View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. News
August 10, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:29am

BBC apologises over uncensored use of racist slur in news report

By PA Mediapoint

BBC director-general Tony Hall has apologised for a news report in which a journalist used the N-word uncensored.

More than 18,000 people complained to the BBC over the broadcast, which saw social affairs correspondent Fiona Lamdin repeat a racial slur allegedly used in a suspected racially-motivated attack in Bristol.

After the broadcaster initially defended the report, Lord Hall said in a statement that the BBC “now accepts that we should have taken a different approach at the time of broadcast and we are very sorry for that”.

He said the report had caused “distress” to many, adding: “Every organisation should be able to acknowledge when it has made a mistake. We made one here.

“It is important for us to listen – and also to learn. And that is what we will continue to do.”

The BBC would be changing its guidance on offensive language in its output, he added.

The story ran on the BBC News Channel and local news programme Points West on 29 July, but the broadcaster stopped running the report that featured the offensive language later that day.

Content from our partners
Mather Economics and InsurAds combine to help publishers boost revenue
Press Gazette publishes ultimate guide to reader conversion and monetisation
Slow online ads cost UK publishers £50m a year: Here's how to fix them

“It should be clear that the BBC’s intention was to highlight an alleged racist attack,” the outgoing director-general said.

“This is important journalism which the BBC should be reporting on and we will continue to do so.

“Yet despite these good intentions, I recognise that we have ended up creating distress amongst many people.”

The statement was issued after Lord Hall held a meeting with BBC colleagues on the issue.

On Saturday, BBC Radio 1xtra presenter Sideman announced he was quitting the corporation over the broadcast.

Announcing the move on social media, he said the news report represented an “error of judgement”, adding it “feels like a slap in the face to our community”.

After Sideman, real name David Whitely, announced his decision, a BBC spokesperson said that while they were “aware that [the report] would cause offence” it was important to explain the alleged context of the incident.

The broadcaster has also previously revealed that the decision was taken by a team of people which included senior editorial figures.

On Thursday, the BBC said it had received 18,656 complaints over the incident.

June Sarpong, the BBC’s director of creative diversity, welcomed the decision, saying she is “glad” that Lord Hall has “personally intervened to unequivocally apologise”.

Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy praised Lord Hall for the move, adding: “But once again it has taken a direct intervention by the DG to overturn a mistake on race previously defended by the BBC’s editorial policy managers.”

Larry Madowo, a US correspondent for the BBC’s World Service, also commented on the move, saying that despite being black 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 said.

This is not the first time Lord Hall has made an intervention following a backlash over the BBC’s handling of discussions around race in its news output.

In September, he reversed a ruling by the corporation’s Executive Complaints Unit after it said BBC Breakfast host Naga Munchetty breached editorial guidelines when she condemned comments made by Donald Trump telling female Democrats to “go back” to their own countries.

Picture: Parliament TV

Topics in this article :

Email to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network