bFM Swear-Ridden Promo Receives First Complaint in 25 Years
By Justin Wong (he/him)
A long-running 95bFM promo featuring the words “fuck-knuckles, cock, and piss” and intended to rack up as many complaints as possible, finally got its first one earlier this year, before it was rejected by the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA).
The promotion, which was written 25 years ago, acts as a broadcaster publicity notice to remind listeners of the BSA’s complaints process.
“At this radio station we do our utmost to abide by the Broadcasting Standards Authority and their rules and guidelines.
“If you seriously think we’ve crossed the line on air, give us a call on 309 4831 and tell us about it. We’ll be able to help you out and tell you the procedure if you wish to make a formal complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.
“Fuck-knuckles, cock and piss, balls.
Listener Jeremy Evans complained to the BSA in March, claiming it breached the BSA’s standard of good taste and decency, saying he found the words “fuck-knuckles, cock and piss, balls” offensive and he could “take no more” after listening to it for three years.
“These are not just naughty words”, Evans wrote in a complaint to the station, “they create unpleasant mental images of a sexual nature.
“Also, I find the word ‘fuck’ offensive when it is used without any context, and especially in combination with ‘knuckles’…
“Further to this, I am of the opinion that your announcement is antagonistic to the BSA and its purpose. It seems to ‘raise the finger’ at the BSA in what I see as a juvenile attempt at humour.”
In her response, 95bFM’s Programme Director Sarah Thomson said the promo’s intent is far from being sexual or challenging the BSA, as the offending phrase is a “knowing wink” to listeners and had been “part of the fabric of the station”. The phrase had also been used on a limited-edition T-shirt that became best-selling merchandise.
“Most listeners find the words semi-ridiculous, silly even.
“Sadly, in this respect, you appear to be outnumbered.”
The BSA did not uphold the complaint, saying the promo was unlikely to undermine community standards as 95bFM’s target audience is young adults who are university students and the words were used satirically instead of an aggressive or sexually graphic manner.
The original promo was written in 1996 by former 95bFM Creative Director Bob Kerrigan and copywriter Scott Kelly, voiced by Jeremy Parkinson and only featured the phrase “fuck-knuckles, cock and piss”. The word “balls” was later added by Wallace Chapman and Richard Larsen, with a new version revoiced by Josh Hetherington.
Kerrigan, who was at 95bFM for six years between 1993 and 1999, told Debate he took it as a challenge to get as many complaints as possible after being told by station manager Suzanne McNicol, then Wilson, that the BSA complaints promo is “pretty straight” and the station needed to “be serious about it”.
“She was in a sombre tone saying it was the first serious ad that we have to do.
“I sort of said why don’t we just add ‘fuck-knuckles, cock and piss’ at the end and see what happens and we all cracked out laughing.
“We used Jeremy Parkinson – he worked for commercial radio and he had a ‘commercial radio’ voice and that’s how
95bFM has a creative policy that restricts airing agency-created ads, and instead creates or reworks them to suit its own style. Advertisers are also warned the station retains full control around all areas of advertising.
The station once rejected $20,000 advertising revenue from Red Bull because its “Red Bull gives you wings” brand didn’t fit the policy and the company refused to accept other creatives.
Kerrigan, who called the measures as a “no-crap” policy to the NZ Herald in 2002, said the BSA complaints promo was written in a way to maintain the “bFM sound”.
“At the time we were getting big brands like Vodafone to advertise to the youth market and we would not compromise – we had to do it our way.
“We just wanted to push the boundaries all the time.”
Kerrigan also said it felt good to create history that is still ongoing, despite the promo not achieving its purpose, having failed to register a single complaint for 24 years.
“That ad has been the biggest failure of my advertising career.”
Justin Wong is also a presenter of The Wire programme on 95bFM.