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Mediawatch Swearing on Television Poll

Public opinion poll for Mediawatch on the subject of Swearing on Television.

Date Published: 18 May 2009

Categories: Media | Public and communities | Social | UK


A new poll published today shows that 73 per cent of people find some swearing on TV offensive.  The poll was commissioned by mediawatch-uk. ComRes interviewed 1002 GB adults by telephone between 15 and 17 May 2009.

Significantly, the poll also found that 70 per cent believe the regulator, OFCOM, should do more to reduce the amount of swearing on TV.  Despite its own Communications Market research, conducted over recent years showing that the majority of people believe there is too much swearing on TV, OFCOM very rarely upholds public complaints on this issue.  60 per cent of people believe that swearing on TV encourages swearing in daily life and 53 per cent believe that children are not effectively protected from swearing on TV.

Speaking today, John Beyer, director of mediawatch-uk, said: "The results of this survey show once again that swearing on TV causes widespread offence and that OFCOM really is not doing enough to allay public concern.  We certainly welcome OFCOM's criticism last week of the record-breaking swearing in 'Ramsay's Great British Nightmare', but this action is too little too late."

Mr Beyer went on: "Today is also the closing date of our online petition to the Prime Minister which after just 6 months has attracted more than 5,200 signatures.  We are hopeful that Mr Brown, who has expressed personal concern about broadcasting standards, will now directly intervene in this situation and call upon broadcasters and film makers to seriously improve standards of literacy in their media productions."

Aware of the latest BBC survey Mr Beyer disputed the finding that people are "relaxed" about swearing on TV.  He said: "It may be true that swearing 'in context' is tolerable but for most people the concern is with swearing that is entirely gratuitous and has no dramatic or any other context whatsoever.
The BBC should be asking itself how swearing in programmes fulfils its Charter obligation to 'sustain citizenship and civil society'.  Moreover, these findings seem to contradict research carried out by the BBC for Panorama in February which found that 55% of people thought there was now too much swearing, while 68% thought language had worsened in the past five years."

Mr Beyer concluded: "The time really has come for broadcasters to act on this matter by strengthening the regulations otherwise they know they risk alienating swathes of viewers.  At a time when broadcasting standards matter more and more to viewers and listeners it really is no good pretending that swearing on TV is an issue that can continue to be ignored."

ComRes interviewed 1002 GB adults by telephone between 15th and 17th May 2009.  Data were weighted to be representative demographically of all GB adults. 

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