Newsnight cleared over Starkey 'blacks' remark

James Waterson
Tuesday 04 October 2011 00:00

Ofcom will take no action against the BBC's Newsnight programme following an appearance by the historian Dr David Starkey that led to accusations of racism.

Dr Starkey appeared on the show in the aftermath of the August riots, at one point declaring "the problem is that the whites have become black".

Dr Starkey also suggested a connection between the disturbances and Enoch Powell's predictions in his Rivers of Blood speech: "[Powell's] prophesy was absolutely right in one sense. The Tiber did not foam with blood but flames lambent, they wrapped around Tottenham and wrapped around Clapham."

Ofcom declined to investigate the incident despite receiving 103 complaints from members of the public.

Owen Jones, the journalist and author who appeared next to Dr Starkey on the Newsnight panel, criticised the broadcast regulator's decision. "David Starkey attempted to scapegoat black people for the August riots by claiming so-called 'black culture' had effectively colonised white people and turned them into thugs," he said. "Once again, Ofcom has proved itself to be a toothless body by failing to tackle the out-and-out racism of a discredited historian."

After invoking Powell, Dr Starkey bemoaned the "Jamaican patois that's been intruded in England," before making a controversial observation about the MP for Tottenham: "Listen to David Lammy, an archetypical successful black man. If you ... were listening to him on radio you'd think he was white."

A spokesman for Ofcom said that presenter Emily Maitlis had sufficiently challenged Starkey's claims: "This was a serious and measured discussion within a programme with a well-established nature and format and with reputation for dealing with challenging subjects. The effect of his comments was limited by the presenter's moderation of the item and his comments were countered by the views of other contributors."

After appearing on the programme Dr Starkey insisted that there was nothing racist in his comments.

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