Tony Hall, the director general of British public broadcaster the BBC, has apologized for the use of a racial slur in a news report last month. He said it had made a mistake and had created “distress amongst many people.”
The report, which aired on July 29 on the regional show “Points West” and on the BBC News Channel, covered an alleged attack in which a Black health worker in Bristol, England, was hit by a car. The vehicle’s occupants had allegedly used the N-word to abuse their victim, and the BBC journalist repeated the racial slur to explain why the police considered the crime to be “racially aggravated.”
Although the network received more than 18,600 complaints about the use of the word, it initially defended the report.
However, on Saturday, BBC Radio DJ Sideman – real name David Whitely – resigned in protest at the way the matter had been handled. “The action and the defense of the action feels like a slap in the face of our community,” he said. Other broadcasting staff and politicians rallied to support him.
In an email sent to BBC staff Sunday, Hall said: “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 added: “Yet despite these good intentions, I recognize 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 organization should be able to acknowledge when it has made a mistake. We made one here.”
In its original defense of the use of the word, the BBC said: “The victim’s family were anxious the incident should be seen and understood by the wider public. It’s for this reason they asked us specifically to show the photos of this man’s injuries and were also determined that we should report the racist language, in full, alleged to have been spoken by the occupants of the car.”
It added: “These are difficult judgements but the context is very important in this particular case. We believe we gave adequate warnings that upsetting images and language would be used and we will continue to pursue this story.”