Ofcom has ruled that the 30 January culinary swearfest Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare - a two-parter which kicked off at 9pm - was in breach of the broadcasting code after racking up an impressive "115 instances of the most offensive language" in its first 40 minutes.
The watchdog received 51 complaints about the programme - which included choice vocab including “fuck”, “fucking” and “fucked” peppered with the occasional "shit". One outraged viewer wrote: “The excessive use of bad language by Gordon Ramsay was just unreal and the abusive way in which he continually used it to speak to others, the use of the 'F' word once or twice maybe but it's continued used in almost every sentence was totally unnecessary. I know it was after 9.00 but there are limits…”
Ofcom considered whether the programme had breached Rule 2.3 of the Code, which states that offensive content must be justified by context.
Channel 4 stressed that the abuseathon had been preceded by a “strong language from the start and throughout” warning which "provides adult viewers with sufficient information to inform their viewing choice and to decide whether to permit any children to watch".
It further defended that Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare boasted "unique characteristics which justified the high level of strong language that was included" and that "the use of strong language in this programme accorded with the likely expectations of the audience, was editorially justified, and did not offend the overwhelming majority of viewers."
In its ruling (pdf), Ofcom notes Channel 4's pre-show warning and accepts that "the vast majority of the audience comes to the programme with certain expectations."
However, it underlines the sheer weight of bad language in the episode, highlighting a particularly extravagant outburst "at approximately 21:30" when "a restaurant chef angrily berated his boss shouting the word 'fucking' at him 30 times in less than two minutes."
The watchdog continues: "The range of complaints made to Ofcom indicated that a number of regular viewers to the programme were shocked and offended by the combination of the sheer frequency of the offensive language and the way some of it was delivered."
It concludes that "the scale, frequency and way in which the most offensive language was delivered in the first two parts of this programme, went significantly beyond what could be reasonably anticipated by regular viewers - at this time of the evening – and resulted in a breach of the Code."
Channel 4 admitted it had "got it wrong" in the programme's scheduling. According to the BBC, a spokesman offered: "We respect that, given the strength of language in the first part of this two-hour special, the programme should have been scheduled later than 9pm."
Gordon Ramsay also offered his apologies via his spokesman, who said: "Great British Nightmare followed Gordon trying to save two restaurants in the most difficult predicaments. These extreme challenges gave rise to many heated exchanges in the double-length programme.
"But Gordon had no intention of causing offence and is sorry if Channel 4's scheduling of the programme upset some viewers." ®