The Kev Seed breakfast show on Radio City in Liverpool has received a slap on the wrists from Ofcom because of a wind-up phone call. Peggy, a 90 year old woman voiced by Kev called a halal butcher, repeatedly asking if they do pork, whilst telling the owner she wouldn't mind a nice bit of meat.
The complaint came from a listener to the show who thought the wind-up was both anti-social and offensive. Ofcom asked Radio City owners Emap to comment on the complaint, who acknowledged that the decision to broadcast the item had been ill-judged.
They explained that this regular ‘wind up’ feature had been included in the breakfast show for seven weeks without complaint before the item complained of was broadcast. The character, Peggy, a 90 year old woman, relies in part on double entendres and gained popularity and even some notoriety within the station’s transmission area. All of the previous recipients of calls had, until this item, recognised the comedic nature of the pre-recorded remarks and responded in a humorous manner.
Since many local recipients of the calls had started to recognise the presenter as Peggy almost immediately, it was decided to ask a directory enquiry service to provide random phone numbers for the chosen category of butchers from around the UK. Consequently, the only information the production team had about any potential victim prior to the call was a phone number. When making the call complained of, the presenter did not immediately realise that the recipient was a halal butcher. He was taken aback by the abuse and, according to Emap, was concentrating on trying to “win over” the victim and bring the call to a satisfactory, good natured conclusion. He failed to recognise the possible significance of the statement “we don’t do pork”, which the butcher made after the second time the presenter’s phrase “I don’t mind a bit of pork” was played. The presenter edited the call and put it to air without consulting anyone about it. The Programme Director heard the item as it was
broadcast and spoke to the presenter the moment he finished his programme. Emap
said the matter was taken extremely seriously and the presenter was reminded that
he must discuss and clear in advance all content with the programme’s producer.
Emap assured Ofcom that they had also undertaken additional internal training. They
very much regretted any offence the item may have caused.
In this item, the presenter explained that the telephone number for the butcher had been chosen randomly and that it was somewhere in the UK. He said that although the exchange went on for a number of minutes, he would only play a minute or so of the call and said listeners would be shocked by the hostile response he had received.
Although the language was bleeped, it was apparent that the victim became increasingly abusive and the presenter appeared unaware that his questions could be regarded as inflammatory. On listening to the item, it is apparent that the original offence taken by the butcher is at the repeated nature of the questions about pork. When the butcher says “we don’t do pork”, the listener is left in little doubt that this is a halal butcher. The butcher is
abusive (though the words are bleeped) at what he believes to be religious taunts
directed at him.
Ofcom concluded that the execution of this particular ‘wind up’ call and the decision to broadcast it was a serious misjudgement. The presenter said that his decision to include the item was to demonstrate the degree of unwarranted hostility that his enquiry had attracted. However, it is clear this hostility was a result of what appeared to be unprovoked religious abuse. This was a pre-recorded item and it was, in Ofcom’s view, extremely concerning that the licensee was unaware of the offence these stock phrases could have in the wrong context. Further, given the random nature of obtaining the phone number from outside the transmission, area it was extremely unlikely that the potential recipient would be familiar with the humorous intent of the Peggy character.
Given the circumstances of a wind-up, Ofcom found that there was no context to justify the use of this offensive material. Ofcom welcomed the immediate action taken by the Programme Director and the seriousness with which the station regarded the unsuitability of the item. However, Ofcom regarded the decision to air the call as irresponsible and showed a worrying failure in compliance and production oversight (especially during a breakfast show
which attracts a wide ranging audience). Ofcom will consider further regulatory action
if a breach of a similar nature occurs again.
Breach of Rule 2.3
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