Thursday, December 21, 2006

The RACC: Swearing on the Radio

What with the popularity of downloading porn from the internet, kids giving birth in class and live, authentic sex acts post-watershed on Channel 5, it seems a bit redundant that radio remains one of the most heavily censored media outlets in the country.

However, the rules are strictly enforced and as a scriptwriter, I often find myself having to send my efforts to one of the most remarkable organistions in modern radio, the

The RACC are the Ad Clearance Body of the Radio Centre. Funded by contributions from all commercial radio stations, their job is to check that ads comply with strict broadcasting rules before they're transmitted.

What makes the organisation remarkable is that it appears just six people work there - yet they deal with commercials from over 500 radio stations across the nation. According to their latest report, these six people manage to deal with almost 2000 commercials each month and turn around over 70% of them within a staggering eight hours.

The rules regarding commercials are many and varied. Generally, commercials are broadcast without having to have them cleared by the RACC - but certain products (like lapdancing clubs and tanning salons, both businesses I've dealt with recently) are 'hot topics' and can't be broadcast without approval.

The rule is - if there's a chance the advert might cause complaint, get it checked by the RACC. Because if a complaint does crop up (and the RACC received 97 in the last three months) if you haven't been given the thumbs up by the RACC crew, you're generally going to come unstuck.

Anyway. The reason for this email was swearing - and what's allowed on the radio and what isn't. Since one of my complaints about Torchwood was it's cheery and enthusiastic use of the word "fuck," I was quite surprised that the RACC had this to say about acceptable and unacceptable swearing on the radio.

Unacceptable: All 'standard' offensive words, like the f-bomb, shit, the c-word etc.
Bloody: Unacceptable. Research has shown that this causes significant offence.
Damn: Acceptable. Considered mild enough that it is unlikely to cause offence.
Ruddy: Far removed from bloody and unlikely to cause offence.
Naff off: A euphemism for "fuck off" and likely to offend.
You sod/Sod it: Derived from sodomy and considered offensive in these contexts.
Sod's law: A familiar term unlikely to cause offence.
Chuffing: A euphemism for "fucking."
Berk: Offensive, derives from "Berkshire Hunt" which is rhyming slang. (I'll leave you to guess what for.)
Cow: Acceptable, whether the subject is of bovine nature or not.
Bitch: As a term of abuse, either direct or implied, it is unacceptable. It is acceptable to use the term when referring to a female dog, but there should be no play on the word.
Dork: Means penis and is therefore offensive.
Pillock: Another penis derivation.
Schmuck: And another.
Prat: Means buttock, which is not considered to be offensive.
The dogs...: Can only be followed by "bollocks" when used in the context of something being good, so is unacceptable.

Deleted expletives are unacceptable - so you can't have a 'beep' like they do to blot out the bad words on Jerry Springer.

You also can't play on words, like calling somebody a "Thomas the Tanker" because it sounds a bit like 'wanker.' Ran into some problems with this at
KickFM where we had an ad for a car company's finance scheme that demanded: "Don't deal with Bankers!"

So as you can see, radio is still a pretty restrictive medium to deal with.

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