Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Regulating Language on the British Airwaves

Mark Lawson discusses offensive language and its regulation on the British airwaves in this piece for the Guardian. Here's an excerpt.

You might think that, at the moment, the television regulator Ofcom doesn't know whether it's coming or going on the question of whether it's permissible to speak on TV the slang words for, well, coming and going. This week it turned down complaints about the use of the F-word in The Catherine Tate Christmas Special, but, a few days earlier, had forced the BBC to make a long on-screen apology for sexual and scatological language during the Live Earth concerts.


There are other confusions. Strikingly, in refusing the Catherine Tate complaints, the watchdog ruled that words are no more offensive on Christmas Day than on any other date, a refutation of the traditional television view that swearing on Good Friday was worse than on October 5.

And yet, paradoxically, time of day does still seem to matter. The severe sanctions against Live Earth seem to have resulted from the fact that it was transmitted largely before the notional children's bedtime - "the watershed" - of 9pm. And much of the sensitivity over what can come out of mouths on television results from the assumed risk of corrupting innocence.

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