Sunday 4 December 2016

'A victory for racist bullies' - Travellers unhappy with Ofcom clearing Top Gear over use of word 'pikey'

Published 27/07/2015 | 13:15

Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May in the final ‘Top Gear’ show featuring the three presenters
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May in the final ‘Top Gear’ show featuring the three presenters

Controversial motoring show Top Gear has been cleared of breaching broadcasting rules after it was investigated by Ofcom over the use of the word pikey.

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A representative of the Traveller Movement complained after a scene in which the show's now ex-host Jeremy Clarkson was seen holding a placard with the words Pikey's Peak while Richard Hammond drove a car up a mountain.

A similar complaint was lodged with the BBC but eventually not upheld, with the BBC Trust concluding the word had been used o mean "cheap", rather than as a term of racist or ethnic abuse.

An Ofcom spokesman said: " We found that, while some in the audience would perceive the word pikey as a derogatory term for gypsies and travellers, on balance there was sufficient context in the way the word was used to minimise offence.

"However, we have advised broadcasters this doesn't mean the use of the word is acceptable in any programme in any context and that it is capable of causing significant offence in certain contexts."

In its evidence, the BBC admitted the word could be "a derogatory term" but cited online encyclopaedia Wikipedia as proof it also referred to someone who "lives on the cheap".

It is not the first time the show - and its former presenters - have run in to trouble over allegations of racism.

Clarkson had to apologise when unscreened footage emerged of him mumbling the n-word while reciting the children's nursery rhyme "eeny, meeny, miny, moe" to choose between two cars and the show was also censured by Ofcom for breaching broadcasting rules after Clarkson used a "racial" term during the programme's Burma special.

A spokesman for the Traveller Movement said: "We are appalled that Ofcom have followed the BBC Trust's line and have green-lit the use of 'pikey' on Top Gear.

"Their decision that this particular use has no reference to Gypsies and Travellers is bankrupt.

"Instead of investigating our complaint in full, Ofcom has relied largely on the BBC Trust decision which, in turn, relied on Wikipedia.

"Ofcom are in effect saying that the public have been fooled by Top Gear's deliberately transgressive and racist repeat use of 'pikey'.

"The Top Gear presenters told them that they didn't mean it to be racist and Ofcom have taken them at their word. The reference to pegs and heather salesmen which we raised has been ignored.

"The viewing public are not that stupid and Ofcom need to give them more credit. The decision is a victory for racist bullies and we will be meeting with our solicitors, Howe & Co, to consider our options."

Press Association

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