The broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has not upheld a complaint from a trans woman against a programme celebrating 50 years of the children’s TV programme Blue Peter.
Blue Peter at 50 was broadcast on BBC2 on 11th October 2008 and on BBC1 on 19th October 2008.
It included footage from past programmes and interviews with former presenters and production staff.
Former presenter Peter Duncan recalled being invited to watch the making of a live broadcast of the programme in 1978.
An excerpt from the 1978 programme was shown that included footage of Miss P, the complainant, playing tunes on household objects that had been fashioned into musical instruments.
Mr Duncan, who was until last month the UK’s Chief Scout, said:
“They had this sort of half man, half woman, or in transition, who used to blow all these bathroom implements…for some bizarre reason, they’d only kind of realised during the live transmission that it wasn’t quite who they thought it was, it was some sort of bizarre panto dame who got carried away…and it frightened me off, and then there were lots of expletives around up in the gallery…”
Miss P complained to Ofcom that she was treated unfairly and that her privacy was “unwarrantably infringed” in the broadcast of the programme as she was unfairly portrayed and personal information about her was revealed.
Ofcom said that while Mr Duncan’s comments were “offensive, insensitive and personally hurtful” they were unlikely to affect viewers’ understanding of Miss P.
Ofcom considered that any expectation of privacy that Miss P had was considerably diminished, not only by the fact that Miss P was neither named or identified other than by the inclusion of thirty year old footage of her, but also by the fact that the information included was already in the public domain and a matter of public record.
Ofcom was satisfied that Miss P did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the disclosure of this information in the programme and that her privacy was not unwarrantably infringed in the programme as broadcast.
The BBC said that the programme makers could have had no reasonable expectation that a thirty year-old clip of Miss P, in which she was neither named nor heard speaking, would enable her to be identified by viewers.
The broadcaster said it was “a matter of regret” that Miss P received unwelcome enquiries as a result of the programme, it did not believe that the programme could be said to have revealed personal information about her.
The BBC said Miss P’s gender status, the fact that she had transgendered was a matter of public record, not least as a result of her own actions.
In 2006 she took a case to the European Court of Human Rights in which she claimed a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights after being refused eligibility by the UK courts to claim a state pension at the age of 60.
Miss P won her case and details of it were published on the Council of Europe website.
Ofcom did not uphold her complaint of unfair treatment and unwarranted infringement of privacy in the broadcast of the programme.