UK

Have I Got News For You Episode Featuring Sexual Harassment 'Jokes' Tops BBC Complaints

Host Jo Brand was praised for taking panellists to task over their comments.

16/11/2017 17:24 GMT | Updated 17/11/2017 10:31 GMT

An episode of Have I Got News For You where Jo Brand took an all-male panel to task over their jokes about sexual assault was the most complained about BBC show of the past two weeks, figures reveal. 

The broadcaster received a total of 234 complaints about the programme, which was first shown on November 3. 

At the time, many viewers took to Twitter to accuse panelists of trying to “downplay” recent sexual harassment allegations within Parliament. 

While Daily Mail columnist Quentin Letts called journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer a “big strong girl” following accusations that former Defence Secretary Michael Fallon repeatedly touched her knee at a dinner a number of years ago, Ian Hislop laughed over one allegation of a Tory MP taking his personal trainer to the cinema.  

“Some of this isn’t high-level crime, is it?” Hislop said. “Compared to say, Putin or Trump.”  

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Jo Brand won herself widespread support for her cutting response to the all-male panel 

But host Brand won herself widespread praise - plus whoops and hollers of support from the audience - when she offered a ringing rebuke to the series of gags, cutting in: 

“If I could only say that as the only representative of the female gender here today, I know it’s not high level but it doesn’t have to be high level for women to feel under siege in somewhere like the House of Commons.” 

The comedian continued: “And actually for women, if you’re constantly being harassed even in a small way, that builds up and that wears you down. 

“Sorry, I thought I was on Question Time for a minute,” she joked.

The clip of Brand has since gone viral, with thousands of people sharing the video online. 

But in a response to complaints, the BBC said that guests are booked for the show in advance “rather than for particular topics”, adding that the broadcaster tries “very hard to book guests from all areas of the political spectrum”. 

“This means there will sometimes be panel members with views that the audience and others on the show may disagree with,” a statement read. 

“We do not necessarily share or endorse the views of the panellists and their material doesn’t reflect the opinions of the BBC. 

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Ian Hislop and other HIGNFY panelists were accused of trying to 'downplay' Westminster sexual harassment allegations 

“The host is also there to chair the show and to add perspective and balance when needs be – as we saw when Jo Brand made her points so eloquently in taking panel members to task in this edition.” 

The statement continued: “While most viewers know what to expect from the programme, it doesn’t set out to deliberately offend viewers.  Its purpose is to be entertaining and to maintain the standards the show has set over the last 27 years.

“That said, we accept that tastes vary enormously and that some viewers might have a different point of view.” 

Figures about the complaints were published as part of a new-fortnightly release by the BBC in an effort to be more transparent following criticism from Ofcom.

Between October 30 and November 12, the broadcaster received 5,529 complaints about its programmes.

The second-most complained about show was an episode of Strictly Come Dancing first shown on November 4. 

No other shows received more than 100 complaints during this period, the broadcaster said.