Media regulator Ofcom yesterday reported a softening in the attitudes of media consumers in what they were prepared to tolerate in regards to mild swearing and offensive language in broadcasts.
The watchdog, which is responsible for policing taste and decency on the airwaves, has established a “barometer of potentially offensive terms” to help staff deal with complaints from the public.
A list of words which once attracted complaints, including “mental”, “lezza”, “Jesus Christ”, “poof”, “queers”, “nutter” and “loony”, have all been placed in the least offensive “socially acceptable” category.
Based on a series of one-to-one interviews held in Glasgow, Birmingham, Belfast, London, Cardiff and Slough, the research also found that those taking part were relaxed about hearing “bitch”, “wanker” and “shit” after 9pm, and in some cases before the watershed, while the C-word attracted very few complaints if used after the 9pm.
Concern has been expressed by campaigners concerned with mental illness and homosexuality over the normalisation of some abusive terms, with Marjorie Wallace of mental health charity Sane commenting: “These sorts of words often betray fear and ignorance rather than lack of sympathy”.