Why is the censor bleep (or beep) commonly implemented the way it is. Usually on the radio or TV (at least in the United States) if a word is used which is deemed to be undesirable for whatever reason it is disguised by a very loud and shrill bleeping noise.

The effect of this bleep seems be the opposite of the desired effect: it calls out that whatever was censored (which was quite obviously censored) was "bad" and the people who are supposedly being protected from this censorship are immediately alerted to the idea that something about that sentence was bad.

My question is two fold:

  1. Why is the bleep still so common when just removing the audio is a much more subtle censoring?

    • Because someone who does not know they are watching something that is censored is much more effectively censored, no?
  2. When the bleep is used, why is it often so much louder than surrounding dialogue?

    • The silence bleep is much more pleasant to experience for the people who can fill in the blank on their own.
  • 10
    Conjecture: it makes the censoring obvious (non-obvious censorship could leat to confusion or worse) and is not completely unlike a "don't do that at home, kids" wagging finger. Or maybe tradition.
    – peterchen
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 8:02
  • It is louder because it is a highly compressed sound. This is the same as with commercials. How loud or intense the sound is experienced depends a lot on the listener and the audio system that is playing it. It would be nice if someone with a little more knowledge on the matter could explain why it is added in such compressed way.
    – jazZRo
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 12:35
  • BTW in a lot of songs, the rated version just has the swear words cut out, which sounds weird becuase it sounds like the singer just stopped singing for a second. Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 13:03
  • @peterchen the problem, I think, with "don't do that at home" is that they (supposedly) don't know what was bleeped and in order to not do it they still need to ask questions like "why was there a loud sound in the middle of that sentence?" "what is the word I'm not supposed to say?" So while obvious it is also less effective because now the censorship is discussed and I'd think, ideally, a censor wouldn't want their work discussed.
    – Brad
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 15:37
  • 1
    Oh I think it's a conscious choice by the producers to add a sound. And I don't think it's just vestigial, it's intentional. It doesn't make sense. If someone is watching TV in the next room, I may not even notice it's on until a bleep happens... then it's quite obvious and obnoxious. Jerry Springer is just 30 minutes of annoying beeping (interspersed with "you ain't my daddy!").
    – Phil Tune
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 22:16

2 Answers 2


One explanation is to know the difference between a lost feed and a censor. If a censor was to just cut the feed then a censor and a lost feed are the same. But if they put the beep over the feed there is difference. If the beep is to mask what is on the feed it needs to be louder than what it is masking and at a higher (or comparable) pitch. If the cut the feed they could just have a soft beep. I guess that when they started out they just put a loud high pitch bleep over the feed and never made it more friendly.

  • 1
    I can buy that's what's happening 20 (or really more) years ago but these days it seems like there must be a more elegant solution than to just, basically, shout louder that the profanity. Do you think there is an advantage to the listener/viewer to this, possibly, antiquated method of censorship? The example of where it is done really well is songs on the radio: the music keeps playing and the profanity is omitted. Sometimes a different word entirely is inserted.
    – Brad
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 23:40
  • 1
    @Brad Just where does my answer suggest I feel there is a UX advantage to this?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 23:57
  • I'm just asking, since this is the UX site after all, if you could expand maybe. If you think there is actually a UX advantage to the loud beep over simply dropping the audio for that censored section.
    – Brad
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 0:02

It is not a standard. (or it's not one that everyone must adhere to)

The 2015 Academy Awards used muting (silence) to remove profanity. It sounded like a momentary break in the audio, akin to erratic mobile phone reception. Because of that, it was almost not noticeable.

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