BBC BLOGS - The Editors
« Previous | Main | Next »

Risk of swearing

Kevin Bakhurst Kevin Bakhurst | 15:07 UK time, Tuesday, 13 June 2006

In a news conference this morning given by the two men arrested - and now released - after the Forest Gate raid, some strong language was used.

BBC News 24 logoOne of the men, Mohammed Abdul Kahar, said: "He [a policeman] just kicked me in my face and kept on saying 'shut the fuck up'. I said: 'Please I cannot breathe'."

What to do when you're broadcasting it live, as we were on News 24?

Well, we try to assess the risk of swearing or legal issues before we go to a live event and minimise this if possible. Sometimes we even use a minor delay. In this case, I'm afraid it was unexpected and unforeseen - and the brothers said they were directly quoting the police.

We apologised afterwards - but I think the audience understand that sometimes these things are out of our hands, and viewers on a news channel are very understanding and tolerant when it occasionally happens.


  • 1.
  • At 04:16 PM on 13 Jun 2006,
  • Pat wrote:

All very interesting Kevin, but really - a 2 second delay would have done the job. Why on earth isn't this policy across the board?

  • 2.
  • At 10:25 PM on 13 Jun 2006,
  • Brian wrote:

it'd be interesting to know if anyone actually does complain about this...

  • 3.
  • At 10:08 AM on 14 Jun 2006,
  • Chris Martin wrote:

I think that it is a great idea to have a couple of seconds delay. But when it is live and someone swears all you can do is aplolgise!

  • 4.
  • At 10:10 AM on 14 Jun 2006,
  • Luke Nichols wrote:

I think that having a delay to controll the language used is a good idea, as the strong language spoken in such events could offende younger viewers.
But it is important to show the velocity police can have.

  • 5.
  • At 10:12 AM on 14 Jun 2006,
  • Matthew Vickers wrote:

I think that it is ok to have the swearing broadcasted as long as you had a warning at the start. It is hard to control live television and I think that people understand this and do not mind.

  • 6.
  • At 10:20 AM on 14 Jun 2006,
  • Redd wrote:

Personally,I dont see the need to raise all this. He swore once. Once. Not at people he was simply quoting the policeman.
We have all become so wrapped up in censorship. Its quite sad to see.

  • 7.
  • At 10:28 AM on 14 Jun 2006,
  • Laura Hewitson wrote:

I feel that if the policemen thought that the people were terrorists then they had a right to be scared and it possibly was alright for them to swear as meeting what they thoght were terrorists wazs probably quite a scary thing. But some people may say that there is no excuse for swearing, whcih in some cases is true but if it was me I probably would have been quite scared and said alot of things without thinking.

  • 8.
  • At 10:31 AM on 14 Jun 2006,
  • Hannah wrote:

I agree with Pat, I think that a 2 second delay would do the trick.

Could the broadcast be muted so viewers could not hear the swearing and the news reader apologise for the loss of sound and then go back to the reporter after the swearing has subsided?

  • 9.
  • At 10:36 AM on 14 Jun 2006,
  • kelisha cheema wrote:

Although this may cause offence to some people, I think it is acceptable as it is not coming from somebody within the BBC. Therefore it is not the BBC's fault and can not be helped. If we, (the audience) want to know the truth about issues in the news then we have to accept that this language is being used. We can't just edit out all the bad bits as then it wouldn't be how it really is.

but we arent perfect if we swear its just a may sound discusting but its the persons choice weather to or not we arent going to lock them up for swearing...but also i have heard that they are now going to be fines given but it doesnt seem possible that the police are going to get penalised for it...however Mohammed Abdul Kahar was only quoting what he had heard apparently.... xxx

If you are broadcasting live then surely it is going to be your fault if strong language is used...But i wonder how many people DO actually complain?? This is my own opinion but i think these people are very shallow. In the world that we live in today swearing is used in almost every context.

  • 12.
  • At 12:53 PM on 15 Jun 2006,
  • Jade wrote:

A few seconds delay would be a good idea as it wpuld stop pettyness , the BBC did not have any idea that this manner of language was going to be used when they broadcast this inteview .I think that alot more people would of complained if this interview had not taken place and the BBC had not broadcast it. As this was a major issue, these people were accused of terrorists acts yet were proven inncocent.It was vital that this was expressed so that the men and other people can live there life mormally. yet the upset caused could be easily controlled by hyaving a 2 second delay on each broadcast.

