Friday , April 19 2019
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Offensive?

Summary:
Juha Saarinen's pointing to an old Australian censor's compilation of naughty words reminded me to check up on whether New Zealand's Broadcast Standards Authority has updated its list.Long-term readers will remember the BSA surveys of a decade ago looking at the offensiveness of different terms. I'd then written: New Zealand's broadcast standards authority stops stations from using naughty words before 8:30 at night or so. But how can you tell what's acceptable? 'Bugger' used to be terribly naughty; now, not so much.Turns out they run a survey.And, before last year, the survey was run face to face. Now it's online.David Farrar feels sorry for the poor folks who had to go door to door with their list of swear words, asking the folks answering the door how offensive they found each

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Juha Saarinen's pointing to an old Australian censor's compilation of naughty words reminded me to check up on whether New Zealand's Broadcast Standards Authority has updated its list.

Long-term readers will remember the BSA surveys of a decade ago looking at the offensiveness of different terms. I'd then written:

New Zealand's broadcast standards authority stops stations from using naughty words before 8:30 at night or so. But how can you tell what's acceptable? 'Bugger' used to be terribly naughty; now, not so much.

Turns out they run a survey.

And, before last year, the survey was run face to face. Now it's online.

David Farrar feels sorry for the poor folks who had to go door to door with their list of swear words, asking the folks answering the door how offensive they found each one.

Maybe there's too much of the Eric Cartman in me, but get me on the right day, I might even pay money to do the polling work. Avoiding cracking up half-way down the list, and avoiding adding new ones to the list, would be the hardest part.

Now imagining Cartman actually being hired to do the survey and interviewing Mrs. Broflovsky...

And a few months later I noticed the time trend showing declining offense-taking. Some of that's now suffered link-rot.

But there have been updates since then anyway.

This 2013 fact sheet, "Unacceptable words on Television and Radio: A comparison of words that respondents found totally or fairly unacceptable in 2013, 2009, 2005 and 1999" has a great time series. Most things become less offensive over time, or at least for things at the top end of the distribution of offensiveness.

The 2018 update continues to show drops in the offensiveness of the most offensive terms - I've cut the column giving the specific words, but you can check it out for yourself if keen.

Offensive?
They also note "small but notable increases in proportion who find some gender-related words totally unacceptable", and that the "level of unacceptability for some blasphemies has decreased significantly."

The full report goes through offensiveness of different terms in different contexts, like whether the term is used by a talkback host or by a caller; as part of a show on television early in the evening or later. 

It also finds NZ Europeans are most accepting of swear words, followed by Maori, followed by those of Asian background, followed by those of Pasifika backgrounds. Females, Christians, and those on lower incomes are also less accepting of swear words - although this isn't a multivariate analysis as best I can tell, just cross-tabs. 

I love that the Broadcast Standards Authority runs these polls rather than asking a committee of expert prudes about community standards. It's all a bit moot with folks shifting to streaming from broadcast, but I still like it. 

And I still imagine Eric Cartman running the survey, and using it to get away with uttering the vilest phrases imaginable with an innocent look on his face, utterly free from consequence. 

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