Another Monday, another Ofcom decision on language in songs broadcast on the radio (in Broadcast Bulletin 195). (I’m working on a project this year where I’m looking at Ofcom decisions, but this is just an informal blog post rather than the fruits of that labour). This time around, the controversial broadcast appears to have been a genuine accident, where Capital FM played from a CD (instead of what I presume is a hard disc playout system) and played the unedited version of Loca People instead of the more radio-friendly edited version (all day, all night, what the ….). A sharp producer managed to hit the off button pretty quickly and an apology followed a few minutes later. (Not the first time for this sort of error this year – another Capital station in Leicester played the wrong version of Do It Like a Dude (rather than the edited version which simply leaves you trying to work out the rhyme for dirty dirty dirty dirty dirty dirty sucker, you think I can’t get hurt like you, you mother- (blank) – a tough one to work out).

Some of the cases about language on the radio turn on the protection of under 18s, but fortunately for Capital, this was in the morning during the school term, so all good children were nowhere near a radio. Instead, the clause of the Broadcasting Code being looked at was a general one, “In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context” (rule 2.3), and it was considered ‘resolved’ rather than a breach of the code, given the circumstances and the remedial measures put in place.

The bigger issue here is that new guidance on this matter is, according to reports over the last couple of months, on the way. Ofcom flagged this in BB 189 in September, saying that ‘In view of our concerns about the material in [cases in that bulletin], especially those broadcast when children were particularly likely to have been listening, we will be requesting that a number of radio broadcasters across the industry who transmit such programming attend a meeting at Ofcom to discuss the compliance of such material”.

There has been a number of interesting radio/music cases this year, and BB 189 was a bumper issue for rude words on the radio. It included the already legendary Brick FM decision (the station had already been up for breach of licence obligations in BB 184), where the station entered into a debate about the meaning of punany/punani (a hot sandwich or a sexual swear word?) and also suggested that Ofcom didn’t understand Scottish dialect (re the word ‘fuck’ – perhaps this argument didn’t occur to Capital FM in today’s case). My heart goes out to a Durham station, Bishop FM, who managed to play a rather fruity Eminem track (No Love – full text in the Ofcom bulletin) during a kids’ request show called School’s Out. Oops. And the exact same phrase that is the key refrain of Loca People was also the subject of a case in BB 192, when OnFM (a community station in London) played a version of Fatboy Slim’s Star 69 which repeated that phrase. 41 times (yup, they counted).

Ofcom’s new guidance will be important – we’ve already seen some discussion on music videos and on live pre-watershed performances on TV. Despite some assumptions that there are links between problem language and genre, today’s case is from a (no offence) bland bit of Europop, and the cases mentioned in this blog post do have quite an interesting range. There’s also a mix of major players and shoestring community stations. Watch this (bleep) for more.