Eastenders baby-swap story cleared
Monday 01 August 2011
EastEnders has been cleared of breaching broadcasting standards over its controversial baby-swap storyline.
The grim tale, which saw Ronnie Branning lose her baby son to cot death on New Year's Eve before swapping him with Kat Moon's live newborn, attracted record numbers of complaints.
Around 13,400 people complained to the BBC while another 1,044 complained directly to communications watchdog Ofcom.
The BBC ended the storyline earlier than planned in the face of the complaints.
In a report published by Ofcom today, the watchdog said viewers had complained it was "an inaccurate, insensitive and sensationalised portrayal of the behaviour of a mother who has lost a baby from cot death".
Viewers had also been worried that it was being shown in a pre-watershed slot.
The watchdog, which said the soap had "a record of tackling controversial and, at times, highly sensitive social issues", acknowledged the episode shown on New Year's Eve was "in isolation... clearly capable of causing offence" but said the issue should be considered as a whole.
It said viewers were shown that Ronnie's actions were motivated by other events as well as the death of her own child and the inclusion of another "bereaved" mother in the shape of Kat offered balance to the storyline.
The report found: "The storyline presented her (Kat's) grief, disbelief and anger and the temporary breakdown of her relationship as well as her gradual coming to terms with her loss and the efforts to re-build her life following the tragedy.
"This underlined the fact to viewers that, whilst the loss of baby James was a catalyst, Ronnie's reaction was born out of extreme personal trauma in her life and not as the direct and sole consequence of losing her baby."
The BBC told Ofcom it had consulted the Foundation for the Study of Infant Death before writing the scripts and also arranged meetings between cast members and parents who had lost babies through cot death.
The report concluded the BBC had "provided sufficient context overall to justify the potential offence."
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