OFCOM February Swear-Words Round-Up

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In Breach

Your Hits
VH1, 8 January 2010, 18:30

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Introduction

Your Hits is a music request show which airs on weekday afternoons on popular music channel VH1. It allows viewers to send “text” messages, which are then shown on screen during music videos. A viewer complained about one such message, broadcast on screen at around 18.30hrs, which read: “I carn’t believe your all such cunts!”. The viewer expressed concern over the level of grammar, especially given its pre-watershed time slot. They also asked to point out that the correct expression should have been: “I can’t believe you’re all cunts!”.

Response

VH1 defended the broadcast, arguing that the message still made sense overall, and that all messages are subject to a rigorous moderation process before being displayed on screen. Nevertheless, the station apologised in this instance and assured Ofcom that the necessary steps were in place to prevent this from happening again in future.

Decision

Ofcom acknowledges that the use of so-called “text” messaging can lead to instances of bad grammar from time to time. Ofcom also took into mitigation the station’s willingness to comply in future, although the broadcast was found to be in breach of Rule 15.8 (Inappropriate Grammar During Early Evening Broadcasts), incurring the maximum possible fine for such a breach of £30.

Breach of Rule 15.8

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In Breach

Look At Me, I’m Alex Zane
Xfm, 16 November 2009, 08:10

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Introduction

Xfm is a London-based franchise owned by GCap Media, on which public school-educated white men in their late 30s pretend to like guitar bands nobody has ever heard of, whilst playing records by Travis and U2. Several complaints were received after a caller to Alex Zane’s breakfast show was heard to say “Why do you play so much corporate shit? Was that a ‘corporate’ decision?.” He later became more confrontational with the host, saying: “You’re just some yes-sir-no-sir public school cocksucker, aren’t you? Fucking lanky-haired prick!”. The presenter quickly cut to a record by Nickleback before issuing an apology.

Response

GCap Media insisted that Xfm was “still hip” and that it focussed its output to the requirements of its target market – i.e. young, successful city types in their 20s and 30s. It did, however, admit that its playlist adjustments could occasionally lead to swearing from fans of the station’s old format. The media group insisted that the matter had been dealt with “in-house”, and that no further action was required.

Decision

Ofcom sympathises with the obvious difficulties facing the broadcaster as it strives to attract a more mainstream audience and generate greater revenue. The station was unfortunately found to have breached Rule 4.5 (Playlist-Amendment-Related Swearing) and was issued a fine of £150.

Breach of Rule 4.5

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In Breach

Another Shit Dancing Show
BBC1, 16 January 2010, 19:10

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Introduction

Another Shit Dancing Show is a popular early-evening family show on BBC1 in which couples dance before a panel of judges, who then award a score based on the attractiveness of each dancer. The public then vote on who they believe has the best personality and the scores are combined, resulting in the elimination of the couple who the production team likes the least. A viewer complained that the show’s title contained disturbing post-watershed language.

Response

When questioned on this, the BBC told the regulator that the show’s title was deliberately chosen to be provocative, as the broadcaster believed that the show’s target audience wouldn’t notice the title’s offensiveness amongst the loud music, incredible dresses and the camp hyperbole of the show’s hosts and judging panel.

Decision

Unfortunately for the broadcaster, one viewer drew attention to the titular offence after tuning into the programme by chance, having becoming fed up with ITV1 showing another repeat of You’ve Been Framed. The BBC was found in breach of Rule 13.5 (Ballroom Swearing) and as such Ofcom had no other choice than to impose the maximum possible fine of Bruce Forsyth in this instance.

Breach of Rule 13.5

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