Weasel words and bullshit

I wrote to the BBC a week or so ago, thusly:

I would like to complain about the lack of consistency in the BBC’s policy on what some may consider ‘bad language’ on the radio.This afternoon, 15/11/08, I was listening to the afternoon play on Radio 4 and I heard the word ‘shit’, some 6 hours *before* the 9 o’ clock watershed.

This prompts me to ask why such a word would not be broadcast on, for example,a phone-in on Radio 5 Live at midnight – well *after* the watershed.
It really brought home to me – after the Brand/Ross debacle – how your organization really lacks a coherent policy regarding such language. Don’t misread what I’m saying – I really don’t care what I hear on the radio as I can figure out how to use the on/off switch – I’m simply complaining about a fundamental lack of any joined-up thinking behind your policy regarding so-called bad language on the radio.

Here’s their reply:

Thank you for your email.

I understand after hearing bad language on the ‘Afternoon Play’ on Radio 4, it has prompted you to express your concerns regarding the BBC’s policy on bad language.

While I appreciate your concerns, it is important to understand BBC Radio does not operate a watershed policy in the same way as television. Our research shows that the number of children or young people listening to Radio 2, 3 and 4 is so minimal as to hardly register. Radio 1 and Radio Five Live’s popularity with younger listeners brings with it special responsibility which the stations take very seriously.

We try to provide programmes of adult interest at times most convenient for a general audience without imposing unnecessary restrictions on writers and artists. This is a difficult area of judgement. We are guided by our experience of public reaction and our understanding of the kind of audiences drawn to particular programmes. The constant feedback from our audiences helps us know what material is and is not acceptable to them.

I hope this explains why policy regarding bad language is not the same as television, however in the meantime, I will certainly register your comments on our audience log for the attention of our programme makers and senior management.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact the BBC.


R*** J****
BBC Complaints

Interesting, but totally typical of the BBC – and indeed any large organisation that gets criticised. Bullshit and a total inability to answer the question in a meaningful and instructive manner.

Five Live is popular with younger listeners? I doubt it.

And if the size of the audience is so important in radio, why not with TV? Very few children watch BBC4, so why can’t I hear ‘shit’ on there before the watershed?


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