Krusty Ofcom…TV censor finds that the word ‘bastard’ is unacceptable for daytime showings of The Simpsons

Posted: 2 August, 2014 in Ofcom TV Censor
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Simpsons Season 11 Complete DVD The Simpsons
Channel 4, 9 April 2014, 18:00

The Simpsons is an irreverent animated comedy produced in the USA, with an appeal to a mixed audience of children and adults, and broadcast by Channel 4 at 18:00 on weekdays.

Seven complainants alerted Ofcom to the broadcast of the word bastard , which they considered inappropriate at this time of day and in a programme which appeals to children.

Ofcom viewed a recording and noted the following comment by the character Krusty the Clown around 18:23:

…who needs friends? The incessant beep of the global positioning system is all the companionship I need… [Krusty receives an electric shock as he pats the box, and, in anger, throws it out of his boat] Tell me where you are now, you bastard!

Ofcom considered Rule 1.16 of the Code, which states:

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

Channel 4 said that Ofcom will appreciate that the word ‘bastard’ is not the strongest language but nonetheless it considered: it was inappropriate for inclusion in an episode of The Simpsons at 18:00 in this context . It apologised for any offence that may have been caused and said it gave careful consideration to scheduling programmes at times when children were expected to be viewing to protect children from unsuitable content.

Ofcom Decision: resolved

Ofcom research on offensive language indicates that the word bastard is thought to be a stronger swear word and that, while some people consider there are some contexts in which this word is acceptable on television pre-watershed, care needs to be taken over its use.

Ofcom did not consider the use of bastard at 18:00 in this context in a programme like The Simpsons, with a clear appeal to children2, and broadcast on a public service channel with a broad audience, was justified by the context or in line with audience expectations.

However Ofcom has taken into account that: this failure was the result of an apparently isolated and unusual set of circumstances; Channel 4 proactively and quickly took steps to identify the cause of the issue and avoid the risk of a recurrence; and, Channel 4 apologised for any offence caused.

In light of these factors, Ofcom considers the matter resolved.

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