Watchdog to examine Big Fat Gypsy Weddings adverts

Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier. Channel 4 billboard advert
Image caption Channel 4 did not comment on the decision

The advertising watchdog is to probe adverts for Channel 4's Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, reversing an earlier ruling.

The campaign, featuring the words "Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier." over images of children, sparked 372 complaints.

The Advertising Standards Authority had earlier said it would not investigate the adverts as they reflected the tone and content of the show.

The change was recommended by the ASA's reviewer following a request by the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain.

Earlier this year the ASA judged that although the adverts "might not be to everyone's taste," they were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence as they reflected the content of the programme.

But following the recommendation by its independent reviewer, the ASA said its original decision was "flawed" and a formal investigation would take place.

It said in a statement: "In their evaluation, the council noted that it had made its original decision without the benefit of knowing that the Irish Traveller Movement of Britain had complained and that this was a material fact to which they should have had regard."

'Great victory'

David Enright, a partner with Howe & Co solicitors, who have been representing the ITMB and a number of individual travellers and Gypsies who had objected, said it was "a great day for travellers and Gypsies".

"They were outraged by Channel 4's advertising campaign which they felt racially demeaned them and their community and exposed their children to bullying and abuse.

"We were shocked when the ASA initially decided not to investigate the hundreds of complaints it had received about this advertising campaign.

"However, the ASA has clearly been forced to look at this matter again and realised how serious it is. We hope that their investigation will now result in new guidance on adverts about travellers and Gypsies."

Yvonne MacNamara, director of the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain, said: "This is a great victory for travellers and Gypsies, and it may prove a turning point as to how travellers and Gypsies are portrayed in the media.

"Channel 4 has made a fortune out of their documentaries, which many travellers and Gypsies believe have invaded and misrepresented their lives. We hope this decision may herald an end to the negative caricaturing of travellers and Gypsies in the wider media."

Channel 4 and its main documentary sponsor, Honda UK, each said: "We will await the outcome of the investigation."

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