Diversity’s Black Lives Matter-inspired performance on Britain’s Got Talent will not face investigation from media regulator Ofcom.
The four-minute routine has sparked around 24,500 complaints from members of the public since it aired on ITV on 5 September.
The watchdog says the subject of the complaints included concern that the themes of violence and racism were inappropriate for family viewing, that it expressed support for the political organisation Black Lives Matter, that it encouraged violence against the police, and that it was racist towards white people.
However, following a thorough assessment, Ofcom concluded the dance did not raise issues which warranted investigation under its broadcasting rules.
Part of the routine showed a dancer portraying a white police officer kneeling on the chest of Ashley Banjo, echoing the killing of George Floyd in the US earlier this year.
The dance troupe also took a knee against racism and police brutality.
The report found that “the performance contained no content which was racist, unsuitably violent or otherwise inappropriate in the context of this programme”.
Banjo thanked fans on social media following the decision, writing: “Creativity is always a leap of faith. All I did what was what felt right and I’d do it 100 times over… Sending love to everyone that stood by us.”
A spokesperson for Ofcom said: “We carefully considered a large number of complaints about this artistic routine, an area where freedom of expression is particularly important.
“Diversity’s performance referred to challenging and potentially controversial subjects, and in our view, its central message was a call for social cohesion and unity.
“Any depictions of violence by the performers were highly stylised and symbolic of recent global events, and there was no explicit reference to any particular political organisation – but rather a message that the lives of black people matter.”
Ofcom said it has also received a number of messages of support and praise for the routine.
The first half of Diversity’s performance was set to spoken word poem The Great Realisation by British poet Tomfoolery, which reflects on the coronavirus lockdown.
The poem, which takes the form of a bedtime story about the pandemic being told to a child in the future, went viral on YouTube earlier this year.
Narration then continued: “But while we all were hidden, under orders of the prime minister, people dusted off their instincts and noticed something more sinister.
“Another disease, deep rooted in our system, fear, hate and ignorance, but racism was the symptom.”
Banjo lay on the floor while the police officer handcuffed him, and other dancers crowded around with smartphones.
“What we thought we knew, some clearly didn’t,” the narration went on, adding: “Black lives matter.”
Diversity then all took a knee before the song Black Lives Matter by Dax, featuring the lyrics “I can’t breathe” – the last words uttered by My Floyd in footage of the moments leading up to his death.
Ant and Dec went on to interview Banjo following the performance.
In the detail of its report, Ofcom disagrees with complaints that the routine was unsuitable for children, concluding: “The subject matter and the way it was portrayed in the programme was suitable for a family audience.”
They also highlighted that the routine was shown after the 9 pm watershed, airing at 9.40 pm.
To accusations the performance was racist towards white people, Ofcom said: “Although the performance did make reference to challenging and potentially controversial subjects such as police brutality and racial inequality.
“In our view, the central message of the routine was specifically one of social cohesion and unity.”
The report found that portrayals of encounters between anti-racism protests and the police in the routine were “limited and symbolic in nature” and “did not in any way condone or glamorise violent behaviour”.
As for due impartiality, taking into account complaints over political bias, Ofcom found that the performance “did not explicitly reference or support any particular political aims of the Black Lives Matter movement or various decentralised Black Lives Matter organisations”.
Instead, the regulator said “the routine expressed Diversity’s message that the lives of black people matter”.
ITV has stood by the performance, calling it “an authentic, heartfelt response to many of the issues and events which have affected society in 2020”.
The dance routine has become the second-most complained about TV item in the last 12 years.
In 2007, Ofcom received 44,500 viewer complaints about alleged racist bullying of Celebrity Big Brother contestant Shilpa Shetty. Parts of the programme were later found to have breached broadcasting codes.
Lead dancer Banjo said he has received “thousands of messages of hate and ignorance” as well as “thousands of messages of love and support” on social media since the performance.
Diversity won Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, and Banjo is currently standing in for Simon Cowell as a guest judge after he broke his back in an electric bike accident.