Melon Farmers Original Version

Strong Language on TV

Whinging about strong langauge on TV


Offensive censorship...

Ofcom allows the word 'nigger' when used in a daytime TV debate about the word

Link Here12th October 2020

Good Morning Britain
ITV 22 June 2020, 08:15

Good Morning Britain (GMB) is weekday morning news programme broadcast on ITV.

At 08:15 on 22 June 2020, GMB featured a live discussion about plans by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to review the use of the song Swing Low, Sweet Chariot at England rugby matches because of its association with slavery.

Alongside GMB's regular presenters, Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, the two guests contributing to the discussion were the Deputy Editor of Spiked Online, Tom Slater, and lawyer and political activist, Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu. The discussion was wide-ranging and both contributors provided their views on topics including whether there was sufficient awareness in society about the background of historic figures that are memorialised in public statues and the origins of certain songs. The item also featured discussion on whether a focus on songs and statues was a distraction from the central issues of institutional and systemic racism, and whether freedom of speech was under threat.

During part of the discussion Piers Morgan described the offensive word as the n-word and in her response to the question Dr Mos-Shogbamimu said the word in full twice, eg:

Now I don't use the 'n-word' 203 and when I say 'n-word' I mean the 'nigger' word 203 but I understand that is has become, to your point, rap stars and black youths have almost taken that word and turned it on its head and use it either, you know as friends use to each other and also use it in a way that is not necessarily friendly.

ITV explained that given the context in which the word had been used and the fact it was used by a suitably qualified expert guest to make a serious point in the public interest, we felt that an apology in the programme would be disrespectful to Dr Mos-Shogbamimu, and that it risked causing as much offence to viewers as the word itself. We therefore did not consider that an on-air apology was required or appropriate in the circumstances. For the same reason we decided that the word did not need to be removed from the ITV+1 service or from the version of the programme broadcast on the ITV Hub. However, ITV decided to add some guidance text on the ITV Hub to signpost the language for viewers.

Ofcom Response: Complaint not pursued

We took careful account of the rationale for the two instances the word in full was used. We considered the first instance was to clarify the exact term Dr Mos-Shogbamimu was referring to and the second instance was to illustrate her view that there is a clear distinction between a Black person using the word and a White person using it. Given this, we did not consider this amounted to frequent or gratuitous use. We particularly noted the way in which the language was used by this guest, that the word was not directed at any particular person and was not used in a pejorative way by Dr Mos-Shogbamimu.

We considered the content did not raise any issues under the Code which warranted investigation.


4th July

Update: Distorted, Silenced or Beeped?...

Glastonbury on iPlayer

I have been listening to some of the BBC Glastonbury recordings on iPlayer.

Last year, the BBC's swear word lyric solution was to apply some weird kind of filter, presumably in an attempt to remove the swear word without you noticing, but in practice it resulted in some horrid distortion, that left you thinking it was a flaw in the performance or production, and only after a while did I realise it was intentionally added by the BBC due to swear words.

This year they've gone for the classic of turning the sound down altogether. It's as if John Beyer himself is controlling your volume knob for you, so you don't hear anything he doesn't want you to hear.

Bring back the bleep I say - at least it's honest. Everyone knows it's being bleeped because someone else might be offended.


11th June

Update: Lowest Common Denominator Nutters...

Daily Mail rounds up a few sound byte 'fears' of more strong language on TV

Minor league nutters have accused Ofcom of giving broadcasters a green-light to swear after consulting almost 130 people who largely thought offensive language was acceptable.

A study by the watchdog, which included special input for minority groups like those who are transgender or travellers, suggested people were willing to tolerate various swear words on TV throughout the day.

While Ofcom insists there have been no rule changes about swearing as a result of the research, the likes of Mediawatch-Uk fear the report will pave the way for a more permissive attitude to the problem.

Vivienne Pattison of Mediawatch UK said last night the findings did not reflect what her organisation was hearing. She said: It just doesn't ring true. I find it really surprising because in all the conversations I have the general view is that swearing is not acceptable pre-watershed at all.

Also it is not acceptable in society per se, one can't go into a shop and say things like that. That's why it is does seem bizarre that people would think it would be okay on television. I have been totally bamboozled by the science behind the survey.

