Thursday, September 29, 2005

BBC Complaint

A few days ago I made a complaint to Ofcom, the organisation responsible for broadcasting standards here in the UK. I did so because I was driving my daughter to playgroup and I turned on BBC Radio 1. Expecting to hear pop music I was instead confronted with a voice saying "I like big boobs. Bring it on" over and over again. And again and again. Luckily my daughter had just left the car when this started- she's three and I really don't think she needs to be exposed to that- but my youngest was still in the vehicle with me. Thankfully at just over one she's a little too young to understand.

Anyway, I made my complaint, feeling that the TV licence funded station (the BBC is paid for by everyone in the UK who owns a TV and who are legally obliged to pay a yearly licence fee) should not be broadcasting such clearly inappropriate material at a time when parents are taking the kids to school. It is, afterall, a pop station.

I got a reply from Ofcom today. Here it is-

Radio 1; The Chris Moyles Show; 26 September; 9.00 am

Thank you for contacting us. We’ve noted your concern about the comments made within the above programme and we regret you felt this material was inappropriate to be broadcast. However, after listening to the programme, we do not believe this breached our broadcast codes.

If I may explain, the context for the conversation was an interview between Chris Moyles and pop star Will Young. Will Young has been open about his homosexuality and regular listeners to the programme, and also those familiar with pop music, would be familiar with this aspect of his life. During the interview, Chris Moyles said he had read a newspaper interview where Robbie Williams had kidded a journalist by saying he was gay and this had received wide coverage in the paper. Chris then joked to Will Young that if he said he was ‘straight’ and loved ‘big boobs’ that this would get newspaper coverage also. It was that Chris Moyles mockingly asked Will Young “You’re gay though, aren’t you Will?” to which the pop star replied in a monotone voice “No. I’m a straighty. I love big boobs. Bring it on.” A clip of this was then repeated during the show.

We feel the intention here was not to be lascivious towards women, but to comically subvert the audience’s awareness of Will Young as a gay man with overtly heterosexual comments.

The responsibility for the production of programmes on radio lies with the individual broadcasters and they must comply with the requirements of our code which sets out standards for matters such as harm and offence. However, radio is a different medium with different audiences and does not operate a similar watershed policy as television. Broadcasters are guided by public reactions and their understanding of the different audience for each station or at different times of the day. Given the great predominance of adults in these audiences, radio operates with more latitude than television, however any transition to adult material should not be at a time when children are likely to be listening, such as during the ‘school run’.

Listeners familiar with Chris Moyle’s style will know what to expect of him in terms of presentation and humour, and audience opinions differ widely over what are and what are not acceptable boundaries of humour. There is no doubt that he is a very popular DJ and has a loyal following amongst the target audience for the station which is those in the 15-24 age range. Certainly there is no indication from our log of telephone calls, often a useful indicator as to whether there may have been an error of judgement, that these comments caused widespread concern.

We appreciate this won’t diminish your distaste, but we don’t feel there are grounds to uphold your complaint in these circumstances. Nevertheless, thank you for taking the trouble to contact us, as it is important for us to be aware of viewers' opinions.

--------- I replied today with this-

Thank you for your response. You may feel that this did not breach your code but I have to disagree- according to your own words-

Given the great predominance of adults in these audiences, radio operates with more latitude than television, however any transition to adult material should not be at a time when children are likely to be listening, such as during the ‘school run’.

“I love big boobs. Bring it on” would seem to me to fall into the category of adult material, particularly given the continual repetition of the statement. I did not hear the interview with Will Young and the context of the statement is immaterial- whether or not this was intended as a comment on Will Young’s sexuality or being lascivious towards women, it is simply NOT appropriate for that time of day- the school run. Do you think that young children listening to a pop station on their way to school should be exposed to the repetition of that statement? Are young children going to be able to differentiate between the two? If Radio 1 can manage to function without this sort of adult material- and I honestly don’t believe you’ll contradict me and say that it is not adult material- throughout the rest of the day, when children are at school and not listening, then I don’t see why Chris Moyles should be permitted to get away with it in the morning.

To quote the Broadcasting Code-

1.3 Children must also be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them.

Meaning of "children":

Children are people under the age of fifteen years.

Meaning of "appropriate scheduling":

Appropriate scheduling should be judged according to:

* the nature of the content;
* the likely number and age range of children in the audience, taking into account school time, weekends and holidays;
* the start time and finish time of the programme;
* the nature of the channel or station and the particular programme; and
* the likely expectations of the audience for a particular channel or station at a particular time and on a particular day.

1.5 Radio broadcasters must have particular regard to times when children are particularly likely to be listening.

Meaning of "when children are particularly likely to be listening":

This phrase particularly refers to the school run and breakfast time, but might include other times.

Radio 1 is probably the nation’s most popular morning show and Moyles’ show made this broadcast on a weekday just before school was to begin meaning that a good number of children beneath the age of fifteen were likely listening to the programme. Is “I like big boobs, bring it on” appropriate for children to hear? If Chris Moyles’ show is intended for a purely adult audience then his programme should be carried with a warning to parents that it is not appropriate for children to hear. I would also suggest that his school run time-slot be reconsidered.

According to the Broadcasting Code this type of material should NOT be permitted and I cannot see how you believe that such material should be broadcast while children might be listening- especially given the specific wording of the Code which makes plain and clear reference to the school run and breakfast time. Context is irrelevant here- the statement was repeated over and over again after the interview was finished.

It’s seems a particularly clear cut issue to me- children must be protected from material unsuitable for them and radio broadcasters must have particular regard for the time of the broadcast. “I like big boobs” is NOT suitable for children. It was broadcast during the school run time. Therefore it broke the code.

I await your response.

-----Frankly I'm not expecting too much. Ofcom is notoriously ineffectual but I will continue to make my voice heard. I'm paying for the show to be broadcast afterall. The Ofcom regulations I've quoted can be found here.


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Good luck.

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