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News Brief

June 26, 2006
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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.

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