Labour MP Dawn Butler backs 24-hour boycott of BBC

Labour MP Dawn Butler backs 24-hour boycott of BBC over corporation’s use of N-word in TV news report

  • More than 18,000 people complained after offensive term was used last month
  • The row and bosses’ defence of its use saw Radio 1Xtra DJ ‘Sideman’ resign 
  • Campaigners urge people to not consume BBC content until 9am tomorrow 
  • Brent Central MP Ms Butler wrote today ‘#BBCBLACKOUT Join in by tuning out’

Labour MP Dawn Butler has thrown her weight behind a campaign to boycott the BBC for 24 hours today over the corporation’s use of the N-word in recent TV news reports.

More than 18,000 people complained last month after a report by social affairs correspondent Fiona Lamdin on a suspected racially-motivated attack in Bristol saw her repeat a racial slur allegedly used during the incident. 

The story ran on the BBC News Channel and local news programme Points West on July 29, however later that day the broadcaster stopped running the report which featured the offensive language.


Labour MP Dawn Butler, pictured left on day she was controversially stopped by police, has thrown her weight behind a campaign to boycott the BBC for 24 hours today after a report by social affairs correspondent Fiona Lamdin, pictured right, on a suspected racially-motivated attack in Bristol saw her repeat a racial slur allegedly used during the incident

The movement today received the backing of the Brent Central MP, who wrote: ‘#BBCBLACKOUT Join in by tuning out’

As well as thousands of complaints, it sparked much discussion in the weeks that followed and saw Radio 1Xtra host David ‘Sideman’ Whitely resign in protest against bosses said to have ‘sanctioned’ use of the term.

More than 100 black professionals last week penned an open letter urging people to boycott the BBC on August 19 and the movement today received the backing of Brent Central MP Ms Butler, who shared a poster for the event, adding: ‘#BBCBLACKOUT Join in by tuning out.’

The campaign poster asks people to turn off all of the BBC’s major media channels on TV, radio, digital and social from 9am this morning until 9am tomorrow and pledges to ‘stamp out racism at the BBC’.

The campaigners argue it took ‘18,000 complains, 11 days and the resignation of a presenter’ for chiefs to accept full use of the N-word was wrong.

Demanding change, action and accountability, it calls for the resignations of BBC Directors of News and Editorial Policy, compensation for DJ Sideman and the introduction of external race advisors.

It adds: ‘BBC’s actions caused trauma and could be considered a hate crime. If they can’t hear, they must feel.’

Ms Butler herself has also been at the centre of a recent row, having accused the police of racially profiling her after she was pulled over while driving in East London.

The politician filmed her heated confrontation in Hackney with two officers, who she claims demanded to know what was in the back of car.

The campaign poster asks people to turn off all of the BBC’s major media channels on TV, radio, digital and social from 9am this morning until 9am tomorrow and pledges to ‘stamp out racism at the BBC


David ‘Sideman’ Whitely, pictured left, resigned from BBC1 Extra after a department run by David Jordan, pictured right – the corporation’s chief trouble-shooter tasked with upholding its editorial standards – defended the use, in full, of the N-word in the report 

After being left ‘irritated and angry’, she branded the Metropolitan Police ‘institutionally racist’ – claims that were subsequently denied by commissioner Cressida Dick, federation chief Ken Marsh, as well as Boris Johnson’s official spokesman.

However, Inspector Andrew George, the new interim president of the National Black Police Association told the Guardian this week the stop of Ms Butler was rooted in systemic racism that is ‘damaging the legitimacy of policing’. 

Just days after the N-word was spoken in Ms Lamdin’s report, it was used again by TV historian Lucy Worsley in a feature about slavery on BBC Two’s American History’s Biggest Fibs.

After it emerged that ‘senior editorial figures,’ at the BBC okayed the use of the slur in the Points West news bulletin, the corporation would not reveal how many of those editorial figures were white, instead saying: ‘We would not share this level of detail about any of our staff.’

DJ Mr Whitely then resigned from BBC1 Extra after a department run by David Jordan – the corporation’s chief trouble-shooter tasked with upholding its editorial standards – defended the use, in full, of the N-word in the report. 

As the BBC desperately struggles to woo a younger, more ethnically diverse audience, the episode has shone a light on a cultural and generational clash at the heart of the corporation.

Insiders say Mr Jordan – who is paid £177,000 a year – is attempting to protect the independence of reporters and editors by not bowing to noisy campaign groups and Britain’s mounting ‘cancel culture’.

Others argue that the corporation’s mainly white, middle-age managers remain impervious to change and are undermining their £100 million drive to produce ‘diverse and inclusive content’.

Just days after the N-word was spoken in Ms Lamdin’s report, it was used again by TV historian Lucy Worsley in a feature about slavery on BBC Two’s American History’s Biggest Fibs 

A number of black social media users called on people to turn off BBC TV, iPlayer, radio and social media for 24 hours

Earlier this month, BBC director-general Tony Hall overruled Mr Jordan and apologised for the use of the racist slur.

His intervention is understood to have been prompted by fears of further resignations by black and ethnic minority presenters. However, it has failed to end the row.

BBC sources say that the corporation remains gripped by confusion over whether or not there is now a blanket ban on the full use of the N-word.

Lord Hall accepted its use in a report about an attack on an NHS worker caused ‘distress’ and admitted the BBC ‘should have taken a different approach’.

Yet the Mail on Sunday found eight examples of the word being used in full across five articles on the BBC News website. One, posted in 2016 about a BBC2 series called Black Is The New Black, used the word four times in just three paragraphs.

Another, posted in 2014 about a councillor using a racial slur live on BBC radio, contained the full N-word in its opening paragraph. 

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