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BBC apologises over racial slur used in news report

BBC apologises over racial slur used in news report

BBC director general Tony Hall has apologised and said a mistake was made after a news report containing a racial slur was broadcast last month.

More than 18,600 people complained after the N-word was used in full in a report about a racially aggravated attack in Bristol.

The BBC initially defended the use of the slur, broadcast by Points West and the BBC News Channel on 29 July.

Lord Hall said he now accepts the BBC should have taken a different approach.

He said he recognised that the report had caused “distress” amongst many people, and said the BBC would be changing its guidance on offensive language in its output.

The broadcast prompted widespread criticism, including by a number of politicians and BBC staff.

‘Slap in the face’

On Saturday, BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ Sideman – real name David Whitely – quit the station over the row.

He said “the action and the defence of the action feels like a slap in the face of our community”.

The BBC’s director of creative diversity, June Sarpong, welcomed Lord Hall’s statement.

In a tweet, she wrote: “I am glad BBC director general Tony Hall has personally intervened to unequivocally apologise over BBC News’ use of the N-word.”

However, BBC Radio 1Xtra’s DJ Target tweeted that it was “a total shame” that it had taken the resignation of a “young black broadcaster” to trigger the BBC apology.

In his message, Lord Hall emphasised it was “the BBC’s intention was to highlight an alleged racist attack”.

“This is important journalism which the BBC should be reporting on and we will continue to do so,” he said.

“Yet despite these good intentions, I recognise that we have ended up creating distress amongst many people.

“The BBC now accepts that we should have taken a different approach at the time of broadcast and we are very sorry for that. We will now be strengthening our guidance on offensive language across our output.

“Every organisation should be able to acknowledge when it has made a mistake. We made one here.”

His statement followed high-level discussions with BBC colleagues on Sunday morning.

‘Sorry episode’

In addition to the 18,600 complaints made to the BBC over the news report, broadcast regulator Ofcom said it received 384 complaints.

It makes the broadcast the second-most complained about since the BBC began using its current system in 2017.

Commenting on the editorial decision on Sunday, Larry Madowo, US correspondent for the BBC’s World Service, said that he had previously not been allowed to use the racist term in an article when quoting an African American.

“But a white person was allowed to say it on TV because it was ‘editorially justified’,” he tweeted.

Labour’s shadow equalities minister Marsha de Cordova said the BBC’s reasons for using the N-word were “obviously not good enough”.

Speaking ahead of Lord Hall’s statement, Ms de Cordova called on the broadcaster to apologise and “learn from this whole sorry episode”.

She was echoed by Labour MP Dawn Butler, who posted her support for Sideman on Twitter, saying the BBC should have apologised rather than “doubled down” on its justification.

On Saturday, a spokesperson for 1Xtra called Sideman “incredibly talented”, adding that the station was “disappointed” he had decided to resign.

“We absolutely wish him well for the future. The door is always open for future projects,” the spokesperson added.

Decision supported by family

The Points West story described an attack on a 21-year-old NHS worker and musician known as K or K-Dogg, who was hit by a car on 22 July while walking to a bus stop from his workplace, Southmead Hospital in Bristol.

K-Dogg suffered serious injuries including a broken leg, nose and cheekbone in the attack.

Police said the incident was being treated as racially aggravated due to the racist language used by the occupants of the car.

In its initial defence, the BBC said that the organisation felt it needed “to explain, and report, not just the injuries but, given their alleged extreme nature, the words alleged to have been used”.

Source: BBC 


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