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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 23:59 GMT 00:59 UK
Radio 1 rapped for Ali G interview
Ali G
Ali G: Overstepped the mark on Cox's show
The Broadcasting Standards Commission has upheld complaints by 13 radio listeners about a live interview with spoof rapper Ali G on BBC Radio 1 in February.

Talking to DJ Sara Cox on the station's breakfast show, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's language was so strong that fellow guest, pop star Shaggy said: "I hope to God my mum isn't listening."

A spokesman for BBC Radio 1 later said: "We are very sorry for any offence caused to our listeners."


The existing control systems clearly didn't work in this case

BSC chairman Lord Dubs

The commission said it welcomed the BBC's apology, but added that it was "extremely concerned by the lack of editorial control exercised during the interview".

In the interview Baron Cohen's character used a four-letter word, then joked that he had smuggled drugs from Jamaica in his body.

He also claimed, in vulgar terms, to have been intimate with singer Jennifer Lopez.

Sara Cox apologised to listeners after Baron Cohen's outburst, and again after the show.

Sara Cox
Sara Cox apologised for Ali G's outburst

The commission found Baron Cohen had been given the opportunity to swear, and use sexual innuendo and offensive language without any significant intervention from producers.

The timing of the broadcast, when significant numbers of children might have been listening, was condemned as "wholly inappropriate".

The commission's findings came as the BBC vowed to tighten up its rules on live interviews in the wake of the controversy.

The new guidelines recommend terminating interviews instantly if guests cross the taste boundaries.

Lord Dubs of Battersea, chairman of the BSC, said: "The existing control systems clearly didn't work in this case.

"That is why the commission took a serious view of it, and, most unusually, required the broadcaster to broadcast and publish our finding against the programme.

"We welcome the BBC's decision to amend and strengthen their briefing procedures for live interviews on Radio 1 for the future."

See also:

18 Feb 02 | Entertainment
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