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A poster for Magners cider that featured the words 'Feck off bees' has been cleared by the UK's advertising watchdog. The word 'feck' is unlikely to be seen as a swearword, said the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

In contrast, the ASA ruled last month that the word 'bloody' is an offensive word.

The poster for Magners cider, which appeared on underground trains, showed a photograph of a man in an orchard. Beneath the headline 'Feck off bees' was a quote attributed to an orchard keeper: "We have beehives. The beekeepers come and they leave the bees here, in the open orchards. I like to walk by the lake at lunch. The bees buzz my bald patch. We need the bees for pollination. Personally, I don't like bees."

A person complained that the phrase 'feck off' was offensive, especially because it appeared on a poster and could therefore be seen by children.

Wm Magners Ltd said the claim 'Feck off bees' was not intended to offend but was intended to be true to the storyteller, an orchard keeper in his sixties, and was merely a mild rebuff to the bees. The company argued that the image was "meditative and did not seek to shout or be upsetting in any way," according to the ruling.

Magners argued that the term 'feck' had been in usage since the 1800s and, in Ireland, the term was used in informal, everyday colloquial conversation with different meanings. It said it could be used to mean 'to steal', 'to throw' or 'to leave hastily'. The ASA noted Magners' comments about the use of the word 'feck' in Ireland.

"We considered that the use of the word 'feck' in Britain had been popularised by TV programmes such as Father Ted. We also considered that the tone of the ad was not aggressive or threatening," it said.

"We considered that the term 'feck' was unlikely to be seen as a swearword and the poster was therefore unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to adults and was not unsuitable for a medium where it could be seen by children," ruled the ASA.

The ASA concluded that there was no breach of decency rules.

Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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