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Jack dwarf joke ‘had potential to offend’

Ofcom says a comedy Jack FM sweeper that mentioned dwarves and learning difficulties had the potential to offend listeners.

The Celador-owned station on the South Coast took swift action to deal with initial contact from a listener about the material, leading the regulator not to uphold a complaint.

The production, which aired on the morning of 2 August, was one of the station’s trademark one-liner gags which are slotted in between the non-stop music during daytime hours.

“Never buy a dwarf with learning difficulties. It’s not big and it’s not clever. 106 Jack FM.”

When contacted by Ofcom, Celador said that with two jokes broadcast in each 30 minute segment it was clear to listeners that the production was intended to be humorous. The station also said they had apologised directly to the complainant and explained that the joke was “not specifically intended to target anybody with disabilities”, but recognised that it had offended people. The sweeper was removed from the playout schedule ahead of the initial contact from Ofcom, the station said.

The regulator noted that the phrase ‘it’s not big and it’s not clever’ is often used in a light-hearted context and is not in itself potentially offensive. However, Ofcom considered that listeners were likely to understand the joke as being directed at people with dwarfism and learning difficulties so it therefore “had potential to offend.”

An Ofcom spokesman said: “We acknowledge that broadcasters should always be able to use humour to entertain their listeners or viewers. Nevertheless, we did not consider there were sufficient contextual factors to justify the broadcast of this potentially offensive material on this occasion. We took account of Jack FM’s apology made directly to the person who complained to it about this material, and of its decision to withdraw this material prior to receiving Ofcom’s initial correspondence about this issue. Ofcom therefore considers the
matter resolved.”

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