Don Foster, the Not So Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, who before the election was the party's culture spokesman said the report was bizarre . He said: Some of the things they are saying are acceptable is frankly amazing. I hope it won't be used to give licence to the broadcasters to totally ignore what I think are real concerns about good taste. We have a responsibility to set standards and I think it is important that broadcasters don't just operate at the lowest common denominator. Nobody but nobody has come to me saying we want to see more swearing, it is the reverse, they want to see less of it.

An Ofcom spokesman said: The research was conducted to ensure that Ofcom continues to remain in tune with public expectations of what they hear on TV and radio. Our research shows that audiences remain concerned about a range of language that they find offensive. For this reason we are not considering any changes to our robust rules which protect the public, and in particular children, from offensive material.'


10th June

Update: How Offensive is That?...

Ofcom publish research grading strong language

Ofcom have produced a report titles: Audience attitudes towards offensive language on television and radio. In it they write:

Ofcom recognises that the use of language changes over time. Likewise the impact of the offence it may cause also changes over time.

In the five years since Ofcom last published research on attitudes to offensive language, we have received complaints about the use of terms which may not have previously been considered potentially offensive. In addition some words are now considered of heightened sensitivity and are seldom broadcast, while other terms are considered less offensive than in previous years.

Therefore the purpose of Ofcom commissioning independent research by Synovate, was to provide an up to date understanding of public attitudes to offensive language in order to inform Ofcom, viewers, listeners and broadcasters.

The research was qualitative in nature. This means it explored the views of a range of participants across the UK, and provided insights into their opinions based on a variety of examples of broadcast material. It was not a quantitative study, so the results do not seek to provide a definitive measure of the proportion of the UK population who hold specific opinions.

They found:

Amongst the words explored in this research, participants thought that some words were considerably stronger than others.

The mildest words were considered acceptable in most situations (e.g. arse , damn , tits'), whereas considerable care was seen to be necessary over the use of stronger words. In terms of strong language, most participants found the words 'cunt , fuck , 'motherfucker', pussy , cock and twat unacceptable pre-watershed and also wanted care to be taken over the use of the words bitch , bastard , bugger , dick , wanker , 'shag', slag and shit .

Post-watershed, cunt and motherfucker were considered the least acceptable words discussed in the research.

There were mixed views on the use of the word fuck which was considered more acceptable by some participants (e.g. younger people and male participants) but less acceptable by others (e.g. participants aged 55-75).

Most participants also wanted some care to be taken over the use of the word pussy post-watershed. The other words listed were seen to be acceptable postwatershed by most participants.

In terms of discriminatory language, nigger and Paki were seen as the most offensive words. Some participants thought it was acceptable to use them in some specific contexts (e.g. for educational use), whereas some thought they should not be used on television or radio in any context. The word spastic was also generally considered unacceptable.

Some discriminatory language polarised responses, particularly 'retarded', gyppo , pikey , gay and cripple as participants' familiarity with and interpretation of, these words varied greatly, both within the general UK sample, and between the general UK sample and the minority groups.

Overall, most potentially offensive words were not seen to be unacceptable in principle, as context was a key factor in determining whether language was seen as generally acceptable or unacceptable. The exception to this was some potentially discriminatory language (particularly Paki , nigger and spastic') which some participants considered unacceptable in any context. Some participants considered offensive language to be unacceptable when used too frequently, even if its use was thought to be broadly acceptable in relation to all of the other principles outlined in this report.


4th May

Update: The Daily Whinge...

The Daily Mail has a random whinge about strong language on TV

For no particular reason, the Daily Mail decided that now was a good time to list recent instances of strong language on TV.

The Daily Mail wrote:

Record numbers of TV viewers and radio listeners are making official complaints about unacceptable levels of swearing in programmes.

Television watchdog Ofcom fielded 500 complaints in the first three months of this year, and has been asked to rule on 1,159 during 2009. This represents a dramatic surge since 2006, when 841 complaints were made.

Critics last night described the amount of bad language on television and radio as unacceptable and called for clearer guidelines and tougher penalties for broadcasters.

And then proceeded to list a few recent examples of strong language on TV. Then they revealed that the 'critics' are in fact, just the perennial whingers of Mediawatch-UK.

Vivienne Pattison, director of Mediawatch-UK, said: This kind of language is not tolerated in the office or in the playground, so why is it on television?

Ofcom's guidelines should also be tightened up so it is really clear what is acceptable and what is not. And when a company breaches the guidelines there should be real sanctions.

