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Rule change means Ali G and Borat would never be allowed on TV today

Rule change means Ali G and Borat would never be allowed on TV today

A rule change in 2020 might have resulted in them not being commissioned

A rule change means that comedies such as Ali G, Borat, and Trigger Happy TV likely could not have been commissioned in 2023.

It's fair to say that these shows can definitely cut close to the bone sometimes - you certainly wouldn't want to watch them with your gran

Whether it's the public naked wrestling scene in Borat or Brass Eye's infamous episode on sexual abuse, the shows often walked a fine line.

However, despite some of the jokes ageing better than others, the risk of offending viewers isn't why they likely wouldn't make it past regulators in 2023.

Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat.
George Pimentel/WireImage via Getty

In fact, this is down to a rule change at broadcasting regulator Ofcom which would impact these shows specifically. It's not to do with their sometimes dicey jokes, but one aspect of how they were made.

These shows had a particular style of comedy which involved members of the cast disguising themselves. They would then head out into the big wide world and speak to members of the public in character.

The crux was that members of the public were not aware that the person they were interacting with was an actor, they were being deceived.

This is where the problem now lies under the new Ofcom regulations, which were introduced in 2020.

The regulation concerns the welfare of participants in programmes, and says that people must be informed of the nature of the programme they are participating in.

This means that shows reliant on deceiving people have to jump through more hoops before they can be broadcast.

It's intended to protect members of the public from unwittingly having a compromising interaction or moment of vulnerability broadcast to a vast audience without having a say.

If they give their consent, then the footage can be used, but not unless you can meet certain criteria.

One Channel 4 executive has said that this would make it nigh impossible for shows like Ali G to get the thumbs up now.

An executive at Channel 4 commented that the programmes would not be made today.
Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Alf Lawrie, Channel 4's head of factual entertainment, said: "TV has become a slightly more regulated environment than it was 20 years ago.

"When you were making Borat 20 years ago, you could pretend quite seriously that he was from Kazakhstan and until it aired they had no idea otherwise. These days you can't mislead people in the same way."

Ofcom writes on its website: "Broadcasters will need to take due care where, for example, a programme is likely to attract a high level of media or social media interest; the programme features conflict or emotionally-challenging situations; or it requires a person to disclose life-changing or private aspects of their lives.

"The measures do not apply where the subject matter is trivial, or a person’s participation is minor - or when the broadcaster is acting in the public interest, as is likely to be the case for most news and current affairs programming.

"Under these new fairness provisions, people taking part in programmes must also be informed about any potential welfare risks that might be expected to arise from their participation, and any steps the broadcaster or programme-maker intends to take to mitigate these."

The debate has come back into the limelight following a controversial Channel 4 programme starring Gregg Wallace, a dark mockumentary in which he explored a factory producing human meat.

Featured Image Credit: Four By Two Films Working Title Films

Topics: News, TV and Film, US News, World News