Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hispanics irked by BBC show racist comments

Popular car show insults Mexicans and pokes fun at Mexican Ambassador

LONDON - The modern British people have often touted their capacity of having tolerance for other ethnic groups by adopting the Equality Act last year, which consolidated their numerous anti-discrimination laws.  A key component is that broadcasters are forbidden from sharing racist thoughts since broadcasting is a service and it is illegal to provide racist services.  Yet on a recent show of “Top Gear” its hosts took freedom in stereotyping and blatantly demonstrating discrimination toward Mexicans.

In last week’s broadcast of the BBC show “Top Gear,” the hosts made disparaging remarks about Mexicans, describing them as “lazy, feckless, flatulent, and overweight.”  The comments drew an immediate response by Mexican Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora who wrote a letter to the BBC calling the remarks “xenophobic” and “humiliating,” demanding an apology.  Now the BBC may also face a lawsuit. 

Iris de la Torre, a 30-year old jewelry design student in London has accused the BBC of using racism to boost ratings and is demanding an investigation of the BBC as well as suspension of the Top Gear show.

"I was shocked at what the BBC allowed to be broadcast," De la Torre said. "I have never had a bad experience in the UK due to my nationality. I do not understand how such ignorant people hold such high-profile jobs."

De la Torre has instructed her lawyers to file the lawsuit under the new Equality Act, which alleges the comments made on the show violate the Act’s component prohibiting discrimination by public entities.  She decided to take action after seeing and listening to the show’s Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May making fun of a new sports car being made in Mexico and how the Mexican Consulate would not complain because he was too lazy to take any action.  In his official complaint the Mexican Ambassador called the broadcast content “xenophobic” and “offensive.” 

"These remarks were probably calculated and deliberate to fuel anger and hence boost ratings – the presenters apparently feel that they are fighting a battle against political correctness," said Lawrence Davies, De la Torre's lawyer (solicitor) from Equal Justice.

Equal Justice has previously brought a suit against another broadcaster for making discriminatory remarks about a popular Indian actor, Shilpa Shetty in the “Celebrity Big Brother” reality show.  However, the De la Torre case could be the first case involving the Equality Act.

De la Torre's lawyers have written to the BBC delineating the allegations, a mandatory process before they can file with the county court.  The BBC will then be allowed to address the issue before appearing in court.  Last month, two male broadcasters were fired for making off-air sexist remarks, which were leaked.  Clarkson, who has previously made offensive comments, condemned the firing, calling it “heresy by thought.”

The video taped portion of the show where the remarks were made was released on Youtube and immediately withdrawn by the BBC alleging copyright violations.

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