BBC Responds To Complaints About Use Of N-Word In Report About Racist Attack - But Fails To Apologise

The BBC said it “accepted this has caused offence” but said it was “editorially justified given the context”.

The BBC has failed to apologise in a statement responding to complaints over the use of the N-word in a report about an unprovoked racist attack in Bristol.

The broadcaster was criticised after airing the word uncensored during the segment last Wednesday, as Fiona Lamdin reported on how two men drove a car into a man, before running off and shouting racist abuse at him.

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

The report aired on BBC News last week
The report aired on BBC News last week
BBC News

Following a number of complaints, the BBC said that it “accepted this has caused offence” but failed to apologise, claiming the use of the uncensored word was “editorially justified given the context”.

A statement on their complaints website read: “Clearly we would never want our reporting to become the focus of such an important story. We have listened to what people have had to say about the use of the word and we accept that this has caused offence but we would like people to understand why we took the decision we did.

“This story was an important piece of journalism about a shocking incident. It was originally reported by some as a hit and run, but investigations indicated that racist language was used at the scene and it was then treated by the police as a racially aggravated attack.

“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.”

The statement continued: “Notwithstanding the family’s wishes, we independently considered whether the use of the word was editorially justified given the context. The word is used on air rarely, and in this case, as with all cases, the decision to use it in full was made by a team of people including a number of senior editorial figures.

“You are, of course, right that the word is highly offensive and we completely accept and understand why people have been upset by its use. The decision to use the word was not taken lightly and without considerable detailed thought: we were aware that it would cause offence. 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.”

The BBC’s statement was met with further criticism online.

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”.

The BBC previously told HuffPost UK in a statement: “This was a story about a shocking unprovoked attack on a young Black man.

“His family told the BBC about the racist language used by the attackers and wanted to see the full facts made public. A warning was given before this was reported.

“We are no longer running this version of the report but are continuing to pursue the story.”