Holby City drinkers ‘broke Ofcom rules’

An episode of the BBC show Holby City included a “gratuitous” display of harmful drinking behaviour, according to a complaint lodged by the drinks industry.

The Portman Group says the scene of two medical staff downing tequila shots in the programme was a “serious breach” of Ofcom’s broadcasting code.

It has written to the regulator calling for the episode to be investigated, and complained direct to the BBC.

The 8pm Holby City episode, broadcast last month, showed a woman medic asking bar staff for tequila.

She asked for “five for starters” and urged the bar staff to “line them up” before telling a male colleague “neck these and back to mine”.

The pair both downed the tequila shots but the programme showed no “harmful impact” of their drinking, according to the Portman Group’s complaint.

The drinks industry body says in its complaint to Ofcom: “Such a graphic portrayal of harmful drinking behaviour was gratuitous and is a serious breach of Ofcom’s broadcasting code.

“We would expect the BBC to take greater care with the portrayal of alcohol in programmes.”

The BBC said in a statement: “Holby City takes the issue of the negative effects of alcohol abuse very seriously. On occasions when our continuing drama series deal with alcohol within a storyline we always seek to handle the issue sensitivity.

“Holby City is in the middle of a storyline in which a key character (Kyla) has spiralling problems in her personal and professional life because of alcohol – a storyline that fully and realistically depicts the negative impact of alcohol dependency in the workplace.”