Dispatches: Complaints

On Thursday 16th April 2020, Channel 4 chose to broadcast a show, ‘Dispatches: The Truth About Traveller Crime’. It is not an entire community that commits a crime, it is an individual. Yet, this show put the whole of the Traveller community on trial by press. As a result, we have seen a wave of hate speech and discrimination directed towards Gypsy and Traveller communities.

Over 7,391 people joined us in complaining to Channel 4 and Ofcom, many of whom spoke of their own personal experiences of racism and discrimination. We have since heard that Ofcom will be investigating Channel 4 and have  received confirmation from Ofcom that all 7391 complaints made through our web form will be carefully considered and taken into account in the investigation, as well as referred to in the future published decision of the outcome of the case.

Our webpage had more visits in the 24 hours after the programme than any webpage in the history of our website. Thank you to everyone who has made a complaint! We will update this page when we have more information on the outcome of the investigation.

In response to the news, Sarah Sweeney, Policy and Communications Manager at Friends, Families and Travellers said:

“We welcome the investigation by Ofcom – it is vital that justice is done for Gypsy and Traveller communities. In the weeks since the show has been aired, we have heard from countless members of Gypsy and Traveller communities who feel sentenced as criminals simply because of their ethnicity. It is not an entire community that commits a crime, it is an individual. Yet, this show put the whole of the Traveller community on trial by press. The way the communities were spoken about was dehumanising, unbalanced and unfair. We have seen a wave of hate speech as a result. Channel 4 must face the consequences of their actions.”

Speaking in the aftermath of the show, Kerry* who is from the travelling community said:

 “The C4 programme literally said that we’re [Travellers] people who do crime. After the programme went up I had gorja (settled) friends and family ringing asking whether it was true. Some of them knew better, but other people were judging me for it. I work in a nice place, but my work don’t know that I’m a Traveller, I don’t tell them because of programmes like this. If people knew that I was a Traveller, things would be completely different. That’s the kind of thing we have to do because of programmes like this. In a job I had before, I told them after a while that I’m a Traveller and they took responsibilities away from me, they wouldn’t let me do things on my own anymore. That’s what programmes like this do to us. I was on the team that produced the flowers for Harry and Meghan’s wedding, but I never thought I could tell people who I was.”

Also speaking in the aftermath of the show, Maureen* who is from the travelling community said:

“People who we used to call neighbours and friends have asked us how we got the money to set up our business – is it that we’ve been robbing ATMs or breaking into people’s houses? It’s hard to answer, I want to be polite, but I’m angry, it’s upsetting. I’m 62. I don’t rob or steal. There’s good and bad in everybody. I don’t think Channel 4 can make up for this. It takes so much to win back people’s trust.”

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