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BBC and BBC Trust Watch


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No Longer Funny...

BBFC Trust puts an end to a whinge about a Jesus joke featuring in Michael Grade and the World's Oldest Joke

Link Here9th December 2013

Michael Grade and the World's Oldest Joke
BBC Four, 6 March 2013

A complainant appealed to the BBC Trust on 6 July 2013 as he was not satisfied with the decision of the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) not to uphold his complaint regarding a joke which he considered offensive and totally unacceptable in any context.

He said he had written several letters about his concerns and all the responses he had received failed to intelligently and honestly address the crux of the matter .

The material complained of is as follows:

Jesus is on the gates of heaven and suddenly he sees an old man and he says to the old man 'what are you doing here?' and the old man says 'I'm here to find my son' and Jesus says 'tell me more' and he says 'he was a special boy' and Jesus says 'tell me more' and he says 'well he had holes in his hands and holes in his feet' and Jesus goes 'father!' and the old man goes 'Pinocchio!'

The complainant stated that the BBC would not dare to make any sort of joke against other faiths, such as Judaism and Islam.

The BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee Decision

The Committee noted that the BBC was able to include challenging material if it was justified. The Committee agreed with the response of the ECU's Complaints Director that:

...given the editorial purpose of the programme, it was inevitable that it would include material that would offend some viewers for different reasons. It could not have told the story it did, or explored some of the themes it did, without risking giving offence to some...

The Committee regretted the offence that had been felt by this complainant but considered that the Complaints Director had been correct to say that this material was justified by the editorial purpose of the programme and that it would have fallen comfortably within the reasonable expectation of the programme audience .

The Committee noted the complainant's belief that the BBC would not broadcast a vaguely similar piece of programme content which had the potential to cause offence to Muslims or Jews rather than Christians . The Trustees did not consider this assumption was a relevant consideration in deciding whether his complaint that the programme breached offence standards had a reasonable prospect of success.

The Committee agreed that the BBC had given reasoned and reasonable responses to the complaints, as had the Trust Unit, and that there was no reasonable prospect of success for this appeal.

The Committee therefore decided that this appeal did not qualify to proceed for consideration.



Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, and that's Final...

BBC ends appeal process for complaint about song alluding to Margaret Thatcher

Link Here 8th December 2013
A complainant wrote to the BBC Trust following the decision of the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) not to uphold his complaint regarding the BBC's decision not to playDing, Dong, the Witch is Dead in its entirety on The Official Chart Show with Jameela Jamil on 14 April 2013, despite it reaching the position of number 2 in the music charts that week.

The BBC had explained its decision at the time by noting that the song had risen in the charts following the death of Margaret Thatcher on 8 April and concluding that, exceptionally , the song would not be played in full out of respect for Baroness Thatcher's family.

The complainant considered that the decision to play only an excerpt of the song when other songs in the charts were played in full was a breach of the requirement for impartiality as set out in the BBC's Royal Charter and Agreement.

In his appeal, the complainant made the following points:

  • The decision to play a truncated version of the song when the other songs in the charts were played in their entirety was a breach of the guidelines on Impartiality as that one track was singled out for different treatment.
  • The purpose of The Official Chart Show was to play the top 40 singles; it was a programme of record and its integrity had been compromised by the decision not to play the song in full.
  • The song was not political, did not contain a political message and did not refer to any individual, there was therefore no need to refer to any political campaign that related to Lady Thatcher.
  • Given that the song did not refer to any individual then it could have been played in its entirety without causing any offence.
  • Had the song been played in full, without an accompanying commentary, there would have been no merit to the argument that it might have been seen as promoting: "any rejoicing in Lady Thatcher's death" and therefore, no argument that its broadcast might cause offence.
  • The decision not to play the song in its entirety raised issues both of impartiality and also of censorship.

The BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee Decision

The Committee agreed that the song had become linked with a campaign in the wake of Lady Thatcher's death to display opposition to her premiership and that it did have the capacity to cause offence because it had been widely publicised as being a way of giving voice to anti-Thatcher feelings. The Committee noted too that in making their decision about whether to play the song in The Official Chart Show, the programme makers had sought to balance the Guideline requirements for Impartiality with the requirements relating to Harm and Offence in the week following Lady Thatcher's death and had been mindful of causing distress to her grieving family.

The Committee was mindful that the circumstances The Official Chart Show found itself in on this occasion were difficult and that complaints were likely to be received whatever decision the BBC took with regard to playing Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead in these circumstances. The Committee considered that, aside from whether or not people had bought the song in order to express anti-Thatcher political sentiments, which listeners may or may not agree with, the song in question was clearly a celebration of a death. Although it was not linked to any real person when written, the Committee believed that the song had clearly and unarguably gained its association with Lady Thatcher in the run up to the chart show in question.

The Committee agreed that it was therefore legitimate for the BBC to have given weight to the possibility of offence caused by the broadcast of a perceived celebration of the death of a specific and very recently deceased person. The Committee was satisfied that in setting out the political background to the high chart position of this song, the programme had sought to meet the requirements of due impartiality while mitigating the risk of gratuitous offence.

The Committee therefore decided that this appeal did not qualify to proceed for consideration.



Andy Williams, Exodus, and Crimes Against Political Correctness...

BBC considers whinges about Julie Burchill's choice of Desert Island Discs

Link Here 10th November 2013

Desert Island Discs
10 February 2013, BBC Radio 4

Three complainants wrote to the BBC Trust following the decision of the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) not to uphold their complaints regarding an edition of Desert Island Discs broadcast on 10 February 2013, which featured the journalist Julie Burchill.

