Ofcom has not upheld a privacy complaint made in relation to the Channel 4 documentary When Cruises Go Wrong which explored the potential dangers of luxury cruises. The documentary included interviews with people who had experienced extreme weather events, crime or emergency evacuations on cruise ships, and used various pieces of real footage throughout.

The programme included a segment about excessive alcohol consumption on cruise holidays and how this can lead to injuries or physical fights between passengers. This segment contained a four-second clip featuring Mr and Mrs R. This footage, which appeared to have been filmed on a mobile phone, showed two women, one of whom was Mrs R, seemingly involved in a physical altercation and shouting. A man, Mr R, appeared to be attempting to break up the altercation by putting himself between the two women. Mrs R’s face was not visible, and she was largely obscured by the other woman in the clip, while Mr R’s face was visible briefly and unobscured. Mr R’s voice could be heard, though what he said could not be made out.

Mrs R complained that her and her husband’s privacy was unwarrantably infringed in the programme and had been included without their consent and without Mr R’s face being obscured.

Channel 4 said the use of the footage of Mr and Mrs R was as part of an illustration of a “darker side” to cruising from that depicted in cruise ship publicity material.  It said that the filming occurred in a public place – a bar or café on a busy cruise ship, members of the public witnessed the event, and that a member of the public had filmed the incident and made the clip publicly available.

Assessing whether Mr R had a legitimate expectation of privacy in relation to the footage of him being included in the programme, Ofcom took into account that the incident occurred in full view of members of the public who were present . However, Ofcom also acknowledged that intervening in a physical altercation to protect your spouse may reasonably be regarded as a sensitive situation,and that this could give rise to an expectation of privacy.

Ofcom concluded that, in all the circumstances, Mr R did have a limited legitimate expectation of privacy and that the broadcast of the footage amounted to an interference with Mr R’s privacy rights. However, it considered that there was a genuine public interest in broadcasting programmes which explore the potential dangers of luxury cruises and convey to viewers the range of difficulties that those working or staying on cruise ships may face.On this occasion, Ofcom sided with the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression and the audience’s right to receive information and ideas without undue interference,which it said in this case outweighed Mr R’s expectation of privacy in relation to the footage.As to whether Mrs R had a legitimate expectation of privacy, Ofcom came to the same conclusion. Accordingly, the complaint was not upheld.