The BBC complaints process: A cheat-sheet

Complaints process

Everything you wanted to know about the BBC complaints process in a nutshell. If you feel we’ve missed anything out, please get in touch via the comments form below or email us at berenadeservedbetter@outlook.com.

When and where must I file?

The complaint must be filed within 30 working days after the show airs. Therefore, a complaint for “When Worlds Collide”, which aired on 16 July 2019, must reach the BBC by 27 August 2019.

Must my complaint be online?

No. Complaints can be made online (recommended), by telephone, or by post.

For online complaints, go to bbc.co.uk/complaints.

For telephone complaints:

03700 100 222*
03700 100 212* (textphone)
*24 hours, charged as 01/02 geographic numbers

For postal complaints:

BBC Complaints
PO Box 1922
DarlingtonDL3 0UR
UK

What information do I have to provide?

  • Name, address, email (optional; you can use a pseudonym)
  • Episode title and airing date
  • Short title or nature of complaint
  • Reason for complaint (bias, offence, other)
  • Narrative of reasons for complaint

What if I don’t live in the UK?

You can still make a complaint. Send your complaint by post. Use stamps.

What if I want to complain but I wouldn’t like to offend any of the other actors in the process? Or if I want to remain anonymous?

We understand! The complaints process can be anonymous to a large extent. You need to provide a name, but it doesn’t have to be a real one. You may also choose not to receive an email response, in which case you do not need to provide an email address. Providing a postcode/address is also optional in the online process.

Examples of complaints that you can use or modify

Essential information:

  • Channel: BBC One
  • Programme title: Holby City
  • Transmission date: 16 July 2019
  • Complaint category: Bias

Complaints Process Round One: Example 1

  • Complaint title: Lesbian character Bernie Wolfe is blow up, killed

The much beloved character, Bernie Wolfe, is reported killed in action during an explosion at the hospital where she is stationed. Only her body armor is identified which implies that her body was eviscerated. Bernie Wolfe is a lesbian. Her death should not be viewed in a vacuum but in the context of not only a continuing storyline but based on promises that were made by Simon Harper, the Executive Producer, who promised not to kill any lesbians. (See Sue Haasler, Holby City (2018).) He lied. His lesbian characters have had daughters die, they have cheated, and now a death. There was no reason to kill off a character that has essentially left the show. Lesbian characters routinely are punished for coming to terms with their sexuality or pursuing their desires. In a recent report from Autostraddle, the queer-centric website ran the numbers over the past four decades and found that queer women were the most likely characters to die on TV: Since 1976, 11 percent of television shows have featured a lesbian or bisexual character, and of those programs, 65 percent have a deceased queer female character. Of lesbian characters no longer on television, 31 percent have bitten the dust. Just 11 percent have been allowed to have a happy ending that doesn’t in tragedy or death. Holby and Simon Harper has added another body to the queer woman graveyard. This is beyond a creative narrative but rather shows a continued attack on lesbian relationships. Holby and Simon Harper has added another body to the queer woman graveyard. It is a symbolic alienation and shows the show’s bias and discrimination against lesbian. Holby has exploited a lesbian relationship to attract viewers then casually slaughtered one of the lesbians.

Complaints Process Round One: Example 2

  • Complaint title: Death (or presume death) of a lesbian character

The popular lesbian character Bernie Wolfe is reported to be killed during an explosion, her body has not found but her body armour is, implying that she has been blown to bits. This death represents a specific television bias known as Kill-Your-Gays or Lesbian-Death. While death and drama go hand-in-hand in continuing series, this particular death must be seen in the context of lesbian representation and the circumstances surrounding it. Statistics show that a disproportionate number of LBT women are killed or suffer unhappy ends in TV dramas. Moreover, in this case, there were promises made by the executive producer Simon Harper as well as other members of the production team not to (e.g., in the book Holby City: Behind the Scenes by Sue Haasler). Other team members (e.g., Catherine Russell in the London ComicCon 2017) have reiterated that they “get” the importance of the story line for “women of a certain age” and are “invested” in it. However, the reality has been tragedy after tragedy—e.g., death of loved ones, cheating, breakup. And now, not just killing a character who has already left the show, her body implied to be blown up. Lesbian characters routinely are punished for coming to terms with their sexuality or pursuing their desires. Statistics (e.g. GLAAD’s Where We Are on TV report) show that queer women are the most likely characters to die on TV. Holby City have added another body to the lesbian graveyard. This is beyond a creative narrative but rather shows a bias and discrimination against lesbians. Holby exploited a lesbian relationship to attract viewers then casually slaughtered one of the lesbians even though she had been written out. I am aware that Holby City is a fictional drama and that no character is intended to represent any group of people, that they are individuals first and foremost. That you don’t wish to portray a stereotype or an offensive attitude in a way that might appear to condone or encourage it. But with this death Holby just did.

Complaints Process Round One: Response received from BBC Audience Services

Thank you for contacting us about Holby City on BBC One. I understand you’re unhappy with Bernie Wolfe’s storyline as you feel it was insensitive. Thanks for raising these concerns. Many fictional characters are killed in dramas, but I can only assure you this isn’t because of their sexual orientation. We treat our characters as individuals and they have their own story arcs and roles unique to them. No single character is intended to represent a profession, culture or any other group of people – they are individuals first and foremost. The BBC is a publicly-funded broadcaster serving the whole of the United Kingdom providing programming to a hugely diverse audience with differing tastes and preferences. This being the case, there will always be some storylines that do not appeal to some people and this is the nature of broadcasting whereby we are serving many different people with many different expectations. Please be assured no offence was intended by the death of Bernie Wolfe and we do appreciate your feedback. All complaints are sent to senior management and in this case the Holby City production team every morning, and I included your points in our overnight report of audience feedback. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensures that your concerns have been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future programmes. Thanks once again for getting in touch with us.

Kind regards
Bernadette Colton
BBC Complaints Team

Complaints Process Round Two: Example

In response to my original complaint, Bernadette Colton had said, “Many fictional characters are killed in dramas, but I can only assure you this isn’t because of their sexual orientation.” Please note, my complaint was not about Bernie Wolfe being killed “because of her sexual orientation”. My complaint, rather, was about how this death represents a specific television bias known as Kill-Your-Gays or Lesbian-Death. While death and drama go hand-in-hand in continuing series, this particular death must be seen in the context of lesbian representation, which was promised (by executive producer Simon Harper, before him Kate Hall, and actor Catherine Russell) to viewers invested in Holby City because of it.

Statistics show that a disproportionate number of LBT women are killed or suffer unhappy ends in TV dramas. Statistics (e.g. GLAAD’s Where We Are on TV report) show that queer women are the most likely characters to die on TV. Holby City have added another body to the lesbian graveyard. This is beyond a creative narrative, but rather shows a bias and discrimination against lesbians. Holby exploited a lesbian relationship to attract viewers then casually slaughtered one of the lesbians. More pertinently, the character was already written out, therefore there could have been no narrative reason to justify her death.

I am aware that Holby City is a fictional drama and that no character is intended to represent any group of people, that they are individuals first and foremost. That you don’t wish to portray a stereotype or an offensive attitude in a way that might appear to condone or encourage it. But with this death Holby just did. You also said, “Please be assured no offence was intended by the death of Bernie Wolfe.” However, intent does not justify the offence that was caused, and this story line IS offensive. At the very least, BBC One or Holby City should apologise to the fans.

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