All three complainants stated that the BBC had shown bias in playing The Exodus Song by Andy Williams (chosen by Ms Burchill as one of her eight desert island records) whilst in 2010 BBC Radio 1Xtra had broadcast a performance by Mic Righteous in which the lyrics Free Palestine has been edited by adding a sound effect over them. The complainants saw a contradiction in the BBC's approach to these two programmes, and stated that this contradiction demonstrated a lack of impartiality (which some complainants also felt had been demonstrated by a lack of a balancing programme to the Desert Island Discs programme, which would have represented the opposing view). The complainants also stated that the BBC showed bias in playing the Israeli national anthem, which was another of Ms Burchill's chosen records.

Burchill introduced her choice:

It's Exodus, the Exodus theme by Andy Williams, who's got a wonderful voice. I love this song. It's from a film about the birth of Israel. I have been fascinated by the Jews since I was a child. I don't know why I got no Jewish blood and when I hear this song oh dear I'm going to cry. Exodus by Andy

The song was played in a censored version with the following lines deleted:

To make this land our home If I must fight,
I'll fight to make this land our own
Until I die, this land is mine

And later when Burchill was asked to pick just one disc for her desert island:

I would pick HaTikvah, the Israeli national anthem. I would lie on the beach, reading my friend's book, getting drunk on this cocktail, and I'd listen to the Israeli national anthem and I would think about this beautiful country so far away from me and I would be happy.

BBC Editorial Standards Committee decision: Appeal did not qualify for further consideration

The Committee noted the points made by the complainants regarding the potential for offence in the broadcasting of the Israeli National Anthem and the Exodus song and in calling Israel a beautiful country . The Committee recognised the offence the complainants had undoubtedly felt at the inclusion of these personal musical choices in the programme, but reiterated the BBC's right to broadcast challenging content as long as it complied with the Editorial Guidelines.

The Committee agreed with the points made by the Head of Editorial Standards that:

Listeners to BBC Radio 4 would be aware that Desert Island Discs was a very well-established format and Julie Burchill was well known for having strong views.

And that: Ms Burchill gave her reasons for choosing the two pieces of music, which did not include matters of current political debate.

The Committee concluded that there was no reasonable prospect of success for the appeals in relation to the Editorial Guidelines on Harm and Offence or Impartiality.



BBC Trust to be Paid Off?...

Government plan to move the censorship of the BBC from the BBC Trust to Ofcom

Link Here8th September 2013
Censorship of the BBC could be moved from the BBFC Trust to Ofcom.

The Sunday Times has reported that the plans are seen as evidence of the government's anger at the scandal-prone corporation, most lately about recent generous payoffs to senior staff. Chris Patten and Mark Thompson are due to appear before the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) tomorrow for a showdown about the payments.

Chris Heaton-Harris, a Conservative member of the PAC, said:

Whoever is telling the truth here, it is clear that the governance of the BBC by the Trust is broken. It has clearly failed to adequately scrutinise the way the corporation has been spending public money.

A senior source at the Culture, Media and Sport department said:

It is clear that the trust, which is both a cheerleader for the BBC and its regulator, does not work. There are contradictions.

Under the plans the BBC would be run on similar lines to Channel 4, which is publicly owned but censored by Ofcom. The corporation has been subject to Ofcom regulation on matters of obscenity, privacy and harm, since 2007, but has maintained its independence on questions of editorial impartiality. The plan would require primary legislation, and would take effect from the BBC's next charter beginning in January 2017.

Tessa Jowell, the former Labour culture secretary who set up the trust, said it should remain as the voice of the licence fee payer and warned that Ofcom might become too powerful..



There were a few whingers from Hunts...

BBC turn down complaint about a Stephen Fry limerick on QI

Link Here1st September 2013

BBC Two, 11 January 2013

The programme QI is a well-established comedy panel game hosted by Stephen Fry. It is now in its 10th year.

The last item of the programme in question was about limericks. Stephen Fry ended the programme reciting the following limerick:

There was a young chaplain from King's
Who talked about God and such things
But his real desire
Was a boy in the choir
With a bottom like jelly on springs.

The complainant said that a limerick recited in an episode of QI was inappropriate in a comedy programme. The complainant alleged that the limerick trivialised the subject of paedophilia and that it was not a subject to make jokes about because of the severe damage suffered by victims.

The Committee concluded:

  • that no particular subjects were absolutely off limits for humour, but that vital factors such as the context, the intention, and the audience expectation, should be taken into account when considering whether potentially offensive material was editorially justified.

  • that viewers of QI would understand the purpose of the limerick as an illustration of their outrageousness, and not as a way of condoning the sexual abuse of children or making light of the suffering of victims of paedophilia.

  • that the limerick would not have exceeded generally accepted standards given the audience expectations of this programme and its host.

  • that the timing of this episode before the Newsnight report on the Jimmy Savile case was unfortunate and regrettable.

  • that the proximity of the two items was capable of causing offence and the decision to proceed was finely balanced, but most viewers would not find the limerick's content strong enough to find a resonance in the Newsnight report.

  • that this was at the margins of acceptability given the heightened sensitivities surrounding the Jimmy Savile case, but, on balance, the programme was not in breach of the BBC Editorial Guidelines.




BBC apologise after showing rude doodle on a picture of Prince William

Link Here2nd August 2013

The BBC has apologised after an image of Prince William with a rude doodle drawn on his head was shown on BBC Breakfast .

