The BBC has received a formal complaint over an allegedly racist remark made by Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson during one of the show’s Burma specials. The show also recently filmed in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
A law firm acting on behalf of actor Somi Guha, who appeared in 2006 sci-fi film Children of Men, has written to the BBC claiming Clarkson’s use of the word “slope” which can be used as a derogatory term for people of Asian descent contravened the Equality Act 2010.
Guha, who has also featured in The Bill, is seeking an apology and disciplinary action against Clarkson.
In the latest Top Gear series finale, which aired earlier in March, Clarkson and co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May were tasked with building a bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand.
At the completion of the task Clarkson said, “that is a proud moment, but there’s a slope on it”, just as an Asian man can be seen walking towards him on the bridge.
Hammond replied: “You’re right, it’s definitely higher on that side.”
In the formal complaint, sent to the corporation’s management and the BBC Trust, law firm Equal Justice wrote: “Casual racism in the media by established BBC stalwarts is constantly brushed aside. Discrimination within the industry is accepted.
“Racial profiling of roles is accepted and expected. I find it offensive that Jeremy Clarkson refers to people of different races in pejorative terms.”
The letter sent on behalf of Guha added that the show “must be censured to ensure that another race or nation is not targeted”, and that the BBC should give “due consideration to not re-commissioning Top Gear until these matters are addressed”.
A BBC spokeswoman declined to comment about the incident on the show, which attracted 10 complaints from viewers.
Equal Justice stated in its letter to the BBC that if it did not hear back within 28 days it would take its complaint to media regulator Ofcom.
Clarkson responded to the complaint on Twitter, saying: “I’m not a racist. I am currently sitting in a bar with a man who lives quite near Wales.”
Lawrence Davies, an Equal Justice solicitor, who has also represented viewers over racism allegations over the Shilpa Shetty/Jade Goody incident on Channel 4’s Celebrity Big Brother, said legal action would also be considered if the BBC failed to take action.
“We are looking for Mr Clarkson and those responsible to be disciplined proportionately,” he said.
“Clarkson is one of their biggest stars and the question is where does the BBC draw the line on making money and how it goes about it. The BBC has never really taken him to task.”
In 2011 viewers of a Top Gear India Christmas special complained about Clarkson making a string of jokes about Indian food, clothes, toilets, trains and the country’s history.
In February of that year the BBC was forced to apologise to the Mexican ambassador after Hammond joked that Mexican cars reflected national characteristics, saying they were “just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat”.