An Ofcom statement rather summed up the Daily Mail's non-story

A spokesman for Ofcom said it had no evidence that offensive language is increasing on TV or radio. He added: We think our sanctions are sufficiently strong and that the Broadcasting Code is sufficiently clear.'


21st October

Update: Taboo Words...

Joan Bakewell against a diktat on strong language...BUT...

Journalist and broadcaster Joan Bakewell has described the BBC's plans to clamp down on strong language as far too sweeping a diktat .

Bakewell, whose 2001 series Taboo listed the words people find most offensive, warned there was a major danger of censorship stifling creativity.

She argued that society needs taboos and spoke up for the right to shock .

Writing in the Radio Times, Bakewell referred to the Strictly Come Dancing race row, saying it was right that using insulting words like paki could get you into trouble as Anton Du Beke deservedly found out .

She continued: Casual swearing is lazy, ugly, a glib way to let off steam on the football pitch or in the kitchen. I don't want it on my television at all. But when it's part of a tense, gritty drama - such as those set among soldiers at war like Occupation - or of an uproarious lampoon of our political system such as The Thick of It , then that's a proper use of the language and should be allowed.


7th October

Update: Humiliated Stunts...

BBC TV to dumb down to please the easily offended

BBC presenters are to be banned from swearing immediately after the 9pm watershed and from conducting humiliating and intimidating prank phone calls under sweeping changes to the corporation's editorial guidelines.

The BBC will take the radical step of putting its guidelines out for public consultation as it tries to pander to nutters after editorial blunders such as the prank phone calls involving Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand.

The BBC Trust, the internal regulator, has conducted a review of the rules governing programming and is proposing new regulations banning the use of offensive language between 9pm and 10pm except in exceptional circumstances, and encouraging producers to bleep more swear words.

Other plans to go forward for public consideration include new restrictions on risqué breakfast radio presenters, such as Chris Moyles, whose shows are on air when large numbers of children are listening.  The trust is also insisting that the BBC never condones malicious intrusion, intimidation and humiliation .

Although much of the public focus will be on the trust's recommendations for bad language and behaviour, the plans will also include rules aimed at safeguarding the accuracy and impartiality of the BBC's factual programming, as well as measures to ensure that children do not emulate aggressive behaviour of characters in programmes such as EastEnders. Regulations on ensuring the integrity of phone-ins and text voting are also proposed.

Once the public consultation period is over, the trust will consider the responses before coming to a final decision on the use of its editorial guidelines. It is expected to put the regulations into operation early next summer.


13th September

Update: Bollox TV Strong Language Survey...

The Telegraph counts the words and provides Beyer with a platform

In 25 post-watershed programmes monitored last week, 'serious' expletives – 'fuck', 'shit' and 'piss' – were used a total of 155 times. When a similar monitoring exercise was carried out a year ago, the words were used only 127 times.

Of the programmes monitored last week, the one with the most swearing was Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares USA , in which the 'fuck' was used 63 times and other 'serious' expletives 18 times. There were a total of 103 swear words used. Other major 'offenders' were the film Stripes starring Bill Murray on Channel 5, which had 14 uses of 'serious' expletives, BBC1's Traffic Cops , with 12, and BBC2's The Last Days of Lehman Brothers , with 11.

John Beyer, the director of Mediawatch-UK, said: Broadcasters are not really responding to the public concern about swearing on television. What happened last year was largely thanks to The Sunday Telegraph. A lot of the comments made by Michael Grade and Jana Bennet were responding to the public concern there was. What your results show is broadcasters have paid lip service, made all the right noises, but they haven't actually done anything to reduce the level of swearing.

He accused the Government and industry regulator Ofcom of ignoring the situation: With the government not prepared to intervene and with Ofcom failing to really enforce its code on swearing, there's little that an ordinary viewer, who continues to be offended by this language, can do. I just think it's a situation that's out of control.

A spokesman for the regulator said: We regularly carry out research on viewers' attitudes, including to swearing on TV and radio. The results have not varied much in recent years. Most people on balance are reasonably satisfied about the amount of swearing on TV and radio, with older viewers and listeners more concerned and younger ones less so.

Channel 4 defended the use of swear words, saying it had an alternative public service remit and at times will transmit content of a stronger nature which may not appeal to all viewers and that people knew what to expect from notoriously foul-mouthed chef Gordon Ramsay.

