Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ofcom has decided that the Top Gear Burma Special (BBC Two on 16 March 2014 at 8pm) was a breach of its Rule 2.3: In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context .....

The BBC had defended use of the term 'slope' as follows:

When we used the word ‘slope’ in the recent Top Gear Burma Special it was a light-hearted word play joke referencing both the build quality of the bridge and the local Asian man who was crossing it.

We were not aware at the time, and it has subsequently been brought to our attention, that the word ‘slope’ is considered by some to be offensive and although it might not be widely recognised in the UK, we appreciate that it can be considered offensive to some here and overseas, for example in Australia and the USA.

If we had known that at the time we would not have broadcast the word in this context and regret any offence caused.

The 'joke' went like this (YouTube) -

Jeremy Clarkson: “That is a proud moment…but…there is a slope on it.”

Richard Hammond picked up from there: “You are right…[pointing]…it is definitely higher on that side.”

Hammond's barely stifled amusement reveals he was working in cahoots with Clarkson, and was equally culpable. As far as I know, he's escaped criticism.

Common sense, you would think, dictates that any word, whether or not pejorative, used to describe the race or other characteristic of a human being was inappropriate in this context. For example "there is a Muslim on it" or "there is an African on it." The BBC admitted they were aware that 'slope' referred to an Asian man.

To be fair, a few years ago, some of Ofcom's own judgements were no better. Here in a 2007 edition of Broadcast Bulletin, for example, the Regulator cites Friday Night with Jonathan Ross to help invalidate complaints about a homophobic term used on Big Brother.

Guardian (commentisfree - Carmen Fishwick): The BBC not acting on Clarkson’s racist comment shows its disregard for us

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