Daily Mail, Beyer on Ofcom swearing survey
Ofcom’s September survey, Language and Sexual Imagery in Broadcasting: A Contextual Investigation, has been quoted by the Daily Mail, and John Beyer of Mediawatch-UK, as vindication of their claim that TV is leading towards the breakdown of society by broadcasting swearwords.
The survey was carried out in several cities throughout the country from a sample of 170 people. There was a general feeling that there had been an increase in swearing on TV both before and after the watershed, although there was a great variation among those surveyed about what exactly was considered offensive.
The crucial question is what regulatory action Ofcom will now take to set higher standards that are in line with the public attitudes they have identified. One of Ofcom’s tasks is to ensure that programmes comply with “generally accepted standards” and with regard to the content described in the study they are clearly failing at the present time. There is clearly a need for the Secretary of State to remind Ofcom that their primary duty is to represent the viewing and listening public rather than give in to the demands of the broadcasting industry.
The conclusion that Ofcom should flex its regulatory muscles goes contrary to the findings of the survey, however. From the section entitles “Individual Choices”:
As part of the focus group discussion, respondents discussed viewing decision-making and responsibilities. There was a broad consensus among these participants that responsibility for viewing choices is – and should be – largely an individual one.
People came out very much in favour of the watershed, pre-broadcast warnings, and TV guides in order to help them make informed choices. John Beyer does not mention this, as he is against the idea of adults making informed choices if those choices are not similar to his own.
Those involved in the survey also had another useful piece of advice for the likes of Beyer and the Daily Mail:
The participants’ personal response to viewing offensive or inappropriate material is simply to switch off or turn over.
Also, religion-based swearing and blasphemy were not generally considered offensive. One example shown to the participants was a scene from Footballers’ Wives in which a character looked at herself in the mirror and exclaimed “Jesus shitting Christ”. This was considered offensive by one in five.