BBC One, 5 February 2012, 8pm
An appeal to the Editorial Standards Committee concerns an episode of Top Gear which included comments about people with growths on their faces in an item about a new campervan.
The complainant said that the item was offensive, prejudicial and unacceptable . The complainant also expressed the view that the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines should be updated to include specific consideration for under-represented groups of people in British society, including those with facial disfigurements.
The Committee concluded:
- that the audience would have understood the connection which the presenters drew between the character played by John Hurt in The Elephant Man and the design of the Prius campervan, and that the joke at this point was about the vehicle’s design.
- that the slurred speech used by Jeremy Clarkson was also part of this reference to The Elephant Man, but that this mimicry was on the margins of acceptability.
- that, while most of the comments made about the campervan would have not exceeded the expectations of the audience, a remark about talking to a car at a party and not being able to look at a person with a facial disfigurement, taken with the reference to …one of those really ugly things … I’m talking about a growth… , strayed into an offensive stereotypical assumption not confined to The Elephant Man.
- that the programme was in breach of the Guidelines on Harm and Offence as the exchanges about facial disfigurement noted above were not editorially justified and did not meet generally accepted standards in the context of their portrayal of a disability.
- that the Editorial Guidelines and corresponding Guidance together give sufficient and appropriate guidance to programme-makers on the issue of the portrayal of minorities and vulnerable social groups and it was not necessary to change the Guidelines in the way that the complainant had suggested.
The complaint was upheld