NEWS
23/08/2020 15:45 BST

Jamaican Minister To Make Formal Complaint About 'Outrageous' BBC Sketch

A preview of a sketch from the BBC Three show Famalam has been accused of perpetuating "stereotypical racist tropes".

mikeinlondon via Getty Images
London, UK - 5th April 2014: The outside of a BBC building in central London. The British Broadcasting Corporation also know as the BBC is a public service broadcasting in England

A Jamaican minister is set to make a formal complaint over a BBC Three sketch from the show Famalam, which she has described as “outrageous and offensive”.

The clip has also been slammed by high commissioner of Jamaica to the United Kingdom Seth George Ramocan, who said it “serves to tarnish and insult the image of Brand Jamaica.” 

A preview of the segment titled Jamaican Countdown, a parody of the long-running game show Countdown, shows misogynistic language used towards the character selecting numbers and letters.

Part of the sketch also shows the silhouette of a man, referencing the stereotype of men of African-Caribbean descent having large penises. “When you hear the Countdown conundrum, its letters, numbers, hell of a cock, boom,” says the singer over a mock theme tune. 

Shared on Twitter ahead of its full broadcast, the clip has prompted calls for the programme – which stars a cast of Black British actors – to be prevented from being aired with the sketch included. 

Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, said on Saturday she would be raising the content of the video, with the BBC.

In a tweet she wrote: “This is outrageous and offensive to the incredible country which I am proud to represent along with every Jamaican at home and within our diaspora... I will immediately be writing formally on this! #StopThisShow”

Ramocan told HuffPost UK: “It is unbelievable that the, BBC an institution with an international reputation for trustworthy broadcasting, could find itself in the gutter of promoting such harmful and destructive pornographic material that can only serve to damage the morals and values we seek to encourage in our young people.

“This broadcast which serves to tarnish and insult the image of Brand Jamaica must be immediately pulled from the BBC programme.  I call on all well-thinking listeners and viewers to join us in this call.”

Nathaniel Peat, Global Jamaica Diaspora Council lead for the south UK and chairman of Jamaicans Inspired said: “The program is over sexualised, regressive, discriminatory, derogatory and has stereotypical racist tropes especially at a time when Black Lives matter has highlighted the need for a more balanced and better portrayal of black people in the media.

“It is deeply upsetting that the national broadcaster has chosen to promote this highly explicit content on a public forum such as twitter that has exposure to youth as young as 14, what type of image does this set in their minds when there already is a lack of positive black role models that are seen in the British media.”

He added: “As a community we are deeply upset and concerned with the choice of programming at this incredibly sensitive time, when the community is still hurt from the Windrush scandal, stop and search, disproportionately within prison, racism in the police.

“After World War Two, Britain was a country short of workers and needed to rebuild its incredibly weakened economy, Jamaicans and other Caribbean’s helped to build back the UK.

“They were hard working, law abiding, decent and black people of excellence. This program does the Caribbean community a disservice and has no class or dignity.

“I have always held the BBC in high regard for a certain level of entertainment and I can’t see how this fits the brand, if this is a sad attempt at increasing more diverse programming it has got it completely wrong. It is simply opening up wounds that have still not healed.”  

mikeinlondon via Getty Images
London, UK - 5th April 2014: The outside of a BBC building in central London. The British Broadcasting Corporation also know as the BBC is a public service broadcasting in England

Peat also highlighted a previous episode of the programme, shown in 2019, which which was set on a slave ship as it completed the middle passage and featured the slogan ‘slave lives matter’ in reference to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

He said: “Having the middle passage as a setting for a ‘skit’ will never be an appropriate setting for comedy. 

“Famalam trivialised and sanitised the murder and subjugation of Black African people. In the same scene, this material derided and mocked the Black Lives Matter movement... with “Slaves Lives Matter” and one slave responding “Slave Masters Lives Matter too”.

Horasis Global Meeting
Nathaniel Peat

Thousands of other people have taken to social media to share their concerns about the clip ahead of the programme’s official release, with Labour MP Marsha de Cordova describing “the use of offensive stereotypes” as “unacceptable”. 

A spokesperson for the BBC said: “Famalam is an award nominated sketch comedy series starring some of the UK’s best black comedy talent, which explores aspects of contemporary life from a black perspective.

“Now in its third series, the show has an established brand of humour which is in line with audience expectations and is well known for challenging stereotypes and confronting issues.”