Term ‘sheep sh****r’ considered ‘moderately offensive’, media regulator finds
The term “sheep sh****r” is considered moderately offensive, a media regulator has found.
Ofcom, which regulates broadcast, has conducted a study into changing social attitudes, which found that the British public is increasingly concerned by the use of racist language but is much more tolerant of swearing.
Participants in the study were asked their views references to race, nationality and ethnicity, and to rate terms as either mild, moderate or strong.
This included the term “sheep sh****r”, which had a high level of recognition, and was given a rating of “moderate”. Participants believed that context should be considered based on what an audience would reasonably expect when the term was used.
The study also included the term “taff”, which had a medium level of recognition, and was given a rating of “mild”. This meant it was unlikely to cause concern in most circumstances and required limited context.
References in the “strong” category were perceived as highly offensive and requiring clear and strong contextual justification.
Members of the public were also asked to rank the offensiveness of various swear words, slang for body parts, sexual terminology, and political labels, as part of the research.
Terms such as “arse”, “douchebag” and “mincing” were considered mild and broadly unlikely to cause offence. But words such as “f**k”, and “fa**ot” were viewed as highly offensive.
LGBT respondents broadly approved of the word “queer” but only if used in a positive context.
According to the research, most of the public felt “deliberate misgendering” of a trans person would be considered highly offensive. Using a person’s pre-transition identity, or deadnaming, was considered to be particularly unjustifiable. This is because it was likely to have been done deliberately.
Some participants were asked to reflect on the use of the word “gammon” to describe ruddy-faced Brexit supporters, while others considered the term “snowflake” to describe sensitive younger people.
Ofcom said: “Both [gammon and snowflake] were seen as less offensive compared to other derogatory words because they focus on people’s attitudes rather than their identity.
“They were generally seen as descriptive words that related to a person’s behaviour or views rather than targeting an individual or particular group based on their inherent characteristic.”
Other derogatory political terms that were ranked as mild included “Karen”, “boomer” and “remoaner”.
Adam Baxter, Director of Standards and Audience Protection said: “People’s views on offensive language can change significantly over time.
“So to ensure we’re setting and enforcing our rules effectively, it’s essential we keep up to date with how viewers and listeners think and feel.
“Broadcasters’ and audiences’ right to freedom of expression is important. These findings will help us to strike the right balance between protecting audiences – and children in particular – from unjustified offence, while still allowing broadcasters the creative freedom to reflect real life in their programmes.”