ITV has apologised after an offensive Japanese flag was featured during a sketch on Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.
The most recent episode of the weekend entertainment show saw the hosts taking part in a martial arts skit during a performance from singer Anne Marie, who is a karate expert.
Both Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly were seen wearing headbands that carried the Rising Sun flag, which is seen by some as a symbol of Japan’s imperialist past.
It was incorporated during the 19th century by the Japanese army and was the flag of its navy during the Second World War, when the country was allied with Nazi Germany.
ITV confirmed it has now taken steps to re-edit the show for future broadcasts as they apologised for the “unintended” error.
A spokesperson said: “We apologise for any offence caused during the End of the Show Show by the costumes worn.
“This was clearly unintended and we have taken steps to re-edit that part of the episode for the Hub and for repeat broadcasts.”
Anne Marie also issued her own apology and criticised the choice of costumes, saying that “education on this part of the history wasn’t done”.
She posted on Twitter: “I sincerely apologise to all those who were affected and hurt by my appearance last night on a UK TV.
“I want you to know I had nothing to do with the costumes on this sketch.
“Unfortunately, education on this part of the history wasn’t done and I am also hurt by the pain this signifies for so many people.
“Our team is talking to the TV station, working on taking down the footage, so that it does not cause any more pain.”
South Korea, which was occupied by the Japanese between 1910 and 1945, is particularly critical of the flag, which it has called a symbol of Japanese “imperialism and militarism”.
In 2013, Japan’s foreign ministry released a statement on the issue, saying the design was “widely used throughout Japan, such as good catch flags used by fishermen, celebratory flags for childbirth and seasonal festivities, and flags of Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force vessels.”
It added: “Claims that the flag is an expression of political assertions or a symbol of militarism are absolutely false.”
Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway airs Saturdays at 7pm on ITV.