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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 16:20 GMT
Watchdogs clear 'fat Geordie' advert
Nicholas Lyndhurst
Nicholas Lyndhurst starred in the advertisements
Television watchdogs have cleared an advertising campaign for WH Smith which attracted complaints from people living in Newcastle.

The commercial, featuring actor Nicholas Lyndhurst, shows an overweight family in black and white striped shirts, eating messily and watching TV.

A total of 129 viewers complained to the Independent Television Commission (ITC) that it portrayed people from Tyneside as fat, stupid, bingo-playing couch potatoes.

But the ITC ruled the campaign was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to people from Newcastle.

Harmful stereotype

The campaign included four commercials featuring a slim, well dressed, "snobbish" couple from the South East visiting hugely-overweight relatives in Newcastle whom they regarded as unsophisticated.

Nicholas Lyndhurst played all the roles, with padding and prosthetics being used to bulk him up to play the obese Geordies.

In one of the advertisements, the overweight couple were sitting on their sofa, repeatedly heaving themselves forward.

One of the visitors asked if this was a new dance, only to be told their hosts were just trying to stand up.

The complainants - mostly from the Tyneside area - objected to what they saw as patronising or harmful stereotyping of either people from Newcastle or of overweight people generally.

The ITC judged the exaggerated and fictitious "Geordie" stereotype was within the bounds of acceptable humour and was unlikely to cause widespread offence.

However, the watchdog ruled the stereotyping of overweight people was potentially more serious.

But it concluded the "exaggerated, pantomime nature of the overweight characters" was likely to be sufficient to reduce the risk of harm.

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27 Nov 01 | England
Advert 'offends' Geordies
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