BBC in new race storm as it lets Radio 4 show use N-word again despite action being promised months ago
- Programme in the Great Live series earlier prompted thousands of complaints
- It contained clips from the 1950s and 1960s of interviews with Lenny Bruce
- Show is still available to listen to on the BBC’s Sounds app despite criticism
The BBC has become involved in another N-word controversy after it emerged the racial slur can still be heard on one of its popular Radio 4 programmes, despite action being promised months ago.
Former director general Tony Hall promised a review after a programme in the Great Lives series prompted thousands of complaints. One of the programmes featured the N-word four times as well as a homophobic slur.
But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the offending programme is still available on the BBC’s Sounds website despite the broadcaster coming under fire last summer for the its use of offensive language.
The programme contains clips from the 1950s and 1960s of interviews with the late American comedian Lenny Bruce. It formed part of a discussion about his career between host Matthew Parris and comedian Ian Boldsworth, known as Ray Peacock.
The BBC has become involved in another N-word controversy after it emerged the racial slur can still be heard on one of its popular Radio 4 programmes, despite action being promised months ago. Pictured: Lenny Bruce
During the clip, Bruce says: ‘By the way are there any n****** in here? If President Kennedy went on telly every day and said, ‘I want to introduce all of the n****** in my cabinet, and all the n****** call each other n******,’ the word would lose its impact.’
Defending the choice of language, Peacock said: ‘It was still a taboo back then and what he says was hugely offensive.
‘Then you start to play with it and it is brilliant. He is tremendously offensive until you hear what he is talking about.’
Six months ago Lord Hall was forced to apologise after the N-word was used in a news report.
More than 18,600 people complained after it aired on the Points West programme and the BBC News Channel during coverage of a racially aggravated attack in Bristol.
The programme contains clips from the 1950s and 1960s of interviews with the late American comedian Lenny Bruce. It formed part of a discussion about his career between host Matthew Parris (pictured) and comedian Ian Boldsworth, known as Ray Peacock
The BBC initially defended its use but Lord Hall later accepted the broadcaster should have taken a different approach, adding it would be ‘strengthening’ its guidance on offensive language.
On the Great Lives programme, which the corporation says will not be repeated but will remain online, Bruce is heard using derogatory language regarding sexuality.
In a 1961 appearance he says: ‘They should really redefine the word homosexual, make it more definitive. A homosexual is someone who has ever been involved in a homosexual act, a beautiful generalisation here. Cos I assume you’re all f*****s then.’
Last year the BBC was criticised for broadcasting a documentary about John Lennon that included nine uses of the N-word.
The 2011 documentary, Lennon: The New York Years, included a segment looking at the uproar that greeted the 1972 release of the song Woman Is The N***** Of The World, written by the former Beatle and Yoko Ono.
It was aired again in October 2020 to mark what would have been the murdered singer’s 80th birthday and also includes an interview Lennon gave to American talk show host Dick Cavett in which he repeats the N-word five times.
Last night, a BBC spokesman said: ‘This programme [Great Lives] broadcast on Radio 4 in 2016. It hasn’t been on air since and is online as part of the Great Lives archive, where it is made clear there is audio that listeners might find offensive.
‘The episode is a serious examination of the work of celebrated comedian Lenny Bruce and uses archive audio as a key way to illustrate his life and well-known satirical comedy from the 1960s.’
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