back to article Ofcom slaps Beeb for Live Earth swearing

Ofcom has administered the BBC a stiff dressing-down over unexpurgated, pre-watershed swearing during its coverage of Live Earth on 7 July last year, and has directed Auntie to broadcast a summary of its findings on both BBC1 and 2. The Ofcom adjudication (pdf) explains: "22 viewers complained that the BBC broadcast …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Geez... what a bunch of uptight brits, it was LIVE and a MUSIC event, if people got offended by it then they are pretty clueless, because the context was a -music- event, so it's not out of character. If they had their kids watching such a thing, then they were being irresponsible parents. Down with Ofcom and those 22 brats!

  2. Steve Evans

    Missed opportunity there...

    "The BBC said in reply it had "taken note" of Ofcom's findings"

    Anyone with a sense of humour would have told them to "fuck off!"

    Sorry, mines the one with the feed the world patch on the back.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Why is OFCOM....

    f**king around with something only complained about by 26 uptight idiots. And phuckers like Phorm and BT get away with blatant law breaking??

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    UK misses live events

    Next time watch *live* on foreign tv: probably less edits :)

  5. Andy

    Come on guys...

    We're adults, and we've decided we're not offended by it, but there's no excuse for putting that kind of language on in front of children.

  6. Martin

    Nothing to see here...

    TBH, I think this is exactly as it should be. Its not like it is imposing multi-million fines and declaring it an absolute scandal, it is just saying it shouldn't have happened, you knew better, here is a slap on the wrist don't let it happen again. Whatever your personal opinion about swearing is, as a society there is a level picked that most people are happy to go along with. This requires every so often that if it is seen to be slipping some action may be required. In this case, not a big problem, not a big response, just say your sorry and move on. All the language about 'serious concerns' is just standard practise public relations drone saying what they think people want to here, and deserves no more attention.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    To the "uptight"-ers comments above:

    You realise that there ARE rules against this sort of thing, and that if you condone them breaking this rule- "it's not hurting anyone" you're pretty much condoning Phorm and BT's secret trials- they didn't hurt anyone either.

    Were the complained about instances part of a song? Or just addressing the crowd/viewers? And if it's part of the song, WHY THE HELL DIDN'T THE BEEB HAVE A BLEEP MACHINE GUY STANDING BY?! They can get a hold of the song off their own radio station and listen to it to find out when (or if) there's going to be inappropriate language present.

    And no, I'm not particularly uptight- especially about swearing. I just think that the Watershed should remain- keep a reasonably safe environment on TV for kids. Not sanitised, but just "safe"; by all means have swearing. But bleep it out. So there's an acknowledgement of the swearing and that people do it- rather than hiding the kids from it completely- but it's made "safer" and doesn't annoy as much as just muting the sound when someone swears.

    Even better, with modern interactive TV the bleeps could be held on a separate audio channel so if you wanted the unfiltered sound you get it.

    Though it does beg the question, do they subtitle these events? And if so, do they fuzz out the offending lyrics?

  8. Neil
    Thumb Down

    Power to the minority

    How much longer before live events are prohibited, period?

    Soon all communication between humans must be by means of digital recording sent via your local content filtration centre to protect the feelings of our resident population of uptight arseholes.

  9. Seán

    Generally Accepted Standards

    Seeing as only 22 people complained it would seem that generally accepted standards are that it's fine and dandy to swear. The 22 idiots should be told to fuck off and stop trying to control the thoughts and speech of others, the constipated fucktards. What kind of idiot children are they trying to rear these days with no swearing, it's only fun when you're a kid.

  10. Rachel

    22 complaints?

    A year later and this is still being worried about.

    Nice to know that 22 people can waste how much money? I mean, imagine all of the wasted time in meetings and research over a few curse words.

  11. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Bleeping bleepity bleep

    As far as I recall from when I was involved with the playout equipment, the Beeb doesn't bleep it's music, it plays the word backwards. But it's been a while, and I don't listen to the stations that are likely to be bleeped, and I can't get at a server at the moment to check.

    'Tain't gonna work on a live show though...

  12. Jason Hall

    taken note

    The swearing doesn't bother me at all... but I agree - let's try to keep TV civil during the hours most kids are around.

    The thing that bothers me the most though:

    "The BBC said in reply it had "taken note" of Ofcom's findings"

    What sort of wishy-washy reply is that?

    Wouldn't a "sorry" have been more in line with a ticking-off?

    If you ever watch the BBCs laughable right to reply (did i ge the name correct?) it's all they ever do.

    Someone writes in with a complain - and the BBC, even when obviously in the wrong, just says "we will take note of your opinion". Nothing more. Ever.


  13. iZmOliGy


    I am a foul mouthed c$*t myself and my daughter grew up hearing it all without self censorship.

