32 of the most controversial moments in British TV

British television has a knack for being controversial, often pushing boundaries and sparking debate. From shocking plot twists and provocative remarks to daring sketches and live broadcast blunders, the small screen has seen it all.

Here, we dive into 32 of the most controversial, and complained about, moments in British TV history, whether they caused outrage or left a lasting impact on the cultural landscape – or both. Eastenders cliffhangers, beloved children’s shows and even a Jerry Springer-themed musical feature in this list of the most shocking British TV moments. 

Most controversial moments in British TV

Teletubbies: the Lion and the Bear

The teletubbies.

(Image credit: Alamo)

While it may seem surprising, the much-loved children’s TV show Teletubbies has been the source of a few controversies. In the late 90s, viewers complained about Tinky Winky’s supposed homosexuality, with the character later featuring in pride parades. But in 1997, an even bigger controversy erupted over the episode “See-Saw”, which featured an unnerving scene of a cut-out lion (voiced by comedian Eric Sykes) chasing a cut-out bear (voiced by acting icon Penelope Keith). The scene was later edited out after some channels banned the episode due to terrified children.

The Jade Goody and Shilpa Shetty racism scandal

Jade Goody.

(Image credit: Alamo)

The Big Brother 2007 racism scandal between the late Jade Goody and fellow contestant Shilpa Shetty is one of the most notorious and shocking examples of controversial British TV. Following an argument over stock cubes, Goody’s comments towards Shetty became increasingly racist, with other contestants such as Danielle Lloyd and Jo O’Meara joining in with the offensive jokes.