A spokesman for the channel said: Channel 4 strives to reflect social reality and strong language is part of that reality; potentially offensive language can feature when scheduled responsibly, preceded by a warning and justified by context; strongest language is not broadcast before the watershed. We are confident that our target audience and regular viewers have the right expectations of Channel Four content, and we have a strong track record on compliance.

The BBC also said swearing had a place on television. For the BBC, it is not about quotas or stopping the judicious use of strong language, but rather avoiding gratuitous use and looking hard at context in terms of channel, genres of programme, time slot and audience expectation, a spokesman for the corporation said.


28th August

Update: None of Our Effing Business...

Government responds to Mediawatch-UK petition against swearing on TV

John Beyer of Mediawatch-UK initiated a petition on the 10 Downing Street website against swearing on TV:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make urgent representation to the Broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, the broadcasting institutions operating in the UK and film regulators, asking them to stop the use of unnecessary swearing and bad language in their productions (including those available for downloading from websites) and to urge providers of user-generated content to take similar action.

Beyer explained further:

Concern about the volume and nature of swearing on television made headlines when in November 2008 Michael Grade, the Executive Chairman of ITV, observed that swearing had become “unrestrained” and “indiscriminate”. He also stated that people do not want to hear those words.

In May 2008 the Radio Times conducted an opinion poll, which found that 69% of people believed there is too much swearing on TV. In November 2008 the Sunday Express launched a Clean Up TV Crusade focusing on the excessive use of swearing and the Sunday Telegraph conducted a poll which found that 56% of people thought the f*** word should never be used on TV.

The Office of Communications (Ofcom) in its Communications Market reports for 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 found that the majority of people believe there is too much swearing on TV.

mediawatch-uk believes that swearing on TV has reached such proportions that it is threatening the English language, that it is undermining the Government's policies on Education to improve communication skills and hindering initiatives to restore respect and civility to our society.

The petition closed with 5917 signatures and therefore received a response from the government:

The Government believes that it is important that we have high standards across our broadcasting sector particularly in public service broadcasting. However, it is a long-standing principle that the Government does not interfere in programme matters, either on arrangements for scheduling or on content, as it is important to maintain the principle of freedom of expression which political interference could undermine.

For this reason, Ofcom, the BBC Trust and S4C are independent of the Government and are responsible for safeguarding the public interest in broadcasting. They set out the rules and guidance with which broadcasters must comply. Within this framework, it is the broadcasters' job to make judgements about what individual programmes should contain and the time at which they are broadcast.


6th June

Update: Daily Mail Trivia...

Daily Mail give John Humphrys a good bollocking

A BBC news presenter was forced to apologise today after a minor transgression during a major interview with a Cabinet minister.

John Humphrys was grilling International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander on the political crisis engulfing Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Raising the idea that Labour are embroiled in civil wa' , Humphrys said: We have got elements of Number 10 actually turning on MPs in their own constituencies. We have Barry Sheerman telling us that he's got people from Number 10 ringing his own constituency, talking to his own officials, telling them that they have got to get him to attend a meeting so that he can be given a bollocking.

Later, the presenter apologised for his inadvertent outburst while discussing ghost stories with John Sutherland, professor of English literature at University College London.

He said: Can I get guidance from you? I used a word earlier on this programme that was supposed to be 'rollicking' but it came out slightly differently and had a 'b' at the front instead of an 'r' at the beginning.

Professor Sutherland insisted it was an entirely innocent word.

But Humphrys said: It's alright with a 'b' or an 'r'? To those listeners who were offended by it, my humble apologies.

A BBC spokesperson said: Whilst John didn't use the best turn of phrase this morning, these slips occasionally happen in a live radio situation. John didn't mean to cause any offence to his listeners and did offer his apologies towards the end of the programme.


20th May

Update: Swearing by Opinion Polls...

Beyer commissions poll that manages to contradict BBC survey

A new poll published on 19th May 2009, shows that 73% of people find swearing on TV offensive. The poll, commissioned by mediawatch-uk, was conduced by ComRes who interviewed 1002 GB adults by telephone between 15 and 17 May 2009.