It was spotted by viewers who then tweeted a freeze frame of the image. A statement from the BBC said the image was shown fleetingly within a comedy promotional video:

We failed to spot the offending material within it. We apologise for this.

The video, provided by humorous barbershop group Barbershopera, was shown during a segment promoting their appearance on the programme.



Call an Ambulance...

TV censorship campaigners get dangerously worked up over a BBC Trust decision to allow the word 'shagging' in pre-watershed Holby City

Link Here31st July 2013

The BBC Trust has reported on a complaint about Holby City:

Holby City,
BBC One, 18 September 2012, 8pm

The complainant objected to the use of the word shagging and the phrase cut his balls off during an episode of Holby City, broadcast before the 9pm watershed.

The complainant said that this language was sexually explicit and inappropriate when children might be watching. The Committee concluded:

  • that some viewers might find the use of this particular language offensive, but Holby City is a well-established drama dealing with contemporary life and covering challenging themes of hospital life, both on the ward and in the staff's personal lives.
  • that regular viewers of this drama serial would not have found the use of the word shagging or the phrase cut his balls off unacceptable in this particular context.
  • that Holby City starts an hour before the watershed, when viewers are aware that not all programming is suitable for younger children.
  • that parents and carers share responsibility with the broadcaster to decide what is suitable for their children to view.

The complaint was not upheld.

The Daily Mail and its board of sound bite censors have picked up that "not all [pre-watershed] programming is suitable for younger children":

But the corporation's governing body has now confessed, for what appears to be the first time, that not all programming shown an hour before the watershed is suitable for younger children - prompting experts to warn that this could signal the end of the 9pm threshold.

With predictable Daily Mail bollox, the 'experts' turn out to be the perennial nutters, Vivienne Pattison of MediaWatch-UK and Miranda Suit of the christian moralisers, Safermedia.

Pattison spouted that the BBC Trust's decision not to uphold the complaint meant parents could no longer trust that their children are safe from explicit material:

I'm really shocked that they have done this. According to their own broadcasting code the 9pm watershed signals the beginning of the transition towards more adult material so by this reckoning, what is it?

Eight o'clock? Half past seven? Is that the beginning of the transition?

Suit added:

There are so many tens of thousands of parents who actually consider that the watershed is really helping them protect their children. But if we're going to see broadcasters themselves undermining that protection then I think we'll have a real outcry.



Comment: Unattractive Bullying...

Government attempts to censor the BBC over heinous crimes against political correctness, a misjudged comment about a sportswoman's looks

Link Here27th July 2013

The BBC has dismissed a call by the culture secretary to take further action over Wimbledon commentator John Inverdale's sexist comments, with the corporation saying it considers the matter closed .

Director general Tony Hall has fired off a response to Maria Miller , who said in a letter published on Thursday that Inverdale's remarks about Marion Bartoli undermined her efforts to promote women in sport, admitting that the incident was totally unacceptable and fell well beneath the standards we expect of our presenters .

Despite Inverdale issuing an on-air apology and sending a letter to Bartoli, Miller called for an explanation about further action to be taken by the BBC.

The BBC considers the incident, which attracted more than 700 complaints , to have been dealt with -- a spokesman said The BBC considers this matter closed now.

Offsite Comment: How do you solve a problem like Maria Miller?

27th July 2013. See  article from by Patrick Hayes

Attempts to influence the media by the head of what was known as the ministry of fun are no laughing matter.



Updated: The Twitter Championship of Easy Offence...

Competing for the best 'outrage' over BBC commentator who noted that tennis player was no looker

Link Here10th July 2013

The BBC has apologised after one of its senior presenters suggested the women's Wimbledon champion was never going to be a looker .

John Inverdale made the remark on the broadcaster's Radio 5 live programme shortly after French player Marion Bartoli won the competition. Inverdale sparked a Twitter todo when he told listeners:

Do you think Bartoli's dad told her when she was little, 'you're never going to be a looker, you'll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight?

The comments sparked 'outrage' on Twitter where one user branded the presenter a sexist dinosaur and another called for Inverdale to be stripped of his job.

The BBC later apologised for the comments. A spokesman said:

We accept that this remark was insensitive and for that we apologise.

Update: Tally

9th July 2013. See review from

The BBC has received 674 complaints over John Inverdale's comments about Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli's appearance.

In response to Inverdale's comments, Bartoli said:

I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I'm sorry. But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes.

Update: BBC Response

10th July 2013. See  article from


We received complaints from listeners who were offended by comments made by John Inverdale about Marion Bartoli's appearance.

The BBC's response

John Inverdale is one of our most experienced presenters, however we do accept that in the run-up to Saturday's Wimbledon Ladies' Final John made an insensitive comment regarding Marion Bartoli. John has apologised for this remark and acknowledges that it was clumsy . Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live subsequently, John went on to explain that, The point I was trying to make, in a rather ham-fisted kind of way, was that in a world where the public perception of tennis players is that they are all six feet Amazonian athletes, Marion, who is the Wimbledon Champion, bucks that trend and she is a fantastic example to all young people that it's attitude and will and determination, together obviously with talent, that does in the end get you to the top . John has also written a personal apology to Marion Bartoli to express his regret if any offence was caused.



A Wee Poofy Whinge...

BBC respond to easy offence taken at Off the Ball on BBC Radio Scotland

Link Here7th July 2013

Off the Ball
Radio Scotland, 20 April 2013


A listener complained that one of the presenters had described a football fan as carrying a wee, poofy banner .


Although it was used without derogatory intent, the word poofy , in this context, suggested something feeble or ineffectual, and thus tended to perpetuate an offensive stereotype.

