Derren Brown shows Houdini-like knack for escaping Ofcom censure
LONDON - Derren Brown's last outing for Channel 4, 'The Heist', has been cleared of breaching broadcasting guidelines after complaints that it glamorised armed robbery and was harmful to participants.
It is the third time one of the illusionist's programmes has been investigated by Ofcom after complaints from the public.
'The Heist', broadcast in January, showed Brown trying to influence a group of people to attempt a robbery. It showed the selection process, including psychological techniques that would guide the participants' decision, as well as the robbery attempt.
One of the techniques used was a controversial method called the Milgram experiment, which was designed in the 1960s as a way of measuring how willing a subject is to inflict pain on someone else just because someone in authority tells them to.
Ofcom rejected the complaints about the Milgram experiment being harmful because the participants had been told immediately after the experiment what they had been involved in.
The regulator pointed out that the participants were adults who had chosen to take part in the programme and consented to its broadcast, and that participants had been "de-programmed".
Regarding the complaints about trivialising and glamorising armed robbery, as well as condoning shoplifting, Ofcom said that the scenes made it clear that shoplifting was not acceptable, and that it did not condone armed robbery.
"We therefore feel that this programme did not condone nor glamorise this behaviour and was unlikely to have encouraged anyone to copy such behaviour in the belief that attempts of this nature were either easy or somehow worth attempting because, for example, they might be exhilarating," Ofcom said in its ruling.
The illusionist has a knack of creating controversial programming for Channel 4, which has signed him to a golden-handcuffs deal until 2007.
In 2004, Ofcom cleared Channel 4 for broadcasting 'Seance' after receiving 244 complaints. It also cleared the 2003 broadcast of Derren Brown's Russian roulette stunt, which had prompted 16 people to complain.
Channel 4 has also been cleared over another programme it claimed to have devised in the name of experimentation -- the 2004 show 'Shattered' where participants had to go as long as possible without sleep to win.
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