The BBC today apologised for a live interview on its news channel in which a veteran broadcaster was accused of taking part in riots.
Writer and presenter Darcus Howe was a guest during a discussion about the unrest on the streets of London when he was challenged by presenter Fiona Armstrong.
The corporation apologised for any offence caused following complaints from viewers
During the interview yesterday, studio-based Armstrong said: “You are not a stranger to riots yourself I understand, are you? You have taken part in them yourself.”
But Howe, speaking from the aftermath of the disturbances in Croydon, responded: “I have never taken part in a single riot. I’ve been part of demonstrations that ended up in a conflict.
“Stop accusing me of being a rioter and have some respect for an old West Indian Negro, because you wanted for me to get abusive. You just sound idiotic – have some respect.”
The BBC said Armstrong had not intended to show Howe any disrespect and the questions were intended to gauge his reaction to the events.
News Channel editors acknowledged it had been a “poorly-phrased question” but said this sometimes happened during live interviews and the incident was compounded by technical issues which meant the pair talked over each other.
The BBC said: “We’d like to apologise for any offence that this interview has caused.”
BBC News also said it had decided to refer to the unrest as “England riots”, rather than “UK riots”.
It said the change was “in recognition of the sensitivities involved for people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”, and was in the interest of geographical precision and clarity.
A BBC News spokeswoman added later: “While the rioting and disturbances have been taking place in England, our initial approach was guided by the story’s impact for the UK as a whole for example the UK Prime Minister returning from holiday and the decision to recall the UK Parliament.
“Within the wider media we were not alone in this approach. However with the events confined to several cities and towns in England and not Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, we have listened to feedback from our audiences and are now referring to ‘England Riots’ in our on-going coverage for absolute clarity.”