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Ofcom to take no action over Brundle comment

NEWS STORY
12/08/2008

The British media regulator Ofcom (Office of Communications) has announced that it is to take no action against the British F1 broadcaster ITV following comments made by Martin Brundle before the start of the Canadian Grand Prix.

The driver-turned-commentator, in reference to emergency repairs being carried out at the track said to Bernie Ecclestone: "There are some pikeys out there putting some new tarmac down at Turn 10 apparently. Are they out of the way yet?"

The use of the word 'pikey' resulted in 14 complaints from viewers who claimed the word was offensive and racist towards the travelling community.

According to Ofcom: "ITV responded that during ITV1's live F1 coverage presenter Martin Brundle's 'grid walk' interviews are unscripted and spontaneous. It confirmed that the interview with Mr Ecclestone on this occasion did include the use of the term "pikey" and accepted that the term is regarded by some viewers as offensive due to its origin as a derogatory term for Irish Travellers. However, ITV also felt that the word is used more widely today as a non-specific but admittedly derogatory term.

ITV emphasised that in the context in which the term was used in the programme there was no intention for it to have been interpreted as referring to the travelling communities (whether Travellers, Gypsies or Roma). It stated that Martin Brundle was unaware of the potential racial or ethnic connotations and in no way intended the remark to be understood as derogatory towards Travellers. The broadcaster added that Mr Brundle sincerely regrets any offence the remark may have caused. ITV also pointed out that during the course of his career as a commentator, racing journalist and driver, Martin Brundle has never received any criticism of this nature before.

In response to the error and subsequent complaints the ITV Press Office issued an apology to any viewers who were offended by the comment and also apologised for any offence to the 22 viewers who contacted its Duty Office. The broadcaster has also provided compliance advice to the production team and the presenter in relation to potentially offensive language."

Announcing its decision not to take any further action against ITV, Ofcom state: "Ofcom notes ITV's acknowledgement of the potential offence the word "pikey" can cause to some viewers and the compliance measures taken in response to this incident. It welcomes the apologies issued by its Press Office and directly to individual complainants. In view of these actions, Ofcom considers this matter resolved."

With F1 moving to BBC in 2009, after ITV opted to end its contract as British F1 broadcaster early, there is widespread speculation over Brundle's future as a commentator, with many believing that the BBC will opt for David Coulthard taking over as resident 'driver expert'.

Furthermore, there are still some who believe that it was Brundle's referral to the FIA's pursuit of McLaren during last year's spy saga as a Witch-hunt - a move that resulted in the FIA taking legal action against The Times, the newspaper for which the Englishman was writing - which resulted in the News of the World's expose of Max Mosley's private life. With The Times and News of the World being part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation empire, it is alleged that Murdoch was incensed at the motorsport federation's audacity in taking action against one of his papers.

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