The second largest record of complaints to the BBC was announced after a special report, issued by the BBC, contained a racial slur from one of their reporters.
Days later, the history programme “American History’s Biggest Fibs” re-aired in which presenter Lucy Worseley employed the same racial slur.
Many took to social media to express their outrage at the casual racism and the BBC was inundated with more than 18,000 complaints, with Ofcom receiving hundreds from angry viewers.
The BBC has since defended itself, stating they were given permission to use the slur, to highlight the severity of the attack, by the 21-year-old victim’s family.
The BBC insists that their reporting is “impartial […] and fair”. However, many note the BBC’s use of racially aggravating language comes after months of on the fence reporting regarding the BLM protests that occurred in the UK and the US.
BBC Three host Oloni commented, “After all those weeks of noise on black issues but someone fully approved that news reporter on bbc saying the n word.”
The coverage of the BLM protests and the political discourse that followed it made many feel betrayed by the broadcaster, especially after the statement issued by the BBC in 2019, following controversy with presenter Naga Munchetty, where they stated “The BBC is not impartial on racism. Racism is not an opinion and it is not a matter for debate.”
The BBC’s lack of diversity was called into question, with many alongside Channel Four’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy implying that more Black people in the editorial team would have stopped the green-lighting of such a violent slur.
Around 13% of BBC staff come from BAME backgrounds. This is significantly lower than the BAME population of London at 44%, where the broadcasters’ head offices are based.
The BBC’s statement caused backlash, not just from the public, but also from their own employees, with Radio 1Xtra presenter Sideman leaving the show after stating that he no longer desired to work for a company in which “the N-word [is] being said on national television by a white person”.
The BBC has invested £100m into their diversity policy following the death of George Floyd, however, many criticise their commitment to diversity as performative following their refusal to acknowledge the severity of this recent backlash.
Twitter user @kingbonitaa, reiterated the frustration at the performance politics of anti-racism from wider British society by tweeting, “#DefundTheBBC is trending. Not because 2 separate BBC journalists have confidently used the N word over the last week but because a psychologist explained what white privilege is on bbc bitesize.”
It portrayed to many in Black communities that the commitment to anti-racism from various sectors of British society and industries may have been political grandstanding as despite the BBC’s affirmation that “racism is not an opinion [….] it is not a matter for debate,” it is clear, from their broadcast of a racial slur, nationwide, that its significance in the lives of those affected by it, is still up for debate.