Monday, February 20, 2006


Last year, Ofcom had 55 complaints from people whose reaction to the Live8 gig was not that it was obscene that so many people live on nothing in this world, nor even that an attempt to do something about was hijacked into promoting soft drinks companies and mobile phone operators, but that some people said a rude. Ofcom has now investigated, and said the BBC didn't do enough to stop people swearing on the broadcast [pdf document], and didn't apologise enough:

The swearing and offensive language referred to by the complainants started at just before 18:00 when coverage from Berlin of “Green Day” performing “American Idiot” included the word “fuck”. This was followed at approximately 18:30 by Snoop Dogg’s performance, which included swearing and racially offensive terms almost from the start (“motherfucker”, “fuck”, “nigga”, “shit”, “bitch” and “blood claats”). This set lasted for nearly 15 minutes. Following that, expletives (“fucking”) were used by two performers at 18:56 and 19:18. The subtitles for these performers’ speech (at 18:56 and 19:18) also included the words “fucking”. The BBC state that it was not possible for it to apologise for Snoop Dogg’s performance as it was not aware of the content until twenty minutes later. Yet, as noted above, there were other incidents that occurred over a period of nearly one hour and twenty minutes and for which apologies were not given. The latter incidents occurred during a time when, according to the BBC, it had regained control of its compliance arrangements.

What is really fascinating is the reasos the BBC gave for having no senior staff available during Snoop's gig:

The broadcaster said that normal procedures had been put in place to deal with unexpected strong language, including plans for an on-screen apology at the first available opportunity if necessary. The BBC said that, as The Live8 Story documented, tensions had existed even before the concert. On the day itself however, one repeated theme was the problem of the concert potentially overrunning, due to the number of bands performing, and, if it did, how people would get home on public transport. During Snoop Dogg’s performance, as shown in The Live8 Story, an emergency meeting was held to discuss the problem. This placed great pressure on the concert’s organisers which had repercussions for the BBC’s production team. The timing of the meeting was not of the BBC’s choosing – indeed no-one from the BBC was present at the meeting.
Perhaps as a result, there was a confrontation between the organisers and senior editorial figures from the BBC which meant that the two key BBC editorial personnel missed much of the performance by Snoop Dogg and were unable to set the apology procedure in motion. At the same time, other BBC personnel were involved in dealing with other serious operational problems (such as the virtual collapse of the cellphone system which made any communication extremely difficult) and the difficulties which the overrunning of the event would have caused with relation to link-ups with other broadcasters. Therefore no apology was made as the key BBC personnel were unaware of the problem until approximately twenty minutes later, as they were fully occupied dealing with other issues. Had they been, Jonathan Ross would have been instructed to make a full apology on behalf of the BBC. By the time the extent of the problem during Snoop Dogg’s performance became apparent to the senior BBC editorial team, it was felt that the moment for a full apology had passed and that to have returned to the issue would have merely drawn further attention to the original offence.

Confrontation, they say? Part of the problem, of course, might have been down to Live8 putting Snoop on at teatime in the first place. It's equally incredible that the organisers hadn't planned what they were going to do when, as would be inevitable, the thing over-ran.