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BBC changes position and apologises for use of n-word in news report, after 1Xtra DJ resigns

By | Published on Monday 10 August 2020


The BBC has back-tracked on its use of the n-word in a recent news report. The Corporation’s Director General Tony Hall has written in a memo to staff that the broadcaster “made a mistake” when a reporter used the term while quoting what had allegedly been said during a racially-aggravated attack in Bristol.

Despite widespread criticism, the BBC had previously defended its use of the n-word while reporting on a violent assault that took place last month against a musician and NHS worker known as K or K-Dogg.

He sustained serious injuries – including a broken leg, nose and cheekbone – after being hit by a car. It’s believed that he was the victim of a deliberate racially-aggravated attack, in part because of the racist language used by the occupants of the vehicle.

It was while citing that racist language in its report that the BBC decided to have its reporter say the n-word.

Amid the initial criticism of that report, the BBC said that its news team had decided the use of the word “was editorially justified given the context”; that the victim’s family had approved of its reporter citing the racist language employed by the attackers in full; and that while “we accept that this has caused offence … we would like people to understand why we took the decision we did”.

But yesterday the broadcaster officially changed its position. Hall wrote to staff: “The BBC now accepts that we should have taken a different approach at the time of broadcast and we are very sorry for that. We will now be strengthening our guidance on offensive language across our output. Every organisation should be able to acknowledge when it has made a mistake. We made one here”.

He also stressed that “the BBC’s intention was to highlight an alleged racist attack”, adding that that was just the kind of important journalism that the BBC should undertake. However, “despite these good intentions, I recognise that we have ended up creating distress amongst many people”.

Hall’s statement followed increased criticism of the BBC News report by presenters and executives within the corporation and, most notably, the resignation over said report by BBC 1Xtra presenter Sideman.

When confirming he had quit his role at the broadcaster on Instagram, he stated: “The BBC sanctioning the n-word being said on national television by a white person is something I can’t rock with. This is an error of judgement where I can’t just smile with you through the process and act like everything is OK”.

The BBC’s Director Of Creative Diversity, June Sarpong, welcomed Hall’s statement, saying on Twitter that she was glad the Director General had “personally intervened to unequivocally apologise over BBC News’s use of the n-word”.

However, DJ Target was among those stating that the apology should have come sooner. Also writing on Twitter, he said: “It’s a total shame [that] it’s taken a young black broadcaster to resign, in turn causing a media frenzy, for this to be acknowledged. BBC News and the wider BBC as a corporation MUST do better”