Two adverts for Channel 4's Big Fat Gypsy Wedding have been banned by the advertising watchdog for being "offensive and irresponsible." The offending posters featured the words "Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier" over an image of a young boy, and two young teenage girls dressed in revealing clothing.
The adverts drew 372 complaints from the public when they were originally shown back in February, but the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) originally did not ban them as they said the posters reflected the content of the programme.
Today's decision came after the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (ITMB) complained to the ASA that the adverts were racially demeaning and exposed their children to bullying and abuse.
The ASA, which took advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, found that the ads could enforce prejudicial views against the gypsy and traveller community and were likely to cause serious offence. It also ruled that Channel 4 acted irresponsibly by depicting a child - one of the two young teenagers pictured in low-cut tops - in a sexualised way.
Defending the campaign, Channel 4 said the adverts were intended to reflect traveller life "in a style to reflect the journalistic intent of the series" and said they had received "informed consent" before the posters were printed. They apologised for the offense caused:
It was not Channel 4's intention for these adverts to cause offence but we are sorry this was the case among some members of the Gypsy and Traveller community.
The ASA said the adverts were likely to cause serious offense and would endorse prejudicial attitudes against young gypsies and travellers:
We considered that implication was likely to cause serious offence to some members of those communities while endorsing the prejudicial view that young gypsies and travellers were aggressive.
The ITMB said the decision showed the show was "morally bankrupt" and "racist" and called upon Channel 4 to apologise fully for the harm they inflicted on the children involved:
A Channel 4's Big Fat Gypsy brand has been held up to be morally bankrupt.
In its evidence to the ASA investigation, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission described anti-Gypsy and Traveller racism as the last respectable racism. The ASA has today made clear that it is no longer acceptable.
The ITMB and the Gypsy and Traveller co-complainants call upon those responsible for these adverts to issue a full apology for the harm they have caused to children with their offensive campaign. We call on Channel 4 to repair the incredible harm they have done to the UK's most vulnerable minorities.