A contentious Little Britain comedy has been dubbed “explicitly racist and outdated,” and many are startled that the episode is still available on BBC iPlayer.
Some have criticised the comedy series, which starred David Walliams and Matt Lucas, for its use of blackface, exaggerated stereotypes, and ‘punch-down humour’ since its original run.
Following a content’review,’ the series was briefly pulled from BBC iPlayer in 2020, along with Lucas and Walliams’ subsequent series Come Fly With Me.
Ofcom performed research in which it showed participants a variety of television clips as part of a study on potentially objectionable material across linear TV and streaming platforms.
In one comedy from Little Britain, Walliams plays university staffer Linda Flint, who describes an Asian student, Kenneth Lao, over the phone to her boss.
He is characterised as having “yellowish skin, a slight soy sauce odour… the ching-chong China man.”
According to the report, the research participants viewed the content as ‘explicitly racist and outdated, and felt that society had moved on.’
It added: ‘A few participants said they found it funny but seemed embarrassed to say this and could recognise why it would be offensive.
‘This content was not considered acceptable for linear TV and many were surprised that it was available on BBC iPlayer.’
The report continued: ‘Others thought a VoD (video on demand) platform was appropriate because it meant viewers could have the choice about whether to watch the content or not.
‘However, they did not think the current rating was enough, wanting a warning about the racist language and an explanation for why it was still accessible. For some, the content was considered too problematic, even for VoD.’
A BBC spokesperson said: ’All jokes in our output are judged on context and intent. The sketches in which the character Linda Flint makes reference to the appearance or race of a series of people are intended to expose and ridicule some of the outdated prejudices and racism that still exist in parts of British society, which is more apparent when viewing the sketches within the context of a full episode, and across the series as a whole.
‘The programme is part of the BBC’s comedy archive and information is provided for iPlayer viewers about the inclusion of discriminatory language.’
Both Walliams and Lucas apologised for using blackface in their programme, which began as a radio comedy in 2000 before being shown on BBC Three.
In a joint statement in June 2020, they said: ‘Once again we want to make it clear that it was wrong; we are very sorry.’
Matt also expressed misgivings for Little Britain, calling it “cruel.”
‘Basically, I wouldn’t make that show now. It would upset people. We made a more cruel kind of comedy than I’d do now,’ he told Big Issue.