BBC forced to apologise again for riots coverage
Ian Burrell is Assistant Editor and Media Editor at The Independent, i paper and Independent on Sunday. He covers news from the whole media sector from television, press, radio and advertising to technology. His weekly column on the media appears every Monday in The Independent and i paper. He also writes on media, music and culture, including long-form pieces for The Independent’s Saturday magazine and the Independent on Sunday’s magazine, New Review. He is a regular presenter of BBC Radio 4’s What The Papers Say and a specialist commentator to Monocle 24 radio. He has contributed to most major broadcast outlets including BBC television and radio, CNN, Sky News, Al Jazeera and LBC. He has also written on media for GQ magazine. Ian has been reporting on the media industry for The Independent for more than a decade. Previously he was the newspaper’s Home Affairs Editor. He worked at The Sunday Times for five years, including as a member of the investigative Insight team, covering stories on political funding, industrial espionage and the arms industry. Previously he worked in ITV for London Weekend Television, on a weekly current affairs programme presented by Danny Baker. Ian trained at the Birmingham Post & Mail and was Regional Reporter of the Year in Press Gazette’s national awards.
Tuesday 16 August 2011
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.
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