BBC plans to crack down on swearing

The BBC has revealed plans to clamp down on swearing even after the 9pm watershed.

New BBC guidelines for regulating bad language on the corporation’s TV, radio and internet output have been released to the public for their comments.

Swearing may be bleeped out after the watershed and viewers should be given more warning about bad language, the guidelines suggest.

The guidelines also clarify the rules on swearing that includes “holy names or religious words”.

The proposals on swearing after 9pm say care must to be taken to “make careful judgments about the use of the strongest language post-watershed and ensure it is clearly signposted”.

They continue: “When a section of content is editorially justified but the slot, channel or context are not appropriate for strong language, it may be necessary to edit or bleep language, even post-watershed”.

The guidelines also say bleeped out language before 9pm should be, “thoroughly obscured, taking care to ensure also that the bleeped words are not then made obvious by visible mouth movements”.

Richard Tait, a BBC trustee and chair of the trust’s editorial standards committee, said: “Public acceptability is constantly changing, so it is right that we should reflect on the standards the BBC should be setting, as well as ask licence fee payers what they think when reviewing the guidelines”.

The BBC guidelines recognise: “Strong language is most likely to cause offence when it is used gratuitously and without editorial purpose”.

They note that as well as other sensitive words surrounding race and disability, “casual or derogatory use of holy names or religious words and especially in combination with other strong language”, can cause offence.

The guidelines also make specific reference to swearing on the radio and online.

They say that apart from the “most exceptional circumstances”, the strongest language must not be used on radio, when children are particularly likely to be listening, or in online content “likely to appeal to a significant proportion of children”.

The BBC updates its editorial guidelines every five years but this is the first year it has asked the public directly for their opinion. The consultation ends on 24 December.

The proposals come in the wake of the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand controversy when obscene messages were left by the pair on Andrew Sachs’ answer phone.

A report which followed that incident said a third of viewers had raised “unprompted” concerns about bad language.

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