Do you need to watch your language?
F*ck, sl*t, c*cksucker. Unsurprisingly these were the words deemed as highly offensive in Ofcom’s 38-page report detailing public attitudes towards offensive language on TV and Radio. The lengthy report summarises views towards the acceptability of individual words on TV and radio, which of course, can be used as a guideline for your podcasts too.
The report has ranked 186 English words into one of three broad groupings:
- Mild: Words in this category are unlikely to concern audiences in most circumstances and require limited context.
- Moderate: These words have a greater potential for offence than mild words, and a higher level of context should be considered based on what audiences would reasonably expect.
- Strong: These words are perceived as highly offensive and need clear and strong contextual justification for broadcast.
Participants were asked to rank swear words, sexual, political and religious references, along with references to body parts, mental health, physical ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, nationality and ethnicity.
While the aforementioned words were perceived as highly offensive, along with the words half-caste, he-she and cripple (for good reason!), on the opposite end of the scale, terms such as cretin, a Karen, Freshy, boomer, pissed off, and bint were perceived as mild.
So what does this mean for podcasting?
There have been many debates around profanities and use of language that may be seen as offensive in podcasting. While the rules when it comes to language on podcasts are more flexible than on live TV or radio, and many argue podcasts are a place to be authentically yourself, the language you’re using should be an essential consideration for podcasters.
When reviewing the language you use on your podcast, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I using profanities in context or to sound cool and edgy? The latter is peak cringe.
- Are any offensive words and terms I’m using relevant to the topic?
- Do I know enough about my audience to gauge what they will find offensive?
- How do my current/potential sponsors feel about profanities?
- Am I tagging my podcasts correctly, ensuring they’re marked as explicit if needed?
- Do I have an audience in countries that have banned explicit podcasts?
In reality, no one is in control of the language you use but yourself. So, take the time to understand your audience, consider the bigger picture and put yourself in the listener’s shoes. Yes shows like Guys We F*cked, My Dad Wrote A Porno and Shagged. Married. Annoyed exist, and yes they are thriving but it’s worth considering that these might be the exception to the rule. While podcast content can be almost anything you want and we personally don’t mind a bit of bad language, to get featured on podcast platform front covers/ discovery pages you might want to be a little more vanilla. You may not be afforded the same grace, luck or success for your unfiltered language.