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BBC Defends Leaving In Racial Slurs In Little Britain Scene

Daisy Phillipson

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BBC Defends Leaving In Racial Slurs In Little Britain Scene

The BBC has defended the decision to allow Little Britain scenes featuring racial slurs in the comedy when it returned to iPlayer this month. 

Matt Lucas and David Walliams’ comedy show was removed from several streaming services in 2020 amid controversy surrounding some of the sketches.

Following a series of edits to ‘reflect the changes in the cultural landscape’ since the comedy aired 20 years ago, Little Britain returned to iPlayer on Wednesday, 16 March. 

Matt Lucas in Little Britain. Credit: BBC
Matt Lucas in Little Britain. Credit: BBC

In particular, the scene in which student Kenneth Lao visits university counsellor Linda Flint to request time off due to a family illness was lambasted on social media. 

When asked to describe Lao, Flint says: “He’s got straight, black hair, yellowish skin... Slight smell of soy sauce.” 

Viewers were quick to criticise the Beeb for leaving this in, but the broadcaster has since responded to the backlash and defended its decision. 

The scene sparked controversy. Credit: BBC
The scene sparked controversy. Credit: BBC

“All jokes in our output are judged on context and intent,” the BBC said in a statement.

“The sketches in which the character Linda Flint makes reference to the appearance or race of a series of people are intended to expose and ridicule some of the outdated prejudices and racism that still exist in parts of British society, which is more apparent when viewing the sketches within the context of a full episode, and across the series as a whole.

“The programme is part of the BBC’s comedy archive and information is provided for iPlayer viewers about the inclusion of discriminatory language.”

Since the noughties sketch show returned to the streaming service, a warning appears under some of the episodes saying: “Contains discriminatory language.” 

Little Britain has attracted some criticism in recent years over the way it depicted ethnic minorities and people with disabilities, as well as for how it dealt with issues of gender and sexuality.

Credit: BBC
Credit: BBC

As a result, it was removed from iPlayer, Netflix and BritBox back in 2020, with the BBC saying in a statement at the time: "There's a lot of historical programming available on BBC iPlayer, which we regularly review. 

"Times have changed since Little Britain first aired so it is not currently available on BBC iPlayer."

Walliams and Lucas went on to issue an apology, each saying in a statement released on Twitter: "David and I have both spoken publicly in recent years of our regret that we played characters of other races. 

“Once again we want to make it clear that it was wrong and we are very sorry."

Featured Image Credit: BBC

Topics: BBC, TV and Film

Daisy Phillipson
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