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Future of TV ASA Ofcom

Piers Morgan and Love Island made 2021 most complained about year in Ofcom’s history


By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

December 20, 2021 | 3 min read

British TV watchdog Ofcom received more than 150,000 complaints in 2021 (up 124% on 2020) for programming on non-BBC TV and radio, making it a record year.

Ofcom reports more than 150,000 complaints making 2021 a record breaking year

Ofcom reports more than 150,000 complaints, making 2021 a record-breaking year

The top five most complained about shows accounted for 80% of the complaints. Piers Morgan’s comments on Good Morning Britain about Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey topped the list, with 54,595 complaints. The incident, which led to Piers Morgan’s exit from the ITV breakfast show, was eventually cleared Ofcom.

A Love Island spat came in second, receiving 24,921 complaints, while the third most-complained about show was Channel 5 doc Celebrities: What Happened To Your Face?, which racked up 7,125

The Oprah interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex received 6,486 complaints while a second incident on ITV’s Love Island featured in the top five when 4,337 audience members believed produced went too far revealing infidelities.

Piers Morgan appeared twice in the top 10, the second time for asking his female co-host Charlotte Hawkins to stand up and show viewers how short her skirt was – the incident received 3,249 complaints.

According to Ofcom, social media has been influencing complaint figures with offensive TV moments becoming the new ‘water cooler‘ moments.

Of the 33 investigations conducted by Ofcom in 2021, the watchdog found 20 breaches with most rulings related to hate speech or Covid-19 misinformation.

On two separate occasions, media personality doctor Hilary Jones was complained about en masse for Covid misinformation, with his comments on ITV shows Loraine and Good Morning Britain receiving a combined 6,401 complaints. Good Morning Britain also received a further 2,104 complaints for a feature titled Ditching unvaccinated friends?

Covid and vaccines have also made for controversial ads in 2021 after Tesco’s Christmas spot showing a vaccine passport wielding Santa prompted 1,500 complaints to the Advertising Standards Association, making it the most complained ad of the year.

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