Media Law Prof Blog

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Louisiana State Univ.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

BBC Fends Off Yet Criticism Of Yet Another On-Air Personality After He Makes Offensive Comment

Just as the BBC was recovering (slightly) from the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross horror show, Jeremy Clarkson let loose on last Sunday's episode of Top Gear with a joke about truck drivers murdering sex workers. The BBC defended airing the quip (and the pre-recorded show) by saying that audiences know Mr. Clarkson's on air persona quite well.

The vast majority of Top Gear viewers have clear expectations of Jeremy Clarkson's long-established and frequently provocative on-screen persona. This particular reference was used to comically exaggerate and make ridicular an unfair urban myth about the world of lorry driving, and was not intended to cause offence.

However, in February an Ipswich truck driver was sentenced to life in prison for killing five women who had worked as prostitutes in the city. The high profile trial heightened awareness of dangers to sex workers and of unsolved murders. Mr. Clarkson's remarks, say some, suggest that he is "insensitive" to these dangers.

Janice Turner of the Times defends the show and its humor here, as does Mr. Clarkson's co-host Richard Hammond.

Meanwhile, BBC Director General Mark Thompson indicated earlier this week that the broadcaster will no longer be offering high paying contracts to its celebrity hires in the wake of Sachsgate.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/media_law_prof_blog/2008/11/just-as-the-bbc.html

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