Gypsies in court over fat wedding


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Gypsy campaigners are coming to the High Court over Ofcom's handling of their complaints about the Big Fat Gypsy Wedding television programmes.

The Traveller Movement, a charity supporting gypsies and travellers, has won permission to seek a judicial review against the communications watchdog.

It accuses Ofcom of conducting a flawed and biased investigation into accusations by the movement and eight individual women that the BFGW programmes perpetuated racist stereotypes.

They also complain the Channel 4 series broke broadcasting regulations regarding consent, sexually exploited traveller children and "caused untold harm to social cohesion" by reinforcing misconceptions and prejudices.

The movement has been given the go-ahead to argue in court that Ofcom unlawfully dismissed its complaints after following flawed procedures and acting contrary to natural justice.

Ofcom has indicated it will defend its actions and contends the gypsy case is unarguable.

Traveller Movement chief executive Yvonne MacNamara said: "Channel 4's Big Fat Gypsy programmes harmed children, promoted discrimination and racism and fuelled misunderstanding, bullying and hostility towards these already marginalised communities."

Ms MacNamara described Ofcom's handling of the complaints as "shocking, incompetent and unfair."

David Enright, a partner with law firm Howe & Co, is acting for the travellers and said: "This is a case of significant public importance.

"Ofcom's handling of the Traveller Movement's complaints has exposed deeply worrying flaws in Ofcom's procedures.

"Simply put, powerful broadcasters are treated more favourably by Ofcom than ordinary people who look to Ofcom to protect them and their children from harmful and offensive broadcasts."

The application for judicial review is expected to come on for hearing by the week beginning April 7.

An Ofcom spokesman said: "Ofcom is aware that the Traveller Movement has been granted permission to bring a judicial review over the November 2013 decisions on the Channel 4's series Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and Thelma's Gypsy Girls.

"We reached our decision after reviewing all the evidence and representations from the Traveller Movement and Channel 4. After careful consideration, we concluded that the programmes did not breach the Broadcasting Code."

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