The BBC’s director of creative diversity June Sarpong says she’s pleased the Director-General Lord Hall has “personally intervened to unequivocally apologise” for BBC News’ use of the N-word in a television report.
A Radio 1Xtra DJ Sideman quit the station on Sunday over the row.
On 29th July a BBC Points West news report about a racist attack in Bristol reported that the assailants used the N-word during an attack on a man known as K-Dogg. Initially the BBC defended the word’s inclusion in the report because it needed “to explain, and report, not just the injuries but, given their alleged extreme nature, the words alleged to have been used”.
The storm developed quickly in the ensuing days, with more than 18,600 complaints made to the BBC by late in the week, with broadcast watchdog Ofcom receiving 384 complaints. On Sunday, a BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ Sideman quit his job, saying “the action and the defence of the action feels like a slap in the face of our community”.
In Sunday, Lord Hall apologised and said “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.”
TV presenter Sarpong posted on Twitter that she was “glad” the Director General had intervened to apologise for the use of the N-word.
Radio 1 DJ Greg James tweeted his support for his colleague, writing that he was “in awe of [Sideman]” for his stand, but “sad that it took such a statement for the BBC to acknowledge the hurt”.
James added that he “really hopes he feels comfortable enough to consider coming back because he’s an absolute star”.
Meanwhile, 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.
Channel 4 news anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy waded into the controversy, writing that “once again” the DG [had to] “overturn a mistake on race previously defended by the BBC’s editorial policy managers”.
The Points West story reported an attack on an NHS worker known as K or K Dogg, who was hit by a car while walking home from work at Southmead Hospital in Bristol 22nd July. He suffered serious injuries including a broken leg, nose and cheekbone in the attack and police were said they were treating it as a racially aggravated attack due to the racist language used by the people in the car.
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