BBC Defends Decision To Retain Slurs In Old Little Britain Episodes Despite 'Edits'

Official complaints were made after Little Britain returned to iPlayer following a two-year absence.
Matt Lucas and David Walliams pictured in 2019
Matt Lucas and David Walliams pictured in 2019
Dave J Hogan via Getty Images

The BBC has defended their decision to leave scenes featuring racial slurs in old episodes of Little Britain, despite having made “edits” to the original show’s content to “better reflect the changes in the cultural landscape”.

Back in the summer of 2020, the BBC made the decision to pull Matt Lucas and David Walliams’ sketch show from its iPlayer service, after it faced renewed criticism due to the pair’s use of blackface.

A BBC rep said at the time: “There’s a lot of historical programming available on BBC iPlayer which we regularly review. Times have changed since Little Britain first aired, so it is not currently available on BBC iPlayer.”

Two years later, the BBC quietly made Little Britain available to stream once again, although certain scenes were removed.

In a statement issued to HuffPost UK, a BBC rep explained that comedians Matt and David had made “edits” to their original show “that better reflect the changes in the cultural landscape over the last twenty years since the show was first made”.

Viewers observed that this included the removal of the character Desiree DeVere, portrayed at the time by David in blackface, as well as the addition of a warning message about “discriminatory language”.

Despite these “edits”, many critics on social media called out the choice to leave some scenes in featuring racial slurs relating to an East Asian character.

Critics called out a scene featuring David Walliams in character as Linda Flint
Critics called out a scene featuring David Walliams in character as Linda Flint

After also receiving official complaints, the BBC has now responded to the criticism.

All jokes in our output are judged on context and intent,” they said. “The sketches in which the character Linda Flint makes reference to the appearance or race of a series of people are intended to expose and ridicule some of the outdated prejudices and racism that still exist in parts of British society, which is more apparent when viewing the sketches within the context of a full episode, and across the series as a whole.

“The programme is part of the BBC’s comedy archive and information is provided for iPlayer viewers about the inclusion of discriminatory language.”

Following Little Britain’s removal from the BBC iPlayer and Netflix in 2020, the show’s creators shared a joint statement apologising for the blackface used in the show and their later sketch series Come Fly With Me.

“[We] have both spoken publicly in recent years of our regret that we played characters of other races,” they said. “Once again we want to make it clear that it was wrong and we are very sorry.”


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