Liverpool stations Radio City 96.7 and 107.6 Juice FM have both attracted a complaint from a listener following presenter comments on each station regarding an over-turned lorry.
It happened on September 14th 2005 when a lorry shed its load of frozen chips, prompting presenters to make light of the situation.
The crash turned out to be fatal, where the driver, Mr D, lost his life. The complainant, Ms A (Mr D’s sister-in-law) complained that her privacy and the privacy of other family members was unwarrantably infringed in the broadcast of the programme.
On Radio City 96.7 the traffic bulletin reported on an overturned lorry that had caused road disruption after shedding its load of frozen chips. The programme’s presenter commented that if the chips “had been McDonalds fries it would have been cleared about 5 minutes after. It’s obviously those big thick, chunky, chips isn’t it?”. The traffic bulletin reader responded “it’s … jumbo chunky chips – no worries.”
Meanwhile, over on Juice, the traffic reporter commented that “It was actually a shed load of frozen chips, funnily enough”. After the bulletin, the programme’s presenter commented “the next time you do the travel I want a chip related pun when you talk about the chips”, and then gave the example, “I would have thought that when everyone gets into work if they’re delayed, their heads would have been battered wouldn’t they?”.
Both stations apologised for the incidents. Emap told Ofcom [i]"Neither the presenter nor Radio City had any intention to cause any distress to Mr D’s family. The comment was solely intended to highlight the unexpected extension of the road closures. Aside from the comment about the size of the chips, the report was a factual statement about the accident and the road closures caused by it. There was no information broadcast that divulged or could have revealed the identity of the driver of the lorry or his family and relations. While it regretted any distress the comment may have inadvertently caused, the station found it difficult to accept that the item led to an unwarranted infringement of privacy."[/i]
Juice FM said the presenters were unaware of the serious nature of the accident and told Ofcom:[i] "It wholeheartedly apologised for offence caused by the remarks made during the bulletin. At the time of the broadcast, both the programme’s presenter and the traffic bulletin reader were unaware of the serious nature of the accident. Juice FM said that if they had been aware they would have treated the matter with the sensitivity it deserved. The programme’s presenter was told about Ms A’s complaint to Ofcom and has apologised for causing distress and for not first finding out the extent of the incident before commenting. Also the traffic report provider has undertaken to talk to bulletin readers about using due care and consideration, particularly with regard to local incidents. Juice FM said that steps had been taken to ensure that a similar mistake should not happen again."[/i]
Ofcom recognised that the programme’s references to the accident were undoubtedly upsetting for Ms A and the other family members. However, Ofcom concluded that the comments made in the programme did not amount to an infringement of privacy in the circumstances of this particular case. No personal information about Mr D or his family was disclosed in the bulletin, nor was the detail given about the accident sufficient to have identified Mr D or any of his family to those listeners who did not already know about the incident.
Both complaints were not upheld.