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2013: April-June

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Fined Ten Grand...

Ofcom throw the book at Scuzz TV for pre-watershed music video unsuitable for kids

Link Here29th June 2013

Rock All Stars Scuzz TV,
19 August 2012, 20:40

Scuzz TV is a UK digital satellite television channel that broadcasts rock and pop- punk music videos and music related entertainment programming on Sky and Freesat. The licence for this channel is held by CSC Media Group.

During a block of music video programming called Rock All Stars, Scuzz TV broadcast a music video by the American rap-rock band Hollywood Undead performing a track called Undead ( the video ) at 20:40. The video, which was set in a motel room, intercut footage of the band performing the track to camera with footage of the male band members partying with female performers and fans in various locations including a motel bedroom, a bathroom and by a swimming pool.

The video, which lasted for just over three minutes and 30 seconds, included over 25 uses of language such as fuck , motherfuckers , fucking and faggots. Ofcom was also concerned by the imagery included in this video. We noted in particular: over 35 brief but close-up shots of naked or near naked breasts; around 20 close-up shots of women's buttocks in bikinis or underwear; frequent close-up shots of women climbing onto or simulating sexual actions with men and other women; scenes in which male band members fondled the breasts of female performers; footage in which two semi-naked female performers simulated sex acts together in a shower cubicle while a male band member vomited into a toilet; shots of illegal drug paraphernalia; and a sequence in which a female performer appeared to take illegal drugs and then perform sex acts on herself and with others. The video concluded with shots of the band members violently smashing up the contents of the motel room, and then throwing the broken items into the swimming pool.

Ofcom considered rules:

  • Rule 1.3: Children protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them.
  • Rule 1.10: The use of illegal drugs, the abuse of drugs, smoking, solvent abuse and the misuse of alcohol:...must generally be avoided and in any case must not be condoned, encouraged or glamorised in...programmes broadcast before the watershed (in the case of television)...unless there is editorial justification.
  • Rule 1.14: The most offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed (in the case of television)[.]
  • Rule 1.16: Offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed (in the case of television)...unless it is justified by the context.
  • Rule 1.21: Nudity before the watershed must be justified by the context.
  • Rule 2.3: In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context...Such material may include, but is not limited to, offensive language, violence, sex, sexual violence, [and] violation of human dignity[.]

This case involved the broadcast of material that was extremely unsuitable for children and had the potential to be highly offensive to the audience. Ofcom therefore considers the breaches of Rules 1.3, 1.10, 1.14, 1.16, 1.21 and 2.3 in this case to be serious. Ofcom was particularly concerned that the Licensee described the broadcast of this video before the watershed and during the school summer holidays as having occurred as a result of a loophole and staff error.

Ofcom have now decided that it was appropriate and proportionate in the circumstances to impose a financial penalty of £10,000 on the Licensee in respect of the Code Breaches (payable to HM Paymaster General) and to direct the Licensee to broadcast a statement of Ofcom's findings, on a date and in a form to be determined by Ofcom.



Surely they knew they'd be fined...

Ofcom fines Psychic TV channels for bollox accuracy claims

Link Here22nd June 2013

Two channels have been fined £12,500 and £10,000 for making bollox claims about the accuracy of their psychic predictions. The same material was aired on Psychic Today and the Big Deal.

TV censor Ofcom cited 2 rules governing psychic TV:

Rule 15.5.2:

Advertisements for personalised and live services that rely on belief in astrology, horoscopes, tarot and derivative practices are acceptable only on channels that are licensed for the purpose of the promotion of such services and are appropriately labelled: both the advertisement and the product or service itself must state the product or service is for entertainment purposes only.

Rule 15.5.3: Advertising permitted under Rule 15.5 may not:

  • Make claims for efficacy or accuracy;
  • Predict negative experiences or specific events;
  • Offer life-changing advice directed at individuals, including advice related to health (including pregnancy) or financial situation;
  • Appeal particularly to children;
  • Encourage excessive use.

