BBC racism row: treatment of radio DJ 'utterly disgraceful'

BBC Broadcasting House

David Lowe resigns after accidentally broadcasting N-word in The Sun Has Got His Hat On recording

LAST UPDATED AT 14:18 ON Mon 12 May 2014

THE BBC has been denounced as "utterly disgraceful" after a local radio presenter was forced to quit for accidentally broadcasting a recording that contained the word "n*****".

Radio Devon DJ David Lowe, 68, lost his job after playing an 82-year-old version of The Sun Has Got His Hat On, which included the line: "He's been tanning n****** out in Timbuktu, now he's coming back to do the same to you."

Lowe, who had been broadcasting for 32 years, said he did not realise the song contained the racial slur and offered to make an on-air apology. But BBC bosses declined his proposal, instead accepting his alternative offer to resign.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said that "it does seem slightly unfair", while London Mayor Boris Johnson has described Lowe's treatment as "utterly disgraceful" and compared Britain's "orchestrated frenzy" over the N-word to Boko Haram's crackdown on books – haram meaning forbidden.

"[The N-word] has become so intensely haram that a miasma attaches to anyone using it, even inadvertently; and the prohibition is now enforced with a semi-religious fervour," writes the mayor in the Daily Telegraph.

Johnson demands that the entire BBC Board go down to Devon to apologise in person, and at their own expense.

Anti-racism campaigner, Weyman Bennett, of Unite Against Facism, also acknowledges that Lowe had made a mistake and should not have been forced out. Speaking to The Independent, Bennett points out that Jeremy Clarkson was recently recorded mumbling the N-word during filming for his show, but was not suspended or forced to resign.

The BBC has since said that the situation with Lowe "could have been handled better" and offered the DJ his job back. But Lowe, who is partially disabled by dystonic tremor, a condition rooted in the central nervous system, declined the offer, explaining that the stress of the incident has made him too ill to return.

"What a way for the BBC to treat someone with 30 years' dedicated service," says LBC radio presenter Iain Dale on his blog. "It's like something out of an episode from W1A." · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.