Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Winter draws on ... fnar!

Just a few posts ago, I was waxing lyrical about a short visit to Bristol and ruminating upon our changing attitude to swearing (read the post here).

Well, last night I took some time to catch up on some of the TV shows I've recorded on my Sky+ box (for my American chums, it's a Tivo by any other name) and among the programmes was one all about censorship at the BBC. The show was called Auntie's War on Smut and was a tongue-in-cheek history of the sometimes rather prudish standards that the BBC set itself, most of which were contained within their notorious 'Green Book'.

The Green Book's proper title was the 'BBC Variety Programmes Policy Guide for Writers and Producers' and it was exactly that; an advisory handbook about what was acceptable and not acceptable content for BBC output. The book was published in 1948 and it's extraordinary to see how differently certain words were viewed back then. For instance (the following are all quotes directly lifted from the book):

'Programmes must at all cost be kept free of crudities, coarseness and innuendo. Humour must be clean and untainted directly or by association with vulgarity and suggestiveness. There can be no compromise with doubtful material. It must be cut. '

There is an absolute ban upon the following:

Jokes about ...
Lavatories
Effeminacy in men
Immorality of any kind

Suggestive references to:

Honeymoon couples
Chambermaids
Fig leaves
Prostitution
Ladies' underwear, e.g. winter draws on
Animal habits, e.g. rabbits
Lodgers
Commercial travellers

Extreme care should be taken in dealing with references to or jokes about:

Pre-natal influences (e.g. 'His mother was frightened by a donkey')
Marital infidelity

Good taste and decency are the obvious governing considerations. The vulgar use of such words as 'basket' must also be avoided.'

Isn't it great?

If you want to read the whole Green Book, there is an online copy here. It's good for a laugh, trust me.

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