A British regulatory agency ruled that the television portrayal of a major Jewish political figure as a Dickensian crook was not meant to cause offense. Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for U.K. communications industries – similar to the FCC in the United States – ruled last week on a program on BBC TV Channel 4 that portrayed Lord Levy, the Labour Party’s chief fund-raiser, as Charles Dickens’ character Fagin. Levy was shown in a grey suit, wearing a prosthetic hook nose and singing “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two,” a song from the musical “Oliver.” In response to 11 complaints from viewers, which resulted in the Ofcom investigation, Channel 4 stated that Fagin was “easily identifiable as a cunning ringleader of an enterprise with the sole aim of getting money out of people.” The skit referenced “loans-for-peerages,” a controversy surrounding Labor party fund- raising methods. Ofcom determined that Channel 4 had “no intention t o cause offense or focus the sketch on Lord Levy’s Jewish background,” although the regulatory agency did acknowledge that some people found the skit offensive.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.