A Pan African Human Rights Organisation challenging the misrepresentation of African people, culture and history in the British media.
Mon 14 May 2007
BBC Westwood escapes justice as n word case is dropped
The Police are unable to proceed with their investigation into the BBC’s broadcast of anti-African and misogynistic material on its notorious Radio One Tim Westwood show after the CPS dropped the case due to ‘lack of evidence’.
The year long police investigation into the BBC’s offensive broadcast of misogynistic and anti-African ideology through its music came to an end after Mr Jason from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) claimed that it ‘did not have enough evidence based on what was presented’ to prosecute the publicly funded broadcaster. When a recording of Westwood’s show was requested by the police, the BBC responded by claiming that they only kept recordings of this type for ‘a short period’ and were therefore unable to provide any evidence of the offending broadcast.
Tim Westwood’s bi-weekly programme, which encourages the normalisation of anti-African values, misogyny and violent conflict is said to reach an audience of 400,000 young people. The investigating officer, Paul Deville, agreed that the use of the n word, which frequents the music played by Tim Westwood, was offensive. In his enquiries he reported that he had also found the community stations Flames FM and Déjà vu guilty of promoting offensive material. He also revealed that some of the African members of staff in the police station itself admitted to having little problem listening to these kind of racist lyrics although he and others found it objectionable.
An Independent Television Commission (ITC) report published in 2000 wrote, “The potency of the strongest language to offend was re-affirmed in an important study –Delete Expletives?– jointly conducted by the ITC, BSC, BBC and the Advertising Standards Authority”. The report continued; “One of the most useful regulatory pointers to emerge from this research was the increased sensitivity to terms of racial abuse with a term such as the [n word] moving from 11th to fifth in a table of offensive terms in just two years”.
From 18 December 2003, the ITC ceased to exist and its duties have been assumed by Ofcom, the Office of Communications. Ofcom, whose role is said to be that of an “independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries”, assumed its regulatory powers on 29 December 2003 and went on to defend the BBC’s position on the broadcast of offensive music. They informed the police, through copies of correspondence originally sent to Ligali, that use of the n word was justifiable due to the fact that it was acceptable to the majority of the non-African BBC audience who did not find it offensive. Ofcom has a long history of refusing to satisfactorily address media complaints from and directly affecting the African community unless non-Africans are also offended.
In December 2005, Ofcom investigated a complaint about the use of the n word during a broadcast of the BBC’s Today programme. It was argued that the context in which the n word was used ‘was perhaps even less to be expected than in many others’. The BBC production team, who let it go unchallenged, deliberately refused to intervene for fear of the presenter sounding ‘heavy-handed’, despite being fully aware of the offensive nature of the racist epithet. It was only after several non-Africans made complaints about the issue that Ofcom decided ‘such phraseology is no longer considered acceptable’ and the BBC issued the statement which read “Earlier in the programme, one of our contributors used a phrase which many of you found offensive. Following your calls and e-mails, he wishes us to make clear that he apologises for using the phrase and any offence caused.”
Rehabilitating racist words?
The BBC has faced staunch criticism over its attempts to ‘reclaim’ the n word. In March 2007, it published an article asking “[s]hould racist words be rehabilitated?’ This followed previous comments made by Ian Parkinson, BBC’s Head of Specialist Music and Speech Programmes for Radio 1 and Head of 1Xtra who was labelled ignorant by BBC listeners after claiming the BBC "and the overwhelming majority of the audience" did not interpret usage of the n word as racist.
Russell Simmons, founder of legendary record label Def Jam, home of LL Cool J, The Roots and Nas disagrees. In April 2007, he called on artists, broadcasters and record companies to voluntarily remove, bleep or delete racist and sexist words from music. Simmons said:
"The [n word] is a racially derogatory term that disrespects the pain, suffering, history of racial oppression, and multiple forms of racism against African-Americans… It is important to re-emphasise that our internal discussions with industry leaders are not about censorship. Our discussions are about the corporate social responsibility of the industry to voluntarily show respect to African-Americans and other people of colour, African-American women and to all women in lyrics and images."