Ofcom found that three broadcast pieces contained explicit and/or implicit claims of efficacy and accuracy and were therefore in breach of BCAP Rule 15.5.3. In particular:

  • A broadcast on 6 May 2012 on Psychic Today included an onscreen graphic which stated that a particular psychic ( Mollie ) could give accurate and precise readings.

  • A broadcast on 2 June 2012 on Psychic Today included a psychic who referred to a previous reading given many years earlier. By referring to that reading she purported to have correctly predicted a number of events that had since occurred. The psychic also referred to evidence to confirm that her predictions had come true. This was a prediction about someone becoming friends with singer Michael Jackson.

  • During a broadcast on 20 June 2012 on Psychic Today, the host and psychic referred to the psychic's direct involvement with various police investigations, including the investigation into the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler. To suggest on air through various remarks that UK police forces had employed the psychic in this way was meant to show that the psychic could provide reliable and substantiated readings as demonstrated by her experience of working closely with various UK police forces to help them solve cold cases'



Update: Ignorance of PC Law is No Excuse...

Ofcom police charge Lynda La Plante with that most heinous of PC crimes, using the word 'retard'

Link Here18th June 2013
Full story: The R Word...Campaign against the word 'retard'

BBC Radio 4, 22 March 2013, 08:30

Today is BBC Radio 4's flagship morning national news and current affairs programme, and it includes various guest interviews.

The edition on 22 March featured a live interview with crime author Lynda La Plante to discuss her induction into the Forensic Science Society.

Four listeners alerted Ofcom to the use of the word retard during the interview. Lynda La Plante said:

Not questioning, I get a tremendous amount of fans. I mean, I have a lot of questions that I'd like to ask myself, but the misquoting of me is a consistent and really irritating fact. Today there's a headline that apparently I call people at the BBC 'retards', and it's absolutely...


Gasps? They were roaring with laughter, because I said, somebody in the front, it was a Q&A, somebody said, 'How do and where do I send a script to?', and I said 'You do not send a script, full script, anywhere, you learn how to do a treatment, because you don't know if there's a retard at the end of that envelope reading it'. Suddenly I've called everybody at the BBC a 'retard'...

Ofcom considered this material raised issues warranting investigation under Rule 2.3:

In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.

Ofcom decision: Breach of Rule 2.3

The use of discriminatory language can be profoundly offensive to some viewers. Ofcom's own 2010 research1 into offensive language has identified the word retard as polarising. The words retard and retarded provoked mixed responses but many people were offended by these words as they singled out people in society and are extremely harmful and upsetting . Those people who consider it offensive do so because it is a derogatory term that refers to disability.

We noted that it was Ms La Plante who first used the word in the programme in the context of complaining about how she was misquoted. We also took into account the BBC's comment that the presenter had assumed Ms La Plante brought up the subject to refute reports of her having used this offensive term, and thought it was a legitimate journalistic exercise to question Ms La Plante about it.

When Ms La Plante used the word a second time however it was to confirm she had in fact used it to make a derogatory remark about some script editors and their approach to reading a full script. Ms La Plante did not appear to recognise the potential for offence caused by this use of language, and did not apologise. Nor did the presenter explicitly challenge the guest's second use of retard , choosing instead immediately to change the subject moving on from that use of language, do you feel that the BBC is not listening to you and not wanting to use your work... ).

Ofcom considered the broadcast of the word on the second and third occasions had the potential to cause considerable and gratuitous offence, and was not justified by the context. While there was an implicit criticism of these uses of the word by the guest through the presenter abruptly changing the subject as she did, in Ofcom's view it would have been preferable if the presenter had addressed the issue with a more explicit statement, to clarify the potential for this use of language to offend, and apologise for any offence caused to listeners.

This material therefore breached Rule 2.3. 



Update: Effing Easily Offended by X Factor Judge...

