John Plunkett 12.9.11
Radio station grilled over 'panini' swearwordStation claims Scottish listeners do not find F-word offensive – and sexual slang word in song means Italian sandwich
|The slang word used in the song played by Brick FM was made popular by TV character Ali G|
Brick FM was hauled before media regulator Ofcom after appearing to breach broadcasting regulations by playing songs which included the word "fuck" and "punani".
Station management defended the broadcasts, saying "fuck" was a "commonly used word in Scotland which is not considered offensive locally" and went as far to suggest that Ofcom was "unfamiliar with [the] local dialect".
It went on to say a punani was a "sandwich sold locally and is made of Italian bread with cheese and tomato which is heated up".
It is unclear whether the confusion between "punani" – a slang word for female genitals used by TV character Ali G – and "panini" was accidental or tongue in cheek.
Ofcom, however, was having none of it. It said the use of the word in the song, More Punany by Dr Evil, was "clearly used in this song as [an] urban slang word meaning vagina, and it was used in a sexual context".
The regulator said it was unclear how offensive people find the word "punani", but there was no doubt about "fuck" which it deemed "the most offensive language".
Brick FM argued that "fuck" was a "commonly used word in Scotland, as a description when something goes wrong or if they get angry or upset, using "fucking cars" and "fucking crazy" as examples.
It said it had "the right to use the commonly spoken word which is not considered offensively".
But Ofcom said: "Irrespective of whether the word 'fuck' is used in a sexual context or as an expression of anger, our research indicates the word and its derivatives are examples of the most offensive language.
"Ofcom therefore does not accept Brick FM's argument that the word is not considered offensive in Scotland. In Ofcom's view, the broadcast of this language clearly had the potential to offend."
Ofcom ruled that Brick FM was in breach of broadcasting regulations. It said there had been previous breaches of the station's licence commitments and warned it had "serious concerns about Brick FM's approach to compliance and may consider regulatory action if further breaches occur".
Jesse Rae, a senior manager on Brick FM, said the "punani"/"panini" confusion had been a genuine mistake and accused Ofcom of "relentless" over-the-top regulation.
"I'll be quite honest with you, I had never heard of the word, this is all new to me," said Rae. "We are a tiny community radio station and we had one guest presenter come on and play a couple of records in the space of seven minutes in which we hadn't spotted the swearwords.
"It was a simple little mistake that could be easily resolved as we did when we found out, but that wasn't good enough for Ofcom."
Brick FM broadcasts in St Boswells, Newton St Boswells and the surrounding area in the Scottish Borders and has been on air since 2008.
The volunteer-run station said the songs had been played on a programme called Rory's Reggae Roots by a guest presenter, DJ Roundabout, which was no longer being broadcast.
One of the station's key commitments was to build links with local primary schools, inviting children to visit the station and make their own programmes.
Ofcom monitored the station's output on 23 February this year and said it had found "various instances of offensive language".
The song More Punany included two instances of the word "fuck", with another song, Tinie Tempah's Pass Out, including five.