Fair Comment…Ofcom forgives policing minister for a reference to Theresa May as a ‘fuckwit’

Posted: 14 July, 2014 in Ofcom TV Censor, TV News
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daily politics logo Daily Politics
BBC 2, 22 May 2014, 12:00

Daily Politics is a live political discussion programme that broadcasts on weekdays at lunchtime.

Two of the guests featured in the episode shown on 22 May 2014 were Conservative MP Nick Herbert, the former Minister of State for Police and Criminal Justice, and Peter Kirkham, a former Detective Chief Inspector. During a discussion about the tense relations between some in the police force and the Government, Mr Herbert said:

I’m afraid there have been a minority who have been outspoken and they are very active on Twitter and so on. Peter [Kirkham] himself, just a day ago, described the Home Secretary as ‘a fuckwit’ on his own Twitter line .

Ofcom noted that the presenter, Jo Coburn, immediately said to Mr Herbert:

we won’t have any more of that .

In addition, Ms Coburn apologised at the end of the programme by saying:

I have to apologise for the earlier expletive used and expressed by the former Policing Minister Nick Herbert. Unacceptable, won’t be repeated .

Ofcom received five complaints from viewers who objected to Mr Herbert’s use of the word fuckwit and considered it unsuitable given that the programme was broadcast during the day.

Ofcom considered Rule 1.14:

The most offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed

The BBC told Ofcom that no briefing of Mr Herbert had taken place before the broadcast. It said it is not usual practice to give such briefings to MPs and former Government ministers as it is reasonably assumed that figures in political life are aware of the need to avoid using offensive language .

Ofcom Decision: Resolved

While this was clearly a case of the most offensive language being broadcast before the watershed, Ofcom recognised that the programme was broadcast live and Mr Herbert used the word when directly quoting the online comment of another guest to illustrate the tense relations between some in the police force and the Government. Ofcom also recognised that the likelihood of a significant number of children watching was very small, given that Daily Politics is a programme of limited appeal to younger viewers and this episode was shown at lunchtime during school term time. These factors reduced the potential for offence caused by the use of fuckwit .

Further, Ofcom noted that the programme’s presenter, Jo Coburn, made it immediately clear to Mr Herbert that the use of offensive language should not be repeated, before apologising to viewers at the end of the programme.

Given the above, Ofcom considers the matter resolved.

Ofcom reminds all broadcasters that they should consider carefully their processes for briefing guests appearing on live programmes.

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