Warning: This post includes language some may find offensive.
President Trump’s recent undiplomatic language to describe Africa, Haiti, and El Salvador was a big news story. So how did the BBC report it? That depends on where you were watching or listening.
Whilst the word “shithole”was deemed acceptable to a domestic audience in the UK, it wasn’t to folk in the US. You see The BBC is bound by the guidelines issued by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), that regulates TV, radio, cable and satellite output. It lists words that are deemed offensive or indecent.
The end result was that listeners to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme were able to hear the quote in full, whilst those watching the BBC’s World Service received a slightly different quote.
In fact it left reporters with a bigger question. Could they report the story at all? If they couldn’t use the word “shithole”, what word could they use to get past the FCC’s regulation? “Arsehole” was deemed inaccurate, so should you use a nondescript phrase instead (e.g. “Trump’s vulgar slur”). The trouble with that is the story loses potency.
Localization of any kind is a sensitive issue. I mean why do you think the Red Cross is rebranded the Red Cresent in Islamic countries? It is so easy to offend.
So what would you report Trump’s quote? I think I’d have just translated it into German. It sounds so much better.