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Not Just American Parents Are Heated Up Over Profanities

Al Gore had his weekend in the sun after organizing concerts in various countries with the goal of making the world aware of global warming. (I can’t help but wonder how anyone on this planet with a television hasn’t already heard about this issue?) However, after this weekend’s Live Earth broadcast in Britain, viewers were feeling hot under the collar—and it had nothing to do with the notion of rising temperatures.

“Like Americans, UK citizens are also fed up with hearing "potty mouth" ...language.”

There is no Parents Television Council in Britain, but after hearing Madonna, Chris Rock and even (disappointingly, one of my favorite artists) Phil Collins use a litany of profanities and sexual expletives during the Saturday afternoon broadcasts of the concerts from various worldwide locations, Brits needed no prodding to tell their state broadcaster what they thought. One hundred fifty complaints were officially recorded, which represents a significant portion of the audience, and indicates that, like Americans, UK citizens are also fed up with hearing a "potty mouth" -- the actual term used by one of the broadcast's hosts while apologizing for the language used by Phil Collins.

The hosts continued to apologize for the raunchy language during the afternoon, indicating that they were well aware the audience would not be impressed. For some reason, the broadcast was not delayed by a few seconds to allow technicians to bleep the language (thankfully, tvtechnology.com says that NBC, the US network covering the event, was using a multi-second delay system). This may prove to have been a costly mistake as the ratings for the event were particularly poor in the UK, leading some to speculate viewers simply wouldn't tolerate what they were hearing.

The UK newspaper website The Daily Mail [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=467114&in_page_id=1770#startcontent] published details of the reaction to the broadcast, and readers have weighed in with their opinions. Here is one response from Helen in Northants that is indicative of how many felt:

"The BBC always have excuses as to why they break their own rules on what can go out before the watershed [meaning, during family hours], and they do it regularly. Sadly I suspect the answer is for responsible parents not to trust them at all if they have young children, and stick to more family-friendly channels."

In fact, of the 79 comments to the news story, not a single one offered an opinion that suggested the reactions to the profane language were unreasonable.

Interestingly, this isn't the first time the BBC has been under fire for profane language during a concert broadcast. The Live 8 concert (which also featured Madonna and a tirade of expletives from rapper Snoop Dogg) in 2005 drew criticism from the UK's official broadcast regulator for not using a delay, which the BBC said it couldn't do because of contractual issues.

On this side of the "pond," The Parents Television Council has frequently come under fire from those in the US who believe the FCC would hardly hear a single complaint from Americans if it weren't for the PTC's easy-to-use website that allows frustrated parents to fire off a letter of complaint to the Commission with just a click on their mouse. While we can't remove the possible incentive the PTC has provided to the many who have voiced their concerns, the reactions of viewers in a country that is often viewed as more liberal with television content than the United States proves profanities on public broadcast airwaves is not just a "conservative" American issue.

While we fight to maintain some sort of civility on our own television networks, it provides an ounce of comfort to discover we're not the only society on this planet that is tired of hot air filled celebrities contributing to verbal global warming.

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