Friday night's episode of Love Island, in which two contestants had an explosive argument following a challenge, has resulted in almost 25,000 viewers complaining to Ofcom, the UK media regulator.
Viewers of the ITV reality show, which is shown on Virgin Media One in Ireland, have been increasingly turning to the media regulator when they feel uncomfortable about something seen onscreen.
At least 24,763 complaints were made after Faye Winter's expletive-laden outburst at Teddy Soares. The incident came after the islanders were played a clip, without context, of Soares telling another contestant that he was attracted to her.
The exchange sparked a debate over Winter’s behaviour and whether Love Island producers should have stepped in to defuse the situation.
Love Island received more than 5,000 complaints earlier this series after claims that an episode misled women contestants when they were sent images showing their partners appearing to be unfaithful.
Ofcom has stopped publishing daily running totals of the number of complaints it receives about specific shows, following concerns that it was inadvertently fuelling further media “outrage”. Instead it now publishes a weekly update with details of shows attracting a substantial number of complaints.
In the past five weeks only 15 programmes across the whole of UK commercial television and radio received more than 50 complaints. Eleven of them were episodes of Love Island.
Ofcom, which has yet to decide whether to launch a formal investigation into any of the programmes, insists it does not take into account the volume of complaints when assessing whether they constitute potential breaches of the broadcasting code.
It is not clear which particular element of the rules Love Island could have broken, but Ofcom has taken an increased interest in duty-of-care issues around reality-television programmes, amid political pressure following the death of the Jeremy Kyle Show participant Steve Dymond and the suicides of two individuals who had previously appeared as contestants on Love Island.
The regulator now explicitly requires UK broadcasters to protect the mental health and wellbeing of participants on programmes, with a requirement that content that could cause offence to viewers and listeners must be justified by the context. – Guardian