Ofcom have devoted the latest Complaints Bulletin to a whinge at strong language in the lyrics of songs aired on daytime radio.
Ofcom started off with a note:
Note to Broadcasters Offensive language in radio programming
This issue of the Broadcast Bulletin contains a number of findings relating to the use of offensive language in radio programming. In view of our concerns about the material in these cases, especially those broadcast when children were particularly likely to have been listening, we will be requesting that a number of radio broadcasters across the industry who transmit such programming attend a meeting at Ofcom to discuss the compliance of such material.
Ofcom then had a go at several radio stations eg:
Rory’s Reggae Roots
23 February 2011, 15:00
Brick FM is a community radio station providing a service for the people of St Boswells, Newton St Boswells and the surrounding area in the Scottish Borders. It has been on air since January 2008 and the output is presented by volunteers. The licence is held by Brick FM. One of Brick FM’s key commitments is to establish links with local primary schools, who will be encouraged to visit the station and to make their own programmes. It also aims to appeal to the different age demographics of the local community.
When monitoring the station’s output on Wednesday, 23 February 2011, Ofcom identified various instances of offensive language. For example, after welcoming ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls a guest DJ proceeded to play songs that contained offensive language:
- at 15:07 a song (More Punany by Dr Evil) containing two instances of the word fuck was broadcast; and
- at 15:24 a song (Pass Out by Tinie Tempah) containing five instances of the word fucking was broadcast.
Note Punany or punani is an urban slang word meaning vagina.
Ofcom considered that the content raised issues that warranted investigation under the following Code rules:
- Rule 1.14: The most offensive language must not be broadcast … when children are particularly likely to be listening (in the case of radio).
- Rule 2.3: In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.
Brick FM said that a punany was a sandwich sold locally and is made of Italian bread with cheese and tomato which is heated up and therefore did not accept the song More Punany had sexual connotations.
Brick FM also maintained that the word fuck is a commonly used word in Scotland, as a description, when something goes wrong or if they get angry or upset rather than a sexual act. It argued that it had the right to use the commonly spoken word which is not considered offensively locally and claimed that Ofcom was unfamiliar with our [its] local dialect.
Ofcom Decision: In Breach of Code
Ofcom’s research on offensive language indicates that the word fuck and its derivatives are examples of the most offensive language. Ofcom noted seven instances of the most offensive language in the material it was monitoring. The Code states (see Rule 1.5) the phrase when children are particularly likely to be listening largely refers to the school run and breakfast time but might include other times. Ofcom noted that the two songs in question were broadcast between 15:07 and 15:27 on a weekday and that they were introduced by the Guest DJ welcoming ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Regardless of this programme’s intended adult audience, we therefore concluded it was particularly likely that children were listening at this time, and there was a breach of Rule 1.14 as regards the expletives broadcast between 15:07 and 15:27.
Irrespective of whether the word fuck is used in a sexual context or as an expression of anger, our research indicates the word and its derivatives are examples of the most offensive language. Ofcom therefore does not accept Brick FM’s argument that the word is not considered offensive in Scotland. In Ofcom’s view, the broadcast of this language clearly had the potential to offend.
Ofcom noted the lyrics to the song More Punany contain the following:
last night I had a crazy threesome
I like to see the girls in the sexy bikini ni ni Want to take my chilli and push it between ni ni
I like pun-na-na-na-ni even if it’s a virgin
Ofcom rejected Brick FM?s comments as to punany referring to a local sandwich. The word was clearly used in this song as urban slang word meaning vagina, and it was used in a sexual context. While Ofcom’s research (2005) on the word punani is unclear as to whether it is widely regarded as the most offensive language, this word does have the potential to offend.
This context was not in Ofcom’s view, sufficient to justify the potential offence caused, the broadcaster did not apply generally accepted standards and there was a breach of Rule 2.3 of the Code.
Ofcom has serious concerns about Brick FM’s approach to compliance and may consider regulatory action if further breaches occur.
Breaches of Rules 1.14 and 2.3
Ofcom made whinged similarly at:
- Howard Taylor at Breakfast, Total Star – Wiltshire, 20 May 2011, 06:00
- School’s Out, Bishop FM, 8 June 2011, 18:13
Ofcom also considered strong language in the following:
- Radio 1′s Big Weekend, BBC Radio 1, 14 May 2011, 19:50
- BBC Introducing in Essex, BBC Radio Essex, 6 May 2011, 19:00
- James Barr, Capital Radio East Midlands (Leicester), 14 May 2011, 19:28 24
But didn’t record a breach of rules after explanations of strong language appearing unexpectedly in live performance and being misled by musicians with regards to the lyrics.
Brick FM Not Impressed
See article from heraldscotland.com
Jesse Rae, head of broadcasting at Brick FM, founded four years ago and run by volunteers, said this explanation was the result of genuine innocence on behalf of station director Dave Elliot, who did not know what the word meant.
No one complained about these things, no one heard them, he said. We broadcast 24 hours a day and this is all they can come up with, these seven minutes — what are they trying to do?
The panini thing is just innocence and that is the truth, and Ofcom cannot comprehend that.