Ofcom has found Radio City 96.7 in breach of broadcasting rules after a listener complained about a feature called Neil or No Neil.
In the feature, presenter Dave Kelly calls random phone numbers in America to find out if there is anyone called Neil.
Ofcom noted the following sequence where the telephone was answered by an elderly American woman:
Dave Kelly: “Hello, is Neil there please?”
American woman:“Did you say Neil?”
Dave Kelly: “Yeah, Neil, yeah.”
American woman: “You have the wrong number.”
Dave Kelly: “Are you positive there’s definitely not a Neil there?”
American woman: “There’s nobody here but a Willis.”
Dave Kelly: “A Willis? What about first n –” [woman terminates the call] “Hello?
She’s put phone down…I’m ringing her back though.” [sound of number dialling] “Willis. Did she mean last name Willis? That’s what they mean in America. They mean last name. I mean first – I’ll tell her.”
[Call is answered after around 10 seconds]
Dave Kelly: “No need to put the phone down, love. We meant first name Neil, not last name Neil.”
American woman:“Do what?”
Dave Kelly: “First name Neil, not last name Neil. First name, N, E, –” [woman terminates the call] “Hello? She put the phone – is she having a laugh or what? Old people, they just don’t want to know do they?
We’re going to ring her back again, and try and find Neil…” [sound of number dialling].
Co-presenter: “She’s not answering you.”
Dave Kelly: “Is it an answering machine?”
Co-presenter: “She knows it’s you.”
[Call is answered after around 14 seconds]
American woman: “Hello?”
Dave Kelly: “Hello? Your attitude stinks!”
American woman: “You sti –” [Dave cuts her off]
Dave Kelly: “Oooh! She was about to swear at me then wasn’t she! She was about to swear. Can I just – I cut her off, right, just in case you’re asking, before she said it, so don’t complain.”
Ofcom asked the licensee about the feature, to which Radio City’s owner Bauer Media said it had been running for a couple of years and that all calls were pre-recorded with people in America in advance. Bauer said there was no intention whatsoever to offend anyone taking part or listening to this feature, and that most of the recipients of calls “play along with the joke and enjoy the interaction and the feature usually comes across just as a ‘bit of fun’ between the presenter and the person on the other end of the phone.”
Bauer said it did not believe that this item breached the Code, but considered however that it did not meet its own standards and “crossed the line from what is supposed to be a fun, light, tongue in cheek feature.” Bauer had spoken to the presenter, who accepted that the item broadcast “didn’t meet the brief”, and emphasised that the feature would be ended if the presenter behaved inappropriately in future.
The Licensee offered its apologies for any offence caused and said that in future the pre-recorded material for this item will always be checked by a senior member of staff before broadcast.
However, Ofcom said the presenters’ behaviour was intimidating and abusive and had the potential to cause offence, saying the treatment towards the woman who answered the telephone became intimidating and abusive.
The incident found the station in breach of Rule 2.3 of the broadcasting code.