Feeds

Watchdog backs Top Gear in war with Mexico

Ofcom rules 'lazy, feckless' jibes 'justified by the context'

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has ruled that comments by the presenters of Top Gear, at the expense of "lazy, feckless" Mexicans, were "justified by the context".

Back in January, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May incurred the wrath of the "world leader in the fields of refried bean cuisine, high-level corruption and giant hats"* during some lighthearted banter regarding Mexico's Mastretta MXT.

Hammond said: "Why would you want a Mexican car? 'Cos cars reflect national characteristics, don't they? So German cars are very well-built and ruthlessly efficient, Italian cars are a bit flamboyant and quick. Mexican cars are just going to be a lazy, feckless, flatulent oaf with a moustache, leaning against a fence, asleep, looking at a cactus, with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat."

May went on to describe Mexican nosh as "like sick with cheese on it", while Clarkson suggested the Mexican embassy wouldn't complain because the ambassador would be slumped asleep in the chair with the remote control.

The ambassador, Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza, was in fact very much awake; he formally complained to the BBC and got an apology.

Ofcom "recognised that the comments made about Mexican people were based on negative national stereotypes and had the potential to be very offensive".

It did, though, rule that the remarks were not in breach of Rule 2.3 of its Broadcasting Code, which states: "In applying generally accepted standards, broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context."

The watchdog noted that Top Gear is "well-known for its irreverent style and sometimes outspoken humour" and that it "frequently uses national stereotypes as a comedic trope and that there were few, if any, nationalities that had not at some point been the subject of the presenters' mockery".

Given the audience's likely familiarity with the presenters' "mocking, playground-style humour", Ofcom suggested the majority of viewers "would therefore be likely to have understood that the comments were being made for comic effect".

The ruling concludes: "Ofcom is not an arbiter of good taste, but rather it must judge whether a broadcaster has applied generally accepted standards by ensuring that members of the public were given adequate protection from offensive material. Humour can frequently cause offence. However, Ofcom considers that to restrict humour only to material which does not cause offence would be an unnecessary restriction of freedom of expression."

The full ruling is on page 44 of this 80-page PDF (833KB). ®

Bootnote

* This summary of Mexico appears in Top Gear's review of the Mastretta MXT.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Holy vintage vehicles! Earliest known official Batmobile goes on sale
Riddle me this: are you prepared to pay US$180k?
Criticism of Uber's journo-Data Analytics plan is an Attack on DIGITAL FREEDOM
First they came for Emil – and I'm damn well SPEAKING OUT
'It is comforting to know where your data centres are.' UK.GOV does NOT
Plus: Anons are 'wannabes', KKK says, before being pwned
'Open source just means big companies can steal your code.' O RLY?
Plus: Flame of the Week returns, for one night only!
NEWSFLASH: It's time to ditch dullard Facebook chums
Everything hot in tech, courtesy of avian anchor Regina Eggbert
Hey, you, PHONE-FACE! Kickstarter in-car mobe mount will EMBED your phone into your MUG
Stick it on the steering wheel and wait for the airbag to fire
Bible THUMP: Good Book beats Darwin to most influential tome title
Folio Society crowns fittest of surviving volumes
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.