Ofcom has ruled that Steve Penk breached Rule 2.3 of the Broadcasting Code by playing Van Halen’s “Jump”.
The song was played on The Revolution’s breakfast show as a woman threatened to jump from a bridge on the M60 in Greater Manchester.
The regulator received 57 complaints which considered the playing of the song as a: “complete lack of sensitivity to a horrific personal tragedy”; was insensitive to those who had been affected by suicide; stigmatised people who have mental health problems; and did not empathise with the woman who was threatening to jump.
In The Revolution’s response to Ofcom about Rule 2.3, the station said that the segment was “an excellent example of entertaining, engaging and highly interactive local radio presented by an ‘edgy’ but warm presenter totally ‘in tune’ with his audience”.
The station told of how they were inundated with messages from angry and frustrated listeners, two of which asked Steve to play the track and that Penk: “thought very carefully about [these requests] and took the view that playing the track – and making a point of it – would have been insensitive, cheap and likely to cause offence”.
The song was still played at 8.28am but no direct link between the song and the ongoing incident on the M60. The station also said: “We acknowledge the issue of suicide is a sensitive area and, with the benefit of hindsight, Steve Penk accepts that it may have been inappropriate to attempt to derive humour from a serious incident which could, potentially, have ended in tragedy”.
Ofcom said the decision was based on seeking an appropriate balance between The Revolution’s right to freedom of expression and the regulators duty to protect members of the public from offensive material in accordance to the Code.
The regulator recognised the song had potential to be tasteless and insensitive and that listeners had been aware of Steve Penk’s continuing comedic references to the M60 Incident, including his reading out the song request for the song “Jump”. They also thought Steve’s wording to introduce the song (“Just get on with it!”) may have been construed by listeners as a direct link to the song request.
Ofcom considered that the manner in which the potential suicide attempt was discussed on air, on balance breached generally accepted standards.
Read the full ruling and transcripts from the show in the [link=http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/obb/prog_cb/obb155/Issue155.pdf]Ofcom document here[/link].