Bleeping has been used for many years as a means of censoring TV programs to remove content not deemed suitable for "family", "daytime", "broadcasting", or "international" viewing, as well as sensitive classified information for security. The bleep censor is a software module, manually operated by a broadcast technician. A bleep is sometimes accompanied by a digital blur or box over the speaker's mouth in cases where the removed speech may still be easily understood by lip reading.
On closed caption subtitling, bleeped words are usually represented by "(...)", sometimes the phrases "[expletive]", "[censored]", "[bleep]", "[explicit]" occasionally hyphens (e.g. abbreviations of the word "fuck" like f—k f---), and sometimes asterisks or other non-letter symbols (e.g. other abbreviations of "fuck" like ****, f***, f**k, f*ck (which is obvious), f#@k or f#@%), remaining faithful to the audio track. The words "cunt" and "shit" may also be censored in the same manner (e.g. c***, c**t, c*nt, c#@t or c#@% and s***, s**t, sh*t, s#@t or s#@%, respectively). The characters used to denote censorship in text (e.g. p%@k, %$^&, mother f%@$er, bulls%@t or c#@t) are called grawlixes. Where open captions are used (generally in instances where the speaker is not easily understood), a blank is used where the word is bleeped. Occasionally, bleeping is not reflected in the captions, allowing the unedited dialogue to be seen. Sometimes, a "black bar" can be seen for closed caption bleep.[better source needed]
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 Discovery Channel, bleeping is extremely common and is commonly used. In the case of comedies, most bleeping may be for humorous purposes, and other sound effects may be substituted for the bleep tone for comical effect, examples of which include a slide whistle, an infant's cooing, dolphin noises, or a spring "boing".
Other uses of bleep censoring may include reality television, infomercials, game shows and daytime/late night talk shows, where identifying information such as ages, surnames, addresses/hometowns, phone numbers and attempts to advertise a personal business without advanced or appropriate notice will be silenced or bleeped to maintain the subject's privacy (such as seen for subjects arrested in episodes of COPS).[better source needed]
When films are edited for daytime TV, broadcasters may 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.
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. There was also an instance of bleeped language in The Spy Next Door (during the bloopers) and Iron Man 2 (in the Tony Stark lawsuit TV broadcast at the beginning of the film)
The 1971 film Cold Turkey used bleeps in two scenes to cover one character's use of "fuck" in order for the film to gain a MPAA rating of "GP" (now known as PG), instead of an "R" rating. The "f" and the "k" were left audible.
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 Arrested Development episode "Bringing Up Buster," a character on a tirade is bleeped for several consecutive seconds, one word is uttered unbleeped, and then the bleeping continues for several more seconds. Other characters become progressively more horrified as the bleeping goes on.
In the episode "Sailor Mouth" of SpongeBob SquarePants, a large number of implied swear words are bleeped out with various ocean-themed sound effects, such as dolphin chirps. Though when Mr. Jenkins drives by on his Jalopy and honks his horn the characters think someone swore. Similarly, Mythbusters uses a wide range of sound effects to censor language or "top secret" material.
American comedian Jimmy Kimmel uses bleeping, as well as pixelization, in the weekly segment of his self-titled show called "This Week in Unnecessary 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.
Other videos have been made in the style of "Unnecessary Censorship" by bleeping out words in other media, in locations where they would suggest risque content. Examples include "The Count Censored" and "SpongeBob Censored."
In the episode of Arthur, "Bleep", D.W. hears a swear which is bleeped out, and starts using it, going as far as to say it to her mother when spying on a neighbor.
In the show Metalocalypse, the squeal of a "pinched harmonic" is used as a bleep. On one occasion where Nathan Explosion said multiple swear words in succession, a variety of squeals were used.
The bleep censor is not always used to mask televised profanity, but sometimes subjects deemed taboo, either in reality or as part of a scripted program. On an episode of the television series WWF Superstars of Wrestling that aired in early 1988, color commentator Jesse "the Body" Ventura attempted several times to bring up a subject declared taboo by World Wrestling Federation president Jack Tunney, and was censored each time; Ventura eventually grew so frustrated that he left the broadcast booth toward the end of the show. (The subject in question was the outcome of the February 5, 1988, WWF Heavyweight Championship match between Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan. As the WWF Superstars of Wrestling episode to be aired the weekend of February 6 was produced prior to the airing of The Main Event (where Andre's title win was booked to take place), the side angle concerning Tunney's "gag order" and Ventura being censored was contrived.)