Complaint upheld

Further action

Editor Sport (Scotland) discussed the finding with the producer of the programme and the presenter concerned, with reference to portrayal and the potential for certain terms to cause offence. Though there had been no intent to offend, they recognised that offence had in fact been caused on this occasion, and offered their apologies.



Offsite Article: Extremely Inane BBC News...

Link Here4th July 2013
A review into impartiality in BBC news reporting has suggested the broadcaster should find ways to report more extreme opinions.

See article from



Updated: 139 Weirdos...

BBC responds to a few whinges about Holly Willoughby's sexy dress

Link Here27th June 2013

It is reported that the BBC received 139 complaints out of 7.5 million viewers about Holly Willoughby's sexy dress as she presented the finals of the talent show, The Voice. The BBC responded:

The Voice UK,
BBC One, 22 June 2013 The Voice UK logo


We've received complaints from some viewers who felt that Holly's dress for the final of The Voice UK was unsuitable for a family audience.

BBC's response

We're sorry if some viewers found Holly's dress to be unsuitable. Holly enjoys fashion and we felt the dress she wore for the live final of The Voice UK was glamorous and wholly appropriate for the occasion. We don't believe it would have gone against audience expectations for a TV spectacle such as this.

Offsite Humour: BBC urged to stop apologising to every single weirdo

27th June 2013. Thanks to Therumbler. See  article from .

Many a true word was said in jest.

Update: Complaints dismissed out of hand

16th July 2013. See  article from

Ofcom's investigations team have assessed the 30 complaints it received and decided that Willoughby's neckline did not warrant a formal investigation.



Branded as Inappropriate...

A few viewers whinge about Russell Brand being invited to review the newspapers

Link Here26th June 2013

The Andrew Marr Show,
BBC One, 23 June, 2013 Andrew Marr logo


We received complaints from viewers who felt Russell Brand was an inappropriate choice of guest during the newspaper review section of the programme.

Response from The Andrew Marr Show

The newspaper review is a forum for a range of different people to give their take on the stories in the newspapers that weekend. The programme uses a mix of journalists, commentators, politicians and other public figures and sometimes features entertainers. Russell Brand, although known to many as a comedian, has been vocal on a number of social and political issues. With that in mind the programme's producers felt that Russell Brand might contribute positively to the discussion, bringing a fresh eye to the stories in the news. Several viewers have commented that they appreciated someone outside the usual mould of those chosen to review the papers: others have urged us to stick to the more traditional format. We appreciate that he's proved a divisive figure, but feel it was worthwhile hearing from him on this occasion.



Fighting Talk...

BBC apologises for jokes about curing Clare Balding's lesbiansim

Link Here4th June 2013

The BBC has apologised for broadcasting a Radio 5 Live satirical panel debate about curing Clare Balding of being a lesbian.

19 listeners whinged to the broadcaster over the live edition of the show, Fighting Talk , which also asked contestants to discuss whether Balding should present racing shows topless.

In a round where guests are invited to Defend the Indefensible , comedian Bob Mills debated the proposition that: Give me 20 minutes with her and I'm pretty sure I could turn around Clare Balding. Mills responded to the challenge by describing Balding as a horse woman who appreciates power between her thighs , before adding: And we all know, there is no woman that can't be cured.

His remarks were greeted with jeers from the live audience. The programme was aired at 7.30pm. A later version of the programme, broadcast at 11pm, asked guests to discuss whether Balding should present the Derby topless .

Colin Murray, a regular Radio 5 Live presenter attempted to defuse the row on Twitter by saying the Defend the Indefensible item was intended to make a mockery of idiot views, as that certainly is . Murray tweeted:

We try 2 b closer to the line than most shows and there is always a risk with that. We are 100% live so balancing act. But playing everything safe is also death of show.

Later the BBC said in statement:

Fighting Talk is a live programme and on this occasion we got it wrong. The 'Defend the Indefensible' item was inappropriate and as such we have removed this short section of the programme from iPlayer. We would again like to apologise to anyone who was offended by the programme.



Bloody Warnings...

800 complaints about TV coverage of the beheading in Woolwich

Link Here24th May 2013

Dramatic footage showing a suspect carrying bloodied knives in the aftermath of the murder of a soldier in Woolwich has so far prompted relatively few complaints to broadcasters, despite attracting millions of viewers around the world.

The video, which was first broadcast by ITN-produced ITV News on its 6.30pm bulletin on Wednesday, had prompted about 800 complaints to the BBC, ITV and media regulator Ofcom by lunchtime on Thursday.

The bulk of the complaints, 500, directly to ITV, with Ofcom receiving about 100 separate complaints about the channel's decision to air the film.

An ITV News spokesman said:

We carefully considered showing this footage ahead of broadcast and made the decision to do so on a public interest basis as the material is integral to understanding the horrific incident that took place yesterday. It was editorially justified to show such footage in the aftermath of such a shocking attack, and we prefaced it on ITV News at 6.30pm and News at Ten with appropriate warnings to make viewers aware in advance of the graphic images about to be shown.

After midnight on Wednesday, ITV edited the video on its website to obscure the body of the soldier and the face of the second suspect. It is understood that this was after editors decided there was less public interest justification in showing the unedited footage to a Thursday lunchtime audience.

The BBC, which also broadcast the Woolwich footage, said it had recorded approximately 200 complaints. The BBC posted its response as follows:


We have received complaints from viewers who felt that it was inappropriate to broadcast footage of one of the suspected attackers in Woolwich making a statement after the attack.

