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UK: BBC apologises over racial slur used in news report

Video captionDJ Sideman posted this video on Instagram, saying “I can’t just look the other way”

BBC director general Tony Hall has apologised and said a mistake was made after a news report containing a racial slur was broadcast last month.

More than 18,600 people complained after the N-word was used in full in a report about a racially aggravated attack in Bristol.

The BBC initially defended the use of the slur , broadcast by Points West and the BBC News Channel on 29 July.

Lord Hall said he now accepts the BBC should have taken a different approach.

He said he recognised that the report had caused “distress” amongst many people, and said the BBC would be “strengthening” its guidance on offensive language in its output.

The use of the N-word in the broadcast prompted widespread criticism, including by a number of politicians and BBC staff.

‘Slap in the face’

On Saturday, BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ Sideman – real name David Whitely – quit the station over the row .

He said “the action and the defence of the action feels like a slap in the face of our community”.

In its initial defence, the BBC said that the organisation felt it needed “to explain, and report, not just the injuries but, given their alleged extreme nature, the words alleged to have been used” in the attack on an NHS worker known as K-Dogg.

The decision had been supported by the victim’s family, the corporation added

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGESTony Hall outside the BBC
Image captionLord Hall said the BBC accepts it “should have taken a different approach”

In his message, Lord Hall emphasised “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.”

His statement followed high-level discussions with BBC colleagues on Sunday morning.

‘Sorry episode’

In addition to the 18,600 complaints made to the BBC over the news report, broadcast regulator Ofcom said it received 384 complaints.

It makes the broadcast the second-most complained about since the BBC began using its current system in 2017.

Commenting on Sunday, 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.

— see bbc news for full story