Dogged Censorship…Ofcom bitches at the World’s Crazy Fools

Posted: 27 October, 2014 in Ofcom TV Censor
Tags: , ,
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worlds craziest fools World’s Craziest Fools
BBC3, 30 June 2014, 19:00

World’s Craziest Fools is a series of programmes presented by actor and professional wrestler Mr T. Video clips of people acting foolishly are shown accompanied by humorous voiceovers from the presenter.

A complainant alerted Ofcom to the use of offensive language during an episode shown on 30 June 2014 at 19:00. About five minutes into the programme the song Move Bitch by the rapper Ludacris was used as background music to accompany a montage of clips showing car drivers behaving in various stupid or dangerous ways.

Ofcom noted 25 instances of bitch which were clearly audible while the song was played. The duration of the montage using the music was about two minutes.

Ofcom consider Rule 1.16:

Offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed unless it is justified by the context. In any event, frequent use of such language must be avoided before the watershed .

Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 1.16

Ofcom’s guidance on Rule 1.16 makes clear that:

Milder language in the early part of the evening may be acceptable, for example, if mitigated by a humorous context. However, in general, viewers and listeners do not wish to hear frequent or regular use of such language, including profanity, before 2100 .

Our research on offensive language noted that the word bitch is considered by audiences to be offensive language of medium acceptability which they group with other words considered to be stronger swear words. This research said that, although some thought there were contexts where it was acceptable to use this word pre-watershed, audiences considered that care needed to be taken , particularly where children were likely to be listening or watching and where programmes were intended to be family viewing.

Ofcom noted that there were 25 audible uses of the word bitch in this one item in the programme over a period of two minutes. In our view it was therefore clear that in this pre-watershed programme there was frequent use of offensive language.

We took account of the various points made by the BBC which it suggested helped to mitigate the offence caused by this repeated use of offensive language. These included that the use of this song in conjunction with a montage of traffic and parking clips made clear that in this context the song was intended to be comedic, rather than offensive towards women. Nonetheless we noted that the programme was pre-recorded, and there was therefore an opportunity for the producers to research and reflect on this choice of music for a pre-watershed programme.

The BBC also argued that any potential offence was mitigated by the humorous nature of the programme in general, and blunted, rather than intensified by its repetition. However, Rule 1.16 requires that the frequent use of offensive language must be avoided before the watershed. Ofcom’s research on offensive language2 indicates that some audiences feel that the frequent use of a word can increase its offensiveness. In Ofcom’s view, therefore, the repeated use of the word bitch in this song did not blunt the potential offence caused.

Breach of Rule 1.16

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