BBC forced to apologise again for riots coverage

  • @iburrell

The BBC has apologised after broadcasting a programme on the riots under the heading: "Is there a problem with young black men?"

The title of the show, broadcast to an international audience on the World Service's World Have Your Say programme, provoked an angry response on online forums and several readers complained to The Voice, a news website aimed at Britain's black communities. "People are outraged because it is such an ignorant question. It is not a brilliant or even thought-provoking debate," one said.

In its apology, the BBC expressed regret for causing offence while explaining the circumstances under which the programme had been made. "The original headline question that appears online was, in hindsight, too stark and could have been clearer. We apologise for any offence it caused," said a spokesman.

At the top of the programme, broadcast at the height of the riots earlier this month, presenter Nuala McGovern told listeners: "Many of you who got in touch with the BBC pointed fingers directly at young black men after seeing pictures of the riots." She added: "We are asking, is there a problem with young black men?"

Yesterday, the actor and playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, a former star of the BBC hospital drama Casualty, was among those supporting an online petition for the BBC to make a more formal apology.

Others took to the World Have Your Say Facebook page to complain. One contributor, Justin Ford, wrote: "I'm a young man and there aren't any problems with me. The very wording of this discussion scares me."

The BBC spokesman pointed out that the programme was not intended to demonise young black men. "It was a responsible attempt to debate social attitudes towards young black men including whether they were unfairly blamed for causing trouble," he said.

"Riots were underway as the programme went to air and it was made clear on several occasions that those involved came from a range of ages, backgrounds and ethnicities."

The BBC's comments followed another apology made to the commentator Darcus Howe, who was wrongly accused by a BBC television presenter last Tuesday of having taken part in riots in the past.