The immunity enjoyed by the BBC and other offensive broadcasters such as Capital’s Choice FM is only possible with the explicit support of Ofcom. Many are angry that the regulators hypocritical stance contradicts its much trumpeted principles to protect young audiences from harm. In September 2005, Ofcom published the report 'Language and Sexual Imagery in Broadcasting: A Contextual Investigation' which after a year of research concluded that the n word was one of the most offensive words used in the media. Yet despite coming to this realisation yet again, the regulator still refuses to act on an issue that has severe and often fatal repurcussions for young people in the UK.
Ofcom’s own research concludes that; “The parents within the groups were most likely to want song lyrics to be edited, while teenagers were less keen – their preference was for unedited lyrics played later. It was also felt that repeated and persistent slippages by radio stations or DJ’s/presenters should be dealt with severely – this was driven by the expectation of high standards – particularly for national and local BBC radio.”
Whilst investigating the case against the BBC, Deville explained that the problem he faced whilst during the course of his inspection was that there is ‘no evidence to claim music induces violence or racist crimes’. The 43 police forces across Britain were contacted but there were no reports of similar complaints about the BBC’s gratuitous usage of the offensive n word. However the BBC itself confirmed to the police that it received various complaints about its Westwood programme for racist and anti-social.
In February 2007, the Black Music Congress (BMC) hosted a debate called 'To what Extent Does Music Influence Behaviour?’. The succesful event, which was filled to capacity with young people, social workers, media professionals, artists, politicians, parents and activists unanimously agreed that music has a significant effect on human behaviour. The forum ended with a resolution promoting acceptance of personal responsibility in what media consumers chose to purchase and listen to and a campaign calling for respectful, responsible radio in the UK.
During November 2006, the government denied that there was a problem with British culture after a disturbing report about the behavioural crisis facing the majority of young people in Britain was released by the Institute for Public Policy Research. It revealed that children in the UK were at or near the top on every bad indicator involving drugs, drink, violence and sexual promiscuity in europe. Children were also found to be more obsessed with consumerism due to heightened brand awareness. Many attached an unnatural degree of importance to consumer goods and possessions as opposed to family and community.
Three months later, several charities and politicians attacked the Government after a Unicef report showed Britain to be the worst place in westernised nations to be a child. The Children's Commissioner said the study illustrated a "a crisis at the heart of [British] society". Colette Marshall, UK Director of Save the Children, said "It is shameful to see the UK languishing at the bottom of this table… This report shows clearly that despite the UK's wealth, we are failing to give children the best possible start in life. The UK Government is not investing enough in the well-being of children, especially to combat poverty and deprivation."
The UK finished near the bottom in five out of six categories which were material well-being; health and safety, educational well-being, relationships, behaviour and risks and subjective well-being - ending up overall last, after the United States which produces much of the anti-African cultural media imported and broadcast by the BBC to young people.
Is street justice the only solution after official approaches to the BBC, Ofcom and the Police have all have failed to prevent this bi-weekly disrespect to African people?
"The [n word] is a racially derogatory term that disrespects the pain, suffering, history of racial oppression, and multiple forms of racism against African[s]… [our] discussions are not about censorship [they] are about corporate social responsibility"
Singer Beverley Knight speaks out against n word usage
BBC continues failing audiences with support for N word
Opinion: The n word, Twain, and a case of moral dissonance
Intent, consent and the panto season of racist jokes
BBC - N word has been ‘reclaimed’ and is no longer offensive
Recent Media Articles
SOAS and the naked truth about African child abuse
Singer Beverley Knight speaks out against n word usage
Opinion: Fawlty Lawson and why the BBC was right on n word
Adidas slavery trainers withdrawn from sale
Nubiart Diary - Food Security
BMC Report - To What Extent Does Music Influence Behaviour?BBC - UK youths among worst in europeTimes - Outcry after Unicef identifies UK
Ligali is not responsible for the content of third party sites