Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/06/05/ofcom_mtv_fine/

Ofcom slaps MTV with £255k fine

Pre-watershed cussing costs network dear

By Lester Haines

Posted in Bootnotes, 5th June 2008 11:06 GMT

Ofcom has imposed fines totalling £255,000 on MTV Networks for various breaches of the Broadcasting Code on channels TMF, MTV France, MTV UK and MTV Hits.

The network was charged with several infractions of the Code, viz: Rule 1.3: “Children must also be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them” (TMF, MTV UK, and MTV Hits); Rule 1.4: “Television broadcasters must observe the watershed” (TMF and MTV UK); Rule 1.14: “The most offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed or when children are particularly likely to be listening” (TMF, MTV UK and MTV Hits); Rule 2.3: “In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context” (MTV France and MTV Hits).

Specifically, TMF was slapped for its Ultimate 50 Videos which "featured a music video by the band Aphex Twin called Windowlicker, broadcast on 24 June 2006 at 20:20". Ofcom notes: "Four viewers complained about the repeated use of the words 'motherfucker', 'fuck you' and 'fuck'."

Ofcom adds: "Separately twelve viewers complained about the [TMF] broadcast on seven occasions on 24 July 2007 between 09:48 and 15:15 of a trailer for a factual entertainment programme called Totally Jodie Marsh which contained the following sentence: 'I just don’t want you settling down with some fucking wanker from a modelling agency'."

Regarding MTV France, Ofcom explains: "A viewer complained that racist and homophobic text messages in French were transmitted at around 01:00 in a programme called Belge Chat (transmitted on 24 December 2006 at 01:00). The translated texts said 'the white race will triumph', 'death to all immigrants', 'death to gays' and 'immigrants are going to fuck your mother'."

MTV UK, meanwhile, was responsible for multiple outrages. Ofcom elaborates: "At 16:30 on 25 September 2006 and 23 October 2006, MTV UK broadcast different editions of the same programme, Totally Boyband. This was a reality show following the launch of a new band. Three viewers complained to Ofcom that the programme transmitted on 25 September 2006 featured extensive offensive language including 'fuck', 'shit', and 'bollocks'.

"Two viewers complained to Ofcom that on 23 October 2006 another edition of the same programme contained such offensive language as 'a big cock', 'fucking boring', and 'fuck it up'."

Ofcom continues: "Never Before Scene: Superbad was a film review programme transmitted on 14 September 2007 at 09:00. A viewer complained that this programme broadcast foul language including 'what the fuck', 'hold his fucking hand…fucking hold my hand', and 'give me a fucking warning before you do that' that was inappropriate for transmission before the watershed."

To conclude the litany of profanity, Ofcom cites a couple of MTV Hits no-nos: "Mr Know It All is a text messaging service broadcast on screen by this music video channel. One viewer complained to Ofcom that the programme featured offensive texts transmitted on 22 January 2007 at around 19:30 such as: Q: 'What is a spunkbelly?' A: 'A "spunkbelly" is a collection of semen which has been consumed which collects in the stomach giving the appearance of a beerbelly. Very nice.'”

And finally, Ofcom concludes: "Totally Scott-Lee, transmitted on 15 August 2007 at 10:30, was a factual entertainment programme about a pop singer, Lisa Scott-Lee. Two viewers complained to Ofcom that the words 'fuck', 'fucked' and 'fucking' were repeatedly used in the programme and that this was inappropriate for transmission before the watershed."

Ofcom notes that MTV had "since September 2007 taken a number of steps to strengthen and improve its compliance systems and procedures appreciably", "admitted and apologised for all the breaches" and "cooperated fully with Ofcom’s investigations".

However, in deciding to impose a "substantial financial penalty", Ofcom considered principally the "serious, persistent and repeated nature of the breaches", noting that they "occurred following earlier, repeated and specific warnings to MTV Networks from Ofcom" and that "the contraventions of the Code had the potential to cause considerable harm and offence to viewers in general and to children in particular".

Ofcom adds: "Pop video and entertainment channels like those controlled by MTV Networks attract large numbers of viewers under fifteen, and so have a responsibility to these children and their parents to ensure their compliance arrangements are robust and effective. MTV Networks failed in its responsibility."

The total fine of £255,000 breaks down as follows: £80,000 on TMF; £35,000 on MTV France; £80,000 on MTV UK; and £60,000 on MTV Hits.

Ofcom's full adjudication can be found here (pdf). ®