Skip to content
Home » Blog » Freedom of Speech In Podcasts: What Can Be Said On Podcasts?

Freedom of Speech In Podcasts: What Can Be Said On Podcasts?

In the world of social media and the digital ecosystem we’re all a part of, freedom of speech can be a sensitive topic. There are conversations about freedom of speech being violated on a regular basis. There are complaints about freedom of speech being restrained. It’s an ongoing dialogue with facts and figures, but also emotions and personal sentiment. That’s a hard line to walk.

It’s something we tackle in the podcast industry, with freedom of speech in podcasts being something every podcast host needs to think about. It’s also a large part of the conversation on the other side, with podcast listeners. In this Mr. Thrive Media blog, we’ll dive into freedom of speech in podcasts to see just what we’re speaking about (and listening to) in the podcast industry.

What Can Be Said On Podcasts?

When it comes to freedom of speech in podcasts there are several questions that crop up for hosts, guests, and listeners alike. What can be said on podcasts? How dependent are those rules on the subject of the podcast? Where do legal and ethical rights meet in freedom of speech in podcasts? 

There are many podcasts that use extreme language and share ideas that incite intense reactions. One notable podcast in this category is The Joe Rogan Experience. There have been conversations around The Joe Rogan Experience and the rhetoric used in the show. 

Some folks have said the podcast should be canceled for the content and language. Others argue that freedom of speech protects podcasters, like Joe Rogan and others, to say what they want within the confines of the First Amendment. The question is, where do podcasts and their content rest within our right to free speech? Let’s find out!

Freedom of Speech In the 21st Century

Freedom of speech in podcasts and the digital world, in general, has been at the center of discourse across the internet, in coffee shops, and in legal proceedings. The term “freedom of speech” gets tossed around a lot, but it’s not always delved into as deeply as it should be. 

Yes, we are protected with freedom of speech, but there are restrictions. The main restrictions apply to “incitement, defamation, fraud, obscenity, child pornography, fighting words, and threats,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. 

Some of the main restrictions on freedom of speech cited most regularly in these days are the willful spreading of misinformation and inciting violence and hate through specific rhetoric. All of this comes together to say that, yes, we have the right to speak freely, but we’re responsible for speaking with respect for the world, the ongoing discourse, and our fellow human beings. 

Freedom of Speech In Podcasts for the Host

The implications of freedom of speech in podcasts rest between the host and the listeners. A fair amount of the responsibility lies with the host and their podcast team, to make sure they’re speaking in a way that doesn’t violate anyone else’s rights and is in line with their brand and theme. 

These three facets of freedom of speech in podcasts for the host highlight the responsibilities and expectations for a podcast host. Finding the right thing to say on your podcast and interacting with your listeners is a balance you’ll find with time. Keeping these ideas in mind will help you along the way.

3. Follow the First Amendment 

Following the First Amendment is the place to start for walking the line of freedom of speech. In your podcast, you can speak openly, but don’t cross the lines of incitement, defamation, or any of the other restrictions. If your subject is sensitive take extra care to be considerate with everything you say. 

2. Speak for Your Desired Audience

The subject of your podcast won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and it doesn’t need to be. As much as your content needs to stay within reasonable expectations, you can and should work within those expectations to cater to your audience. Be edgy, bold, or gentle, but always keep your audience in mind.

1. Expect and Accept Pushback

Even when you follow the legal and ethical boundaries of what you can say, and you speak to your audience, you’re going to get pushback. Every podcast does, there’s no way around it. The best thing you can do is know that it happens, and if your content is of high quality and is on topic, you’re doing the right thing.

Freedom of Speech In Podcasts for Listeners

For listeners, the right to freedom of speech through the first amendment applies to speaking and commenting. It also applies to the right to listen, or not be compelled to listen. As much as podcast hosts have the right to say what they want within the confines of the Constitution, you have the right to not be compelled to listen. 

These three pieces of the puzzle of freedom of speech in podcasts for listeners are all about what your rights and responsibilities are as a listener. You have rights, responsibilities, and a unique place in the industry of podcasts, and these factors help to establish that place. 

3. Respect the Freedom of Podcast Hosts

As a listener, as much as you have a right to listen to podcasts, podcasters have the general right to freedom of speech. There are going to be podcasts you don’t like, hosts you can’t stand, and ideas you don’t agree with. There are plenty of podcasts you will appreciate, and for the ones you don’t, they still have a place in the industry.

2. If You Hear Something, Say Something

Of course, there are also going to be podcasts that cross firm lines. If you’re listening to a podcast and you hear something that doesn’t fall within the confines of freedom of speech, speak up. Commenting or sharing a direct communication with the producer of the podcast is the responsibility of every podcast listener if they hear something that causes real harm.

1. Find Your Favorite Podcasts

The range of podcasts available to listeners means that, even with podcasts that don’t fit your taste, there are going to be plenty of options you’ll enjoy. Keep an ear out for podcasts that take it too far, but make sure you’re also seeking out podcasts that bring you joy! 

Frequently Asked Questions About Podcasts and Freedom of Speech

The discourse around freedom of speech in podcasts can relate to any aspect of podcasting and anyone in the industry. From ROI for podcasts to podcasts and ad spending to podcast accessibility, free speech is a part of the basics of what makes podcasts a successful endeavor. 

With that in mind, it’s very important to have an understanding of freedom of speech in podcasts and what it means for everyone related to the industry. Our answers to these frequently asked questions will broaden your understanding and get you thinking more about how freedom of speech and podcasts are intertwined.

What are the Three Limits to Freedom of Speech?

The three main limits to freedom of speech are obscenity, child pornography, and words inciting violence. There have been arguments made about what obscenity is too much, and the fine line between talking about something and actively inciting violence. The general idea behind the things that aren’t protected by freedom of speech are when things are openly malicious and objectively wrong. 

Can You Have Freedom of Speech On Social Media?

On social media, the companies behind social media have the right to ban you or remove content that they deem inappropriate. They are separate entities from the rules of the Constitution. While they generally follow those same rules, they have the right, as private companies, to restrict you as they deem fit. 

What Is the Difference Between Censorship and Freedom of Speech?

Freedom of speech is defined by the rights of the speakers and listeners, while censorship is defined by control over the medium of conversation and sharing information. Even in the case of the suppression of free speech, it’s different from censorship because it’s on a smaller, more personal scale.

Can You Be Sued for Free Speech?

If you say something under the guidelines of free speech and the results of your statement are harmful, on a level of real harm, you can be sued. You can be sued for defamation (or other infractions depending on your role in the setting). The definition of real harm can be hard to nail down, but ultimately, when you use your freedom of speech to cause direct harm, you can be held accountable. 

Speaking Freely In Podcasts: The Line of Freedom Between Hosts and Listeners

Podcasts are a medium to share ideas, opinions, and everything in between. Podcasters have a responsibility to their listeners and themselves to hold themselves accountable. Freedom of speech in podcasts means there are a lot of things people can say in an episode. Listeners can enjoy podcasts and hold hosts accountable when they say something untoward. 

If you’re a podcast host or you’re looking to create a podcast, creating your content with integrity and respect for everyone involved is key. Working with a podcast production and marketing team can help you shape your podcast into something you’re proud of. Reach out to Mr. Thrive Media today to work with a team that values quality content to make an amazing podcast.  


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *