Channel 4 have escaped censure over homophobic comments made on a reality show.

The broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has ruled that the use of the word “fairy” to describe a gay man did not break the code of conduct.

1,453 people complained about the homophobic treatment of student Joe Stone on the show, in which groups of young people are formed into tribes on two neighbouring tropical islands.

In an episode shown on Channel 4 in January this year male members of the group complained that Joe was not participating in the building of the camp, and comments included: “bloke who’s like a bird” and “you [generic] don’t need to be like a fairy.”

Ofcom found that:

“Whilst most would consider the pejorative use of the word ‘fairy’ as offensive, Ofcom noted it was not used as an insult or in a derogatory way towards Joe.

“It was an off-the-cuff remark to camera from the self-appointed leader of the group who was frustrated by Joe’s lack of willingness to participate in the more macho elements of the group.

“It is important, so long as the Code is complied with, that broadcasters can explore and raise issues such as racism in their programmes.

“The simple fact that views or expressions are offensive does not mean that they can not be transmitted. Documentaries, dramas and other programmes all deal with issues such as racism or sexism.

“What is necessary is that broadcasters apply generally accepted standards to such material and ensure its inclusion is justified by the context.

“Whilst Ofcom acknowledged some viewers found the use of this word offensive, it did not consider its broadcast to be in breach of the Code.”

The racism referred to comments by contestant Lucy Buchanan, who said she believed in slavery, didn’t like gay people, fat people or ugly people.

“It should be noted that the Code does not prohibit the broadcast of language or behaviour because it is, or may be perceived to be offensive or racist,” said Ofcom.

“Such material can be transmitted so long as ‘generally accepted standards’ are applied to the broadcast content so as to provide adequate protection to members of the public from the inclusion of harmful or offensive material.”