Significantly, the poll also found that 70% believe the regulator, OFCOM, should do more to reduce the amount of swearing on TV. Despite Ofcom's own Communications Market research conducted over recent years, showing that the majority of people believe there is too much swearing on TV, the regulator very rarely upholds public complaints on this issue.

60% of people believe that swearing on TV encourages swearing in daily life and 53% believe that children are not effectively protected from swearing on TV.

Speaking today, John Beyer, director of mediawatch-uk, said: The results of this survey show once again that swearing on TV causes widespread offence and that OFCOM really is not doing enough to allay public concern. We certainly welcome OFCOM's recent criticism of record-breaking programme, Ramsay's Great British Nightmare , but this action is too little too late.

Aware of the latest BBC survey Beyer disputed the finding that people are relaxed about swearing on TV. He said: It may be true that swearing ‘in context' is tolerable but for most people the main concern is with swearing that is entirely gratuitous and has no dramatic or any other context whatsoever.

Moreover, the BBC's findings seem to contradict research carried out by the BBC for Panorama in February which found that 55% of people thought there was now too much swearing, while 68% thought language had worsened in the past five years.

Beyer said: Rather than wasting licence fee payers money on unnecessary surveys, the BBC should be asking itself how swearing in programmes fulfils its Charter obligation to ‘sustain citizenship and civil society'.

Beyer concluded: The time really has come for broadcasters to act decisively on this matter by strengthening the regulations otherwise they know they risk alienating swathes of viewers. In the Digital Age when broadcasting standards matter more and more to viewers and listeners it really is no good ignoring public feeling against swearing on TV.

Comment: Attempt at Discrediting BBC Survey

From Dan

"Rather than wasting licence fee payers money on unnecessary surveys, the BBC should be asking itself how swearing in programmes fulfils its Charter obligation to 'sustain citizenship and civil society'".

The BBC's survey is unnecessary because it doesn't give Beyer what he wants to hear. If the survey had reported the viewers are all up in arms over swearing on TV Beyer would have said that it was very useful and welcomed it.

"We are hopeful that Gordon Brown, who has expressed personal concern about broadcasting standards, will now directly intervene in this situation and call upon broadcasters and film makers to seriously improve standards of literacy in their media productions."

Why should film makers be included in all this? The issue is over swearing on TV and the offence that it may or may not cause to TV viewers. Films have not been talked about and people who do not wish to hear swearing in films can avoid films that contain swearing.

But of course Beyer confuses offence with potential harm and believes swearing should be censored out of everything for the own good of viewers.

What Beyer and Mediawatch UK are worried about is that the results of the BBC's survey which shows viewers are relaxed about swearing (and again we don't know how representative of the entire broad spectrum of tastes and views of the British TV viewing public the survey is) will prevent the regulation to ban swearing on TV completely that he and Mediawatch UK want brought in.

Which is why he is launching into this tirade and why his pressure group have released this press release in order to attempt to discredit the BBC's findings.

At the moment surveys into viewers views on swearing, sex and violence are designed to fit the agendas of those who carry them out and are mainly targetted at certain groups (eg: Mediawatch UK's survey was probably carried out amongst people living in middle England who share their views).

It's time for a survey which will represent the views of all TV viewers and will take into account the broad tastes and views which TV viewers hold.


27th January

Update: Majority are Easily Offended...

Panorama's Have I Got Bad Language for You?

Over half of people think that there is currently too much strong language on TV and radio, a poll commissioned for the BBC's Panorama programme suggests.

55% of those polled said swearing is at an unacceptable level.

68% of those questioned said that swearing on programmes had increased in the last five years.

The poll was conducted for Panorama's Have I Got Bad Language for You? in which comedian Frank Skinner looked at taste and decency in UK broadcasting.

The programme predictably comes in the wake of a row over calls made by presenters Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand on Brand's BBC Radio 2 show. Skinner, who has experimented with dropping swearing from his stand up comedy routine, spoke to both broadcasters and performers for the episode of Panorama.

Comedienne Joan Rivers expressed concern over censorship saying: It pulls you back so much, it makes you so fearful that you're scared to do a step in any direction that ordinarily I would have done to be funnier.

As part of its research for the programme Panorama commissioned a poll asking questions about people's attitudes to bad language on terrestrial television and on radio.

A total of 1001 people over the age of 16 were questioned in the telephone poll, carried out by GfK NOP between 16-18 January.

