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ThE MaStEr

Ofcom rules on Clarkson 'special needs' gag


Monday, October 25

Ofcom has opted to take no action against Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson for describing a Ferrari car as a "simpleton" with "special needs".

In August, Clarkson attracted criticism for his comments while comparing a new Ferrari with an older model owned by fellow presenter James May.

He said: "James' Ferrari (the F430) was a bit wrong - that smiling front end - it looked like a simpleton - should have been called the 430 Speciale Needs."

Clarkson was playing on the car's proper name - the Ferrari F430 Especial - but two viewers complained to Ofcom about his offensive use of phrase "special needs".

In response, the BBC said it "regretted" that some viewers were offended by the comment, but stressed that there was "no intent to make light of those with special educational needs or to make fun at their expense".

The corporation claimed that Clarkson was merely poking fun at the car and his co-presenter May, rather than at people with learning difficulties.

After accepting that the comments could cause offence, the BBC opted to remove them from all repeats of the programme and from BBC iPlayer.

In its ruling, Ofcom noted that Clarkson's comments were "capable of causing offence" and "could easily be understood as ridiculing people in society with a particular physical disability or learning difficulty".

However, the watchdog noted that Top Gear is well known for its "irreverent style, and sometimes outspoken humour". It said that the programme in question was also broadcast post-watershed at 9.30pm, meaning viewers would expect it to contain more "challenging content".

After taking into account the action taken by the BBC to remove the comments from repeat editions of the show, Ofcom decided against any further action.

"Ofcom acknowledged that the BBC took immediate steps in response to complaints it received about the programme," said the regulator.

"In particular the BBC had voluntarily removed the comments from the iPlayer version of the programme and the repeat version broadcast several days later, and made the decision not to repeat the programme in its original format.

"It had also apologised for any offence caused by the comments, underlining that there was no intent to make fun of those with special needs. Ofcom therefore considered this case resolved."

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Ofcom has opted to take no action against Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson for describing a Ferrari car as a "simpleton" wi


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