Radio 4’s daytime adaptation of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, complete with uncensored swearing and graphic sex scenes, proved too much for some quarters of middle England.
But media regulator Ofcom has cleared the Radio 4 drama of any breach of broadcasting guidelines despite 14 complaints about the broadcast in the 15 Minute Drama slot after Woman’s Hour last month.
An Ofcom spokesperson said: “We assessed complaints objecting to sexual and offensive language in this radio drama. However, we won’t be pursuing these complaints.
“We took into account that the material was highly contextualised within Woman’s Hour. The content was preceded by a clear warning, and was adapted for radio from a well-known novel.”
The 1973 best-selling novel told the story of a 29-year-old poet’s journey of self discovery, and coined the phrase “zipless fuck” to describe an “absolute pure” sexual encounter.
My response to all this was not (not yet) to have an affair and not (not yet) to hit the open road, but to evolve my fantasy of the Zipless Fuck. The zipless fuck was more than a fuck. It was a platonic ideal. Zipless because when you came together zippers fell away like rose petals, underwear blew off in one breath like dandelion fluff. Tongues intertwined and turned liquid. Your whole soul flowed out through your tongue and into the mouth of your lover.
It was dramatised in five parts for Radio 4 as part of its celebration of women’s literature. It was also discussed on Woman’s Hour, complete with on-air warnings about the programme’s content.
The complaints were assessed by Ofcom but the regulator decided not to proceed with a formal investigation.
Unlike television, radio does not have a 9pm “watershed” where swearing and more violent and explicit material is regarded as more acceptable.
However, the BBC’s guidelines say “scheduling considerations must be taken into account” on radio.
Radio 4 courted controversy two years ago with a new version of Tony Harrison’s expletive laden 1980s poem, V.
But the more high profile instances of swearing on Radio 4 in recent years have tended to be unintentional, such as James Naughtie’s unfortunate rechristening of Jeremy Hunt.
Ofcom investigates Radio 1 and Channel 4
Separately, Ofcom is investigating two instances of swearing on Radio 1 and Channel 4.
The regulator is looking at the use of the word “fuck” in a broadcast of Radio 1’s Live Lounge, presented by Clara Amfo, on 10 February.
It featured an appearance by the the stars of BBC3 comedy People Just Do Nothing, spoof pirate radio station Korupt FM and was branded the “worst Live Lounge in history”.
Ofcom is also looking at Channel 4’s broadcast of the freestyle ski and snowboard event, the Frostgun Invitational, on 27 February, which featured a music track broadcast during an awards ceremony. Both aired before the 9pm watershed.