Ofcom debates where the term 'effing' lies on the scale of 'damn' to 'fuck'

Link Here4th June 2013
Full story: UK TV Talent Shows...A talent for whingeing

The X Factor Results Show
ITV1, 18 November 2012, 20:00

The X Factor is a popular musical talent show broadcast weekly. A combination of a panel of four judges and viewers' votes decide which act wins the prize of a recording contract. This one hour live episode of The X Factor revealed which two acts would perform again in the elimination round having received the fewest votes from viewers.

During the programme, it was announced that the two contestants facing elimination were Ella Henderson and James Arthur. One of the judges on the programme, Nicole Scherzinger, introduced her act (James Arthur) as follows:

I am so proud, this is James 'effing' Arthur .

Ofcom received 52 complaints from viewers who considered that Nicole Scherzinger's language was inappropriate given the show's pre-watershed scheduling

Ofcom considered the material raised issues warranting investigation under the following rule of the Code.

Rule 1.16: Offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed unless it is justified by the context.

ASA Decision: Resolved

Ofcom noted that this was a live broadcast and that recognising the compliance challenges that this presented, the Producer, having previously asked Nicole Sherzinger not to use the word frickin' , reminded her not to swear when introducing her act.

While we recognised that Nicole Scherzinger may have intended to avoid offending viewers by using the term effing , a number of viewers clearly interpreted this word as a substitute for the word fucking . This word in turn, Ofcom's research notes, is considered by audiences to be amongst the most offensive language. Ofcom therefore considered that in the context and bearing in mind the emphatic manner in which Nicole Scherzinger used it, this language had the potential to offend.

By way of clarification, Ofcom emphasises that it does not consider the word effing to be the equivalent of the word fucking , nor does it believe its use is capable of causing the same level of offence as that example of the most offensive language. However, Ofcom rejected ITV's argument that the use of effing in this particular case was not an example of offensive language. By ITV's own acknowledgement, this use of effing might have some potential to offend a small minority of viewers . Ofcom considered effing as used in this particular context was an example of offensive language, and its emphatic use here differed considerably from that in for example the phrase effing and blinding .

Although Nicole Scherzinger may have used the word with the intention of not swearing on air, it was clear that a number of viewers considered the use of the term effing in this context simply as a substitute for fucking , and as a result it was capable of causing a certain amount of offence. In Ofcom's view on balance the use of effing in this specific context exceeded audience expectations for this programme, which is aimed at a family audience, and was not appropriate for a pre-watershed programme with a significant appeal to children. Ofcom did not therefore consider that this use of offensive language was justified by the context.

However, we noted the measures ITV undertook to remind judges to avoid using offensive language before the broadcast, including specifically asking Nicole Scherzinger to avoid using words that may be interpreted differently by a UK audience, the consideration given during the broadcast to the most appropriate response to Nicole Scherzinger's use of effing , and its submissions on the differing levels of offence that a US and UK audience may attach to this particular term. We

also took into account that The X Factor Results Show is broadcast live and that the elimination round can often be tense and emotionally charged.

Taking these factors into account, Ofcom considered the matter resolved.




Ofcom will never be skint. They make up vague rules about the TV watershed and then spend a fortune of public money interpreting them

Link Here4th June 2013

Britain's TV censor Ofcom has launched an investigation into Channel 4' s documentary series Skint , which charts the lives of the long-term unemployed, after a few viewers whinged about the use of the word "fuck" 16 times in the first 15 minutes of the opening programme.

The show aired at 9pm. According to Ofcom's rules, shows that air from the 9pm watershed are allowed to carry strong language and explicit scenes that may not be suitable for children. However broadcasters are confusingly cautioned about making sure there is not an "unduly abrupt" transition from pre-9pm content designed to be suitable for kids and post-watershed material that is too obviously explicit.



Offsite Article: What is the 'Right' Amount of Sex on TV...

