Bleep censor: Wikis


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A bleep censor (or "bleeping") is the replacement of verbal profanity or racial slurs with a beep sound (usually a About this sound 1000 Hz tone ), in television or radio. It is mainly used in the United Kingdom, the USA, Canada, Australia and Japan.


History of use

Bleeping has been used for many years as a means of censoring TV programmes to remove content not suitable for "family" or "daytime" viewing and personal information for privacy. The bleep censor is a software module, manually operated by a broadcast technician. A bleep is sometimes accompanied by a digital blurring of the speaker's mouth or covered with a picture like a black rectangle, in cases where the removed speech may still be easily understood by lip-reading.

On closed caption subtitling, bleeped words are usually represented by the phrase "(bleep)", sometimes hyphens (e.g. f--k), and occasionally asterisks or dashes (e.g. **** or ----), remaining faithful to the audio track.

Bleeping is normally only used in unscripted programs - documentaries, radio features, panel games etc - since scripted drama and comedy are designed to suit the time of broadcast. In the case of comedies, most bleeping may be for humorous purposes.

When films are edited for daytime TV, broadcasters usually prefer not to bleep swearing, but cut out the segment containing it, replace the speech with different words, or cover it with silence or a sound effect. (See also In film.) In the first example, the film may (unintentionally) become nonsensical or confusing if the removed portion contains an element important to the plot.

The bleep is sometimes used for privacy reasons, concealing for example names and addresses (as in the British hidden-camera series Trigger Happy TV, when a member of the public answers the question "Where are you going?").

Bleeping is commonly used in English- and Japanese-language broadcasting, but rarely used in some other languages (such as Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Polish), displaying the varying attitudes between countries; some are more liberal towards swearing, less inclined to use strong profanities in front of a camera in the first place, or unwilling to censor.

In film

Bleeping in the final cut of a film is extremely rare (alternatives abound anyway), unless it was intended by the director (as in a fantasy 1960s sitcom scene in Natural Born Killers, or for plot purposes in "Kill Bill"). At least one swear word was (intentionally) bleeped out of Talladega Nights, Ocean's Twelve, Accepted, Happy Gilmore, Disaster Movie, The Cat in the Hat, Meet the Spartans, Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me, and during the credits of Wild Hogs.

In some films in Indian languages, stronger swear words are censored out to keep the film at a BBFC certification of "12A" or lower, as cinemagoing is regarded as a family experience by the Indian community.


The bleep has been used as a source of humor. In the South Park episode "It Hits the Fan", the word fag was bleeped whenever a heterosexual character says it, but not a homosexual or bisexual.

In the episode Sailor Mouth of SpongeBob SquarePants, several swear words are bleeped out with various ocean-themed sound effects. Though when Mr. Jenkins drives by in his Jalopy and honks his horn the characters think someone swore, so as to show that all they heard was the bleep the whole time.

American talk show host Jimmy Kimmel uses bleeping, as well as pixelization, in the weekly segment of his self-titled show called "This Week in Unneccessary Censorship," a parody of the FCC's censorship rules. In the segment, clips of television footage are bleeped and/or pixelated to suggest much more risqué content than was actually aired. An example of this would be an instance in which someone saying "thank you" would be bleeped to obscure the first four letters of the word "thank," humorously implying that the speaker had said "fuck you" instead.

On television

Bleeping is commonly used on television programs that use profane words that are forbidden to television networks. Adult comedies such as The Office, Seinfeld, Family Guy, American Dad!, occasionally The Simpsons, and especially South Park and Robot Chicken use this process to block strong curses that cannot be used on television, and mainly to air it outside the watershed, or safe harbor. The 2008 series The Middleman, which aired on the ABC Family network, nonetheless included the occasional profanity in dialogue, which was bleeped for humorous purposes (with a black bar superimposed over the speaker's mouth).


Advertising in the United Kingdom

Television and radio commercials are not allowed to use bleeps to obscure swearing under BACC/CAP guidelines. However, this does not apply to programme trailers or cinema advertisements and "fuck" is beeped out of two cinema advertisements for Johnny Vaughan's Capital FM show and the cinema advertisement for Family Guy season 5 DVD. An advert for Esure insurance released in October 2007 uses the censor bleep, as well as a black star placed over the speaker's mouth, to conceal the name of a competitor company the speaker said she used to use. The Comedy Central advert for South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut had a version of 'Kyle's mom is a big fat bitch' where vulgarities were bleeped out, when the movie itself had no censorship, it was given a 15 rating.

A Barnardo's ad, released in summer 2007, has two versions: one where a boy can be heard saying "fuck off" four times which is restricted to "18" rated cinema screenings, and one where a censor bleep sound obscures the profanity which is still restricted to "15" and "18" rated films. Neither is permitted on UK television.

Trailers for programs containing swearing are usually bleeped until well after the watershed, and it is very rare for any trailer to use the most severe swearwords uncensored.

United States

The Federal Communications Commission has the right to regulate indecent broadcasts. However, the FCC does not actively monitor television broadcasts for indecency violations, nor does it keep a record of television broadcasts. It relies exclusively on documented indecency complaints from television viewers.

The FCC is allowed to enforce indecency laws during 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. local time. In addition, for network broadcasts, offensive material seen during watershed in one time zone may be subject to fines and prosecution for stations in earlier time zones: for instance, a program with offensive content broadcast at 10 p.m. Eastern Time/Pacific Time may fall out of watershed at 9 p.m. Central Time/Mountain. Many stations have been fined because of this detail.

Cable and satellite channels are subject to regulations on what the FCC considers "obscenity," but are exempt from the FCC's "indecency" and "profanity" regulations, though many police themselves using the same FCC guidelines.

See also

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