We also received complaints that the accompanying footage we broadcast in our news reports on this story was too graphic and distressing.

The BBC's response

In our coverage of the Woolwich murder we thought very carefully about the pictures we used to tell the story. We gave great consideration to how we used the footage of the attacker. The footage, captured by a bystander, was an important element of the story and shed light on the perpetrators and the possible motives for the attack. We did not show the footage in its entirety, we gave warnings for pre-watershed transmission and dealt with the material as carefully as we could.

Where there were distressing images we used them sparingly and again, we gave warnings for pre-watershed transmission. We acknowledge that some of the images central to reporting the story were distressing and we were very mindful of possible audience sensitivity when we used them.



Big Knobs at the BBC...

Senior BBC censors get all offended by the rowing play on words, 'cox sackers'

Link Here16th May 2013

Thinking Allowed
BBC Radio 4, 4pm 25 April 2012

The BBC Radio 4 series Thinking Allowed explores the latest research into how society works and discusses current ideas on how we live today. Presenter Laurie Taylor is a former Professor of Sociology at the University of York.

The complainant objected to a grossly offensive play on words in this edition of Thinking Allowed. The host, Laurie Taylor, read out an email from an audience member which used the term cox sackers . This referred to an item the previous week of the sacking of a cox from a rowing team. The complainant believed that most listeners would have interpreted this as an offensive term and it was unsuitable to be transmitted in a programme broadcast at 4pm when children may be listening.

The complaints was previously dismissed by the programme team and then the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU), but this decision was appealed to the Editorial Standards Committee (ESC).

TheEditorial Standards Committee considered that the phrase cox sackers was intended to be a play-on- words and if the words had been articulated clearly, the phrase would have been within the expectation of the programme's audience. However, having listened carefully to the pronunciation of the phrase, the Committee believed the phrase was not articulated clearly enough and could easily have been misheard for the offensive word cocksuckers by the majority of the audience. On this point, the Committee agreed with the programme team that the words should have been enunciated rather more clearly and noted their apology to the complainant at Stage 1.

Having concluded there was a strong likelihood that the audience would have misheard the phrase, the Committee noted that the word cocksuckers is considered to be a seriously offensive word across all audience groups. On this basis, the Committee considered that in this type of programme, where there would be little expectation of strong language, the pronunciation of cox sackers in this broadcast would exceed generally accepted standards. The Committee believed that the word cocksuckers , due to its offensive nature, was inappropriate within the context of this programme at any time of day. The Committee noted that the particular pronunciation of the phrase cox sackers , which the Committee had concluded was highly likely to have been misheard by a significant part of the audience as cocksuckers , was broadcast at around 4.15pm. Although the Committee took into account that very few children listen to Radio 4, the Committee was concerned that the content was broadcast at a time when a significant number of children are available to listen to the radio and are more likely to be travelling in cars where Radio 4 might be on during the school run . Having regard to the Editorial Guidelines on Harm and Offence, the Committee concluded that the programme was in breach of those Guidelines. The BBC is required to apply generally accepted standards so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion of offensive material. As it was highly likely that a significant part of the audience misheard the pronunciation of the phrase cox sackers and believed that a seriously offensive word had been used in its place, the content was in breach of the Guidelines. The Committee wished to apologise for any offence caused by this broadcast.

The Committee agreed that it did not expect this segment to be featured in any repeat broadcast of this programme. '

Finding: Complaint upheld.



Update: BBC Tells Whingers to Bugger Off...

BBC publishes complaints response defending quips about Scottish tramps in Have I Got News For You

Link Here2nd May 2013

The Sun reported:

FURIOUS viewers have flooded the BBC with complaints after cockney film star Ray Winstone branded Scots TRAMPS.

The comments were part of a section on Scottish independence and sparked around 100 complaints to the BBC/Ofcom whingeing about supposed racism.

Guest presenter Winstone quipped:

To be fair the Scottish economy has its strengths --- its chief exports being oil, whisky, tartan and tramps.

He then went on to ask the audience if we should just tell the Scots to bugger off .

Dozens stood up and cheered in agreement.

Team captain Ian Hislop also joined in the fun suggesting that Mars bars could be the new currency north of the border.

The BBC's Response

We've received complaints from some viewers who were unhappy with comments made about Scotland during Have I Got News For You on Friday 26th April.

Have I Got News For You is a topical and satirical entertainment panel show and as such contains jokes and provocative comment rather than genuine political reporting or debate. The guest host's material, including the questions and extra jokes he has written, do not reflect the opinions of the BBC, they are jokes concerning the major news stories of the week which are intended to be enjoyed by as great a proportion of the audience as possible. The programme has dealt with many subjects over the last 20 years and we don't believe the way the subject of Scotland was handled in this edition would have gone against audience expectations for the show.



Update: BBC Gives the Whingers a Good Handbagging...

BBC defends Margaret Thatcher comments on Have I Got News For You

Link Here16th April 2013

Have I Got News For You,
12 April, 2013 BBC One


We received complaints about this broadcast - some viewers were disappointed by the comments made about the late Lady Thatcher.

The BBC's Response

HIGNFY s agenda is set by the biggest news stories of the week. Given the enormous amount of TV and newspaper comment on the life and achievements of Lady Thatcher, it was impossible to ignore the story.

HIGNFY's purpose is to be entertaining as well as satirical and it has a tradition of irreverence and sailing as close to the wind as possible on the subjects it covers. The very fact that the programme covered the death of Lady Thatcher was always going to infuriate some viewers, however they should know what to expect from the show after 23 years.

If you look closely at the content of the show you will see that at no point did we make fun of Lady Thatcher herself or put forward a critique of her record -- everything was based around the reaction to her death by other politicians and public figures, and the row over the cost of the funeral.



Stroking Cox...

The BBC apologises over swearing cox

Link Here6th April 2013

The Boat Race
BBC One, 31 March 2013


We received complaints from viewers who were offended by bad language in our live coverage of The Boat Race.

The BBC's response

We are very sorry that our live coverage of The Boat Race included two instances of audible swearing from one of the coxes, as we recognise that this offended some viewers. On both occasions, in accordance with the BBC Editorial Guidelines covering live output, our commentators immediately apologised on-air, and we subsequently removed the offending language before making the programme available on BBC iPlayer.

BBC Sport take such matters very seriously and, as in previous years, the production team had spoken with both coxes beforehand to emphasise that they should not swear because their voices would be picked up by on-board microphones. We would like to reassure our audiences that we will be looking at ways to ensure we can avoid a repetition of these unfortunate incidents in future years.



Daily Mail Provides Some Comic Relief...

Ludicrously tenuous whinges about charity TV show

Link Here21st March 2013
Full story: Rowan Atkinson...Offending the easily offended

The Daily Mail has served up the usual nonsense about a few nobodies being easily offended by trivial innuendo:

Viewers' fury at explicit Comic Relief sketches aired over an hour before the watershed

Dozens have complained to the BBC after it was aired The sketches included swearing and sexual innuendo Some have vowed not to support the cause again

It was classed as a family night of comedy for charity. But while the BBC's Comic Relief evening raised millions it also prompted complaints after ill-advised sketches containing explicit sexual references were aired more than hour before the 9pm watershed.

And the cause of 'dozens of complaints' [24 perhaps!]

At 7.45pm, Rowan Atkinson, playing the Archbishop of Canterbury, told viewers that Jesus said love your neighbours but it doesn't mean shag your neighbours .

A sketch from Call the Midwife followed with a reference to a vajazzle , a type of erotic decoration used by women and popularised in the reality TV show The Only Way is Essex.

Comedian Peter Kay also sat on his arse for the charity event leading to parents complaining that their children started using the term.

John Bishop quipping that Geordies all have rottweillers.

The BBC admitted pulling the repeat of the Archbishop sketch on its iPlayer service following a surge of emails and calls complaining about the offensive language.

Tory MP John Whittingdale, chairman of the commons culture, media and sport select committee, said: I'm pleased the BBC has recognised this was a mistake and whether Ofcom decides to investigate further is a matter up to them.

Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog, is assessing complaints before deciding what action to take [And no doubt treat them on their merits and bin them].

Update: BBC Prayers Don't Work

21st March 2013. See  article from

The Comic Relief sketch featuring Rowan Atkinson as the Archbishop of Canterbury has drawn about 2,200 complaints to the BBC.

Atkinson - playing a fictional version of the Church leader - compared boyband One Direction to Jesus's disciples. He also claimed praying doesn't work .

Around a quarter of the complaints were specifically about religious offence, with the rest concerned with pre-watershed language.

The sketch has since been removed from the BBC's iPlayer.

The BBC received almost 3,000 complaints in total over the charity fundraising night of programming. Other complaints over the event involved another sketch involving the popular series Call The Midwife.

Update: The BBC Responds

21st March 2013. See  article from


We've received complaints from some viewers about the suitability of some of the content in this year's Comic Relief, with many complainants singling out sketches by Rowan Atkinson and Call the Midwife.

The BBC's response

Comic Relief night featured seven hours of live television and has become known for pushing at the boundaries of comedy alongside heartfelt appeal films. The team was faced with the difficult challenge of scheduling items so that they appealed to a varied and wide ranging audience.

Getting the language, tone and content of the evening is therefore extremely important and the team closely monitor all the audience feedback as it comes in.

It was clear from this feedback that the Rowan Atkinson sketch was problematic for a number of different reasons, with many viewers noting the subject matter, the language used and its placing early in the evening. It is clear to us that this sketch did not translate as we had hoped and as a direct result of viewer feedback we took a swift decision to remove this from BBC iPlayer.

With the Call the Midwife sketch we hoped viewers would appreciate the mix of different genres, comedy styles, (Miranda) and time travel (Doctor Who), and that it would be clear how absurd the sketch was - with the Midwife characters trying to attend to a couple in a modern-day hospital setting.

We would now like to take this opportunity to say that we are sorry that any of the above offended our viewers. This year the programme was watched by a peak audience of 12.2m and raised a record total of over 75m, and the very last thing we wanted was to take away from all of the hard work everyone put in. We will bear these issues in mind for all future events.



Have I Got Complaints for You...

BBC dismisses whinges about Ross Noble Elephant Man joke...but...

Link Here13th March 2013

Have I Got News For You?
BBC One, 1 June 2012

In a sequence discussing which advertisements had received the most complaints, guest Ross Noble made a comment about actors attending The John Merrick School of Drama and impersonated the speech of John Merrick as portrayed by John Hurt in the film The Elephant Man. The complainant said this made fun of people with disabilities and as such encouraged ridicule and bullying.

The Committee concluded:

  • that the programme was not in breach of the Guidelines on Harm and Offence as the remarks were editorially justified because they referred to the actors in the commercial (with reference to the character of John Merrick) and were not intended to stereotype people with this kind of disability.

  • that the programme met generally accepted standards in the context of this comedic exchange.