Link Here9th May 2013
The latest Ofcom survey of viewers shows that, for the first time, more than half of those over 65 think there is the right balance. But aren't programmes more explicit than ever before?

See article from



The State of the Easily Offended Nation...

Annual Ofcom survey of being offended by what's on telly

Link Here8th May 2013

Ofcom commissioned a public survey of 1830 UK viewers aged 16 and over. A similar survey is published each year so as to be able to track trends.

Ofcom's summary of results of relevant topics is as follows:

Levels of offence on TV

Less than a fifth of UK adults say they have been offended by something on TV in the previous 12 months a similar proportion to the previous year.

  • Almost a fifth (18%) of respondents said they had been offended by something on TV in the previous 12 months, a similar proportion to the 2011 results.
  • Older respondents were more likely than younger people to say they had been offended (27% of over-65s compared to 13% among 16-34s).
  •  As in the two previous years, among those offended, language (47%), violence (33%) and sexual content (32%) were the most common causes of offence. But among those offended, fewer people (10%) said they were offended by nakedness than in 2010 (14%) and 2011 (16%).
  • Among those who had been offended, four in ten (39%) agreed with the statement such things should only be shown when viewers are likely to expect them (e.g. after a clear warning), followed by 36% who agreed that others should be allowed to see these things , whereas 20% thought that it should not have been shown .
  • The main reaction on seeing something that caused offence was to switch channel (50%). Almost a quarter (22%) said they switched off, 15% continued watching the programme and 15% discussed it with others.
  • Audiences today are less likely than in 2008 to switch off when they see something that offends them (32% in 2008 vs 22% in 2012) and more likely to continue watching (5% in 2008 vs 15% in 2012).

Attitudes towards sex, violence, swearing and harmful content on TV

Opinions about the amount of sex, violence and offensive language on TV look to have shifted since 2005; with the proportion saying the amount is about right having steadily increased for each type of content, while the proportion stating too much has declined.

  • The majority of respondents felt that current levels of sex (67%), violence (56%) and swearing (56%) on TV are about right . One in four (24%) felt there was too much sex and just over two in five felt there was too much violence (39%) and swearing (39%). This compares to 36% of adults saying there was too much sex on TV in 2005, with 56% for violence and 55% for swearing.
  • Older respondents were more likely than younger respondents to think levels were about right for each type of content.
  • 16% of respondents said they had seen something on TV in the past 12 months that they thought was harmful, either to themselves, to other adults or children; a similar proportion as in 2011.

Protection of children and the TV watershed

Audiences today are more likely than in 2005 to think the 9pm watershed is at about the right time

  • 50% of respondents felt it was the responsibility of both broadcasters and parents to make sure that children do not see unsuitable programmes. Just under half (45%) felt it was mainly parents responsibility and 4% mainly broadcasters .
  • Parents were more likely than those without childcare responsibility to feel it was the responsibility of both broadcasters and parents to ensure that children do not see unsuitable programmes (53% vs 48%), and less likely to say mainly parents (42% vs 46%).
  • Most (96%) were aware that broadcasters are required to show television programmes that are not suitable for children only after a certain time in the evening.
  • Audience today were more likely to think the 9pm watershed was at about the right time, with three-quarters (75%) of respondents saying so. This compares to 64% in 20052 .

Internet Censorship

Opinions that the amount of censorship for the internet is too little have increased since 2010.

  • The majority of respondents (88%) thought TV programmes were censored, an increase from 85% in 2010. 74% felt that current levels of TV censorship were about right .
  • 40% thought the internet was censored. Almost half (47%) felt that current levels of internet censorship were too little , (increasing to 54% among parents), 23% said about right and 28% said they didn't know whether it was about right or not. Since 2010 the proportion of respondents who said they did not know has declined (from 38%).
  • Since 2010 opinions that the amount of censorship for the internet is too little have increased from 41% in 2010 to almost half (47%) of UK adults in 2012. This rises to more than half (53%) among parents.
  • 73% of respondents were aware that it is possible to watch/download programmes online. Awareness declined with age (81% of 16-34s vs 53% of 65+) and parents' awareness was higher than among those not responsible for children (80% vs 70%).
  • Among those aware that it is possible to watch/download programmes online, 55% thought that the content was censored and 10% thought that it was not. Awareness was higher among 16-34s (57%, compared to 50% of over-65s)



New Extension of PC Censorship...

