Update: I have been in touch with my podcast host, Libsyn, and they informed me that there is a ‘bot from Apple that now scans the RSS feed for any profanity. Sure enough, from some podcasts in 2008 and 2010 there were 7 instances of the word “fuck”, 2 instances of the word “shit”, and 1 instance of the word “goddamn” in the podcast feed. I also used the phrase “Cock-loving pussy”. The prior instances have been replaced with “f**k”, “stuff” and “gosh-darned”, and the translated phrase changed to “Phallus-loving Vulva”.
I have contacted Apple asking for my podcast to be relisted. We will see. But at least I know that you, my listeners, have ears that are now safe from my youthful indiscretions.
I can’t say I’m exactly surprised – Apple is notorious for arbitrary and random censorship. So when I got this email:
Dear podcast owner,The following podcast has not been included in the iTunes podcast directory.
Name: Graydancer’s Ropecast
Feed URL: http://feeds2.feedburner.com/ropecast/
Submissions may not be included in the directory for a variety of reasons. For more information, please see the podcast technical specification at http://www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts/techspecs.html.
The iTunes Store team
…I wasn’t exactly shocked.
Except I was. I’ve had the podcast now since 2005. Seriously, it was one of the first sexuality podcasts on the web, and it is (or, was) the longest extant one. I’ve got three episodes in the can now waiting for release, so there was no sign of stopping.
Was It the Content?
Perhaps it was this little wrinkle from their guidelines:
Why was my podcast removed or not approved?
Unauthorized copyrighted material, profane metadata, erotica, illegal solicitations, and hate speech are prohibited in the iTunes Store.
Got that? “Erotica”. So I guess that the 483+ episodes of podcasts that come up under the search term “erotica” on the store will be removed too? Or perhaps it is this:
- Strong prevalence of sexual content.
- Use of explicit content in the title, description, or cover art of the podcast.
I confess, there may be one or two episodes with some cover art that is possibly explicit. I’ve got several hundred episodes over many years, and it’s hard to say. I know I’ve tried not to, and I’ve tried to make sure everything is labeled “explicit” where needed, and “TV-MA” and such.
But, the fact is, I suspect this is going to be much like my dealings with PayPal when they banned me for life due to one image of boobies on the page that also happened to have a donation button. That is, since I am small fry, they can just ignore me.
If anyone knows some larger fries – like Dan Savage, or Susie Bright, or somesuch – I would appreciate it if you’d pass the word on that this is pretty silly. Because I suspect there was no actual thought in this decision. I suspect that somebody at a desk gave a cursory review to the content metadata, decided “That’s porn!” and pulled me.
But there’s no way for me to find that person and point out that there’s nine years of history to this ‘cast, and that iTunes has much more salacious offerings. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind their guidelines if they were simply consistently applied.
Not sure what’s going to happen to the Ropecast now. I mean, I’ll keep publishing it – iTunes is not the only podcast directory, of course – but it’s kind of like saying “I don’t need to sell my books on Amazon.” Of my 1000+ listeners, most got me through iTunes.
I wish I had a way for you to write Apple and complain. You could try “firstname.lastname@example.org” but I doubt that gets much attention. I feel sorry for the hosts of the now-defunct RoPeCast (a German-language podcast from a couple of professors named Roger and Peter). They and I worked out how to differentiate the names (“Graydancer’s Ropecast” vs. “RoPeCast”) and even cross-linked on Wikipedia.
Now, however, if you look up “Ropecast” on iTunes, since you ONLY get their podcast, the lovely search engine associates only one other podcast with them: “In Bed with Susie Bright”, in an episode where she talks about BDSM.