Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson Used Racial Term, Violated Broadcasting Rules: Media Regulator Ofcom

Did BBC’s Top Gear anchor Jeremy Clarkson use a racial term in the Top Gear Burma Special broadcast earlier this year? British media regulator Ofcom thinks yes. The authority has ruled that Clarkson used a racial term in the midst of the episode “deliberately and without justification,” reports The Guardian. Ofcom also ruled that Jeremy Clarkson was in breach of what it termed to be “generally accepted standards” of broadcasting.

So, what exactly did Jeremy Clarkson say?

The Burma Special episode shows Jeremy Clarkson and his other Top Gear co-presenter Richard Hammond up to their usual antics. The episode shows them constructing a makeshift bridge over the famous river Kwai. When an Asian man is seen walking towards them via the bridge, Clarkson is heard saying:

“That is a proud moment… but… there is a slope on it.”

Hammond joins in too: “You are right… it is definitely higher on that side.”

Clarkson doesn’t stop there. He goes on to narrate:

“We decide to ignore the slope and move onto the opening ceremony.”

In case you are wondering what the fuss is all about, Ofcom received two complaints from viewers of the show who said that the term “slope” was offensive and racist and that Jeremy Clarkson had no business using it at that particular instance. According to Urban Dictionary’s definition, a “slope” is a racist term used to describe east Asians and refers to the slope of their eyes.

Another definition says that it is an acronym for Silly Little Opium Peddling Easterner. However, a BBC News report claims that not many people are aware of this term and do not know that it has racist connotations.

In response to the complaints, Top Gear’s producer Andy Wilman claimed that the term was “a light-hearted wordplay joke referencing both the build quality of the bridge and the local Asian man who was crossing it.”

Ofcom ruled that the term did have the potential to cause offense and that the usage of the term was unnecessary at that juncture. Ofcom found Top Gear in breach of section 2.3 of their broadcasting code. This section largely deals with generally accepted broadcasting standards. Ofcom also believed that the sequence involving the Asian man was scripted in advance and that the decision to use the offensive term was taken after due consideration.

“Ofcom’s view is that the word ‘slope’ is a pejorative racial term which has the potential to be offensive to Asian people specifically, as well as to viewers more generally,” they clarified in a statement.

They added:

“Various nationalities have, at some point, been the subject of the presenters’ mockery during the history of this long running program. The regular audience for this programme adjusts its expectations accordingly. In our view, however, in this case Jeremy Clarkson deliberately employed the offensive word to refer to the Asian person crossing the bridge as well as the camber of the bridge.”

Do you think Jeremy Clarkson was being needlessly racist in this case? Or do you think the usage of the term fell within acceptable limits? This is not the first time that Clarkson has been pulled up for alleged racist comments. In 2011, Clarkson had raked up a storm after he called Mexicans “feckless and flatulent.”

[Image Via Top Gear]