Ofcom whinge at jokey sponsorship advert immediately after rape scene in film

Link Here8th May 2013

Phones 4U's sponsorship of network films on Channel 4 Channel 4,
26 December 2012, 23:32

Phones 4U, an independent mobile phone retailer, sponsors drama and films on Channel 4, E4 and Film 4.

A total of 17 complainants contacted Ofcom about a Phones 4U sponsorship credit broadcast on Channel 4 on 26 December 2012 during the film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo . The complainants felt that the scheduling of the sponsorship credit was inappropriate and belittled the serious issues being dealt with in the film's content.

Ofcom viewed the sponsorship credit and noted that it started with a close-up shot of a woman's face in bed with a man, apparently having sex. The woman paused and leaned towards the camera and said: I'm faking it, can I upgrade?  Immediately before the credit the film showed a prolonged attack and disturbing rape on a young woman, the film's main character. This included a close-up of her face while she was screaming. The effect was to cut from the face of the screaming woman in the film's rape scene to the face of the woman in bed in the sponsorship credit

In addition, we noted that the next sponsorship credit, leading out of the same advertising break back into the film, continued the sexual theme and returned to the scene of the man and woman in bed used in the sponsorship credit described above. In this credit the man looked at the camera and said I've still got my pants on, can I upgrade?

Ofcom considered Rule 9.17:

Sponsorship must comply with both the content and scheduling rules that apply to television advertising.

The UK Code of Broadcast Advertising ( the BCAP Code ) states in Section 4 that:

Advertisements must not be harmful or offensive. Advertisements must take account of generally accepted standards to minimise the risk of causing harm or serious or widespread offence. The context in which an advertisement is likely to be broadcast must be taken into account to avoid unsuitable scheduling

Rule 32.1 of the BCAP Code states that:

Broadcasters must exercise responsible judgement on the scheduling of advertisements and operate internal systems capable of identifying and avoiding unsuitable juxtapositions between advertising material and programmes, especially those that could distress or offend viewers or listeners.

Channel 4 said that after the broadcast it had issued an apology to viewers who had complained directly to Channel 4.

The Licensee explained that there are 37 different Phones 4U sponsorship credits and those with a more adult nature are scheduled for post-21:00 broadcast. Channel 4 said that the sponsorship credits complained about were played in random rotation across all sponsored films on Channel 4 and Film 4 and had a post-21:00 restriction. Channel 4 said it regretted what had occurred and acknowledged that Unfortunately, the juxtaposition between the credits and this particular film inadvertently caused offence to viewers.

Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rules

Ofcom considered that the juxtaposition of a light-hearted sponsorship credit featuring a woman during sex with a disturbing and distressing rape scene in a film was clearly unsuitable. In Ofcom's view this clearly had the potential to be offensive to viewers.

As set out in the BCAP Code, broadcasters are required to have processes in place to ensure advertising material is scheduled appropriately and unsuitable juxtapositions between advertising and programmes which may cause offence are avoided

Ofcom has taken account this action by Channel 4 and the apology it issued to viewers. However we considered that, in this case, Channel 4 had had insufficient processes in place to prevent the unsuitable juxtaposition of advertising and programming material, as required by Rule 32.1 of the BCAP Code.

Ofcom therefore considered that both sponsorship credits were in breach of the relevant rules

Breaches of Rule 9.17 of the Code, with reference to Rule 32.1 of the BCAP Code

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