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Last Updated: Friday, 7 October 2005, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Swearing on the sofa
The BBC's Breakfast programme has apologised after one of its guests used a four-letter word during a studio discussion.

Swearing is one of the big causes of complaints from viewers, and the BBC's own guidelines say: "We must not include offensive language before the watershed (at 2100) or on radio when children are particularly likely to be in our audience."

The incident came during a chat about child-rearing and whether parents were giving in too easily to their youngsters' demands.


The word was used by newspaper columnist Deborah Orr as she talked about the problems of children swearing. Nothing was said about it during the rest of the conversation, but at the end presenter Natasha Kaplinksy told viewers: "Apologies if you were offended by some of the language used in that discussion."

Deborah Orr
Deborah Orr: Viewers were shocked
Viewer Derek Parton said: "I was taken aback by the use of the four-letter word, which was totally unnecessary at that time of the morning when young children may be getting ready for school. How are people actually screened before they go on to live programmes?"

Bonnie Stevens said she was disgusted by what she - and her children - heard. "I understand this is a live programme and anything could happen, but the apology from your presenter was not very sincere as it was said with a smirk," she wrote.

Breakfast editor David Kermode told NewsWatch: "That language was totally inappropriate and I reiterate the apology we had on air.

"We do screen guests but it's based on an assessment of the risk and Deborah Orr, the columnist who uttered that particular word, is someone that we've spoken to quite frequently.


"She's well versed in television and in what is and is not acceptable. It was a slip, a very unfortunate slip on her part. We had already spoken to her about the item, but it never for a moment occured to us that she would use bad language.

"I've spoken to her again - one of my colleagues spoke to her after the incident itself - and she is extremely sorry about what she said. She is well aware that it rather undermined the point she was trying to make about bad language."

David Kermode
The presenters felt that the best thing to do was to apologise at the end.
David Kermode
Editor, Breakfast
The use of bad language on live news programmes is not a common occurence, and dealing with it requires swift decisions.

"We didn't intervene immediately to apologise because in my own experience that can make matters much worse," explained David Kermode.

"Had she launched into a tirade of foul language we would have been obliged to do that. As it was, the presenters felt that the best thing to do was to apologise at the end."

But he didn't agree that the apology was insincere. "I think it was pretty sincere," he said. "It's very, very hard to do that without then compounding the problem."

And will Deborah Orr be returning to the Breakfast sofa?

"There are no plans at the moment to invite Deborah back," said David Kermode, "but she's not someone who habitually swears on television so there's not a ban either."

Ofcom backs swearing complaints
17 May 04 |  TV and Radio


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