There are many words you can’t say on the radio. You can imagine what many of them are. The ‘N’ word is one of them. There are clear guidelines on the use of this word. It’s not that it is absolutely verboten, but as a presenter you may only use it in specific contexts.
BBC Devon presenter David Lowe, who has presented a programme called ‘Singers & Swingers’ for 30 years, played the song THE SUN HAS GOT HIS HAT ON on his show and it proved his undoing. He was sacked by the BBC because a single listener complained that it contained the ‘N’ word. On his blog he tells the whole sorry story…
AFTER more than 32 years of programme-making for the BBC and UK Independent Local Radio, I have hung-up my headphones for the last time. Why? Because I made a silly mistake. Yes, I know we all make mistakes, but where political correctness is concerned in UK today, there is no room for excuses or forgiveness. That said: let me stress here, I have no quarrel with anyone at the BBC in the West and South West. However, I do have issues with a repressive system that encourages wholly disproportionate reactions to innocent errors of judgement.
On April 27, I featured an 82 year old recording, one I’ve heard hundreds of times over the years, and even featured occasionally on my programmes. Unbeknown to me, however, that recording by Ambrose & His Orchestra of “The Sun Has Got His Hat On” contains a line of lyric that includes one of today’s ‘forbidden’ English language expressions … the “N” word! You’ve got to listen very carefully indeed to actually hear it but, yes, it is there on the recording.
I was alerted to my error by an email from the BBC management who had, in turn, received a complaint from a listener who, by his own admission, never listened to my programmes, but just happened to switch-on his radio sometime after 8 pm on Sunday April, 27.
Suffice it to say, the listener in question was “horrified” by what he heard, and added, “I hope that someone in authority will deal with Mr Young appropriately.” (He referred to me as David Young throughout his email, a copy of which was forwarded to me with the BBC complaint alert). By the way, I know of no other complaint. Of course, there may have been others, but none have yet come to my attention via post, email, Facebook, Twitter or on my Blog.
Nevertheless, I admitted my mistake immediately after listening closely to the ‘offending’ track. I then apologised to my BBC managers, and offered to apologise to the listeners at the beginning of, and again during, my programme on May 11. Alternatively, I offered to fall on my sword.
A series of emails between myself and the BBC ensued over the following few days, including one which stated, “We would prefer that you don’t mention anything about last week’s broadcast.” In the end, the BBC wrote to say, “Regrettably … we will have to accept your offer to fall on your sword to resolve the situation.”
So, first and foremost, here’s what I would have said on-air on May 11, had I been granted the opportunity of doing so: “I would like to apologise unreservedly to all of you, especially those who may have been offended by the track in question.”
Unfortunately, this was a genuine error on my part … the first of its kind I made in my 32 years of broadcasting … but, given today’s unforgiving obsession with political correctness, I have been compelled to pay the ultimate price.
Sadly, many thousands of BBC listeners have now been deprived of a programme they have come to look-forward to each week, while I’m left to ponder this: how can one oversight on my part, followed by one email complaint (that I know of), have such a negative impact on the lives so many innocent people? Maybe the answer lies in the fact that this regrettable episode provides proof of the damaging effect political correctness in all its pernicious forms is having on British society today?
Sorry folks, but I made a stupid mistake and I was left with no other option but to fall on my sword. In closing, however, let me say this: it has been an honour to entertain you for so many years, and I thank each and every one of you for your support for my efforts.
Unbelievable behaviour by the BBC. One rule for Jeremy Clarkson, another for others. And this from the very same BBC that has recently shown the Robert Di Niro film A BRONX TALE which contains at least 30 mentions of the ‘N’ word. Hypocrisy writ large.
However, the story doesn’t end there. David Lowe has today updated his blog with this…
MY HEARTFELT thanks to all of you, not only here on the Blog, but also on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for your support and kind words over the past 24 hours or so.
The BBC have, this evening (Saturday May 9, 2014), magnanimously asked me to return to my former Sunday evening programme slot, but I have respectfully declined their offer.
Let me explain why. As some of you will know, I am partially disabled by Dystonic Tremor: a condition rooted in the central nervous system. To put it mildly, these past two weeks have played havoc with my tremor symptoms, and it’s going to take quite some time for me to get back to where I was before this “N-word” issue blew-up … if I ever do.
I feel sure, therefore, most of you will understand that I now need to focus on recovering, as best I can, the limited dexterity I enjoyed before this regrettable episode began.
Thank you again for your support. With my sincere best wishes … David
So he’s told the BBC where they can stick it, and you can hardly blame him. The Mirror have taken up the story and they quote a BBC spokesman.
“We have offered David Lowe the opportunity to continue presenting his Singers and Swingers show, and we would be happy to have him back on air. “We accept that the conversation with David about the mistake could have been handled better, but if he chooses not to continue then we would like to thank him for his time presenting on the station and wish him well for the future.”
What a way for the BBC to treat someone with 30 years’ dedicated service. It’s like something out of an episode from W1A.