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Council lodges official complaint over I’m A Celebrity smoking scenes

Council lodges official complaint over I’m A Celebrity smoking scenes

🕔23.Nov 2012

A Birmingham City Council cabinet member has been accused of promoting a ‘nanny state’ after lodging an official complaint about a television game-show contestant being filmed smoking.

Steve Bedser, a Labour councilor who holds the Health and Wellbeing portfolio, wrote to the regulator Ofcom about scenes in ITV’s I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here showing Coronation Street actress Helen Flanagan “repeatedly smoking”.

He claimed her conduct was likely to set a bad example to young people watching the popular programme.

But some of Coun Bedser’s political opponents took to Twitter to accuse him of over-zealous behavior and acting outside of his cabinet remit.

Matt Bennet, a former Consrvative city councilor who ran for West Midlands Police Commissioner, said: “The idea that saddos on I’m a Celebrity will inspire people to smoke is pure drivel. Bedser is chasing headlines.”

Former Liberal Democrat city councilor Martin Mullaney described Birmingham’s Labur administration as “mad” and asked whether Coun Bedser also wanted to ban scenes of alcohol and drug-taking from films and television.

Mr Mullaney added: “Cllr Bedser’s role is to promote a healthy lifestyle for Birmingham citizens, not to censor television.”

However, Labour councillor John O’Shea hit back, claiming that addressing smoking issues among young people was an important part of Coun Bedser’s cabinet role.

Details of Coun Bedser’s complaint to Ofcom were posted on the council’s newsroom website.

Coun Bedser said: “I had cause to do something I’ve never done before this week, when I wrote to Ofcom to complain about the prevalence of smoking in ITV’s hugely popular I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

“This is not something I make a habit of doing. I’m not a natural ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ but after watching the programme last Saturday night I felt compelled to send a letter.”

He insisted: “I’m not being a killjoy.”

In his letter, Coun Bedser wrote: “A contestant, Helen Flanagan, was filmed repeatedly as she smoked. Whilst I understand that the episode was broadcast after the ‘watershed’ I am of the strong view that the frequency of this image was such that it condoned, encouraged and glamorised smoking, especially by young girls. There was no editorial justification for including these particular scenes.

“Ratings which are freely available show that children aged 4-15 make up 10 per cent of the audience for this programme. Furthermore, it can be watched at any time before the watershed via the internet or “playback” on a variety of devices which are widely available. This programme broke your code which aims to protect young people under 18 and helps to glamorize smoking amongst the young.

“I must make it clear that this is not a personal attack on Helen Flanagan. She’s a grown woman who has the right to smoke should she choose to. But surely when they edit the highlights, the production team can put together an entertaining programme without showing the contestants constantly puffing away on cigarettes.”

Coun Bedser said he had a duty to speak out in his capacity as chairman of the Birmingham Tobacco Control Alliance, adding: “Let’s not sugar-coat this, cigarettes kill and I want to protect our young people from
taking up this deadly habit.

Whether they like it or not, celebrities do have a duty to act as role models for impressionable young people and many teenagers who religiously watch I’m a Celebrity will look up to Helen and her fellow contestants.”

Research shows that 26 per cent of 16-19-year-olds in Birmingham smoke, a figure higher than the national average, according to the council.


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