BBC in hot water over foul language radio remark

The BBC has come under fire after radio presenter Sandi Toksvig was cleared to make a joke involving an obscene swearword in the early evening.

The presenter made the remark on Radio 4′s The News Quiz – a weekly panel show which airs at 6.30pm.

A subsequent complaint by a listener was rejected by the BBC but now an MP has called for the media watchdog to investigate.


John Whittingdale, chairman of the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee, wants Ofcom to look into the matter.

He said the swearword is “way out in front in terms of people finding it offensive, and I think to broadcast it on radio at 6.30pm is inappropriate”.

And Mr Whittingdale added: “Even though they did it by implication, nobody was left in any doubt about what was meant.”


Paul Mayhew Archer, who at the time was commissioning editor of Radio 4 Comedy, cleared the presenter to make the scripted comment. He said the word has lost much of its “shock value”.

In a letter to the listener who complained, Mr Mayhew Archer wrote: “If my job was simply not to risk offending any listeners I could have cut it instantly. But that is not my job.

“My job here was to balance the offence it might cause some listeners against the delight it might give other listeners.

“For good or ill, the word does not seem to have quite the shock value it did. I am not saying this is a good thing. I am simply saying that I think attitudes shift.”


The remark was broadcast in October 2010 both at 6.30pm and then in a repeat at 12.30pm the next day.

Although radio does not have a watershed like television, the BBC’s own rules state it must take “extra care” when different generations may be listening together.

In response to the row over the Radio 4 remark, the BBC said: “The News Quiz is a long-running panel show aimed at an adult audience. Listeners are used to a certain level of robust humour.”