Comedy Central defends use of Jimmy Carr's 'anti-semitic' joke in Roast Battle trailer

Comedy Central has defended the inclusion of an ‘anti-semitic’ joke made by Jimmy Carr in the trailer for its second season of Roast Battle after Ofcom investigated the clip following a complaint.

Ofcom received a complaint that, during a trailer for Roast Battle Week, comedian Jimmy Carr made a comment that the complainant considered was “clearly Anti-Semitic drawing on the racial stereotype of a ‘Jewish look'”.

The moment in question saw Carr ask Friday Night Dinner star Tom Rosenthal if he was Jewish, and when the comedian replied that he wasn’t, Carr said: “Someone needs to tell your face!”

The joke was included in a trailer for Roast Battle‘s second series, and was broadcast on the channel before the 9pm watershed, which led to the complaint.

[Tom Rosenthal on Roast Battle. Note: Jimmy Carr’s joke is not included in this clip.]

In response to the investigation, Comedy Central and parent company Paramount UK have said that they received no complaints about the first series or its advertising, and felt like it had “found the right tone” and was comfortable in repeating it in advertising its second season.

They also stated that a voiceover in the trailer states the show “offends everybody in equal measure” and added that the trailer was in “keeping with the brand and channel’s style” and gave an overall indication of “the style and nature of the show”, calling the put downs “playful” and pointing out that Rosenthal was amused by the joke.

Additionally, the advert was not broadcast on channels other than Comedy Central, where they said one would expect “irreverent” humour, and they also added that the channel stopped broadcasting the advert after receiving a similar complaint before the Ofcom investigation was launched.

Ofcom added in its report that Paramount said “despite the safeguards and processes we have in place, we simply missed the inappropriateness of this joke in the context of a trailer” and “completely accept this trailer was misjudged”.

Ofcom, however, ultimately ruled that the content was in breach of broadcasting standards.

In their decision, the broadcast regulator noted Carr’s often “controversial” jokes and the overall tone, but stated that while viewers may tune into the show knowing what to expect, broadcasting such a joke in a trailer did not give enough context and that viewers “would have come across it unawares”.

The report continued to note that “audiences consider offensive language less acceptable if it is included in trailers” because audiences don’t choose to watch promotions for programmes.

“There was therefore no opportunity to place the trailer in context or give viewers any form of warning or information in advance,” the report added.

They also noted that anti-semitism has been on the rise in Europe and especially the UK, particularly with regards to derogatory comments about Jewish people’s physical appearances based on negative stereotypes, and added that the use of such a well-known anti-semitic trope would have had the potential to cause considerable offence.

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