Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom will not investigate Diversity’s routine on Britain’s Got Talent, saying it did not “consider” the performance to be racist.
The regulator said the main message of the routine, featuring a white performer dressed as a US police officer and kneeling over Ashley Banjo, was “one of social cohesion and unity”.
Ofcom received around 24,500 complaints about the programme, which is almost a record for the decade.
It concluded that the dance, which it said was “symbolic of recent global events”, did not raise issues which warranted investigation under its broadcasting rules.
A spokeswoman for the regulator 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.”
Viewers complained that the themes of violence and racism were unsuitable for family viewing, that it expressed support for the political organisation Black Lives Matter and that it was racist towards white people.
They also complained that it negatively portrayed white police officers and encouraged violence against the police.
The watchdog also received a number of messages supporting the performance.
It said the programme “did not contain any content which was racist, unsuitably violent or otherwise inappropriate”.
The “content was clearly artistic expression representing Diversity’s
response to the events of 2020”, it said.
It “did make reference to challenging and potentially controversial subjects such as police brutality and racial inequality”.
But the message of social cohesion “was also reflected in the images on the video wall towards the end of the performance, such as those of children of different ethnicities holding hands.
“We did not consider that the performance was racist.”
The “portrayals of encounters between anti-racism protests and the police in the performance were limited and symbolic in nature”, it said, and “did not in any way condone or glamorise violent behaviour”.
It did not explicitly reference or support any particular political aims of the Black Lives Matter movement but expressed the message that the lives of black people matter, Ofcom said.
The performance echoed the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd, while other dancers performed with police riot shields.
Banjo, who is standing in on the show for Simon Cowell as he recovers from an accident on his electric bike, responded to the news, writing on Instagram: “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.”
Jordan Banjo, fellow Diversity dancer and brother to Ashley, shared a link to an article about the result on Twitter and wrote, “Well then” before adding a shrugging emoji.
Perri Kiely, also a member of the group, shared the same article on Instagram and wrote: “That’s that then…”
ITV has said it “stands behind the decision to broadcast” the performance.
It is close to becoming the most complained-about TV moment of the decade – some 25,327 were made in 2018 about Celebrity Big Brother when ex-Emmerdale actress Roxanne Pallett alleged she had been assaulted by fellow housemate Ryan Thomas.