Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Nick Hewer indulges himself in some fat-shaming on Countdown: Channel 4 usual glib response

This email exchange between me and Channel 4 Complaints department is pretty self-explanatory (warning: may trigger shock and horror that I am a woman of bigger size):

My original complaint:

"Nick Hewer's comment to the contestant, to the effect that he looked like he'd a few 'dinners' (the contestant's word) was offensive to the extreme. It clearly distressed the contestant, and was in effect an insult to any viewer of Countdown who may be bigger than thin. It was a cruel, mean-spirited example of 'fat-shaming' . I now will never consider going on Countdown, because of the evident risk of being humiliated on air because of my own weight, and my daughter, who is very slim, is of the same opinion."

Channel 4's predictable response (which is NOT a 'place filler' for a further investigation and response, but intended as a final response):

"Dear Ms Kennedy,

Thank you for contacting Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries regarding COUNTDOWN.

We re very sorry to hear that Mr Hewer's comments regarding one of our contestants were of concern to you; please be assured that these concerns have been noted and logged for the information of those responsible for our programming.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us. We appreciate all feedback from our viewers; complimentary or otherwise.

Kara Waters
Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries

And my response to that:

"Thank you for your reply, but unfortunately this means nothing. This is a serious complaint about a serious issue: the incitement of prejudice and bigotry against a group because of their bodies. Channel 4, rightly, would not give such a glib, uninterested response, as you have given me below, if there had been racism involved, but the same principle applies. It completely ruined my own and my daughter's enjoyment of the programme, and I've been watching Countdown since it began. There has been other, milder laughing at fat people on Countdown before, usually related to the words that have been constructed. This latest incident however was a downright insult to viewers and (a) should not have been aired (b) an apology given to the contestant, who was clearly adversely affected by the incident. Hewer then telling him to have a pie on the way home, at the end of the programme, turned Countdown into car-crash TV. You are, again rightly, clearly able to prevent bigotry on the grounds of race, sexuality, gender and disability on the programme: but your answer here indicates you have no interest in preventing bigotry against fat people, which is shameful on your part.

Yours sincerely
Angela Kennedy

I have no confidence this will be taken seriously by Channel 4. For a long time bigger people (i.e. who hold larger amounts of body fat) have been victims of what was once often characterised as the 'last acceptable form of prejudice'. Since then we are almost constantly seeing a mainstream media who seem determined to incite this newer form of bigotry, along with the older ones: the poor and disabled are particularly victimised in recent years, though this does not mean people escape bigotry because of their race, ethnicity or sexuality either. Bigotry against women has been enjoying something of a renaissance recently as well. If people don't stand up to it, it will get a lot worse for many more groups. While this may seem trivial to some, it is the 'micro-aggressions' like this one, that happen every day without objections by others, that help cement the acceptance of bigotry in a culture: hence my feeling the need to pursue it.


  1. Further to this, I got a second brush-off from Channel 4 this evening: "Dear Angela,

    Thank you for contacting Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries regarding COUNTDOWN.

    We are sorry to read of your further concerns regarding this. These comments were not meant to be hurtful and instead were meant in a playful manner. Nevertheless, your further concerns have been logged along with your previous complaint.

    Thank you again for taking the time to contact us here at Channel 4 and for your interest in our programming.


    Alex Chase
    Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries"

  2. I was concerned about Nick Hewer's comments and attitude too. The programme was aired during the same week that, on the news, they announced that the government anti-smoking campaign has been so succesful that they intend to use the same method to tackle obesity. If this is true then overweight people will be demonized in adverts, on posters, shown as a drain on the NHS system. Facts and statistics will be cherry picked and manipulated. It will be perfectly acceptable to make negative comments about overweight people, just as Nick Hewer did. I think he should apologise.There is already enough hatred and intolerance in Britain today and I'm worried where all this will end. Maybe like the McCarthyism era in the USA? It's all very worrying.

  3. Just thought I'd better add to my comment just posted...I typed into Google box about Nick Hewer's comment because I was curious to see of anybody had complained. This site was the only thing that came up. Have to comment as 'anonymous' because I haven't got an e-mail address at the moment and am writing on a temporary laptop. If I was up and running I'd have complained to Channel 4 myself.. Sorry to the person who's blog it is....Angela I think..