HC Deb 15 September 2003 vol 410 c530W
Mr. Byers

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will take powers to prevent the use of obscene, abusive and insulting language on television; and if she will make a statement. [129440]

Estelle Morris

[holding answer 11 September 2003]:Responsibility for what is broadcast on television rests with the broadcasters and the organisations which regulate broadcasting—the Governors of the BBC, the Independent Television Commission and the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority. They are independent of the Government and responsible for safeguarding the public interest in broadcasting. In carrying out their responsibilities, these authorities have a duty to ensure that programmes contain nothing which offends against good taste and decency or is likely to be offensive to public feeling. They also maintain guidelines for programme-makers on the standards which should be observed. This guidance includes advice on the use of language and timing of programmes and recommends when warning announcements about programmes should be made. In addition, the Broadcasting Standards Commission acts as a forum for public concern.

The Communications Act 2003 establishes a new regulatory framework for broadcasting and the communications industries, including the creation of a single regulatory body for the communications industries, the Office of Communications, which will have similar responsibilities for broadcast content. Viewers who are offended by television programmes should complain to the relevant broadcaster and, in the case of serious breaches of the regulatory codes, to the regulator.