BBC apologises for use of racist term in news report

Lord Tony Hall BBC Director General
Lord Tony Hall said a 'mistake' had been made in the decision to broadcast the offensive word. Credit: PA

The BBC has apologised for a news report which contained a racist term, with director-general Lord Tony Hall saying "a mistake" had been made in broadcasting it.

The organisation received more than 18,000 complaints over the broadcast, which saw social affairs correspondent Fiona Lamdin repeat a racial slur allegedly used in a suspected racially-motivated attack in Bristol.The story ran on the BBC News Channel and local news programme Points West on July 29, but the broadcaster stopped running the report which featured the offensive language later that day.On Thursday, the BBC said it had received 18,656 complaints over the incident.

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.

"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 1Xtra DJ Sideman said he was quitting over the “error of judgment”, adding it “feels like a slap in the face to our community”.

In a video posted on Instagram, Sideman, real name David Whitely, said: “This is an error in judgment where I can’t just smile with you through the process and act like everything is OK.

“I’m happy working with organisations until we all get it right, but this feels like more than getting it wrong.

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

He added he is quitting the BBC, “effective immediately”.

“With no apology I just don’t feel comfortable being aligned with the organisation,” Sideman said.

After Sideman, real name David Whitely, announced his decision, a BBC spokesperson said on Saturday 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.