J A FRANKLIN AGAINST THE WEEKEND SUN

Case Number: 840

Council Meeting: September 2001

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Weekend Sun

Ruling Categories: Taste Lack of

The Press Council has not upheld a complaint against the use of the word “bollocks.”
A headline in Tauranga’s Weekend Sun newspaper referring to “bollocks” offended a reader, Mr JA Franklin.
The headline, “Mid-winter dippers line up to freeze off their bollocks,” was placed over a story about a mid-winter swim.
Bollocks, or ballocks, is a slang term for testicles. It is sometimes used as an expletive to denote a person’s disbelief of something. It is also used as a verb. Getting a right bollocking means getting a good telling off. However there can be little doubt as to its meaning in the context of the headline and story.
Mr Franklin’s complaint was published as a letter to the editor. He said he was disappointed with the use of the word and said if the writer could not have found a better headline then he or she should “give up”. “We realise that in every profession standards are slipping but for a family oriented newspaper to allow such a headline in beyond us.”
The newspaper editor, Brian Rogers, decided to attempt a light-hearted response which was published alongside the letter below the headline: “Headline writer gone off his/her nut?” It said The Weekend Sun was creating new standards - “we’ve taken the old ones by the proverbials and given them a good twist.” It said the headline writer “was given a good bollocking and sent fishing, ordered not to return until he has felt remorseful or had a bin full. Hasn’t been seen since.”
Mr Rogers told the Press Council the paper had never described itself as “a family-oriented newspaper” as Mr Franklin had claimed. The paper had reasonable standards and stuck to them. He said the word “bollocks” was in common usage and could not be considered offensive. It had been used on television programmes including Coronation Street, Black Adder, Father Ted and One Network News. There was also a pub called “The Dog’s Bollocks.”
The Weekend Sun had been congratulated by readers on its handling of the issue.
The Press Council acknowledges that the English language is in a continual state of transition. It accepts that the word may be offensive to some but does not accept it comes close to being completely unacceptable. The council endorses the newspaper’s right to have handled the matter in the way it chose. A letter of complaint was made and the newspaper’s position was published alongside the letter.
The complaint was not upheld.