    She isn't foul mouthed because of it and has learned that there are times when swearing is unacceptable because of others sensibilities. i.e don't swear in front of your gran, but when with friends it is fine.

    I have never believed that children needed protecting from words that someone somewhere has deemed to be offensive. I am sure that I could string together sentences that don't use foul language that would offend far more people than simply saying mother-fu@*3r.

  14. twelvebore

    Simpler solution...

    ... ban children from watching telly. It's not good for the little fat f**cks anyway. They should be outside getting some exercise. Or reading a book.

    Adults are increasingly being penned in and constrained by the "Won't Someone Think Of The Children" brigade. Can't put adult stuff on the Internet because children might "accidentally" stumble across it. Can't put adult stuff on TV because children might accidentally watch it. Sod that. Put the little buggers in the workhouse until they're 18. Look at Oliver Twist, he turned out OK!

    /modern parenting advice

  15. Dave

    Bleeping a live show with musicians - kidding right?

    Unless you have a delay edit in - like big brother it can't be done. Having had the misfortune to work with live musicians in radio it's absolutely impossible to get them not to swear - all we could do was apologise then kick them off the air/out of the competition we were running.

    By now the BBC should have a none-swearing clause in the contracts for performers/presenters (live) - swear and you'll be fined. Simple. If its none-live, its up to the editors to make sure it's censored appropriately for the time of day.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Listening to albums won't help

    Genesis were one of the groups who got the Beeb into trouble, and the album/single version of Invisible Touch doesn't have any fscking profanity in it. They just insert the profanity into their live performances.

    On the plus side, it gave Phil something to talk about during the 8/7 concert in London.

    Also, thinking about how to introduce the beep box, you'd need a delay loop that not only delays the speech but also the video. The specs for a system that can handle HD video streams at a high quality (i.e. probably uncompressed) make me shudder.

    And to Ofcom - any time you have musicians performing live, there is going to be swearing. Parents should realise this and if kiddies saw it, its their own fscking fault.

  17. Lewis Wernham

    Oh no!

    A whole fucking 22 motherfuckers complained! The poor fucking fuckers. Fuck 'em!

  18. Richard Wharram

    22 people ?

    22 people actually watched Live Earth ?

  19. Matt

    While I'm sick of "won't someone think of the kids"

    I think @Martin has got it about right.

  20. Mike Moyle

    A couple of points...

    I don't know about things in the UK, but on this side of the pond any live event used to be broadcast on a seven-second delay. It was still, effectively, real-time but was intended to give the director/engineer time to note the problem, switch to the delayed stream, and hit the squawk-button.

    Does no one do this anymore...?

    OTOH - I can see a BBC announcer reading the apology at 8:59:

    "The BBC would like to apologize for broadcasting the word "motherfucker" during the family-viewing period. It was totally unaccept... (Errrmm... Just a moment... Are we allowed to say that... Oh, dear...!) Uhhm... Sorry about that..."

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Live Earth

    The only good thing that came out of Live Earth was that it showed up Ricky Gervais as a very poor comedian. He just could not ad lib for a few minutes.

  22. Graham Wood
    IT Angle

    @Richard Wharram

    That's a very good point.

    22 complaints -> not much

    90% of the audience -> quite high.

    It's all dependant on how you view the stats.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worried about Kids hearing swear words?

    Fuck me, most of the little bastards around here swear more than I fucking do!

  24. Jamie

    22 different stay at home people complained.

    First tell the lazy bastards to get a job and a life.

    Second how many watch, say 1million (I have high hopes)

    22 people out of 1,000,000 complained

    That is 0.000022% of viewers. If you have 15-20% I can understand investigating but less than 1% should not warrent the waste of tax payers money. The only reason they don't mind complaining or the investigation (bastards that complained) is they don't pay tax so it does not mean anything to them. Thier children have probably heard worst at home with mommy and "uncle bob" fighting in the kitchen or bedroom.

  25. Liam


    i hear the F word about every 5 mins watching footy on the tv - wonder why that is so different ;)

    phuck em all :)

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Music concerts = swearing?

    The thing that gets me is how people here seem to think that if you go to a concert you *will* hear swearing. What sort of concerts do these people go to? No, don't bother, it's rhetorical - try getting a bit of culture instead. Sheesh.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Technology to the rescue...

    ...a 30s time delay, they can cut the sound of the offending swear words prior to the watershed... this is OLD technology, I don't see why they don't use it.

    So few complaints - it's so easy to do ( but I guess those complaining may not have had access to the internet...

    Kids as young as 5 must have been watching, the language really was unacceptable.

  28. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  29. Peter

    Sticks and stones...

    Nice one, Richard Wharram. LoL.

