Ofcom fines MTV £255,000 over swearing and texts

LONDON - Ofcom has fined MTV Networks Europe £255,000 for breaching its broadcasting code by repeatedly airing swearing and offensive language on several of its channels.

The guilty channels were TMF, MTV France, MTV UK (now called MTV1) and MTV Hits, which collectively transmitted a medley of swearwords and racist and homophobic abuse between 2006 and 2007.

TMF's 'Ultimate 50 Videos' programme, which was first aired before the 9pm watershed on June 24 2006, led to complaints from four viewers, who took issue with the repeated use of the words "motherfucker", "fuck you" and "fuck".

The channel also drew complaints from another 12 viewers for a trailer for 'Totally Jodie Marsh', which used the sentence: "I just don't want you settling down with some fucking wanker from a modelling agency."

Flagship channel MTV UK was rapped on the knuckles for foul language used in two editions of 'Totally Boyband'. The first, which was broadcast at 4.30pm on September 25 2006, caused offence with its use of the words "fuck", "shit" and "bollocks" -- while the second, which aired on October 23 2006, used the terms "big cock", "fuck it up" and "fucking boring".

MTV UK also received a complaint about various derivations of "fuck" used in 'Never Before Scene: Superbad', a film review programme transmitted at 9.00am on September 14 2007.

Music channel MTV Hits was guilty of transmitting offensive material on several of its shows, including text messages on 'Mr Know It All'. One set of texts asked: "What is a spunkbelly?" It was followed by the answer: "[It] is a collection of semen which has been consumed which collects in the stomach, giving the appearance of a beerbelly. Very nice." Other shows on MTV Hits repeatedly used variations of the "f-word".

Finally, MTV France received objections from viewers about racist and homophobic text messages that were sent in and aired on its 'Belge Chat' show. Messages included: "the white race will triumph", "death to gays" and "immigrants are going to fuck your mother". When asked by Ofcom to supply a recording of the programme, MTV Networks told the regulator that it was unable to because of a technical problem.

MTV flouted Ofcom's Broadcasting Code on four counts: inappropriate scheduling (1.3); that broadcasters must observe the watershed (1.4); that most offensive language must not be broadcast before the watershed (1.14); and that offensive language must be justified by context (2.3).

MTV Networks made a number of representations in response to Ofcom's verdict, including admitting to and apologising for the breaches; stressing that since September 2007 it had taken a number of steps to strengthen and improve its compliance systems and procedures; and highlighting that it had increased the number of compliance staff and introduced more compliance training across its business.

Ofcom said that it decided to impose a heavy fine on MTV due to the "serious, persistent and repeated nature of the breaches". The total fine of was broken down to relate to each of the guilty channels: TMF was fined £80,000; MTV France was £35,000; MTV UK was fined £80,000; and MTV was fined £60,000. The total £255,000 is payable to HM Paymaster General.

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