  • that, notwithstanding its decision not to uphold, the Committee could appreciate that some viewers may have been offended by this segment and it considered that the impersonation of John Merrick's speech and physical disability, in particular, was at the margins of acceptability.

The complaint was not upheld.



Near the Knuckle...

BBC considers pre-watershed innuendo in Watson and Oliver

Link Here28th February 2013

Watson & Oliver
BBC Two, 7 March 2012, 7.30pm

Watson & Oliver features two comedians, Lorna Watson and Ingrid Oliver, who perform a live act including shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. This was their first series on television: a comedy sketch show featuring pre-recorded sketches mixed with comedy routines in front of a studio audience. Regular characters, such as the Georgian Ladies and Candy and April, the Playboy Bunnies, are featured. This complaint concerns the third episode.

A complainant complained about the sexually explicit language and innuendo . He said that he was watching with his 5-year-old child and was appalled that terms such as slutty, genital frenzy, here's my jugs etc... were used. He specifically mentioned sketches featuring the Playboy bunnies and James Bond.

The BBC's Head of Comedy explained that Lorna Watson and Ingrid Oliver had established a reputation for unashamedly silly comedy which has broad appeal and which therefore sits well pre-watershed . The Head of Comedy accepted that some of the sketches contained a degree of innuendo but felt they were cheeky and mischievous rather than overtly sexual in tone . He quoted the Daily Telegraph's review has a rare sense of comic mischief that teases but doesn't offend . Only one other complaint had been received, which he felt indicated that the vast majority of viewers found it acceptable for the timeslot .

The complainant was not convinced and the complaint was escalated to the Editorial Standards Committee who considered 3 sketches.

This sketch is entitled Absolutely No Sense and Sensibility and features two Georgian ladies pursuing two gentlemen, Sir Thomas and Mr Bridgewater. During the sketch, the two ladies prepare a picnic for the gentlemen and are trying to tempt them to eat. It includes the following dialogue:

  • Oliver: Now, might you be persuaded to a mouthful of my juicy apple dumplings?
  • Watson: Sir Thomas, can I tempt you to a handful of my sweet macaroons?
  • Oliver: Surely you will not say no to a nibble on my almond puffs?
  • Watson: Roly polys, Sir Thomas?
  • Oliver: Fruit jellies?
  • Watson: Peachy fritters?
  • Oliver: Biscuits?
  • Watson: Syllabubs?
  • Oliver: French pancakes.
  • Watson: Fried eggs?
  • Oliver: Jugs. (holds up 2 glass jugs)
  • Watson: Melons? (holds up two melons)
  • Oliver: Tits on a plate?
  • Mr Bridgewater: I beg your pardon? (Oliver holds up a plate with two fake blue tits sitting on it)

The second sketch is entitled Living with the Playboy Bunnies in which the two comedians appear dressed in the Playboy bunny outfits. The audience has seen a picture of an old man making a gurning face and when he calls to them off camera to join him, the two playboy bunnies argue about whose turn it is:

  • Oliver/Candy: Well, I did Sexy Saturday
  • Watson/April: I did Slutty Sunday
  • Oliver/Candy: I did Missionary Monday.
  • Watson/April: I did Tantric Tuesday.
  • Oliver/Candy: I did Whipped Cream Wednesday.
  • Watson/April: I did Threesome Thursday! On my own!
  • Oliver/Candy: Well, I'm not doing it. You still owe me for Viagra Valentines

The third sketch features a pastiche of the James Bond films. Lorna Watson has received a letter informing her that she is being considered for the part of a Bond Girl. She comments:

  • Watson: Well, I presume they're looking for someone with the face of a supermodel and a body that screams Hello, I'm sexually dangerous .
  • Ingrid Oliver then asks her the name of the part, she replies:
  • Watson: Jenny Talfrenzy.
  • Oliver: Jenny Talfrenzy? Jenny Tal-, genital frenzy?
  • Watson: I presume she's Italian.

The Committee noted that the series had received 23 complaints in total. For this episode, two people complained about the sexual content at 7.30pm. There were a further six complaints about other episodes, all referring to the Playboy bunny sketch, where viewers found the humour too sexual .

The Committee appreciated that the BBC had a long record of using cheeky sexual innuendos with humour and without causing offence in TV and radio comedy. Indeed, many of the BBC's traditional comedy classics relied on it. The Committee concluded that the sketches would be unlikely to offend an adult audience. The Committee also agreed that the sketches featuring the two Georgian ladies would be unlikely to cause concerns with regard to protecting children.

However, the Committee agreed with the complainant that some parts of the other two sketches were questionable for this time of the evening before the watershed in terms of protecting children. In particular, the Committee was concerned with the overall tone of the Playboy bunny sketch which contained sexual jokes and gestures. The Committee also felt that in the James Bond sketch it was debatable if it was appropriate to clearly articulate genital frenzy when referring to the Bond girl's name as Jenny Talfrenzy

The Committee was mindful that, for well-established series at 7.30pm, parents and carers would be able to make a judgement as what was suitable for their children to view. In this case, with a new series, parents could not reasonably be expected to have prior knowledge of the content. The Committee agreed that, in these circumstances, programme-makers should bear in mind that at this time of the evening some younger children may still be watching television. For this reason, the Committee believed that some of the content of this programme was at the margins of acceptability for this time of the evening. The Committee considered that even a slightly later slot of 8pm would have reduced the likelihood of those under 7 years of age watching it.

However, the Committee took into consideration that by 7.30 in the evening there is an increasingly adult audience watching television and the audience of younger children is declining. The Committee accepted that this comedy show would be unlikely to appeal to young children and that, in general, the schedule for BBC Two was not aimed at them.

