A joke which went wrong has caused Tameside Radio to be put in breach of its Ofcom licence.
Ofcom received a complaint that the programme Tameside Today included inappropriate remarks. The following comments, made by the presenter, were interspersed between appeals for charity donations:
“Frank has just passed me his wallet, loads of missing children in it which is fine”.
“While we’ve got his wallet, we might as well look in it, there’s a lovely little girl, he says his granddaughter… He doesn’t have grandkids… It’s very heavy though, very heavy, that’ll be all the guilt”.
Ofcom considered these comments raised potential issues under Rule 2.3 of the Code which states: “In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context … Such material may include, but is not limited to, offensive language, violence, sex, sexual violence, humiliation, distress, violation of human dignity, discriminatory treatment or language … Appropriate information should also be broadcast where it would assist in avoiding or minimising offence”.
The station said that the comments had been picked up during internal monitoring as having potential to cause offence, prior to it being contacted by Ofcom. The Licensee also said the comments were “not planned, scripted or authorised and breached [its] own internal style guide on taste and decency”. The Licensee detailed the actions taken to prevent the reoccurrence of such incidents, including further training on the Code and Ofcom decisions.
The Licensee told Ofcom that “the joke was not offensive to the intended target and he can indeed be heard laughing in the background”. The Licensee also said that “at the time the presenter was not aware he had caused offence and has subsequently advised of his distress that any offence was caused”. The Licensee also highlighted that it “received no complaints directly to the station and [was] unaware this comment had actually caused offence”.
The Licensee described Tameside Today as a “magazine style show with comedic elements” and that the presenter’s style is “edgy and surreal mixed in with serious topics”. The Licensee therefore considered that the programme’s usual audience, the majority of whom are between the ages of 25 and 55, would be used to the style and humour. The Licensee also considered that the programme was broadcast at a time when children were unlikely to be listening as it was a school day.
Finally, the Licensee said that it and the presenter did not intend to cause offence and apologised for any offence caused.
In response, Ofcom decided the comments had the potential to cause offence: “It could have been considered by listeners as seeking to undermine the seriousness of such crimes, and make light of real life cases of child abduction or abuse.”