Ofcom has announced it is not pursuing a complaint against the BBC over a news report which contained a racist term.
In August, former BBC director-general Lord Tony Hall apologised for the incident, which saw social affairs correspondent Fiona Lamdin repeat the N-word allegedly used in a suspected racially motivated attack in Bristol.
More than 18,000 people complained to the broadcaster over the news report, which was shown on BBC One and the BBC News Channel.
The broadcaster subsequently changed its rules on the use of offensive language in its output and decisions to broadcast racist terms now have to be referred to BBC bosses, according to Ofcom.
The television watchdog has said in a statement that the news report ‘had the potential to cause very high levels of offence which was not justified by the context’.
‘However, in light of the action already taken by the BBC, we considered the programmes did not raise further issues warranting investigation under the code,’ it continued.
The story ran on the BBC News Channel and local news programme Points West on BBC One on July 29, but the broadcaster stopped running the report which featured the offensive language later that day.
The BBC initially defended the report before Lord Hall intervened in the row to apologise.
Television watchdog Ofcom added: ‘We were concerned that the first response of the BBC was to defend the broadcast of this language in these reports.’
After the news report was broadcast, Sideman, real name David Whitely, announced he was quitting BBC Radio 1Xtra over the incident.
Announcing the move on social media, he said the news report represented an ‘error of judgement’, adding it ‘feels like a slap in the face to our community’.
In Lord Hall’s subsequent apology, he said the BBC ‘now accepts that we should have taken a different approach at the time of broadcast and we are very sorry for that’.
He said the report had caused ‘distress’ to many, adding: ‘Every organisation should be able to acknowledge when it has made a mistake. We made one here.’
What is Ofcom and what does it cover?
Ofcom is the regulator for the communications services that we use and rely on each day.
The watchdog makes sure people get the best from their broadband, home phone and mobile services, as well as keeping an eye on TV and radio.
Ofcom deals with most content on television, radio and video-on-demand services, including the BBC. However, if your complaint is about something you saw or heard in a BBC programme, you may need to complain to the BBC first.
Its rules for television and radio programmes are set out in the Broadcasting Code.
The rules in the Broadcasting Code also apply to the BBC iPlayer.
This Broadcasting Code is the rule book that broadcasters have to follow and it covers a number of areas, including; protecting the under-18s, protecting audiences from harmful and/or offensive material and ensuring that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.
Audiences can complain to Ofcom if they believe a breach of the Broadcasting Code has been made.
Every time Ofcom receives a complaint from a viewer or listener, they assess it to see if it needs further investigation.
If Ofcom decide to investigate, they will include the case in a list of new investigations, published in the Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin.
An investigation is a formal process which can take some time depending on the complexity of the issues involved.
Ofcom can also launch investigations in the absence of a complaint from a viewer or listener.