Lynda La Plante and the BBC castigated by Ofcom for using the word “retard”

The broadcasting regulator says the Prime Suspect writer breached its guidelines on Radio 4's Today programme

Prime Suspect creator Lynda La Plante should not have repeatedly used the word “retard” on Radio 4, media regulator Ofcom has ruled.

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The broadcasting watchdog said that the Today programme interview with the scriptwriter in March breached its rules about potentially offensive material.

The discussion centred around La Plante’s alleged use of the word at at the Dubai Literature Festival in which she was quoted as saying that some BBC staff are “retards”.

In the Today interview, La Plante raised the subject and initially appeared to deny to the interviewer that she had said the word.

She then repeated the assertion that some publishing executives can be “retards”, but said she had never used the offensive term to refer specifically to BBC staff.

“When Ms La Plante used the word a second time it was to confirm she had in fact used it to make a derogatory remark about some script editors and their approach to reading a full script,” ruled Ofcom, which received four complaints about the interview.

“Ms La Plante did not appear to recognise the potential for offence caused by this use of language, and did not apologise.

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“Nor did the presenter explicitly challenge the guest’s second use of ‘retard’, choosing instead immediately to change the subject. Ofcom considered that the broadcast of the word on the second and third occasions had the potential to cause considerable and gratuitous offence, and was not justified by the context.”