Changing Faces, the national charity that helps people who have a disfigurement find a way to live the life they want, has criticised ITV’s ‘Benidorm’ programme for a ‘grossly offensive’ comment about a character with a facial disfigurement.
In the final episode of series nine, broadcast on Wednesday 3rd May 2017, actor and singer Danny Tetley is described as having ‘a face like a dropped pie’.
Chief Executive of Changing Faces, Dr James Partridge OBE, has written to the chair of ITV, Sir Peter Bazalgette, expressing the charity’s shock and disappointment. In his letter he said:
One in every 700 births has a cleft lip and palate, and many thousands of people in the UK live with the lifelong effects of a cleft lip and palate. For the parents and families of children born with the condition, early and teenage years are spent in and out of hospital for numerous operations. Tens of thousands more live with conditions, marks and scars that affect the appearance of their face. For any viewer to see someone who has come through surgery described in such a derogatory manner on primetime television is grossly offensive and a likely breach of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. It could also be seriously psychologically damaging.
Programme makers have a responsibility to ensure that their output uses only accurate, fair and sensitive depictions and portrayals of people who have a disfigurement. For the first time in several years, ITV has fallen well short of the standards that we should expect of a public broadcaster.
Changing Faces has demanded an apology for the programme and has said that it is prepared to refer the complaint to Ofcom.
The episode has also been criticised by CLAPA, the Cleft Lip and Palate Association, whose awareness week begins on Saturday.