Wednesday, 30 April 2008

What you can and can't do on tv

TV regulations (now please don't run away, this is funny, honest) can be odd at the best of times. Over the -ty years I've worked in tv, they've changed a million times. Here are a few things we did on the television that weren't allowed:-

You can't depict a corpse being hung by a noose at 6pm in what is technically "kids-stroke-family viewing". Fair enough, you may say, we don't want that at 6pm, you evil man trying to broadcast it.

But it was a comedy show. And the 'person' being hung was a hand-puppet. Like Sooty but a pig. A bright pink comedy pig puppet. Red-tape-gorn-mad etc.

The word 'fart' wasn't acceptable before 7pm once. Now it is. No idea why.

Once of our shows had a character who was a spoof of a Sweeney-style 70s detective. (Life on Mars, tsk, stealing an idea from a children's show on Sky in 1993. Tsk again). We got into a bit of trouble as he'd say to a thirteen year old girl "Get orf my manor, you nonce!". None of us knew nonce was slang for child molester. Still, he said it to kids so it couldn't be offensive. Er, no. I had to recut 10 shows' worth of sketches replacing the word 'nonce' with 'bonce'. Made no sense at all, like when the very rude phrase is replaced with 'melon farmer' on American TV.

I had to spend 2 days in an edit trying to blur out the logos from the front of footy shirts, on a feature I'd shot at a premiership football ground. The sponsor was Carlsberg and alcohol advertising of any form is illegal in kids' tv time. It'd be easier now but was incredibly hard back in the pre-digital edit days.

When a po-faced lawyer is watching your show and reading a transcript, it's no use claiming it's obviously ironic. We had a 'Gadget of the Week' slot on a comedy show. The plot would be continuing and one of the characters would find something, point at it and go "what's that?". Then everyone in shot would turn to camera and say "it's the Gadget of the Week!", cheesy QVC-style music would start up and the actors would go out of character and sell it to camera.

We purposely mixed fact, fiction and utter nonsense in the scripts. On an electric bike: "It does 5mph. But not on the Moon. Moon not included". On a GPS thing: "This item is available in... shops. But not ones that sell just bread. Or meat. Or buttons." On a widescreen TV: "The screen is wide enough to show a whole man lying down. But not tall enough to show a mountain. A flaw there I think."

And so on. We got into trouble every week as the lawyers thought we were advertising the products not reviewing them. So we had to brand the segment with a big logo in the top corner and extra 'facts' scrolling up, so (in the words of the channel) "people know it's not a shopping channel". Sigh.

We filmed a lady presenter in a rubber dress in a very cold indoor swimming pool. I had to zoom in on her head and shoulders, cropping out her, um, indications of how cold it was in her chestal zone.

It's the one area we got away with murder, as lawyers have no sense of humour and tend to consult the scripts. So suggestive winks when aforementioned presenter-in-rubber-dress welcomes viewers to her "little slot" are fine.

One of those oh-so-tricky areas. We got into trouble for a cartoon where the owner/authority figure was black, as he snoozed a bit during the show and that was allegedly racist. I say trouble, there was one letter from a schoolteacher. We pointed out he was (a) a pensioner; and (b) secretly did lots of work when he was pretending to be asleep; he was just doing it for fun, winking to camera after. We didn't hear back but there again you never do.

Er, no. I won't go here.

1 comment:

John said...

Don't forget about the cartoon featuring John "Two Jugs" Prescott, which was John Prescott with lady breasts. Lawyers wouldn't let us allege that being exposed to nuclear waste had caused him to grow breasts, in case we were sued by the nuclear industry for defamation.

I still think that would have been very unlikely outcome.