ENTERTAINMENT
06/08/2020 16:33 BST | Updated 06/08/2020 16:34 BST

BBC Receives Almost 19,000 Complaints Over Use Of N-Word In News Report About Racist Attack

The word aired uncensored during a report about a racist attack last week.

The BBC received almost 19,000 complaints in the days after a reporter used the N-word while covering a racist attack in Bristol.

The broadcaster faced a wave of criticism after airing the word uncensored on Wednesday last week. The segment saw Fiona Lamdin reporting on two men who had driven a car into another man before running off and shouting racist abuse at him.

BBC News
The report aired on BBC News last week

In the piece, which aired just after 10.30am, she said: “Just to warn you, you are about to hear highly offensive language. Because, as the men ran away, they hurled racial abuse, calling him a n*****.”

It has now been reported a total of 18,656 people complained to the BBC’s executive complaints unit (EBU) about the incident.

Earlier this week, the BBC responded to the controversy, but notably did not apologise for featuring the N-word in the broadcast.

This prompted further criticism of the broadcaster on social media, with many disappointed it had stood by the decision.

In a statement on their complaints website, the BBC said it “accepted that this has caused offence”, but claimed the use of the word was “editorially justified given the context”. 

“The decision to use the word was not taken lightly and without considerable detailed thought: we were aware that it would cause offence,” it said.

“But, in this specific context we felt the need to explain, and report, not just the injuries but, given their alleged extreme nature, the words alleged to have been used - a position which, as we have said, was supported by the family and the victim.

“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.”

BBC guidance states “the strongest language” must not be shown before the watershed at 9pm, but the N-word itself is generally deemed too offensive to be aired at any time.

An Ofcom report about public perceptions of such language in 2016 deemed it to be “highly unacceptable at all times”, but said that if it is to be used then “strong contextualisation [is] required”.