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Ofcom slaps Beeb for Live Earth swearing

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Ofcom has administered the BBC a stiff dressing-down over unexpurgated, pre-watershed swearing during its coverage of Live Earth on 7 July last year, and has directed Auntie to broadcast a summary of its findings on both BBC1 and 2.

The Ofcom adjudication (pdf) explains: "22 viewers complained that the BBC broadcast unacceptable language before the watershed during this programme. There were six instances of performers using the most offensive language, such as 'motherfucker' and other variants of the word 'fuck'".

Although the BBC broadcast an apology for the multiple outrages, Ofcom notes that "there was in some cases a considerable delay in the broadcast of an apology".

It further states: "The breaches involved the repeated use of the most offensive language before the watershed; the breaches involved the transmission of some of the most offensive language at a time children were likely to be in the audience (in the afternoon on a Saturday); the BBC had previously been made aware that Ofcom had serious concerns over compliance failures with regard to the broadcast of similar and/or comparable events*; and the BBC had failed to deploy effective and appropriate procedures to prevent the broadcast of the most offensive language in a ‘live’ music event."

Accordingly, Ofcom ruled that the BBC had breached two sections of its broadcasting code: Rule 1.14 ("the broadcast of the most offensive language before the watershed"); and Rule 2.3 ("in applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context").

Ofcom said it would not impose a financial penalty for the breaches, but ordered: "The Committee considered that a direction to broadcast a statement of Ofcom’s findings on each of BBC1 and BBC2 in a form to be determined by Ofcom and on a specified occasion is a sufficient, and the most appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case.

"Such a statement would alert viewers to Ofcom’s decisions and the BBC’s repeated failure to comply with the Code, and through the adverse publicity created, act as an effective disincentive for the BBC not to repeat the sanctionable conduct."

The BBC said in reply it had "taken note" of Ofcom's findings. ®

Bootnote

*Specifically, 2005's Live8 concert, similarly foul-mouthed.

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