Of those polled, 58% said that broadcasters do not take enough notice of audience views in the amount of swearing on TV and radio, as opposed to 39% who said that they do.

However, 55% of those questioned, said that they thought the 9pm watershed, after which more adult content can be shown on television, is being effectively enforced by broadcasters.


14th December

Update: Swearing Off Jamie Oliver...

Channel 4 to take the kitchen cleaver to strong language

The celebrity chef, who is noted for his frequent use of strong language on air, will face more stringent editing before his shows are broadcast.

Zoë Collins, the head of Fresh One Productions, the company owned by Oliver that produces all of his programmes, said that she would be much more mindful of the level of swearing in future, and gave a strong indication that the use of expletives would be reduced.

Collins, who is also an executive producer on Jamie's Ministry of Food , said that she could no longer ignore public opinion on the issue.

Collins also said that rescheduling programmes featuring bad language to a later slot of 10pm could be a possibility: We would possibly not be adverse to that and to having those conversations with Channel 4, but that is more a decision for the broadcaster .

I know that Jamie does not use that language to shock and get more viewers – the reality is he does use fruity language to express strong emotions. But it is us as programme makers and the broadcasters who need to be more careful about that in the future.

Her comments appear to contradict those made last month by Julian Bellamy, the head of Channel 4 programming, who insisted he would not reduce the amount of swearing in Oliver's programmes: We are not reining him back. I think we get the balance right with Jamie. Audiences know what to expect from Channel 4. They want us to push boundaries, challenge orthodoxies, take risks and support new talent even if that means our programmes are not to everyone's taste.


7th December

Update: Beyer Bleeps Bollox...

Telegraph hypes John Beyers comments

It can be revealed that expletives were inserted into Ramsay's show when it was broadcast in the UK, after they had been bleeped out in the original version first shown in the US.

Nutters predictably said the decision to edit swear words back into Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares USA for British viewers was extraordinary.

In one episode of the series, more than 40 swear words were heard by viewers when the programme aired on Channel 4 earlier this year, compared to none when it was broadcast by Fox in the US last year.

The US series of Kitchen Nightmares was a spin-off from the British series of the same name, in which Ramsay attempts to turn around the fortunes of failing restaurants.

Instances of 'fuck', along with profanities such as 'shit'-, 'dickhead' and 'bollocks', were bleeped out of the hour-long shows when they were shown in the US in a 9pm slot in autumn 2007. When the series was broadcast in the UK this year, in a 10pm slot, the swear words returned.

John Beyer, director of the nutter group Mediawatch-UK, said: It is extraordinary, and only goes to show how much the television channels here can do what they like.

They keep defending the amount of swearing on television, but all their concerns about 'freedom of expression' and 'the need to reflect reality' seem to go out of the window when it comes to making money by exporting these programmes to America, where they know audiences won't tolerate it.

Channel 4 said its version was shown after Britain's 9pm watershed and was preceded by a clear on-air warning about its content. The US equivalent of the watershed is the 10pm safe harbor , after which more swearing is permitted.

A Channel 4 spokesman said: Gordon Ramsay is a well-known TV personality and viewers watching his programmes know what to expect. In the context of Kitchen Nightmares the strong language is a genuine expression of Gordon's passion and frustration.


30th November

Update: Strong Views...

Five News commissions opinion poll on strong language on TV

A majority of people think there is too much swearing on television, a Five News survey has found.

Five News' survey, carried out by YouGov in the wake of the Sachsgate row, found that 57% of respondents agreed that there was too much swearing on TV, with 31% strongly agreeing.

Reactions differed according to gender, age and the regions people came from, with 63% of women agreeing there was too much swearing, compared with 51% of men.

However, only 24% of 18 to 24-year-olds agreed, compared with 83% of over-55s – with 56% of them strongly agreeing.

The survey questioned more than 2,000 adults across the UK between Monday and Wednesday this week.


28th November

Update: BBC Swears by less Swearing...

Pandering to the easily offended

The BBC is to allow less swearing on its television channels next year, the corporation's head of television said yesterday.

Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision, said that the corporation did not want to alienate its viewers and had taken the decision to push back the number of expletives.

Bennett, to whom the controller of each BBC television channel reports, told the Manchester Media Festival that the presenter had agreed to reduce swearing in his television show after that incident.

