This is a letter of complaint that we have sent today to the ITV complaints department about its recent ‘documentary’ series entitled, A Very Yorkshire Brothel. We are also preparing a shorter version to submit to Ofcom. If you are also concerned that a British TV channel is presenting an extremely biased picture of prostitution for amusement under the guise of being a documentary, we encourage you to also submit a complaint. You are welcome to copy and paste from our letter.
To: ITV Complaints (via email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
16 December 2019
Dear Sir or Madam
We are writing to express our concerns over the three-part documentary “A Very Yorkshire Brothel” currently being screened on ITV.
Nordic Model Now! is a UK grassroots women’s group campaigning for the abolition of prostitution and related practices (such as lap-dancing, pornography and surrogacy). Our members include survivors of prostitution and it is two survivors who brought to our attention the damaging perspectives and harmful messages of this series.
They said the programme made them feel extremely angry:
Its approach is dangerous, focusing on an unrepresentative presentation of prostitution for amusement. The programmers are giving a false picture, which minimises and makes light of the realities of prostitution and fails to show the dangers.
They are concerned that women might be encouraged into prostitution on the basis of the programme.
The programme advocates for legalisation of brothels from a very particular and limited perspective that bears little relation to the realities and dangers of legal brothels in other countries or illegal brothels in the UK.
The programme appears to give undue promotion to decriminalisation, which leads to more women and girls being trafficked or coerced into prostitution. The Nordic Model of legislation in which victims of prostitution are decriminalised and supported out of prostitution, whilst pimps and sex-buyers are prosecuted was not given equal prominence.
In support of our complaint we would refer you to the following information:
- FACT: Prostitution is inherently violent
- FACT: Choice is complicated
- FACT: Decriminalising prostitution increases human trafficking
Accounts from survivors can be found here:
The programme would appear to contravene a number of OFCOM guidelines including:
Generally accepted standards
2.2 Factual programmes or items or portrayals of factual matters must not materially mislead the audience. (Note to Rule 2.2: News is regulated under Section five of the Code.)
Violence, dangerous behaviour and suicide
2.4 Programmes must not include material (whether in individual programmes or in programmes taken together) which, taking into account the context, condones or glamorises violent, dangerous or seriously antisocial behaviour and is likely to encourage others to copy such behaviour. (See Rules 1.11 to 1.13 in Section one: Protecting the under-eighteens.)
Incitement of crime and disorder
3.1 Material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder must not be included in television or radio services or BBC ODPS.
Section five: Due impartiality and due accuracy
5.5 Due impartiality on matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy must be preserved on the part of any person providing a service (listed above). This may be achieved within a programme or over a series of programmes taken as a whole.
Finally we would like to make the following point. CEDAW – the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – is an international bill of rights for women, adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1979. Countries that have ratified it are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. The UK ratified it in 1986. One of its provisions is to suppress the “exploitation of prostitution of women” – in other words, pimping, brothel keeping, and other forms of profiteering.
The programme “A Very Yorkshire Brothel” can in no way be claimed to be in the public interest in the light of current legislation and current social opinion. Far from informing, its content is misleading and damaging. It fails to show any real empathy for victims of prostitution or understanding of the very real harms they suffer.
We would respectfully ask that the programme is not repeated, that a significant donation be made to exit services (such as Beyond The Streets) to help the real victims of prostitution and that programme makers consult with us and seek advice when programmes about prostitution are being considered for development.
Anna Fisher, on behalf of Nordic Model Now!