An Open Letter to ITV

May 4, 2017

Update – 23/05/2017 – CLAPA has been made aware of Ofcom’s recent decision not to uphold the 131 complaints made about this line, and are awaiting contact from Ofcom themselves regarding this.

CLAPA’s Open Letter to ITV

We at the Cleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA) were extremely disappointed to hear of an ignorant and highly offensive comment on the ITV programme ‘Benidorm’ which aired on 3rd May 2017.

At 32:56, the long-standing character Joyce suggests a man with a cleft lip and palate has “a voice like a thirteen-year-old girl and a face like a dropped pie.”

Scene from ITV’s Benidorm featuring a man with a cleft lip and palate.

Outraged complaints have been pouring in to us from our community of parents and patients since the show aired. Cleft lip and palate affects 1,200 new families every year in the UK alone – there’s no single cause, no means of prevention, and babies born with the condition can expect multiple surgeries and constant hospital visits throughout the first 20 years of their lives. It causes issues with feeding, hearing, speech and appearance, some of which can extend well into adulthood.

Looking or sounding different is difficult enough without truly ugly comments like this making things harder. One of our parents said, “I have spent the last 32 years supporting my daughter and trying to educate ignorant people, and you get things like this that just take you back to square one.” Another remarked, “That’s going to be the new insult now. Fab. Good job, ITV.”

This kind of language, whatever the intent, has serious real world consequences for people affected by cleft lip and palate. “As a mother of a child with a cleft, I always remain hopeful that he would never have to come across such vile comments, but it doesn’t seem like there is much hope when a major channel like ITV finds this type of derogatory comment acceptable!”

As a scripted show, it’s almost unbelievable that this line made it through to the final cut of Benidorm without anyone taking issue. Unbelievable, and unacceptable. We wonder – what, precisely, did this insult add to the storyline that made it so essential? When is it ever necessary to insult someone about a condition they were born with, or any kind of visible difference? Would the same words be used to describe a newborn baby with a cleft, or would this cross a line?

Either the writers and producers of Benidorm were not aware of the offense this would cause, or they did not consider it important enough to merit changing the script. Whatever the reason, it points at a much wider issue.

This episode was particularly timely, as our community are gearing up to celebrate Cleft Lip and Palate Awareness Week next which begins this Saturday (6th). At a time when cleft patients and their families are preparing for a celebration of their differences and what they’ve overcome, a line like this is aired which broadcasts loud and clear that the wider world – and ITV – simply does not care to listen. CLAPA has worked extremely hard to support and empower the people in our community, to give them the tools and confidence they need to face the world with a smile. But all this work can be undone in moments with a single, thoughtless line like this.

People affected by cleft deserve better than this. CLAPA is calling on ITV and the producers of Benidorm to apologise unreservedly and publicly for the line in question, and to commit to educating themselves about the impact of cleft lip and palate on people in the UK.

Help us make Cleft Lip and Palate Awareness Week a time of understanding and celebration, not ignorance.

Our Patron

We would like to thank our longtime patron Carol Vorderman for her support of this open letter and the publicity she has brought to this issue.

In the Press

This incident has been covered by several news outlets, including the Evening Standard, the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, OK! Magazine, and Yahoo News.

More Information

If you wish to make a complaint to Ofcom regarding this episode, you may do so here.

If you or your family have been affected by this episode and wish to get in touch with CLAPA, please email [email protected] or call us on 020 7833 4883.

18 responses to “An Open Letter to ITV”

  1. I am so pleased that my 13yr old son was nt watching the episode on 3 may.
    It was uncalled for the remark about the amazing singers looks.
    If this was someone in a wheel chair or missing a limb, it would be all over the papers and news.

  2. I was absolutely gobsmacked and horrified to hear such a negative and ignorant comment on a popular national television programme. My husband and son both born with a cleft. Acceptance should be supported, not ignorance via derogatory comments. ?

