Ofcom have a regular whinge at strong language that slips out before the watershed. Broadcasters usually explain the accidental slip up. The latest examples are;
Pick TV, 11 January 2012, 18:00
Road Wars is a fly-on-the-wall documentary featuring the work of traffic police squads in the UK and USA. The licence for Pick TV is held by British Sky Broadcasting Ltd (Sky or the Licensee).
Ofcom was alerted to offensive language in this broadcast by two complainants. During this episode, a man was arrested on suspicion of possessing Class A drugs and taken to a police station. On the way to the station, the man became violent and during an altercation that followed he used offensive language. The words fuck or fucking were broadcast five times.
Ofcom considered Rule 1.14 of the Code, which states:
The most offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed….
Sky apologised for any offence caused to viewers by the broadcast of offensive language in this programme. The Licensee said that upon discovering the incident it launched an immediate investigation and concluded that the broadcast of this post- watershed version of Road Wars resulted from human error.
Sony Entertainment Television, 29 January 2012, 20:00
Hanging Up is a comedy drama in which three dysfunctional sisters clash over who should take on the burden of looking after their ailing father. The film has been given a 15 certificate rating by the BBFC.
A complainant alerted Ofcom to the use of the word fucking in this broadcast of the film. Approximately 40 minutes into the film there is the following interchange between sisters Maddy and Eve:
Maddy: I’ve told you a million times, stop talking to me as if I’m like you!
Eve: Oh, fuck you! [turns to another character] And fuck you!
Sony said that the unedited version of this film carried a restriction that should have automatically prevented it from being scheduled before 9pm, but that a software upgrade on 5 November had disabled a block automatically preventing this post-watershed content from being scheduled before the watershed.
Ofcom concluded in both cases that the words ‘fuck’ and ‘fucking’ broadcast before the watershed were a clear breach of Rule 1.14.
Ofcom Warning to Broadcasters
Ofcom further decided to publish a general warning to broadcasters against ‘fucking’ accidents
Ofcom has recently noted a number of cases where material which was originally produced for a post-watershed timeslot has been transmitted unedited or inappropriately edited for transmission pre-watershed or when children are particularly likely to be listening. This material often contains unsuitable language or violence. In such cases broadcasters frequently explain that such failures have occurred as a result of transmission and/or human errors.
All broadcasters are reminded that they are under a clear duty to ensure that robust procedures are in place, supported by a sufficient number of appropriately qualified and trained staff, to ensure full compliance with the Code.
All broadcasters must check their compliance procedures regularly to confirm they are effective enough to fulfil this requirement. Failure to have adequate procedures in place to ensure compliance with Ofcom’s codes is a serious matter.
Ofcom recently made clear that it expects broadcasters to exercise particular care in relation to the protection of children and the compliance of material broadcast before the watershed on television, and on radio when children are particularly likely to be listening.
Broadcasters are put on notice that any serious or repeated failings in this area are likely to result in Ofcom taking further regulatory action, for example, the consideration of the imposition of statutory sanctions
The Daily Mail prodded Vivienne Pattison of Mediawatch-uk for a sound bite:
I’m really glad that Ofcom is taking it seriously because it is something we have brought up with them.
What I would really like to see is for them to show teeth and rather than a rap on the knuckles I would like to see some serious censure. We need real and meaningful sanctions.
I think what people want is a regulator with teeth that can show some leadership and be taken seriously.’