Clarkson cleared over ‘pikey’ sign

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Published: Tuesday 17th March 2015 by The News Editor

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The BBC Trust has rejected complaints about Jeremy Clarkson using the word “pikey” on Top Gear.

The presenter, whose future is in doubt following a “fracas” with a producer on the show, put up a placard with the words Pikey’s Peak on the BBC2 series in February last year.

Viewers complained that the sign was “grossly offensive and racist” to the “gypsy traveller community”, whose children are subjected to the word as a term of abuse in schools.

But the Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) concluded that the word had been used to mean “cheap”, rather than as a term of racist or ethnic abuse.

In the episode, which compared hatchback cars from the 1980s with their contemporary equivalent, Clarkson and James May joked about co-presenter Richard Hammond’s lack of style when he selected a Vauxhall Nova.

The stars then completed a circuit on a race course and Clarkson was seen putting up a handmade sign on a wooden hut, with the words Pikey’s Peak.

Programme makers said that the use of the sign was also a pun on the name of the US racecourse Pikes Peak.

The ESC said that that the word “had evolved into common parlance among a number of people to mean ‘chavvy’ or ‘cheap’ and, depending on the context, viewers would not necessarily associate it with the gypsy and traveller communities “.

But complainants said that it had been “disingenuous of the BBC to argue that there is no intended racist reference when using the word” because in its previous uses of the term, Top Gear “had made clear that ‘pikey’ refers to gypsies and travellers”.

The ESC added: “On this occasion, the use of the word ‘pikey’ as a play on words would not have been seen as a careless or purposeless stereotype about travellers and gypsies, but in keeping with the style of humour exhibited by the presenters towards Richard Hammond’s perceived ‘cheap’ style.”

But it did admit that the word “did have the potential to be deeply offensive to the gypsy and t raveller communities” and that it “can be used in an abusive context”.

“Programme makers should bear in mind the potential for offence this word may have in some circumstances and employ extreme care and sensitivity when using it”, it added.

The ESC acts as the final arbiter of appeals if complainants are unhappy with the way their initial complaints have been dealt with by BBC management.

The BBC has suspended Clarkson and postponed the remaining episodes of Top Gear as it investigates allegations that he punched producer Oisin Tymon after filming the show, during a row over a hot meal at a hotel.

Published: Tuesday 17th March 2015 by The News Editor

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