Friday, October 09, 2009

"Old School" or racist?

Once again, Auntie Beeb has got her knickers in a twist over an alleged "racist" comment, this time on "Strictly Come Dancing". Celebrity hoofer Anton du Beke made a remark to Laila Rouass, his dance partner on the show, during rehearsals. Noticing that she had been a bit heavy-handed with the fake tan (hardly unusual in the world of sequins and mambos), he referred to her as a "looking like a Paki". He has since apologised - and said he was speaking "in jest". The BBC appears to have accepted his apology, despite hundreds of complaints from viewers. A statement said: "The BBC does not condone offensive language in the workplace. Anton Du Beke has apologised unreservedly to Laila Rouass who has accepted his apology."

However, earlier this year, Carol Thatcher was sacked by the BBC for making an off-air remark in the green room, to her colleagues from BBC1's "The One Show". Ms Thatcher apparently referred to a tennis player as "looking like a golliwog", because of their bushy hairstyle. She apologised, but the corporation said it considered any language of a racist nature "wholly unacceptable", and removed her from her presenting position, saying "her position on The One Show is no longer tenable"

OK, so it appears that one racist term can get you sacked, whereas another can be apologised for? Could there be any link with the fact that Ms Thatcher had a minor role in a show, whereas Mr du Beke is a popular character on "Strictly" and also now presents the dire prime-time Saturday night game show "Hole in the Wall"?

It's hard to tell. To make matters more complicated, Bruce Forsyth, presenter of Strictly, appeared on Talk Sport radio playing down the row, and saying the du Beke spoke "in jest". Forsyth has since offered a clarification, saying that racist language is "never acceptable". His showbiz pal, Kenny Lynch, spoke on Radio 5 Live this morning calling the language "Old school" and "not offensive unless it's used in an angry way".

What a mess. Either the BBC has to show consistency, and sack du Beke, or be seen to be condoning a remark which certainly appears racist to me. I expect Mr du Beke will spend this weekend hoping his phone doesn't ring.

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