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Page last updated at 19:02 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009
Have I Got Bad Language for You?

Comedian Frank Skinner
Comedian Frank Skinner has tried not using swear words in his work
Britain's broadcasters are increasingly having to justify their output as they come under attack from an indignant audience.

Last year's row over lewd phone calls being broadcast on BBC Radio 2 ignited a debate about taste and decency in the media.

In Panorama's Have I got Bad Language For You? comedian Frank Skinner asks if the broadcasters have fallen below the standards demanded of them.

But it also raises the question of whether broadcasting is simply reflecting society's demands for more open programming.

Channel 4 is one broadcaster who feels its mission is to take risks.

This decade, it has gone as far as using swear words to brand some shows, such as The F Word.

Julian Bellamy, the head of Channel 4, notes there are some people who feel uncomfortable with the amount of swearing on television, but many others who are comfortable with it.

"I am comfortable with the decision in particular on Channel 4 that we make about the amount of swearing that we have," he adds.

However, ITV boss Michael Grade thinks there is too much swearing on television is at the moment.

He says: "Nobody questions why you were allowing so much swearing in so many different shows".

Constant tension

ITV is trying to clean up its act by cutting back swearing on big reality shows like I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!

Children watching television
Unsuitable programmes should not be broadcast before the 9pm watershed

"I think it's fine to have strong language but it needs to have a purpose and it's good if it's been thought about as opposed to say lazy use of language," explains Jana Bennett, the BBC's Director of Vision.

"Reality television has invited people into television in a way that has been quite a big change."

She believes there is more of this kind of language creeping into programmes than there was five years ago.

Frank Skinner, a familiar face on TV, has been trying a little experiment of his own by trying not to use swear words in his work.

He said the audience did not seem to mind. But the pressure by broadcasters to cut down swearing is making some comedians feel restricted.

This constant tension between freedom of expression and censorship concerns comedienne Joan Rivers.

"It pulls you back so much, it makes you so fearful that you're scared to do a step in any direction that ordinarily I would have done to be funnier," she says.

However, comedian Al Murray thinks the audience does need to feel respected by performers.

He says: "You are in someone's home and you are a guest, and they have chosen to watch you, and it's a situation of trust. And you don't want to abuse that trust."

In his view, swearing on television should be "very, very carefully weighed up."

Panorama: Have I Got Bad Language For You? Monday 26 January at 8.30pm on BBC One

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Skinner defends art of swearing
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