U.K. Regulator to Probe BBC's 'Top Gear' After Racism Complaints

Courtesy of History
"Top Gear"

Ofcom will investigate an on-air comment by host Jeremy Clarkson during an episode shot in Myanmar.

LONDON – U.K. media regulator Ofcom has launched a probe into BBC hit show Top Gear.

The Guardian reported that the regulator will investigate ‎an on-air comment by host Jeremy Clarkson that critics say was racist and that drew a couple of viewer complaints.

The BBC, the show's producers and Clarkson have ‎been under fire here after unaired footage surfaced last week that showed the host choosing between two cars by using children's rhyme "eeny, meeny, miny, moe" and apparently mumbling the N-word in the follow-up line. Clarkson apologized, and the BBC gave him what was described as a final warning, while critics called for his firing.

It was the latest racism controversy surrounding Clarkson and the show, which airs on BBC Two and in the U.S. is shown on BBC America.‎ During an episode earlier this year that was shot in Myanmar, the host and his co-hosts built a bridge over a river. As an Asian man was shown walking across it, Clarkson said: "That is a proud moment, but there is a slope on it." His co-host responded: "You're right, it's definitely higher on that side."

‎Top Gear producer Andy Wilman apologized for any offense caused, saying his team at the time wasn't aware that the comment could be seen as racist.

Ofcom has now launched a formal inquiry into the incident based on two complaints, The Guardian said.

After the "eeny, meeny" controversy, Clarkson said on Twitter late last week that he was "begging for forgiveness." BBC executives summoned him to a meeting and reprimanded him.

In a weekend column in tabloid The Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, he wrote: "I've been told by the BBC that if I make one more offensive remark, anywhere, at any time, I will be sacked."

Lawrence Davies, director of U.K. law firm Equal Justice, in a letter to the BBC on Tuesday called for Clarkson to be fired for "gross misconduct" now, The Guardian reported. He argued that the show has seen "repeated" incidents of racism against Mexicans, Asians, Germans and others, the paper said.

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai