as it received 25,327 complaints.

After walking out of the Channel 5 show, Pallett apologised and said she had made “a massive, horrible mistake” and Ofcom ruled the incident did not break broadcasting rules.

Diversity’s Black Lives Matter-inspired routine on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent in 2020 came in fourth with 25,017 complaints, while Love Island contestant Faye Winter’s behaviour and language during a heated exchange with fellow islander Teddy Soares took fifth place with 24,921 complaints.

Across the last 20 years, Ofcom has assessed 770,714 complaints and 156,988 cases, resulting in £15,875,250 total fines being given to broadcasters.

In this time, it has also closed 3,286 standard investigations, with 2,166 found to be in breach, 576 being resolved and 545 found to not be in breach or discontinued.

The Audio and Radio Industry Awards – London
Julia Hartley-Brewer (Lia Toby/PA)

Top 10 most complained about programmes in Ofcom history:

1. Piers Morgan’s comments about Meghan’s mental health on ITV’s Good Morning Britain – March 8 2021 – (54,595)

2. The Shilpa Shetty race row on Channel 4’s Celebrity Big Brother – January 10 2007 – (45,159)

3. Roxanne Pallett accuses Ryan Thomas of hurting her on Channel 5’s Celebrity Big Brother – August and September 2018 – (25,327)

4. Diversity’s Black Lives Matter-inspired routine on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent – September 5 2020 (25,017)

5. Faye Winter’s behaviour towards Teddy Soares on ITV2’s Love Island – August 6 2021 – (24,921)

6. Julia Hartley-Brewer’s interview on TalkTV with Palestinian politician Dr Mustafa Barghouti – January 3 2024 – (17,351)

7. The use of live animals during trials on ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! – December 2020 – (11,516)

8. Misogynistic comments made by Laurence Fox about journalist Ava Evans on Dan Wootton’s GB News show – September 26 2023 – (8,867)

9. Representation of the Christian community on Jerry Springer the Opera on BBC2 – January 8 2005 – (8,860)

10.Comments made by actress Adjoa Andoh about the appearance of the royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during ITV’s coverage of King Charles III: The Coronation – May 6 2023 – (8,421)