Don’t mention the Jerries: BBC changes World War One programme title

BBC4 documentary Tommy and Jerry's Camera will now be called World War One's Forgotten Photographs - but the BBC insists this is NOT because the word Jerry is offensive

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As the BBC gears up for 2,500 hours of First World War programming, sensibilities are already being tested.

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RadioTimes.com understands that representations from the German Embassy have been made to the BBC to discuss the tenor and tone of the commemorations taking place between 2014 and 2018.

And this may go part of the way to explaining the title change of an upcoming BBC4 programme.

Tommy and Jerry’s Camera – which examines photos taken by British and German soldiers during the conflict – has now been renamed World War One’s Forgotten Photographs.

It is understood that the production company Testimony Films came up with the original title, which was used in advance publicity for the one-off 60-minute’ programme and is the name given in the BBC’s press pack for its First World War coverage.

It uses the word Jerry which was mildly derogratory wartime slang for the Germans invented by British soldiers for reasons which are still debated. One explanation derives from the hastily assembled or Jerry-built contraptions mocked by the British while another stems from the way the German military helmet represents a chamber pot or Jeroboam. A more prosaic expalanation is that it’s a shortening of German.

However the BBC insist that the reason for the change is not because the word Jerry was deemed offensive.

“All BBC titles are working titles and are subject to change before transmission,” said a statement. “This is just one of several programmes from the World War One Season that have changed title.” 

A spokesman for the German Embassy in London said that to modern Germans the word Jerry would not be deemed offensive.

“For me at least, I don’t see it as offensive,” said the spokesman, Norman Walter, 57. “It doesn’t usually pop up. I have heard the word Kraut but I don’t think I have heard the term Jerry. In fact I didn’t realise it was a term for German until now.”

Walter also confirmed that the Embassy had discussed the World War One commemoration with the BBC but said that this programme title had not been a subject of discussion. He added that the embassy discussed a range of issues with the Corporation very often.

“The BBC is a very big thing and we talk all the time and sometimes help out with programmes,” he said.


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