So We Can Say “Shitholes” on TV and the Radio Now?

Well, sort of.

Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, America’s Federal Communications Commission and the UK’s Ofcom take a dim view of using profanity on the radio and TV. There are times when they turn a blind eye–the best example might be the “watershed” time, which allows naughty words on TV and in songs after a certain time in the evening, usually 9pm. This “won’t someone please think of the children” rule assumes that innocent ears are in bed and thus not vulnerable to hearing this sort of stuff.

While the CBSC does not have the power to fine broadcasters for using bad language (or letting bad language slip through), the FCC does. Remember when Bono let an F-bomb slip through during the Golden Globe Awards in 2003? The FCC went batshit over this–at least at first.

This week we were treated to Donald Trump’s “shithole” comments. When the story broke, CNN displayed this lower third.

This graphic is a good representation of Donald Trump’s worldview.

So it’s now okay to say “shithole” and “shitholes” on TV and radio? Again, sort of.

If the word is used in the context of a news story, it’s permissible under the broadcastings rules of most country. The moment that the word is used in a gratuitous way, that’s when the broadcast agencies will get their back up and you WILL hear from them.

Here’s CNN’s Don Lemon using the word 36 times.  (Note that this video was posted by a pro-Trump site.)


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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One thought on “So We Can Say “Shitholes” on TV and the Radio Now?

  • So, using George Carlin’s legendary “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television”, from 1972, and also using his factual logic, in the standup he says, “Motherfucker is a compound word”, explaining the word’s inclusion along with the word “Fuck”.
    So, using Carlin’s logic, the word “Shithole” can be added to this list, as it too, is a compound word, to go with “Shit”.


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