The Argentine ambassador to the UK has issued a request to the BBC Trust that they investigate the upcoming Top Gear Argentina special, alleging that offensive references were made to the 1982 Falklands war during filming.
Alicia Castro had previously complained directly to BBC director of television Danny Cohen, but unsatisfied with his “perfunctory” response the ambassador has now taken the issue to the BBC Trust, saying that presenter Jeremy Clarkson’s behaviour in the country fell “well below the BBC’s editorial values and standards”.
The row began when a Porsche the Top Gear presenters were driving when filming the special was seen to have the registration H982 FKL. This has been interpreted by some as a veiled reference to the 1982 conflict between Argentina and the UK over dominion of the Falkland Islands, which remains a sensitive issue for Argentinians.
When noticed by locals, the offending vehicles were pelted with stones, forcing presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May to abandon them and leave the country along with their support staff.
However the team have denied choosing the numberplate intentionally, with the presenters taking to Twitter to defend themselves and executive producer Andy Wilman rubbishing the claims of intentional offense.
“Top Gear production purchased three cars for a forthcoming programme; to suggest that this car was either chosen for its number plate, or that an alternative number plate was substituted for the original, is completely untrue,” Wilman said in a statement.
Cohen’s original response to Castro’s complaint agreed with this version of events, saying “nothing we have seen or read since the team returned supports the view that this was a deliberate act.”
However, Ms Castro’s new letter to Rona Fairhead, chair of the BBC Trust, describes Cohen’s response as “inadequate”.
She said: “We believe Mr Cohen’s rejection is perfunctory and he has not investigated the issues we raised in any depth.”
“Mr Cohen merely reassures us that it was not deliberate. We are not prepared to accept this as a full and adequate response to this supposed ‘coincidence.'”
Presenters James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in Argentina
This latest scandal follows accusations of racism in Top Gear, after a deleted scene from the series appeared to include an offensive nursery rhyme and a Burma special’s use of a racial epithet for an Asian man was ruled by Ofcom to breach broadcasting rules.
However, presenter Richard Hammond has denied the series is intentionally offensive. He told this week’s Radio Times: “We’re not in the business of genuinely upsetting or offending anyone.
“We’re in the business of entertainment, and if it fails to entertain, it’s wrong. If the public says we’ve stepped over the line, then we have.”
Hammond also said it would be “inappropriate” for him to comment on whether the BBC had told Top Gear to avoid causing more offence in future.
A BBC Trust spokesperson has confirmed the receipt of Castro’s letter, and says the Corporation will be responding in due course.
The Top Gear Argentina special will air this Christmas