February 4, 2011

Not proud of the BBC

The BBC's motoring show Top Gear found itself in hot water again this week, after a string of racial slurs were presented about the Mexican people on the programme. The Mexican ambassador to the United Kingdom lodged a complaint to the BBC, several British MPs condemned the remarks, and everyone has essentially been waiting for the public on-air apology.

I have no idea if there will be an on-air apology by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond or James May, but I'm going to hazard a guess there won't be. The BBC's press office has released a written apology for the remarks. It's quite interesting reading.

While the BBC admits the comments were 'rude' and 'mischevious', they essentially dismissed them as harmless. The apology states 'Our own comedians make jokes about the British being terrible cooks and terrible romantics, and we in turn make jokes about the Italians being disorganised and over dramatic, the French being arrogant and the Germans being over-organised.

The apology also notes that racial stereotypes fall within BBC comedy guidelines, so long as the audience expects it. So basically as far as the BBC is concerned, racism is OK so long as everyone agrees the programme is racist - or maybe I'm misinterpreting.

The truth is that knowing Top Gear is a regularly mean-spirited, racist show and keeping it on the air year in year out simply demonstrates a deep moral bankruptcy within the United Kingdom's public-funded broadcaster. If the BBC can't cancel the series despite complaint after complaint, replace one or all of the hosts, or even so much as demand they actually apologise for their own bigotry themselves, I'm not sure what right they have to be a public-funded broadcaster any more - unless you figure that since there are some racists in Britain, and they need TV shows to like too.

I know what some of you are thinking: isn't this a bit over-the-top, suggesting the BBC cancel the show just because of a few light-hearted jabs at Mexico? Didn't Warner Bros do far worse with Speedy Gonzales? Well yes, they did, and those cartoons were made 50 years ago or more. You'd think we'd know better now. No, wait a moment: we do know better now. And the offence for me is not Top Gear being a bigoted program (and it is) that isn't half as funny as it once was (it's not), headlined by the BBC's highest paid and most deeply unlikeable TV personality (he is), and peppered week in, week out with sexism, racism, class prejudice and all-round misothropy (it is). The problem is that the BBC is actively claimed all of that is OK: it's just for laughs, and if you can't laugh at a racist joke you just don't have a sense of humour.

I love the BBC. It's the home of Doctor Who, Blue Peter, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Radio 4, Blake's 7, David Attenborough, all those adaptations of classic novels, Life on Mars, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I Claudius, The Forsyth Saga, Paul Temple. And so on and so on, for decade after decade of the best television and radio ever made. I love the BBC.

Today I love it just a little bit less.

(Source: BBC News)


  1. They aren't even that good at reviewing car technologies:


    Top Gear isn't car news, it's entertainment. As you've said above - it's bad comedic entertainment.

    It does, however. Earn the BBC a *lot* of money...

  2. I endorse your comments. I endorse lordmortis's. Just as Charlie Sheen is not a violent, misogynist, drug-abusing criminal but merely a bad-boy who only needs his wrists slapped, racism isn't racism when there is so MUCH money to be made by the BBC.

    Standards are only useful until they interfere with one's livelihood.

  3. Phil, I'm just waiting for Sheen to die of a hideous overdose and the network's subsequent and heartfelt "if only there was something we could have done".


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