Reposted from The Guardian
The advertising watchdog has received almost 100 complaints that a Channel 4 ad campaign for hit documentary Big Fat Gypsy Weddings is offensive and racist. Channel 4's billboard campaign – which feature the words "Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier" printed over images of gypsy girls and children – led to complaints being lodged by the London Gypsy & Traveller Unit and London Assembly members Jennette Arnold and John Biggs.
The Advertising Standards Authority said that it has so far received 97 complaints about the ad campaign, with most concerned that it is offensive to Gypsies. Some of the complainants also raised concerns about the use of the word gypsier, which they believe is racist. A spokesman said that the ASA is currently assessing the complaints to see whether there is grounds for launching an investigation into whether Channel 4 has broken the advertising code.
Christine Cawley, an Irish Traveller who lives in London, criticised Channel 4's ad campaign in a piece for the Guardian's Comment is Free section on Tuesday, arguing that the broadcaster "seems to be using who we are against us in a way that feels very hard to take".
The London Gypsy & Traveller Unit delivered a letter of complaint to Channel 4 on Tuesday, addressed to chief creative officer Jay Hunt and chief executive David Abraham, raising concerns over the stereoptyping inherent in the campaign. "We wonder if Channel 4 would have been so ready to use the adverts with similarly compromising phrases for other ethnic groups: 'Jewisher' or 'more Asian' or 'Blacker'," said the unit, which also asked Channel 4 to remove the ad campaign and apologise.
Arnold and Biggs, the Labour assembly members for North East London and City & East London respectively, wrote to Channel 4 earlier this week to express their concern and disgust with the campaign. The assembly members said the adverts were totally inappropriate, offensive and disrespectful."We have the pleasure of having many Travellers as constituents in the areas of East London we represent, and we can tell you that even in 2012 they continue to suffer discrimination on all levels," they said.
A Channel 4 spokeswoman said: "The advertising campaign builds on the celebratory nature of the first series of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. "It is a take on the well-established programme title which in itself is a spoof of the title of a well-known Hollywood film. Everyone featured in the series is from the travelling community and refers to themselves as Gypsies. The word 'gypsier' refers to the fact that this series offers even greater access and insight to the communities featured, and the terms 'gyspy' or 'gypsier' are not being used in a negative context. The advertising features contributors from the series and the images were taken in their own communities. Everyone featured in the campaign has seen the posters and is happy with them. All images were taken with full consent and all aspects of the poster campaign fully comply with advertising guidelines."