She said: There was a mutual thing to push back on the language. We didn't want to get into a situation where we were pushing away part of the audience of the show.

She said that she had to approve personally every use of 'cunt' on BBC television, adding: That was one of the surprising aspects of the job when I got it. 'fuck' and 'motherfucker', which are considered the next most offensive words, were referred to channel controllers to clear.

Bennett said that anybody who tried to count swearwords on the BBC would see that they had become less frequent even since the early autumn: We've actually been pushing back a bit on language. It is possible that some language alienates some audiences unnecessarily. There will be less F-ing but the blinding seems to be OK.

Bennett said that there would be greater discussion about the appropriateness of swearing on the BBC, and pointed to the example of a documentary following soldiers in Afghanistan. That was more likely to justify inclusion of profanities that might offend in different contexts, she said.

She added: There's higher sensitivity about making sure there's more discussion about slots, type of channel and genre. I think the idea that you can alienate audiences is – even if people don't ring up – we don't want people to be put off, even if they're silent.


27th November

Update: Swearing at the Bosses...

BBC outlines high level permission for strong language

BBC producers have been warned that swear words used across the corporation's output must be approved by the controller of each station or channel.

The sign-off policy has come in as the corporation is overhauling its compliance procedures in the wake of the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand phone prank row last month.

The BBC's top brass have informed its senior managers that the broadcaster cannot afford to invite further criticism over swearing.

A group headed by the BBC creative director Alan Yentob, director of archive content Roly Keating and the chief adviser for editorial policy Claire Powell is examining where the appropriate boundaries of taste and generally accepted standards should lie across all BBC output, ahead of a report to come out in the spring.

But until formal changes are made to its procedures next year, controllers of all BBC stations and channels are personally vetting each use of the most offensive swear words to ensure it is 'editorially justified'.

One senior TV producer at the BBC told the Standard: The three worst swear words are automatically going right up to the controller, and we have been told that if in doubt with anything else, check with the controller as they are ultimately responsible for what goes out.

On Monday the BBC's Leadership Group - made up of its 150 most senior managers - met and discussed the issue and were told that ensuring editorial standards were met was a high priority.


13th November

Update: Swearing by Jamie Oliver...

Channel 4 head battles culture of conservatism

The head of Channel 4 has defended strong language on television, saying he will not allow a culture of conservatism to stop presenters such as Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay from using offensive language.

Julian Bellamy, who is in charge of programming, said it was important that occasional errors of judgement did not usher in a new era of censorship.

Bellamy said he had no intention of reining in presenters such as Oliver, whose most recent Channel 4 show was criticised by MPs for being riddled with swearing.

He said that Channel 4 programmes, which include those fronted by the notoriously foul-mouthed Gordon Ramsay, struck a balance between reflecting how people express themselves and not using bad language gratuitously.

I think we've got the balance right with Jamie, he said: When we watch those shows it's very clear that when Jamie uses fruity language it is a real response to the shock and anger at what he sees. It's spontaneous.

He said that audiences wanted Channel 4 to push boundaries, challenge orthodoxies and take risks even if that meant that some programmes caused offence.

That doesn't mean producers should be given free rein to offend. Far from it, he said at the launch of Channel 4's winter schedule. Challenging material must be editorially justified in the proper context, with procedures in place so we don't cause undue offence. But I believe that if television loses its nerve and never risks offence it will be come a weaker and less relevant medium today.

Selected for Interrogation

Based on article from

MPs are to question BBC chiefs about strong language on the box.

Director general Mark Thompson and the BBC Trust's Sir Michael Lyons will also be quizzed about the Manuelgate scandal involving Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand.

John Whittingdale, chairman of Culture, Media and Sport select committee, said the two men will be asked to account for a lapse in broadcasting standards. He added: The committee also intends to raise with them concerns that have arisen following the Jonathan Ross broadcast.

Watchdog Ofcom said it had no plans to review its guidelines on bad language. A spokesman said the amount of swearing in a programme was an editorial decision.


12th November

Update: A Word that Begins with 'Fuck' and Ends in 'Wit'...

