Horrible Histories: Brexit film, 2020

Summary of complaint

We have received complaints from people who are unhappy with the Horrible Histories: Brexit film.

Our response

This 9 minute long special, available on iPlayer, was a montage of old clips taken from previous series. Some viewers may only have seen the CBBC tweet which linked to the full episode, but only included the final clip from the programme – a song about “British Things” which was first broadcast on CBBC in June 2009.

The programme was intended as a light-hearted and fun acknowledgement of a momentous day in Britain’s modern history, i.e. leaving the European Union and included sketches about the Norman Invasion, the German origins of the Royal Family, and 15th century Italian fashion. Regular viewers of the programme – now into its eighth series – will be familiar with the tone of these comic sketches. None of them were meant to be anti-British or anti-European. 

The song ‘British Things’, from 2009, was intended to reflect that we are a nation, like many others, that enjoys a patchwork of traditions and culture from other countries as well as our own. The song accurately reflects the fact that many goods common in Britain during the Victorian era were harvested or produced by slaves in other countries. The contribution Britain made to ending the slave trade prior to this period has been featured in other Horrible Histories episodes. 

In numerous sketches over many years Horrible Histories has extolled great British achievements, British ingenuity, inventions in science and agriculture, the genius of our writers and artists, culture and great British achievements. Indeed, the most recent series included a whole episode highlighting Queen Victoria’s role in supporting the pioneers of early film technology.  Other specials have celebrated the 800-year anniversary of Magna Carta, and the work of William Shakespeare.

The introduction to the full programme states that “….the UK is leaving the European Union” and at the end that “Britain in the European Union is now history”. We feel it is clear to viewers that the reference to “leaving Europe” means the European Union”.