Radio 1 tightens controls after early-morning outburst from Ali G provokes censure

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The Independent Online

A foul-mouthed performance by Ali G was condemned by a taste and decency watchdog yesterday as Radio 1 announced new rules to prevent a repeat embarrassment.

The Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC) said the interview with Ali G, the spoof character created by Sacha Baron Cohen, on the Sara Cox morning show was "wholly inappropriate" for broadcast at a time when many children might have been listening. The BSC also expressed concern at the lack of editorial control.

The interview gave Ali G the opportunity to swear, use sexual innuendo and offensive language "without any significant intervention" from the production team, the BSC said.

Radio 1 has announced changes to its own guidelines, intended to prevent similar problems in future. A station spokesman said: "Although Radio 1 fully supports the manner in which The Breakfast Show dealt with the incident, all Radio 1 programme teams since have been reminded of the need to brief presenters and contributors about taste and decency issues in terms appropriate to the time of transmission and the expectations of listeners."

In future, live interviews broadcast when a lot of children are likely to be listening will be more closely scrutinised. Interviewees will be given a face-to-face briefing about what is and is not appropriate before going on air and will receive a warning if they go too far. If they persist, the interview will end.

When Ali G appeared in February, the interview continued for half an hour after his early claim that he had "knobbed J-Lo". Ali G produced a string of "knob" gags, called Gareth Gates, the Pop Idol contestant with a stammer, "spasticated", and joked about smuggling drugs.

The comments provoked three complaints to the BBC and 13 to the BSC. In its statement to the BSC, the BBC accepted it was not only Ali G's use of the F-word that had been unacceptable.

* The number of violent scenes in television entertainment shows has almost doubled in the past four years, according to research published today. There are now more violent scenes before the 9pm watershed than after, the report from the BSC, the Independent Television Commission and the BBC said.