BBC says gypsy is a racist word, says comic

Comedian Ben Miller said the BBC tried to stop him using the word "gypsy" in his new sketch series with Alexander Armstrong because it could be seen as racist.

The pair wanted to use the term in their BBC1 show to ridicule attitudes held in the 1970s.

Speaking to November's issue of FHM magazine, Miller said: "We're having a debate at the moment with the BBC over whether we can say gypsies, because they say gypsies is a racist term, and you think 'Yes it is, but that's the point that we're making, that we were more racist in the 70s than we are now'."

Asked where he draws the line on good taste, Miller replied: "You have to be really precise.

"One thing we talk about is who's our target?

"Ricky Gervais has jokes about people with disabilities, but do I think that's a healthy thing?

"Yes, I really do, because he's chosen his targets very carefully and he's thought about what he's doing."

Miller was quoted on the Daily Mail's website as saying the word was dropped after a discussion with the corporation.

He said: "After discussing the issue both amongst ourselves and with the BBC, we decided to use a different word, so that the target (racism) was clearer and the joke was funnier.

"These discussions are a normal, healthy part of writing a comedy show and help to make sure that we end up with something we can all have a ruddy good laugh at."

A BBC spokeswoman said concerns were raised about the use of the word because it might cause offence in the context in which it was being used.

She said: "There are no banned words on the BBC; 'gypsy' isn't a banned word.

"This wasn't about the word itself, but about the sketch as a whole and the potential to cause offence.

"As with all comedy, it's about context, and in this particular case we felt there were less offensive ways of making the same joke."