BBC show breached code over 'retarded' comment

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The Independent Online

A BBC radio show breached the Broadcasting Code after a comedian described Sarah Palin's son, who has Down's Syndrome, as "retarded", Ofcom ruled today.

American comedian Doug Stanhope made the offending remarks on BBC6 Music's magazine programme Nemone, hosted by DJ Nemone Metaxas at 1pm on 12 September.

Palin, the Republican Party's vice-presidential nominee for the US presidential election, has five children and her youngest, Trig, was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome.

The watchdog received a complaint from a listener about the use of the word "retarded" to describe someone with Down's Syndrome.

The complainant was also concerned that the remarks had not been seriously challenged by the presenter and no apology was given.

The corporation responded that BBC6 Music was aimed at an adult audience and the presenter warned people to prepare themselves "for a vitriolic assault on their senses", adding that her guest was "often described as the standard bearer for extreme American comedy".

But the BBC said it regretted that the presenter did not issue a clear apology at the first available opportunity.

It has reviewed its procedure for briefing guests on tailoring their material to ensure it was suitable for broadcast.

Ofcom found: "In this case, the word 'retarded' was used in a particularly derogatory manner...

"Ofcom was also concerned that during the broadcast the presenter did not give what it considered to be a sufficient reprimand or apology, which could have served to reduce the offence."