  3. My grandson was born with hare lip clef pallet and this is so not acceptable , the stigma they and get and name calling they have to put up with is terrible enough .so itv you need to vet your programs before you air them in future.. from a.very disappointed grandmother …

  4. ITV how could you possibly think this was OK?
    How many small minded people did this script have to go through to get the OK?
    I’m disgusted and frankly shocked at the lack of understanding and education.

  5. Shocking from this programme I’m a gran of a grandson with cleft lip and pallet and was discussed buy the comments made the child and parents have to go through a lot of pain and surgical procedures and emotional upset so we don’t need negative comments from itv shocking

  6. Was so disappointed with last night BENIDORM as a parent with a cleft lip child. This really hit home hard what a nasty thing to say on TV. No wounder children say nasty things to other children. If adult think that kind off behaviour is acceptable

  7. Usually love the program Benidorm. Haven’t seen this one yet but as a grandmother who has watched her grandson with cleft lip and pallet and thankfully with the help of a wonderful surgeon at RVh has had corrective surgery and is a very handsome 10 year old boy . had to put up with a lot I will never watch this program again . Will also encourage my friends to do so!!!!!!!

  8. Shame on the writers. He had a great voice and has not let his cleft stop him from living his dream. They are many celebrities out there with cleft lip and palate. Would ITV allow such comments about them?

  9. I am A Mother of A 13 year old Boy who was Born with a Cleft Lip Snd Palate Who Suffers Massively With Self Confidence And Bullies At School ! This Is Absolutely Disgusting and I Can’t Believe They Were Allowed To Say What They Said!!!! I would Love ITV Come and Explain To My Son What They Ment By IT !!! SHAME on You ITV And Just To Tell You What a Fantastic looking Fella With A Fantastic Voice!!!!!

  10. In this day an age it’s completely unacceptable. I would expect a public apology from itv they should be ashamed of their ignorance.

  11. Pure ignorance from the writers and amazed that a well respected actress would agree to act out the scene with that insulting comment in. I await the full and unreserved apology from all concerned.

  12. The comment is highly offensive and only an unequivocal apology would go so far to making it less painful.

  13. I too watched this episode of Benidorm and was completely shocked at the comments made towards the singer with the cleft lip and palate. He had such a beautiful voice and his appearance shouldn’t have made a difference. I too am the parent of a child born with cleft lip and palate who has endured numerous operations, hearing and speech problems and I’m so proud of how well he has handled it all and never complained. I’m so proud of the child he has become and wouldn’t have it any other way. As always it is people’s ignorance, So it’s up to CLAPA awareness week to get out there and educate these people.

  14. I don’t like the programme at all but any thought I might have had of watching it is certainly scrapped. It’s totally and disgustingly unacceptable for any script to include such comments and I’m horrified it was allowed through. I have a wonderful daughter born with a cleft, who has an equally wonderful daughter born with both lip and palate clefts. My granddaughter is a stunning example of how to deal with the operation, having created a YouTube video with her mother to share how her recent operation went to help other young people.

  15. It’s hugely disappointing and disgusting that comments like this have been aired on ITV! As a mother of a beautiful daughter with a cleft lip and palate it is totally unacceptable for stigma like this to be allowed to continue! I want my daughter to grow up into a confident little girl accepting her cleft and who she is and comments like this do not help, honestly her life will be full of enough challenges!!! It’s extremely ignorant, disrespectful and hurtful! As a comedy show how is this supposed to be funny!!?

  16. I was born in 1962 with a cleft lip and palate and have been called all sorts of names -Sledgehammer, Face Ache, Dracula, Frankensteins monster, and have been told I make people feel sick when they look at me and that I should have been killed at birth and if they looked like me they would kill themselves. Ive also had mud thrown at my car along with a key scratched down the side plus being stared at, laughed at, and been followed round shops etc. I have self harmed and have so much self hatred due all the teasing and bullying Ive had throughout my life. This episode of Benidorm has bought all that back and has made me feel even worse about myself. I now expect to be called “dropped pie face” along with all the other names Ive been called. Thanks ITV

  17. A grandmother of a beautiful little boy with cleft lip. Waiting still for an abject apology from ITV. Where is it?