Not building bridges with the traveller community…BBC Trust accepts Jeremy Clarkson’s use of the word ‘pikey’ as a cheap insult

Posted: 24 March, 2015 in BBC
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Top Gear Apocalypse Richard Hammond Top Gear
BBC Two, 2 February 2014

On 2 February 2014 Top Gear broadcast an item comparing hatchback cars from the 1980s with their modern equivalent. The presenters each chose a car. Richard Hammond’s choice was a Vauxhall Nova, which the other two presenters felt was inferior to their cars and comments were made about this in relation to Richard Hammond’s lack of style. When they arrived at the motor circuit to race their cars, Jeremy Clarkson stated:

We arrived at the terrifying Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb. Germany has the Nurburgring, America has Pikes Peak, we have this. It’s more than half a mile long and at the bottom of this fearsome river of tarmac we were given more details of our challenge.

Sometime later, after the other two presenters had completed the circuit, a voice-over from James May said As I pondered on that, Jeremy prepared the course for Hammond’s Nova. Jeremy Clarkson was then seen putting up a placard on a wooden hut on which Pikey’s Peak was written. Richard Hammond was then shown driving his car up to the start line.

The initial complaint stated that the sign had no relevance to the programme and was:

Grossly offensive and racist to a minority community, the Gypsy Traveller community. They are one of the 9 protected characteristics within the Equality Act 2010 and do not deserve to be treated like this, especially not on national TV.

The complaint was escalated through the full and long BBC complaints procedure until reaching the rarely achieved appeal to the BBC Trust, who concluded:

The Appeal Committee wish to state that it had carefully considered the case made by the complainants and the information they provided, and had accepted that the word pikey did have the potential to be deeply offensive to the Gypsy and Traveller communities, most notably when specifically attributing negative characteristics to these minority groups. The Committee was also mindful that some words, including pikey , can be used in an abusive context. The Committee therefore advised programme makers to bear in mind the potential for offence this word may have in some circumstances and advised extreme care and sensitivity when employing it in programming. Although the Committee accepted that the word pikey has evolved to have a meaning distinct from the Gypsy and Traveller communities, it nevertheless advises considerable caution in its use.

Finally the Committee noted that the complainants wanted the Editorial Guidelines to directly address the possible dual usage of the word pikey . The Committee considered that this was not necessary because the Editorial Guidelines were sufficiently clear.

Finding: not upheld

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