Tuesday, August 16, 2005


We sometimes feel Ofcom's judgements can be sometimes a little over-conservative in attempting to keep our airwaves pure and unpolluted from foulness, which makes it even more surprising that they're not bothered about the swearing of Geldof[pdf document] on Daytime TV when Live 8 was being launched. Now, we're a little surprised anyone bothered to ring up and complain anyway, but as they did, presumably Geldof should be judged on the same standards as anyone else? Only it doesn't seem like it:

Swearwords of this strength are almost always unacceptable pre-watershed. We appreciate that the words were, in the main, used to convey a great strength of feeling. News channels do have an overwhelmingly adult audience and it was clear that, on this occasion, the language had not been used to intentionally shock or sensationalise. However we appreciate Sky News’ recognition of the issue and the steps it took to address this and prevent further occurrences. In these very unusual circumstances, we consider that the language would not have exceeded the expectations of the majority watching these channels. However we would not expect to see a repetition of this and certainly not for such language to become commonplace, despite the target audience of a channel for its pre-watershed programmes. In the future, we would expect pre-watershed news bulletins to include such language only when the language, itself, is the story, rather than being incidental to it.

We've read and re-read this, and yet we still can't quite grasp what the "very unusual circumstances" actually were - was it special simply because it was Bob? Don't many press conferences feature people passionate about what they believe in, who might use the odd 'fuck' to demonstrate how passionate they feel - yet, it seems, Ofcom is making it clear that they're not giving a blank cheque for other passionate types to throw in the odd sweary bit. So we can only conclude that, yes, Bob Geldof does have some special place in the Ofcom code which allows him to swear.

It almost makes you feel sorry for Richard Littlejohn (not something you feel everyday), who got slapped down when a piece of film of him saying "fuck" went out accidently on Sky News. This also was on a news channel, this also wasn't intended to shock or sensationalise, and is no more than you'd expect from someone like Littlejohn - so it's curious to think that Ofcom decided that was a breach of the code while Geldof wasn't. We'd love to see Ofcom taking a more grown-up attitude to language, thinking more about context and motivation, but we'd like to see that as a policy being applied to all, not simply because Bob Geldof is above criticism.

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