Patrick Sawer, Telegraph (London), May 10, 2014
The BBC was facing criticsm last night after it forced a radio presenter to resign after he unwittingly played a song containing a deeply offensive racist slur.
David Lowe, a veteran radio broadcaster, played a song on his show which, unbeknown to him, contained a phrase using the N-word.
When a listener complained Mr Lowe offered either to apologise on air or resign. His BBC managers initially said he would have to resign, but after the affair threatened to become public the corporation underwent a sudden about turn and has now stated he can have his job back.
However the broadcaster said he had been left so stressed by the BBC’s attitude that he no longer feels well enough to continue working.
The incident followed the recent controversy over the use of the same word by Jeremy Clarkson, the presenter of Top Gear, when a recording of him mumbling the offensive word while reciting the nursery rhyme Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe, was made public.
During his nostalgic Sunday evening music show, Swingers and Stingers, which is broadcast across south west England, Mr Lowe last month played a recording from 82 years ago of “The Sun Has Got His Hat On”, by Ambrose & His Orchestra.
But what Mr Lowe, 67, did not realise was that the recording contained a line of lyric twice featuring the N-word. That sparked a complaint from a listener offended by the word who said he was “horrified” to hear it on the BBC and hoped “someone in authority” would deal with Mr Lowe.
When Mr Lowe listened to the recording again he realised what he had played and admitted his mistake, offering to apologise on air or, alternatively, “fall on his sword”.
Mr Lowe said the BBC sent him an email in which it was stated “we would prefer that you don’t mention anything about last week’s broadcast”. A further and final email informed him: “Regrettably . . . we will have to accept your offer to fall on your sword.”
That appeared to be in marked contrast to Mr Clarkson, who was given a final warning, but allowed to carry on working, after he apologised for using the same word.
Mr Lowe said that, in his case at least, “where political correctness is concerned in the UK today, there is no room for excuses or forgiveness”.
But yesterday the BBC appeared to suddenly change its position. In a statement it admitted it had handled the matter badly and said: “We have offered David Lowe the opportunity to continue presenting his ‘Singers and Swingers’ show, and we would be happy to have him back on air. We accept that the conversation with David about the mistake could have been handled better, but if he chooses not to continue then we would like to thank him for his time presenting on the station and wish him well for the future.”
They added: “We first asked David to return to his show earlier this week, but he declined. We have since asked him to return again and the door is still open should he want to return.”
However Mr Lowe now feels unable to rejoin the corporation after the incident aggravated an existing stress-related condition from which he suffers.
He told The Sunday Telegraph: “Unfortunately my health has to come first. The way the BBC have handled this is terrible and it has aggravated my condition. It was an honest mistake, but I’m afraid I won’t be going back on air.”