Top Gear cleared by Ofcom over Jeremy Clarkson's use of the word 'pikey'

The media watchdog said the word was used with minimal offence given the context, but warned it was not always an acceptable term for broadcasters

Daisy Wyatt
Monday 27 July 2015 15:40
comments

Top Gear has been cleared of breaking broadcasting regulations by Ofcom over the use of the word “pikey”.

The BBC2 show drew complaints from The Traveller Movement after Jeremy Clarkson held up a sign reading “Pikey’s Peak” while Richard Hammond drove a car up a mountain.

But media regulator Ofcom has cleared the BBC show of any wrongdoing, saying the word was used in a context that “minimised offence”.

An Ofcom spokesman said: “We found that, while some in the audience would perceive the word pikey as a derogatory term for gypsies and travellers, on balance there was sufficient context in the way the word was used to minimise offence.”

The watchdog went on to warn that the use of the word was not always acceptable.

“However, we have advised broadcasters this doesn't mean the use of the word is acceptable in any programme in any context and that it is capable of causing significant offence in certain contexts," the spokesperson said.

A similar complaint against Top Gear’s use of the word was lodged against the BBC but was not upheld. The BBC editorial standards committee said the word could be “a derogatory term” but cited online encyclopaedia Wikipedia as proof it also referred to someone who "lives on the cheap".

The Traveller Movement has condemned Ofcom’s decision, saying the suggestion the use of the word had no reference to Gypsies and Travellers was “bankrupt”.

A spokesperson for the organisation said: “Instead of investigating our complaint in full, Ofcom has relied largely on the BBC Trust decision which, in turn, relied on Wikipedia.

“Ofcom are in effect saying that the public have been fooled by Top Gear's deliberately transgressive and racist repeat use of 'pikey'.

Access unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Amazon Prime Video Sign up now for a 30-day free trial

Sign up

“The Top Gear presenters told them that they didn't mean it to be racist and Ofcom have taken them at their word. The reference to pegs and heather salesmen which we raised has been ignored.

“The viewing public are not that stupid and Ofcom need to give them more credit. The decision is a victory for racist bullies and we will be meeting with our solicitors, Howe & Co, to consider our options."

It is not the first time that Top Gear - and its former presenters - have run into trouble over allegations of racism.

Clarkson had to apologise when unscreened footage emerged of him mumbling the n-word while reciting the children's nursery rhyme ”eeny, meeny, miny, moe“ to choose between two cars.

The show was also censured by Ofcom for breaching broadcasting rules after Clarkson used the racist term “slope” during the programme's Burma special.

With additional reporting from the Press Association.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments