Big Brother is watching
In the case of Uppal –v- Endemol UK Ltd and others, the Claimant, a former Miss India UK and housemate in the 2012 series of Big Brother, issued defamation proceedings following two broadcasts of Big Brother.
The Defendants in the case are the producer of Big Brother (Endemol), the broadcaster of Big Brother (Channel 5) and Mr Conor McIntyre, a fellow housemate of the Claimant on Big Brother. The Claimant sought damages for libel, for breach of duty of care owed by Endemol and Channel 5 to the Claimant, and for breach of contract against Endemol.
The claim arose in respect of two broadcasts of Big Brother. The first broadcast contained a rap by Mr McIntyre and the second broadcast contained comments by another housemate, for which they had been reprimanded by Big Brother. The Claimant alleged that the words voiced in both broadcasts were defamatory because they had the following meanings:
• The Claimant had below average intelligence
• Alternatively that the Claimant was in some way socially or intellectually inferior
• The Claimant was sexually promiscuous
• The Claimant was in some way socially or intellectually inferior to the other housemates because she was of Indian origin or descent
In response to the claim, the Defendants made an application for a ruling that those words complained of were incapable of bearing such meanings or of being defamatory of the Claimant. The Defendant’s Application for Summary Judgment was successful - it was found that Endemol and Channel 5 were entitled to such a ruling on the defamation claim against the Claimant, and the Claimant’s claim for defamation was dismissed.
The Defendants were successful as regards to the first broadcast because it was held that any reasonable viewer would have understood that the person whose reputation might have been adversely affected by the ‘rap’ was the person who made up the rap, and not the Claimant. It was found that instead of being defamatory of the Claimant, the use of the words were vile abuse.
As to the second broadcast, which contained offensive racial stereotyping - conduct which was reprimanded by Big Brother - that was held to have been a reflection on the offending housemate, but it had not been a reflection on the Claimant.
The case is a reminder of the threshold of seriousness that must be met before words are found to be capable of bearing a defamatory meaning. The case also highlights that the Courts draw an important distinction between words of discourtesy and those words that are capable of bearing defamatory meanings.
We at Blacks have experience in handling defamation claims and breach of contract claims.
Please contact Luke Patel
on 0113 227 9316
or by email at LPatel@LawBlacks.com