Jade x

  • 13.
  • At 12:53 PM on 15 Jun 2006,
  • Tiffy-Beth wrote:

a few seconds delay on a news 24 programme would be a great idea to cut down on the language used, but maybe it is not always possible to monitor every word said to see if it is appropriate. the fact the offensive words were used by a police man is quite apalling as they are supposed to be role models to the society. x

  • 14.
  • At 12:54 PM on 15 Jun 2006,
  • Michelle wrote:

I think that the delay would have been better in broadcasting it live over the radio as there may have been young viewers listening and the bad language may influence them. However in that situation I understand that it may have been difficult to explain what happened and the situation in hand without annoucing this disgraceful language. I also think that if Mohammed Abdul Kahar is truthfully telling us what the police said to him and what they were doing to him, then i think the viewers need to know about it.

  • 15.
  • At 09:20 AM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • Josephine wrote:

I think that his swearing was justified as he was quoting from the police and the public have the right to hear how the police are talking to people. If viewers want a live broadcast to hear the news first they should be prepared for bad language especially in a situtation like this.

  • 16.
  • At 09:26 AM on 20 Jun 2006,
  • Kendal Horner wrote:

A few seconds delay is a good idea to control the language used on the news. But younger viewers may not be interested in the news and the older viewers, like you said, are understanding.

  • 17.
  • At 11:54 AM on 21 Jun 2006,
  • Jennifer wrote:

I think swearing on live TV is unacceptable. Younger viewers interested in the news are hard to find these days so I don't think we really want encourage them to think swearing is acceptable. Obviously the setting of the news conference was a sensitive one and the incidence of swearing took the producers by suprise but they still should have been prepared.
A delay of a few seconds is a good idea to filter out any unnecessary bad language and behaviour. This could have prevented any extra misunderstandings and controversy about this case. Perhaps the BBC should have a few second delay on all live news conferences. (Does this happen already?)
The event of swearing may have drawn some attention away from the importance of this topical issue.

  • 18.
  • At 01:01 PM on 21 Jun 2006,
  • Kevin Bakhurst (News 24) wrote:

just for info: in the end, there were no complaints on the audience logs about the swearing during the live press conference.

  • 19.
  • At 06:52 PM on 03 Jul 2006,
  • graham wrote:

Oh for goodness sake!
All the things to complain of to the BBC - Sex lives of CERTAIN politicians too sleazy to coment on whist broadcasting an interview with Gary Glitter, etc.- Surely someone swearing went out with the sixtites ( yes I do remember them.
As for a 2 second delay I would resist all forms of censorship absolutely.

  • 20.
  • At 12:49 AM on 04 Jul 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

Considering that BBC station operators can barely push the right buttons at the right time in their normal broadcasts, I don't care if they have a 2 second delay as Pat suggested or a two minute delay, their censors in all likelihood would be asleep at the switch and miss the Anglo Saxonisms every time. It hardly matters though. In our crude world where insults and verbal abuse are the norm, there is hardly a six year old child who hasn't heard it all from his street friends a long time ago. We're just lucky if their parents have taught them not to use such language themselves.

  • 21.
  • At 09:14 AM on 04 Jul 2006,
  • Emily wrote:

I believe that there are issues with swearing; but in a reality of 24 hour news there will be times, where you don't have time to edit it out, or stop people to from swearing. In an interview its simple enough to remind someone not to. But really there are more important issues that are concerned with television that can affect the viewers and swearing is a minor issue.
If people really believe that there are major issues with swearing, then don't watch the news, keep yourself away from it.

  • 22.
  • At 09:15 AM on 04 Jul 2006,
  • Carly wrote:

I think in the situation spoken of, it is perfectly understandeable why swearing was heard from the two brothers. It is also understandeable that News 24 is a live broadcasting station, so it is not possible to edit every single story with a minor delay. Also, with the story that was being reported, swearing was possibly needed in order to convey the seriousness of the matter, and the fac that the police were swearing in a violent way towards the two brothers, which I think is unacceptable. Viewers of BBC News 24 should be able to realise how the use of swearing in certain cases can aid the point of a story, and the use of swearing has become more 'acceptable' in today's society, so it is not seen as 'unusual', 'derogatory' or 'unccceptable' as it would have been in earlier years.

This post is closed to new comments.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.