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"What a bunch of cox sackers" - the BBC gets into trouble over innuendo


"They said WHAT?!"

THE BBC HAS been rapped on the knuckles today after one of its presenters used a jokey play-on-words to describe a university rowing team – but which authorities say was inappropriate for daytime radio.

A listener complained after sociologist and radio presenter Laurie Taylor read out an email on his BBC Radio 4 programme which used the term ‘cox sackers’ to describe the sacking of a member of a rowing team.

The email made a light-hearted criticism of an item on the previous week’s show and ended with the words: “Heavens to Betsy, what a bunch of cox sackers”.

The complainant said it was “a grossly offensive play on words” and said that most listeners would have interpreted it as an offensive term, which was unsuitable for a programme being broadcast at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. She described it as the “thin edge of the wedge with regards to the broadcasting of sexual material by the BBC”.

The programme team said that the words “should have been separated and enunciated rather more clearly [but] we realise they weren’t”.

The complaint was rejected twice before being brought to the BBC Trust, the independent governing body of the BBC.

The Trust’s editorial standards committee upheld the complaint today, some thirteen months after the original broadcast, and said that if the words had been articulated clearly, “the phrase would have been within the expectation of the programme’s audience.”

However, it noted, the phrase “was not articulated clearly enough and could easily have been misheard for the offensive word ‘cocksuckers’ by the majority of the audience”.

The committee said it was “highly likely” that a “significant part of the audience misheard the pronounciation of the phrase ‘cox sackers’ and believed that a seriously offensive word had been used in its place”.

The ruling also said that the phrase was inappropriate at any time of day, but particularly when the content was broadcast at a time when children were more likely to be listening to the radio.

The committee concluded that the programme had breached editorial guidelines and apologised for any offence caused by the broadcast.

Read: 11 actual surnames that would be unfortunate in Ireland >

Column: What does ‘feck’ really mean? >

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