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Wednesday, 13 December, 2000, 17:44 GMT
Is bad language unacceptable on TV?

The use of racially abusive language on television and radio is an area of increasing concern among viewers and listeners, a new study has revealed.

The report also suggests most adults with children want their homes to be expletive free.

Stephen Whittle, Director of the Broadcasting Standards Commission, says there is an acceptance that swearing and offensive language is used in daily life, and may be appropriate if a programme is aimed at adults.

But he says people "would prefer their homes to remain an expletive deleted zone for children."

Is swearing still a matter of major concern to you? Or have swear words and offensive language become an accepted part of TV output? Is your home an "expletive deleted zone"?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction


You can't then blame your shock and outrage on the programme makers

Ruskin Kwofie, USA/GHANA
There's a simple answer to all those complaining. If you don't like it then don't watch it. There is nothing more annoying than listening to outraged people complain about what they had to watch the night before. No one makes you watch them so if you hear bad language/see sex scenes/view violence then change the channels instead of watching all three hours and then complaining about it afterwards. YOU DON'T HAVE TO WATCH IT. Its true that at times in films/programmes it seems the language is used purely to shock rather than as part of the script/plot/characters but if you sit and watch it all instead of turning over/switching off then you can't then blame your shock and outrage on the programme makers.
James, UK

There is no justification to the use of bad language on TV. It is unacceptable. How can a parent positively correct a child who uses bad language if all they hear on TV is filthy language every minute?
Ruskin Kwofie, USA/GHANA

Not only is swearing wrong and extremely offensive, even worse than that is the constant blasphemy on T.V. This is especially hurtful to a Christian like myself when it is done to make people laugh. We should not be blaspheming or condoning this when we laugh or otherwise accept it passively or actively. It is too easy to say, " ...use the off switch... ", this is not the answer. Does any parent want to encourage their child to swear and adopt negativity ? Rather it would be more constructive to teach them the values of right and wrong. To sum up, all who own a television licence are entitled to be informed and entertained by its purchase and that means all.
K.D.Llewelly, Wales

I couldn't disagree with Nikolai Kulow more. Protecting children is a big chunk of what responsible parenting is about, and protecting their minds and emotions is just as important as physical protection, if not more so. Of course they'll be come across it elsewhere, but it's clear that the extent will be increased or decreased by the levels of exposure of their peers. As a parent I find the so-called watershed is no guarantee at all that my kids won't hear swearing on the television. Please can we have a consistently-regulated watershed?
Tom Richards, UK


I consider the television to be a guest

J. Herbert, Liverpool, UK
I would not allow a visitor to my house to use swearing and foul language in front of me or my children. I consider the television to be a guest, and when it offends, off it goes!
J. Herbert, Liverpool, UK

It really is stupid to campaign for protecting young people against swearing on TV. By the time you reach 12 years old you've heard every word under the sun a million times in the playground. Anyone who fails to realise this is just completely ignorant
Darren Meale, UK

Why do people get so uptight about bad language being used on TV? Like it or not it's a part of our culture and you have to learn to live with it. If it causes people that much distress then maybe they should not leave their house just in case they get offended by something someone in the bus queue might say.
Steve R, UK


Another step forward for the campaign for public blandness

Arthur Wyatt, England
Another step forward for the campaign for public blandness. Please keep my TV free of bleeped out swearing or ITV-style dubbed out swearing.
Arthur Wyatt, England

Bad language is nothing compared to all the violence shows on so many series. I prefer to hear someone pronounce a four-letter word than to see them beaten to death or killed in a TV series. Bad language is part of the everyday life of most people. Violence is not.
Luc Masuy, Belgium

The use of bad language in TV or cinema is not a reflection of society, but rather an excuse by writers and actors to hide the fact that they can no longer produce real drama or real emotion. The use of swearing to emphasise a point is only there to mask the lack of understanding and talent. Media twenty years ago didn't need to use bad language - the skill in presenting drama and emotion was there anyway. Sorry, no swearing on TV or cinema at all for me.
Steve Gittins, UK

