A total of 108 complaints were submitted to Ofcom about the live programme aired on ITV1 on October 23, 2011. At 8.42pm, host Dermot O'Leary announced that Cocozza had received enough votes to secure his place in the following week's show, to which the teenager responded: "F**king have it. Get in there."
The situation was made worse as there was no immediate on-air apology from O'Leary after the bad language had been uttered. An apology was aired later the same evening on ITV2 spinoff show The Xtra Factor in a live interview with Cocozza.
Channel TV, the ITV-owned broadcaster which provided compliance for the programme, said that it "deeply regretted" Cocozza's "unexpected and unprompted outburst".
The broadcaster said that it had already apologised directly to viewers who had contacted ITV directly to complain. But Channel TV also attempted to argue that the foul language was "barely audible" above the studio noise.
Channel TV said that "due to the noise of the audience at that point in the show, it is extremely unlikely that anyone in the studio [i.e. the judges, presenter, contestants and audience] would have heard Frankie's comment".
It said that various members of staff watched the entire programme from an off-air feed on domestic TVs in different parts of the studio complex and "no-one heard the comment as it was broadcast". This was why there was no immediate apology on the live show.
"Although we are aware this was a delayed response, and we are very conscious that the digital audience is not a direct comparator to a pre-watershed family audience on ITV1, The Xtra Factor was our earliest opportunity to respond to the issue," said Channel TV.
In its ruling, Ofcom disagreed with Channel TV that the word "f**king" was not audible to the audience, also noting that it came around 20 minutes before the 9pm watershed.
The regulator said that this was "particularly unacceptable in the context of a programme that attracts a substantial family audience".
It was noted that the X Factor results show is a live programme, which prevents "compliance challenges" for broadcasters, but the lack of an immediate apology was viewed as a failure of Channel TV's compliance procedures.
"Ofcom was particularly concerned that a high profile live programme such as this did not already have adequate systems in place to monitor the transmission output of the programme as it was broadcast," said Ofcom.
"We considered that in this instance the offensive term was clearly audible to viewers. Had there been suitable compliance procedures in place the broadcaster could have responded in a more timely and appropriate fashion."
Ofcom recorded a breach of the broadcasting code against ITV and Channel TV, and also issued a reminder to all broadcasters over their compliance responsibilities before the watershed.
"Licensees are reminded that broadcasting live programme content can pose special challenges and as a result extra measures may be needed to ensure compliance with the Code," it added.
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