On The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, when Ferguson swears, his mouth is covered with a flag of a particular nation, such as France, and is bleeped with a phrase from that country, such as "Ooh-la-la!" or "Tutsi-Fruitsy!"
In the British puppet-based sitcom Mongrels all of Vince's swearing is bleeped. Almost all of his lines contain at least one swear word which is bleeped.
On the U.S.-based TV channel Comedy Central the word "Holocaust" is bleeped out when it is mentioned by a comedian, so as not to offend anyone who may have affected by or are sensitive to the material.
In an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures entitled "To Bleep or Not to Bleep" Fowlmouth says swear words that are bleeped out throughout the episode when he is angered. Lots of times he cussed for no reason. Buster Bunny gets him out of swearing first with a robot, but that does not work. Then when he realized Fowlmouth does not swear around little kids, he helped him by placing a kid next to him if he was about to swear. Like this bleep, bleep, bleep, and bleepybleeperson !
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!, The Cleveland Show, The Simpsons, Futurama, Drawn Together, and especially South Park and Robot Chicken use this process to block strong curses that cannot be used on television in the United States, 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 or a fuzzy image superimposed over the speaker's mouth). Very rarely, the bleep will be light enough to hear the swear word over it.
During a playing of Scenes From a Hat from the 100th episode of the U.S. version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, one notable scene was "Statements that will get bleeped by the censor." For each word to be bleeped out that was used by Wayne Brady, Greg Proops, and Colin Mochrie (in that order), a red bar was placed over their mouths with the word "CENSORED" in white text.
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 program 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 the 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's a Bitch" where vulgarities were bleeped out, though the movie itself did not have censorship, and was given a 15 rating, despite a high amount of foul language.
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.
The UK version of the Adventureland Red Band trailer (the version shown in cinemas) which showed before Funny People and Drag Me to Hell when it was out in UK cinemas had the profanities bleeped out in order to have a 15 certificate.
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. Reports must be documented exclusively by the public and submitted in written form, whether by traditional letter or e-mail.
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/Mountain may fall out of watershed at 9 p.m. Central Time/Pacific Time. To compensate, a channel may only air uncensored material after 1 a.m. Eastern Time so that the broadcast is out of watershed in the contiguous United States.
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, mainly to appeal to advertisers who would be averse to placing their ads on their programs.
Some television and cinematic productions work around the requirement of a censor bleep by writing dialogue in a language that the intended audience is unlikely to understand (for example, Joss Whedon's Firefly used untranslated Chinese curses to avoid being 'bleeped', while the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes "The Last Outpost" and "Elementary, Dear Data" have the character of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard utter the French obscenity, merde, which is equivalent to "shit" in English.).
- Family Viewing Hour
- Minced oath
- Radio edit
- Sanitization (classified information)
- Tape delay (broadcasting)
- "Beep" (song), a 2006 song by The Pussycat Dolls which incorporates bleeps; see also the 2010 3OH!3 song "Touchin' on My"
- "I Bet You They Won't Play This Song on the Radio", a song by Eric Idle that uses comic sound effects for many bleeps
- The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet, an American talk show that, in 2008, gained notoriety for using a variation of the bleep censor dubbed a "bleep photo"
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- Ratcliff, Ace. "I Rely On Closed Captions to Enjoy a Show And I Don't Appreciate Netflix's Way of Censoring Them". SELF. Retrieved 2019-08-20.
- Taberski, Dan (2019-06-18). "Opinion | Is the Show 'Cops' Committing Crimes Itself?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
- Mark Sweney, "Probe into Barnardo's F-word ads", The Guardian, 5 July 2007
- "Obscenity, Indecency and Profanity". FCC.gov. Retrieved 2012-01-19.
- Goodrum, Michael; Smith, Philip (2015-02-02). Firefly Revisited: Essays on Joss Whedon's Classic Series. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4422-4744-4.