    Shame they didn't have a machine to bleep out various celebs standing up to proclaim the were 'Doing it for the future/their children/my children/not the new album out next month/new tour....' and then climbing in a Lear with their entourage to do a Hello spread on saving the Tesco turtle in the Maldives next week.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    No need for swearing

    I really don't care what you "Children" think. There is absolutely no excuse for a broadcaster or anyone else to swear in everyday conversation. It shows two things very clearly, one the swearing person has not matured enough to leave the thrill of saying the potty words behind in the playground, where it might have impressed the other children, and two it shows that they have a limited vocabulary, and cannot express themselves without the use of the F word. These people really have not much to impress people with in terms of talent or achievement and can only impress their audience with swearing. The sooner that you're finished reducing your vocabulary and are grunting again, then the sooner we can put you in cages and throw you bananas.

  31. Alistair MacRae

    22 People couldn't find the mute button?

    It's probably that group of people that sit by the phone watching TV waiting to be offended.

    Gives them a small sence of power! If they don't complain within a certain time they get withdrawl and start to get the shakes.

    I bet at least one of them recorded the event and translated the words just find something.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    10 hour delay : How to destroy broadcast TV

    Better solution: put the live global event on a 10 hour delay

    so it can only be seen after 9pm. It don't matter if the RotW have seen it before us.

    This will ensure it does not have to be edited - It would still get 22 complaints after 9pm.

    or watch it via an AOL live stream.

  33. Nano nano

    Meanwhile in the US ...

    .... effigies are burnt because Janet Jackson has a "Judy Finnigan" moment, a sight which could be seen any time there is a breastfeeding mother in the vicinity.

    Bodies are "natural", but casual swearing is just bad manners / lack of intelligence.

  34. The Jon

    Disproportionate Response

    IIRC, there were more complaints about the Metallica set being cut away from after half a song - are we going to get an OfCom ruling on that one?

  35. Michael

    delay broadcast?

    Sorry but all the BBC had to do was delay broadcast for 30-60 seconds to put in the bleeps. Problem solved. They should have done that after the complaints last time.

    The watershed exists, the BBC should comply with it. It isn't difficult.

    I agree there is little point in bleeping out words in songs as it infuriates me but I'll just buy the album if I want to hear the actual lyrics.

    For a change Ofcom appear to have been reasonable in their response.

  36. Dr Patrick J R Harkin


    "Seeing as only 22 people complained "

    yes, but we know one phone call equals a billion viewers, so that means 22 billion people were offended.

  37. Jon


    I am more offended at having to listen to a 2 min apology on BBC1 and BBC2. Some annoncer dronning on about the findings of the report, whats the point?

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Perhaps the best method is to simply flash up a 5 second warning (if it's pre-watershed) at the start of the broadcast:

    "This broadcast, due to its live and artistic content, may contain bad language."

    Oh, and...

    "The only good thing that came out of Live Earth was that it showed up Ricky Gervais as a very poor comedian. He just could not ad lib for a few minutes."

    I've been saying this for a while now - he really is a thoroughbred one trick pony.

  39. Joe Harrison

    Kids are worst little bleepers anyway

    I can take a gentle stroll in the sunshine around my local housing estate any day of the week and hear the local yoof sounding off an order of magnitude worse than anything the beeb can do. Not to mention the mums with toddlers "Tracey stop throwing teddy in the puddle you little shit!" Not saying I like it but hasn't Ofcom missed the boat slightly? They should go back to tut-tutting in their coffee mornings.

  40. Carl
    Thumb Down


    Erm, I personally think that the artists themselves should be responsible if anyone - if they're stood performing to a big crowd of people in front of TV cameras with the sun blazing down on them then they should probably exercise some constraint...

    Why should the beeb be punished? If you crack down on the beeb for broadcasting this sort of thing then you end up with them pre-emptively censoring things like the word 'Faggot' out of Christmas songs and we don't want that now do we?

    British-phono-dicks are currently trying to do similar things to make ISPs be responsible for what users do using their services I believe, and the head guy at CPW has told them to get fucked off - get some balls auntie.

    Oh yeah, and with respect to the profanity in the previous paragraph if you're under 18 or reading this comment before 9pm at night, I'm really fucking sorry....

    P.S. I'm sure that there would have been more than 22 complaints, but most of the kids were out suffocating people with plastic bags after learning how to do it from a computer game...

  41. Red Bren

    Won't someone think of the adults?

    Isn't it about time OFCOM cracked down on music TV channels that censor the swearing, drinking/smoking and nudity in videos shown AFTER the watershed?

    Censorship should only take place at the receiver, not the transmitter!

  42. Richard

    Misdirected efforts

    Let me get this straight...

    We have:

    Fraudsters conning people using 070 half-premium-rate numbers

    Companies using Automated Calling Equipment to make silent calls

    Fax Spam rife

    And all OFCOM care about is that 22 people in need of psychiatric help for emotional difficulties took offense at a few non-targeted air compression waveforms?

    (That is, after all, all swearing is).

    I think OFCOM seriously need to look at where they direct their efforts.

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