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More swearing

Peter Rippon | 13:32 UK time, Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Following Kevin's posting about swearing on News 24, we also used the F-word on PM yesterday at about seven minutes past five in the afternoon. However, we did not do it by accident. We chose to do it.

The PM programme logoMy initial thought was there was no way we could use it, but after discussing the tone and context we decided we should, but with a "health warning".

Radio Four listeners expect adult journalism. We felt that Abdul Kahar's account of the first words the police spoke to him was a powerful punctuation point in the story he was telling. As such, it was a really important moment in the narrative and to lose it would have detracted from the impact. The word was also used a couple of other times in the news conference, but we felt that in those cases we could avoid using it because they were not so integral to the story.

So far we have had only two complaints. Very few. In the past we've had far more from listeners complaining we are being patronising when we've bleeped swear words.

We do try to avoid offensive language whenever possible. Each case is different. I recently apologised to listeners who were rightly offended that we had used the word "shag". In that case we got it wrong and the tone and context in which we used it were not justified. It was my fault. A producer asked me if it was OK to say shag and I assumed it was being used to mean exhausted or knackered. We ended up with a contributor advising the new England manager to make sure his players did not "shag prostitutes". It was completely out of context.


  • 1.
  • At 12:00 PM on 16 Jun 2006,
  • incredulous wrote:

"I assumed it was being used to mean exhausted or knackered"

..a journalist who is that innocent? Wonders will never cease...

  • 2.
  • At 09:13 AM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • James Ashdown wrote:

I feel that the point made about patronising is quite true. Some people take it too far when complaining about use of language and need to "get a life!"

  • 3.
  • At 09:15 AM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • lee perkins wrote:

I beleive using swear words in certain stories can be appropriate, but only when the story would not have the same impact if they were left out, however I think they should be used as little as possible especially during early hours of the day when children may be listening.

  • 4.
  • At 09:17 AM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • Carly Owen wrote:

I think that the use of certain 'swear words' is not necessarily appropriate, yet can have an effect on the way that an audience perceive or receive a certain news story. Words should not be used out of context, yet not be feared to use on certain occasions in fear of upsetting viewers or offending by use of 'bad language', which is actually not seen as a particularly awful thing in today's society. However, swearing should be kept to being used after the 9pm watershed, as it can influence younger viewers in certain news stories.

  • 5.
  • At 09:22 AM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • Kim Stirk wrote:

I feel the use of swear words is inappropriate in any context before the watershed. It could lead to younger viewers believing offensive language is acceptable.
Mature viewers may wish to hear the swear word in the quote as it can change the way the text is percieved. I think that swear words should be prohibited until a time where youths are not going to watch.
Young children think it is necessary to swear to be cool so why endorse this ridiculous belief

  • 6.
  • At 09:31 AM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • Lawrence Dwane wrote:

I agree that using the word in this instance is justified. I do not think that swearing should be used frequently, and in most cases when it is used it should bleeped. However, selective use such as in this case, when it really helps to convey the emotional impact of the situation, should be allowed. There is obviously an issue with young people being exposed to the language, but I believe that in an exceptional case like this, we should see it unedited.

  • 7.
  • At 03:03 PM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • Rachael Phillips wrote:

I strongly disagree that swearing on national radio in the middle of the afternoon is justified. Although people claim that you lose the impact of the story if the swear word is 'beeped' out, who is to say if and when the swear word is appropriate. If a swear word is occasionally allowed then where does it stop? Eventually more and more swearing will be generated on the radio. Editors have a huge amount of responsiblity in whether swearing has a significance or not, and when will they draw the line. Knowing whether or not the swear word is appropriate is an opinion, and it should be either not allowed at all or swearing will must be accepted across all the channels.

  • 8.
  • At 11:59 AM on 21 Jun 2006,
  • Nadia wrote:

More swearing?

Depending when and in what context swearing is used, for instance I'd disagree with morning and afternoon news slots using 'bad language' as children are more likely to be affected, as they are more impressionable and influenced by the media,I feel a later slot may have been more appropriate.

The BBC I feel has a duty of care to its viewers, both young and old.Swearing is used everyday in society and is a reflection of the public and how we interact with each other, so using it in the News depending on the circumstances is fine.

  • 9.
  • At 10:18 AM on 26 Jun 2006,
  • Ruby wrote:

As radio 4 is aimed at a mature audience I think that the use of swear words (only if integral to the story) is acceptable. This does not mean that I condone the use of taboo lexis when it is unnecessary, especially when, as in this scenario, the broadcast is being made in a 'family time'. But I think that if listeners are concerned that their child may hear something unappropriate, they need to be aware of the fact that Radio 4 is a station which discusses controversial subjects aimed at an adult audience, so it is the parent's responsiblity, rather than Radio 4, to decide whether or not it is appropriate for their child to listen.

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