Ofcom rules against BBC over Tony Curtis swearing on-air

Ofcom has found BBC Radio Ulster in breach of its broadcasting rules after Hollywood actor Tony Curtis swore three times during a live show.

The watchdog upheld complaints made by two listeners against current affairs show, Talkback, broadcast from 1pm on 22nd May, in which Curtis referred to some journalists as “bastards”, said to his Oscar nomination was “bullshit” and later said “fuck off” while recounting a story about a previous disagreement.

After each incident presenter, William Crawley, apologised on behalf of Curtis, with the veteran actor apparently only realising the programme was live towards the end, when he apologised to listeners, telling them he did not want to cause offence.

The BBC told Ofcom despite it having previously told Curtis and his press team the interview was live, it was clear from Curtis’s reaction that he was genuinely unaware the interview was live and was under the mistaken impression that his comments could be edited out before transmission.

Despite the on-air apologies, a later public apology by the BBC and an apology sent directly to Ofcom, the broadcast regulator ruled the language used in the show was likely to have gone beyond the expectations of the audience. However, it added Talkback was a political and current affairs programme therefore making it unlikely children would be listening to the broadcast.

It said: “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 transcript of the encounter:

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.”

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