In writing drama one of the first rules is to make your characters believable. Censorship of bad language could lead to some of the most unbelievable characters ever portrayed on television. People swear. For instance, a prison drama in which no one ever swore would be ridiculous as any prison office would tell you. What sort of programmes you allow your children to watch is up to you. But they will hear swearing in the real world - you can't censor that.
Colin Wright, UK

If it's in the dictionary, what's the problem? I for one couldn't give a F**K.
Tim Hale, England


I don't want my son exposed to that language

K. Jackson, USA/ ex UK
On a recent visit after two 1/2 years away from the UK I was very surprised by how often the 'F' word was used on TV. This just would not happen here in the US thank goodness. I don't want my son exposed to that language or being given the idea that it is 'normal'.
K. Jackson, USA/ ex UK

With respect to what Ali G supposedly said, this is SLANG not a racist term. This is political correctness gone mad and the ITC should get a grip.
M. Ridcully, UK

I agree that kids should not be exposed to bad language on TV, but isn't that why we have a 9pm watershed? I believe that anything shown after that time should be uncensored as this is adult viewing time. As for Ali G's "racist/ slang" comments, if he'd aimed his remarks against white people, I'd bet my life savings that there wouldn't be all this fuss. It was a joke, and all the people I know who are from ethnic minorities found it just as funny as I did.
Jamie N, UK

Why is it necessary? Surely we can use descriptive adjectives without resorting to bad language. It is not enough to say it is a part of life. We have the power to adopt better social attitudes; instead many people seem content with debasing everything.
Jill Doe, Wales

I disagree with Robert Kidd, I think that swearing is incredibly effective in stressing a point. People swear. TV is about people. End of story, as far as I'm concerned. And what are your young children doing up after 9pm, anyway? Is your on/off button broken?
Paul Lowton, UK


Unable to reflect the reality of a situation

Keith Legg, UK
Remember the row over the first five minutes of "Four Weddings and a Funeral" when Hugh Grant discovers he's late for the first wedding? How many people can genuinely say that they have never run round the room swearing when they have been late? A blanket ban on swearing would lead to programmes and films being unable to reflect the reality of a situation. Giving films or programmes a classification - like Channel 4's "Red Triangle" some years ago - would give those who wish to live in a closeted world the chance to do so, whilst those of us who live in reality and don't mind hearing "bad language" in adult programming where it is relevant can continue to watch.
Keith Legg, UK

All drama revolves around conflict and jeopardy so bad language in itself is not wrong, it all depends on the context it is used in. Imagine if Shakespeare or Chaucer had been prevented from writing and performing their work without the "bawdy" language, the swearing of their day. As long as it doesn't become meaninglessly used and the watershed is observed to my eyes at least, it is acceptable.
James Newman, UK

Please keep it off our screens. You only have to listen to children going to school to see how commonplace it has become.
Gerry, Scotland


But it often makes me wince

Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
It may be the duty of our media/ entertainment outlets to reflect the standards and behaviour of our society and culture, but they surely also have some responsibility to set the standard. By merely reflecting, because they permeate every level of society, they take the lead in the general debasement of "generally accepted standards of behaviour". I am not prudish or offended by bad language/behaviour on TV and radio, per se, but it often makes me wince!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

Bad parents passing the buck again. For most programmes aimed at adults, swearing is realistic. After all, we'd all mock if TV shows had criminals going around saying "Oi! Bad Breath. Give me all your money" or "Oh sugar! It's the police!" But it should be up to the parents to make sure their kids don't watch TV late at night.
Paul Birac, UK


It is just fashion - and a very cheap fashion at that

Robert Kidd, Australia
As a relatively liberal minded young person, I am not outraged by occasional bad language on television, but at the same time, I do not think that it is necessary. Bad language is neither amusing nor particularly effective in stressing a point. It is just fashion - and a very cheap fashion at that. It's best to leave it in the cinemas (if it is really required there) and edit the more stonger language out before it appears on television. Personally, I have never found that a movie is lacking punch just because a few profanities have been deleted. Indeed, this should be the test to see whether a film is worth its weight at all.
Robert Kidd, Australia

If I sent you an email with lots of swearwords in it, would you publish it? Probably not. So why does the BBC frequently broadcast their so-called quality programmes complete with numerous expletives. I don't want it, and especially not after paying for a tv licence.
Gareth Gibbs, Wales, United Kingdom