Denis MacShane whinges about strong language on TV

MacShane : I hear f f f f
on TV, tell me we don't
hear that in France.
Burnham : No they
say b b b b

House of Commons debates
Monday, 10 November 2008
Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport
Public Service Broadcasting

Denis MacShane (Rotherham, Labour)

Mr. Speaker, if I used that English vernacular word that begins with f and ends in k, you would chop me off at the knees—if not higher—before I had even got up. Yet all the broadcasters now use it regularly, and it is really offensive. This is not a watershed matter. There are plenty of children watching TV programmes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights after 9 o'clock. I have watched Jamie Oliver reporting from Rotherham, and I have watched quiz shows, and I hear f, f, f, f. Please tell the BBC and Ofcom that we do not hear that in France, Germany or America, so why, with our great language, does British broadcasting have to be in the linguistic sewer?

Andy Burnham (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Leigh, Labour)

My right hon. Friend has expressed himself very clearly and trenchantly. The report that I mentioned a moment ago revealed an increase, indeed a spike, of bad language immediately after the watershed, which suggests that it needs to be said that it is not obligatory to use bad language after the watershed.

I believe that my right hon. Friend speaks for many people in the country in saying that while people accept that the language used on television programmes ought to reflect the language used in the country as a whole, there are occasions on which the line has clearly been crossed, and I know that others share the discomfort that he has so eloquently expressed.


9th November

Update: Beyer Bait...

Telegraph survey find majority want to ban 'fuck' on TV

Most people in Britain think the f-word should never be used on air, an opinion poll has found.

The survey for The Sunday Telegraph also shows that a majority believe that there is now too much swearing on television and radio, and that comedy programmes have become too vulgar.

In the nationwide poll of 1,005 adults, by ICM, 56%felt the word 'fuck' should never be broadcast. Only 36% said it should be allowed, while 9% replied it depends.

More than half – 57% – said that there was too much swearing on television and radio, while only 2% felt that there should be more, and 38% felt that broadcasters had got the balance right.

Asked whether television and radio comedy is too vulgar, 57% replied 'Yes', 39% 'No' and 4% 'Don't know'.

John Beyer, the director of Mediawatch-UK predictably called on broadcasters to take urgent action to reduce the amount of swearing on air. This poll clearly shows just how offensive the public finds certain words and how tired they are of hearing their repetitive use on air at any time of the day.

Broadcasters must take urgent action to eradicate gratuitous bad language from programmes. They are long overdue in responding to public opinion on the issue, and the poll shows that doing nothing is no longer an option.

Based on article from

John Whittingdale MP, chairman of Culture, Media and Sport select committee:

I am concerned. It appears that some broadcasters seem think that as soon as you get to 9.01pm, it is no holds barred with bad language. What seems to be getting worse is the gratuitous nature of so much of it, particularly in comedy shows where it seems to be routine for everyone to use bad language. People find that offensive.

Obviously we need to be careful about being too censorious, and swearing is permissible in some instances ...BUT... broadcasters need to be more thorough about making sure there's a good reason for it. The effect of the watershed is also being affected by the use of on demand services and services like the BBC's iPlayer, where any programme can be watched at any time of the day.

Broadcasters are also so desperate to attract the 17 to 25 demographic, they are often ignoring the offence that is caused to older viewers and listeners with some of the material put out there to try and draw in the younger audience.

Not so long ago, if some bad language was going to be aired on a programme, you would get a proper warning about the content before it was broadcast. Now we don't get that with programmes like the Graham Norton Show , Friday Night with Jonathan Ross or Mock the Week . That is something the broadcasters should address."


4th November

An Old So and So Whinger...

Michael Grade has a go at strong language on late night TV

The ITV executive chairman, Michael Grade, has called for a clampdown on strong language after the 9pm watershed, saying the use of offensive words was now indiscriminate.

I do think the prevalence of bad language such as the F-word is a little bit unrestrained, Grade told a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch today: I am not calling for it to be banned but I don't think we take enough care over the use of the F-word and similar words.

It used to be that you had to get very senior sign-off to use that word in any show. I am not sure what the rules are these days. Clearly not enough consideration is given to a very large section of the audience who don't want to hear that word or such words.

You have to know where you are using it and give it some extra consideration. It seems to be indiscriminate now.

The ITV executive chairman told journalists today he was trying very hard not to sound like an old so and so, but said it was something he felt strongly about.

He said he agreed with the BBC director general, Mark Thompson ,when he said that the Brand and Ross issue was not a marginal case.

They had strayed beyond what was acceptable. They strayed into territory that was pretty horrible and indefensible in any terms, Grade added.


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