The BBC speaks (sometimes profanely)

Here is an email from the BBC complaints department, in response to my, er, complaint.

I’d said (and I censor my own email for the sake of decency here):

I am a Year 6 teacher and, as part of my drive for improved literacy and oracy, have recommended Radio 4 to the parents of my pupils. I grew up with Radio 4 as a background influence on my education and can partly attribute my two first class degrees to that experience. I cringe to think of my 10 and 11 year-old pupils sitting in their bedrooms listening to characters calling each other “*******”. I’ve heard the BBC’s arrogant and complacent response before: it doesn’t wash.

The BBC’s response was as follows:

Thanks for contacting us regarding ‘Saturday Drama: Otherwise Engaged’ broadcast on the 28 December.

We understand you were unhappy with the language used during the programme particularly as you had recommended Radio 4 to the parents of your pupils.

Concerns were raised with the programme’s Executive Producer, David Hunter and he stated that he feels that the language in this play was suitable for broadcast on a Saturday afternoon. He felt the language wasn’t gratuitous and was in line with the characterisation of the play.

Radio 4 does not operate a watershed but the following presentation announcement was made before the programme:

“The late Simon Gray, known to many as the author of the painful and funny ‘Smoking Diaries’, was one of the most distinguished playwrights of his generation. His dark comedies, like ‘Quartermaine’s Terms’, ‘Butley’ and ‘Otherwise Engaged’, had extended runs in the West End and on Broadway. Radio 4 now presents the latter play, a witty if irreverent and outspoken parable from this master of genial outrage. It contains strong language.”

I agree that the language wasn’t gratuitous.  It was a very good play: I’d have loved to listen to it in the evening.  But broadcasting these in the middle of the afternoon doesn’t seem right, and positioning a warning at the beginning of a programme doesn’t work with radio: listeners tune in at times that don’t always coincide with the beginning of programmes.

When I recommend a book for my children to read, I want to stretch them. Sometimes they ask to read a particular book, so I sit and read every word before they do – just in case there is inappropriate content.

So, in the light of this email from the BBC, I’d advise you to check the schedule beforehand.  Listening to Radio 4 may harm your child.

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