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Ulster says sorry for swearing

BBC Radio Ulster has apologised after a live interview with Hollywood actor Tony Curtis contained a number of swear words.

It happened during the political and current-affairs phone-in programme Talkback on May 22nd 2009.

During the course of the interview Mr Curtis used the words “bastards”, “bullshit” and “fuck”. After each, the presenter apologised to the audience, as follows:

Tony Curtis [speaking of journalists]: “…some bastards go ahead and make them headlines.”

Presenter: “I guess I have to apologise for that Hollywood realism moment there.”

And later:

Tony Curtis [speaking of being nominated for an Oscar]: “Yeah but that was bullshit… I’m sorry.”

Presenter: “More Hollywood realism breaking through on Radio Ulster.”

Finally, towards the end of the interview:

Tony Curtis: “So I just got up and said ‘fuck off’.”

Presenter: “Oh no, now come on. We really, really can’t use that kind of language.”

Tony Curtis: “You can’t use that kind of language?”

Presenter: “We can’t use that language, no, I apologise to our listeners.”

Tony Curtis: “Now listen, my dear friend, you can take that, er…Oh, it is live.”

Presenter: “Yeah, we’re live, we’re live on the radio.”

Curtis: “I apologise to everyone…I don’t want to offend anyone. Everyone has the right to enjoy what life giveth.”

Ofcom received two complaints from listeners who felt this language was offensive and unsuitable for the time of transmission. The BBC has since issued a public apology which was reported in the media.

The BBC added that it was clear from Mr Curtis’s reaction that he was genuinely unaware that the interview was live and was under the mistaken impression that his comments could be edited out before transmission. Once he realised his error, he too apologised immediately, and again at the end of the interview, both men apologised to listeners.

So while Ofcom acknowledged that the apologies to listeners went some way in mitigating the potential offence of the language used, Ofcom considered that the language, in particular the use of the word “fuck” was likely to have gone beyond the expectations of the audience for a programme of this type and at this time.

The regulator found the station in breach of Rule 2.3 (material that may cause offence must be justified by the context) of the broadcasting code.

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