The UK’s broadcast regulator has confirmed that a description of a car as being “gay” on the popular Top Gear BBC car show was offensive.
In an episode of the show in July last year, Jeremy Clarkson invited a man in the studio audience to comment on a car the team were discussing. The audience member described the car as “gay”. Jeremy Clarkson repeated this word and went on to add “it’s a bit ginger beer.”
According to the UK’s Office of Communication (Ofcom), Clarkson’s use of the word “gay”, and the term “ginger beer”, which rhymes with “queer”, were clearly linked to homosexual people: “This, in Ofcom’s opinion, meant that the use of the word became capable of giving offence. In the context, there was no justification for using the word in this way.”
The body however noted that the BBC had already internally dealt with the issue through its Editorial Complaints Unit which also ruled that the use of the word was “capable of giving offence.”
Ofcom also said that the BBC has taken steps to remind the production team and presenters of the importance of avoiding derogatory references to sexual orientation. In light of the BBC’s actions, the regulator said that it considers “the matter resolved”. It however added that:
“Ofcom wishes to remind broadcasters that, whilst there is a meaning of the word “gay” which may not be offensive in context, broadcasters should take care about when and how frequently it is used. This is particularly true for programming that may have a significant number of children watching or listening.
“It is possible for adults to be able to distinguish different uses of the word, but it is not clear that children – especially in the playground – are capable of doing so. Casual uses of “gay” as a word which could be regarded as offensive to homosexual people without careful thought as to context could potentially result in bullying.”