Perhaps some form of programme labelling is required. We've all seen the little graphics at the corner of a screen indicating which channel we're on so what about replacing those with a RED circle for adult ,YELLOW for Parental Guidance and GREEN for all ages. It would be easy to see at a glance who this programme is suitable for and would not catch you unawares if you turned over half way through. The parents can then decide what the children watch.
Tony, UK


I'll take the responsibility of ensuring that no children are affected

Andrew Smith, GB
Please Britain, resist all attempts to censor bad language from your TV. Otherwise you'll end up like the U.S. where movie plot lines make no sense after having being cut to ribbons to avoid offending the puritans. If I want to hear bad language on my television, in my house, at 11:30 at night, that's my choice and I'll take the responsibility of ensuring that no children are affected. If I don't wish to hear it I can use the best censorship of all, the "off" button.
Andrew Smith, GB

Television today is littered with foul and abusive language of every kind. Even when it is bleeped out it is obvious what has been said, with this being the case on the majority of trashy American talk shows, often viewed in the afternoon. These programmes ought to be banned in the daytime and moved to after 9pm, and general swearing on television discouraged by the major networks.
Matthew Illsley, England

My personal experience of working in an environment where swearing was the norm was to swear more. When I changed jobs where swearing was banned I stopped. The best thing to do is to avoid swearing in the main but keep a little to be realistic, and hence cut down on the excessive use of profanities in society.
Gavin Pearson, Detroit, USA

Any public place in any British city will include its fair share of bad language. Adult programmes sound false and sterile without it. Keep it away from the kids, but let the grown ups decide for themselves.
Joe Twyman, UK


Everything in moderation

Andrew Reid, UK
Whilst swearing used to be reserved for situations that justified it (death, anger, accident, etc), the value of swearing is slowly being reduced by its omnipresence. Those who are offended by swearing are as bad as those who devalue it by over-use! Everything in moderation.
Andrew Reid, UK

As adults, we can accept bad language on TV programmes, as long as it relates to the programme in question (i.e. drama series or films). However, children should not have to hear that sort of language. I'm not a prude by any means, but I find it really depressing when I hear children from toddler age and up using foul language. Of course, they may learn this from their parents and other family members, but let's minimise their exposure by keeping it out of children's programmes.
Karen, UK


Welcome to the real world people, people swear!

Richard Tyacke, England
The simple fact of the matter is if you don't like the swearing then turn over! Anything that your children may or may not hear on TV they are certainly going to hear in the real world. People need to wake up and understand that the censorship of television is going beyond a joke. I'm all for watersheds and restricting bad language before a time when children are likely to up but can someone please explain to me the necessity to cut swear words from a film at 10:30 or 11:00. People can say they are offended as much as they like but the simple fact is that you control what you watch, if your offended by swearing then turn it off. Welcome to the real world people, people swear!
Richard Tyacke, England

It is much easier to learn bad language than to unlearn it. By definition, an expletive is an unnecessary word, so why include them? Interestingly most swear words are either blasphemy or about sex, debasing what ought to be treated with dignity and respect. 'As a man thinks, so is he'.
Ken Beach, Germany


Parents, please remember that your 9-year-old probably swears as much as you do when you are not around!

Mark B, UK
As someone who has a tendency to use swear words as punctuation, it is not for me to take the moral high ground. Racial abuse, however, is not acceptable at any time, although I am not party to what Sasha Cohen actually said - was this racial abuse or merely slang? If it is the latter, I don't see a problem. Parents, please remember that your 9-year-old probably swears as much as you do when you are not around!
Mark B, UK

The best of British TV has always been more daring than its American counterpart. I've always enjoyed its more casual attitude toward language. But I have to agree; there should be something's I wouldn't let my kids say or watch at home. I also know for a fact they'll learn to swear well enough from their schoolmates anyway.
T.J. Cassidy, USA

Whats wrong with swearing? I think TV should show everything. Protecting children is keeping them ignorant - they will be exposed to it anyway - at school and elsewhere.
Nikolai Kulow, UK

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See also:

11 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Audiences shun racist language
12 Dec 00 | UK
When rude is too crude
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