BBC criticised for chef’s outburst

Latest Ofcom Programme Complaints

The TV Regulator Ofcom has upheld a complaint about a programme in the BBC series Trouble at the Top broadcast on BBC2 in March this year.

A viewer had complained about former Michelin-starred chef, Tom Aitken, exclaiming “Jesus Fucking Christ” after an upset in his kitchen.

In its adjudication published today, Ofcom found that, although the programme was transmitted after the watershed, the language was particularly offensive and could not be justified by the context of the programme.

In the same report, however, Ofcom cleared ITV1 of a breach of the Code arising from the inclusion of the phrase “Jesus shitting Christ” in an episode of Footballers’ Wives. The regulator considered that the programme would attract a higher than normal percentage of younger viewers (16-34 year-olds) and that they were “generally more tolerant of such language.”

The watchdog issued the following guidance about profanity:

As with all strong language, broadcasters must ensure that its use is limited and appropriate to both the context and the editorial needs of the programme. However, broadcasters should be aware that the use of bad language directly coupled with holy names may have a particular impact on people with strongly held beliefs which goes beyond any offence that may be caused by the bad language itself. For people with strongly held religious beliefs, of whatever faith, such a combination almost invariably means the use is highly offensive to them.

In addition to the editorial justification, broadcasters should also take into account:

  • the individual impact of the particular swearword;
  • the type of programme in which it appears. For example, in dramas and films, character and plot development may lessen the impact of such a phrase, whereas in a documentary, while a phrase can reflect the reality of a person or group, it may be less acceptable to the wider audience of viewers;
  • the likely size and composition of audience;
  • the audience expectation;
  • the scheduling; and
  • whether information before or during the programme may lessen potential offence.”

Ofcom is the new super regulator for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services.

Click here for the full Ofcom Programme Complaints Bulletin.

Wives can swear but not the BBC, rules watchdog – Media Guardian