Gammon, remoaner, Karen and snowflake are among the words added to Ofcom’s list of offensive terms
- The communications regulator added several words to a list of offensive terms
- It is the first time that politically-charged labels have been included on the list
- Among the entries are ‘karen’, ‘libtard’, ‘snowflake’ and ‘gammon’
- Ofcom says it is important to follow linguistic trends and the development of language online, particularly on social media, to monitor what may be offensive
- But the move may well be seen as stoking the ‘woke’ movement and an infringement on free speech
‘Karen’ and ‘Gammon’ are among some of the latest words added to a list of offensive terms by the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom, which has begun ranking politically-charged terms for the first time.
‘Karen’, typically used to refer to an entitled middle-class, and normally white woman, and ‘gammon’, a term referring to right-wing, pro-Brexit men, are joined by words such as ‘libtard’, ‘remoaner’, ‘snowflake’ and ‘boomer’ on Ofcom’s list of words which could upset viewers and listeners.
Racial, anatomical and religious terms are already on Ofcom’s list of potentially offensive words whose impact broadcasters must bear in mind when producing programmes.
The regulator said that it would begin considering new terms when reviewing complaints made by audiences, declaring that the changing meaning of words and the increasing usage of politically-charged insults meant broadcasters would be urged to monitor their inclusion of such words from now on.
LBC host and former BBC Newsnight presenter James O’Brien was brought to the attention of Ofcom for his recent use of the term ‘gammon’ to deride the right-wing, and this example has been used to demonstrate how such political terms can be deployed negatively.
Ofcom’s Director of Standards and Audience Protection Adam Baxter said: ‘People’s views on offensive language can change significantly over time.
‘So, to ensure we’re setting and enforcing our rules effectively, it is essential that we keep up to date with how viewers and listeners think and feel.
The regulator announced that they carried out audience research and a nationwide survey to estimate the impact of political terms and phrases, the findings of which suggested that these labels only cause ‘mild offence’ when compared with racially or religiously-charged terms and foul language.
The research also revealed that political labels were not recognised by as many survey respondents despite their rapidly expanding presence, particularly on social media sites.
Ofcom went on to insist that the inclusion of politically-based insults in their offensive language list will not infringe on people’s right to free speech and does not constitute censorship.
But the regulator confirmed that these phrases and labels will be monitored in the coming months to determine their impact on audiences as the meaning of the words change and gain traction amid television and radio audiences as well as social media users.
Detractors of the regulator are likely to criticise the addition of these terms to the offensive words list as a restriction on freedom of speech and may accuse the regulator of stoking the ‘woke’ movement – a term which may well be added to Ofcom’s list in the future.
‘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 performances,’ said Baxter.
Some of the other terms added to Ofcom’s list are ‘boomer’ – an insult chastising baby boomers who are perceived to be out of touch and dismissive of younger generations – and ‘snowflake’ – a word used to describe individuals, typically left-wingers, who are seen as easily offended, overly sensitive and too politically-correct.