The Committee concluded that overall the comic innuendos (which would be beyond the comprehension of the youngest children) did not breach generally accepted standards or the guidelines regarding scheduling and the watershed which are there to protect younger viewers.

The Committee concluded that this programme was not in breach of the BBC's Editorial Guidelines. However, the Committee expected the BBC to take note of its comments



Sent to Taste and Decency Jail...

BBC finds episode of Silent Witness to be in breach of guidelines of harm and offence

Link Here27th February 2013

Silent Witness
BBC One, 22 April 2012, 9pm

The complainant objected to a scene of sexual violence at the end of an episode of the BBC One drama serial Silent Witness which he said he had found extremely upsetting and thoroughly nasty . The complainant said that it was inappropriate to show such scenes at this time of the evening, and that the BBC had failed to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion of offensive and harmful material . The complainant referred to the fact that the preceding programme had overrun, meaning that those turning on to watch News at Ten would have seen the final moments of this episode of Silent Witness.

The Committee noted that this was the first episode of a two-part drama in which the team investigate various murders associated with Redhill prison. The team suspect that the prison staff are complicit in illegal drug activities and maybe the murders of various inmates. The final scenes are a flashback to the prison officer Kessler carrying out an assault and this is seen from the point of view of the investigating police officer, Bridges. The audience then realise the extent of the prison officer's corruption and that Detective Inspector Bridges is complicit as she does not report what she has seen.

The Committee concluded:

  • that Silent Witness has an established format as a long-running series on BBC One between 9 and 10pm and the violent content, even though occurring at the end of the episode, was too explicit for this series, on this channel in the first hour after the watershed.

  • that this programme was in breach of the Guidelines on Harm and Offence.

The complaint was upheld.

And for another opinion, the BBFC rated the first part of the episode titled Redhill to be: 15 uncut for strong threat and crime scene and autopsy images. In fact the second part sounds more challenging with the BBFC rating being: 15 uncut for strong bloody violence and threat.



Comments: Major Outrage...

Goose-stepping BBC censors cut Fawlty Towers

Link Here25th January 2013

BBC 2 showed the Germans episode of Fawlty Towers last Sunday evening

The BBC cut dialogue from a scene involving Basil Fawlty and the major, played by actor Ballard Berkeley.

The conversation moves from Basil's wife Sybil to women in general. The major tells Fawlty about the time he took a woman to see India play cricket at the Oval. He then says:

The strange thing was, throughout the morning she kept referring to the Indians as niggers. "No, no, no," I said, "the niggers are the West Indians. These people are wogs".

But this time around the major's words were edited out by the BBC.

Some fans took to the BBC's Points Of View message board to say they despaired at the unnecessary editing. One wrote:

You can't airbrush history away and I doubt if anyone but the terminally thin-skinned could be offended by the major, a character we're clearly supposed to laugh at rather than with.

Another posted:

The point is that the major is a racist old bigot, incongruous with modern society -- even in the Seventies. The audience isn't supposed to agree with him, they're supposed to laugh at him. The whole episode is about xenophobia in various forms -- it's social satire. I instinctively dislike the airbrushing of history.

A BBC spokesman spewed:

We are very proud of Fawlty Towers and its contribution to British television comedy... BUT ...public attitudes have changed significantly since it was made and it was decided to make some minor changes, with the consent of John Cleese's management, to allow the episode to transmit to a family audience at 7.30pm on BBC2.'

Comment: Littlejohn, The BBC, Comedy Censorship and Total Hypocrisy at the Daily Mail

25th January 2013. See article from

Comment: Australian press proves just as PC worthless as the BBC

25th January 2013. See  BBC rewrites TV history with Fawlty Towers censorship from

The Australian press has a justified knock at the BBC's vandalism of Fawlty Towers... but somehow can't even conjure up the backbone to actually print what was censored!



A Tweenie Bit Offensive...

BBC grovels to the easily offended over a Tweenie Jimmy Savile

Link Here21st January 2013


We received complaints from viewers who felt it was inappropriate to feature a character dressed as a DJ impersonating Jimmy Savile.

The BBC's response

On 20 January 2013, CBeebies broadcast a repeat of an episode of the Tweenies, originally made in 2001, featuring a character dressed as a DJ impersonating Jimmy Savile. This programme will not be repeated and we are very sorry for any offence caused. We have spoken to the team to ensure this mistake cannot be repeated.

Update: 216 Complaints

22nd January 2013. See  article from

The BBC has received 216 complaints about an episode of The Tweenies, in which a character appeared dressed as disgraced TV presenter Jimmy Savile.

The programme, which was filmed in 2001, was shown on CBeebies before 09:00 GMT on Sunday.

In the scene, the character Max appeared in a blonde wig, wearing Savile's trademark tracksuits and using his accent and catchphrases.

A spokesperson for the BBC said the majority of the complaints were made immediately after the programme was broadcast.



Period Drama...

BBC reply to viewers whingeing about violence in Ripper Street

Link Here12th January 2013

Ripper Street,


We've received complaints from some viewers who feel the content of Ripper Street is too violent and unsuitable for its timeslot.

The BBC's response

BBC One showcases a broad range of drama and tackles a wide variety of subjects, from Last Tango in Halifax to Call the Midwife and The Syndicate.

Ripper Street is a strong and gritty series set in the east end of London at the end of the 19th Century and we have tried to be true to the period. We scheduled it after the 9pm watershed and made sure the content was widely publicised as well as giving a warning before each episode as necessary so the audience would know what to expect.

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